Friday, July 13, 2012

The Kitchen Project -- Part 1

Back in February or so, the girlfriend suggested that I replace the doors in the kitchen.  The wall cabinets were cheap (but surprisingly sturdy) frame cabinets with overlay doors and somewhat old-fashioned, visible hinges.  I thought to remove the face frames and put in nice frame and panel doors.  Of course, the frames were glued on to the cabinets, so I decided to build myself a new kitchen.

This was something I've been considering for a while.  The kitchen is small (not that I can change that) and the countertop is a hideous white speckled laminate.  However, I have a goal of relocating the kitchen to a different part of the house, so I didn't want to put much money into the current one.  And, I want a 36" range, so I don't want to replace the 30" I've got, no matter how rusty the stove top gets.  (Kenmore no longer sells a replacement top for this stove.

Our inspiration was from A Country Farmhouse blog.  (A blog well-worth perusing.  Lovely.)  White with a wood countertop.

I figured it would take me a few months to build and install the new cabinets.  Well, it's now mid-July.  Life, family, and weather have gotten in the way.

I've got the wall cabinets up -- although I still need to cut the shelves.  And we haven't bought the hardware yet.  More of the base cabinets are installed -- although I screwed up one of them and will have to re-build it.

Here is the original kitchen:

I chose the green paint.  I like it.

A few weeks back my friend Paul was in town and we ripped out old wall cabinets and hung the new ones:

I was shocked when everything fit. I will have to remake a door or two.  Oops.

The doors are poplar frames with 1/4 birch plywood panels.  I bought about 260 bf of rough poplar from a guy up here and milled and cut the boards myself.  The hardware is Blum soft-close.

Ripping out the base cabinets, especially the plumbing, was harder than expected.  It always is.  But most of the cabinets are in place.  I just need to shim the one on the left and screw it to the wall:

Again, a huge sigh of relief when that corner unit fit perfectly between the range and the dishwasher.  The floor slopes quite a bit down to the left, so there was a lot of shimming going on.  But it's all level and square.

We decided on an apron front sink purchased from  It's about twice as expensive as I wanted, but I do like the look of it.
The sink is about 100 pounds, so I had to re-work the cabinet to put in that shelf and some supporting pieces underneath.  I hope it holds.  And, I decided to call a plumber for when we're ready -- I don't think I can handle learning how to plumb.  That will be for the future.

The counter top will be alder, from Perfect Plank.  The whole top cost about $450, delivered, which is about 1/4 the price of anything else I looked into.  I will have to finish it myself, but that shouldn't be too hard.

I had taken off work last Thursday and Friday (after July 4th) to finish the sink and the counter top.  Of course, the sink was damaged.  As was the counter top.  That will be work for next weekend.

And then, I need to build drawers.

So far, with all of the hardware, I'm about $2,500 into the project.  Most of the cost is hardware -- the hinges and drawer slides (Blum Tandem undermounts -- with the cool soft close feature).  Still, I should be able to get everything done for the price of a decent Corian  counter top.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Nightstand

Another early project.  My bedroom in the house had no furniture.  I downloaded the plans from the Internets (I can't recall which site).

The stand is a basic frame of oak hardwood.  The stiles and apron are mortise and tenon joints.  The through tenons were tricky.  I used an FMT jig, but I didn't have a router bit that went all the way through the legs.  Not a big deal -- just rout from one side, flip the piece and route again.  Clean out with a chisel.

As you can see, the drawer face is cherry, not oak.  I ran out of oak, and had the cherry lying around.  Yes, I've been meaning to put on a new face.  The finish is Boiled Linseed Oil ("BLO") and Arm-R-Seal polyurethane.

The Rocking Horse

My niece had a baby.  Adorable little boy.  I built this for his first birthday.  

The idea came from The Wood Whisperer, aka Mark Spagnulo.  He's a woodworker in Arizona, and his site is a treasure trove of instructional videos.  He ran a little charitable program in which folks built this rocking chair and sent in pics.  Mark and other sponsors donated money to a children's charity.

The plans were downloaded off The Wood Whisperer website.  I bought a panel of laminated pine from Lowes.  (FYI -- I much prefer Lowes to Home Depot, but, unfortunately, Lowes is about 15 minutes further away.) I cut out the patterns for the pieces and transferred them to the panel.  The pattern for the body was glued on with spray adhesive.

The parts were cut out with a jig saw. I have a Bosch.

Gellstain and sprayed with some Zinser amber shellac.

I had a devil of a time finding the googly eyes.  I ended up going to Michaels, the massive craft store.  Happy place.

The Wine Rack

This is one of the first non-shop furniture projects I did, back in 2005.  I saw the piece on Woodnet and figured I could do it.  It's made from cherry plywood, with real cherry edge-banding, molding and top.  Not much else to tell, but I'm pretty happy with it.  I don't really have a place for it -- it sits on the floor in the dining room.

A Small Table

A few years back, my Dad asked for a table.  He needed a table for his printer that fit perfectly in the space between his desk and the wall.  He couldn't find anything, so he asked me.  I'd never built anything without plans, but was able to put together something pretty basic that looked nice.  I used poplar, an inexpensive wood, that I had lying around.  Generally, poplar is used only for "secondary" wood -- drawer runners, back frames, supports and other items that either wont be seen or will be painted.  It can have an unpleasant greenish tinge, and doesn't take stain well without splotching.  This is what I ended up with:

The Coffee Trader

I don't remember why I have this book.  I don't recall buying it; it might have been a gift.  I haven't read the author's earlier book (A Conspiracy of Paper) or his subsequent ones.  Apparently, he has a knack for historical fiction.  I didn't really see it here.  But I do love historical fiction.  And while this book wasn't great, it was a good, middle of the road read.

It's the story of Miguel Lienzo, a Portuguese Jew living in Amsterdam in the 17th Century.  America seems to have forgotten that Amsterdam was one of the first truly cosmopolitan cities, where the modern ideas of the Enlightenment, libertarianism, and freedom of religion flourished.  One of the first states to throw off the yoke of colonial masters (the Dutch kicked out the Spanish well before the Americans kicked out the British -- though it was a very different relationship), I believe the Dutch were the first to truly accept religious freedom.  Therefore, may Jews fleeing the wrath of the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal ended up here.  Amsterdam also compensated for its lack of natural resources and its proximity to the water to develop a substantial trading culture, and a market.

 The Coffee Trader attempts to deal with all of these.  Lienzo, a refugee who fled from Portugal, is a trader.  He speculates in the market for goods from all over the world.  The book tries to explain the trades -- futures, calls, puts -- in a way that makes it exciting.  Which it can be.  But in the end it falls flat.  (For a better historical novel dealing with similar issues, I'd suggest Clavell's Noble House, or his earlier Tai Pan.)  And it gives some life to the insular Jewish community, living separately but in plan sight with the Dutch.  They are portrayed as overly pious, suspicious and ruled by powerful Ma'amad, a council that is charged with "protecting" the community by keeping it in line.  It does this through a network of spies and informants, turning in Jews for transgressions such as trading with non-Jews, eating unclean foods, etc.

But the center of the story is coffee.  At the, the drink is barely known and used mostly for medicinal purposes.  A dutch widow and bar owner brings coffee to her friend, Lienzo, and tells him that this is the time for coffee to burst onto the European scene.  Lienzo, and pretty much anyone else who tries the coffee, is instantly hooked and fairly addicted, as if their coffee had heroin.  But Lienzo then goes about trying to devise his "trade," to monopolize coffee and bring it to Europe, becoming magnificently wealthy in the process.  Standing in his way are his cruel, jealous brother, Daniel; a dishonest vengeful member of the Ma'amad, Solomon Parido, and, unbeknownst to him, an excommunicated Jewish money-lender and ne'er-do-well, Alonzo Alferonda.

The plots and conspiracies grow, and they're interesting, but far short of Dan Brown or a Grisham novel.  I will say that the ending twists were quite surprising -- not for the twists themselves but where the chips ultimately fall.

It's worth a read, but don't get too excited.

Three Men in a Boat

I'm skipping here.  I read The Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, but I need to give their post a little more thought.  The next book up was Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat:

And I didn't finish it.

I think I bought this after reading a list of the ten funniest books of all time.  Well, I don't think this was all that funny.  It's a narrative of three fellows, J. (the narrator), George and Harris, and their dog, Montmorency, who rent a boat and go for a sail up the Thames.  It's cute, with many funny observations about life.  The narrative is slow, however, with frequent cutaway side stories, as in Family Guy.  I found the cutaways distracting.  You figure out that these are three bumbling guys who will bumble their way through pretty much everything, and then it's not all that interesting.