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Kitchen Project - The Wet Bar (8 of 9) - Recap

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Before starting construction, Norm revisits the site of the new kitchen. There he highlights a few of the challenges: the walls aren't perfectly square (flaring out 1/4” on one side and 1/8” on the other). That won't be a problem: there will be a base cabinet with a pair of doors and a pair of drawers, and an opening for a wine cooler. Norm will cut the stile on that side to compensate for the out of square wall.

The wall cabinet will feature true divided light glass paneled doors. The back will be faced with a mirror, and the shelves are made of glass. Norm plans that the piece look like a piece of furniture, so he'll construct it from cherry.

Back in the workshop, Norm displays the carcass, made in the same manner as other cabinet carcasses (see previous episodes), including pre-finished plywood. This plywood is somewhat more expensive, but in Norm's view worth this extra expense for the labor it saves. There's no need to finish the inside of the cabinet; the baked on finish is highly durable. Norm has constructed this piece using rabbits and dadoes wherever he can: on the corners, and where dividing partitions meet the sides of the case. Glue and screws secure these, and wherever plywood edges show, Norm applies a heat activated edge band that simulates a lamination. A hole in the bottom grants access to the toe kick heater, should that be required.

The face frame consists of a number of thin pieces of cherry that Norm has secured using pocket screws. He has also cut slots for biscuits. Once installed, these biscuits will fit into longer slots in the carcass, securing the face frame without the use of mechanical fasteners. This method avoids the need to fill nail or screw holes present when those fasteners are used, which results in a better looking and longer lasting finish. The slots in the carcass run all the way around; this technique, which Norm saw at a cabinet shop, simplifies installation of face frames. Norm demonstrates the technique, attaching the face frame to the cabinet.

While that cooks, Norm visits a home not far away where the cabinet shop that taught Norm built a bar. Perhaps he can learn a few more tricks. This home's first floor is constructed using a timber frame design. Not far from the entertainment area is a nice bar. It features cabinets with leaded glass, and a faux finish that presents the appearance of leather. Norm examines the cabinets more closely. He sees that small frames secure the leaded glass panes, and these frames attach with screws, so that the glass may be removed for repair if necessary. Shelf glass is 3/8” thick, and shelves rest on adjustable shelf pins. Interior lighting highlights the contents, and a cornice makes the cabinet “flow” into the ceiling. Chamfers and decorative blocks make the corners look like posts, and glass sides further illuminate and display the contents.

Underneath the counter, cabinets are made from cabinet grade plywood. There is a granite countertop, a copper sink, and some under the cabinet lighting. Below and next to the sink is a small refrigerator.

The highlight is a leaded glass skylight and a surrounding tray ceiling illuminated by rope lights that offer the illusion of a curved surface. Norm sees himself spending time on either side of this bar!

Back at the workshop, Norm moves on to the wall cabinet. The back is MDO, since it will not be seen (a mirror will cover it). All other parts are constructed of cherry-veneer plywood. Norm attaches an assembled face frame made of 7/8” cherry, with the bead detail already complete, using the same system of biscuits and grooves that has worked well on the other boxes. Because of the mirror, Norm must conceal the pockets into which the pocket screws fit. The manufacturer of the pocket screw system makes wooden plugs designed to fill such pockets. Norm uses some glue to attach these; when that cures, he'll sand the plugs flush.

Doors are next. Norm's cabinet will have true divided light doors, featuring muttons and mullions (the members that divide the glass) in addition to the usual stiles and rails. To make these, Norm needs a matched pair of router bits for stiles and rails, and a rabbiting bit. Starting with pieces of 7/8” stock, Norm uses his powered hollow chisel mortising machine to make mortises. Each piece will produce two muttons, so Norm cuts mortises on each side. Later, he'll split the piece. These mortises will receive the mullions.

Next, Norm precisely cuts the tenons. These are just slightly deeper on one side; Norm takes care to align his fence precisely, as this difference is important. He takes the piece to the router and copes the face. That done, he splits the piece to produce a pair of muttons. A pass through the jointer cleans up that face, and then Norm returns to the router table to cut the opposite profile in the mutton. Because this piece is very narrow, machining it is somewhat dangerous. To protect his fingers and at the same time ensure a good result, Norm constructs a jig from thin plywood and scrap stock that holds the piece firmly while keeping his fingers well away from from the blade. With the coping finished on each edge, Norm machines in a rabbit. He checks part way through to ensure he's got a good fit. When he learns he does, he finishes the rabbit. This is a complex operation with many steps. Norm advises going slowly and taking care to produce useful pieces with minimum waste.

Norm dry fits the center mutton into mullions above and below it, and then fits muttons into them, forming a sort of “double plus” shape that will eventually divide the door panel into six panes. This subassembly fits into rails top and bottom, and into stiles on the sides. Once he has satisfied himself by dry fit that all of the pieces fit correctly, he disassembles it and uses glue when he reassembles it. Because this will have a natural finish, he cleans any glue squeezed out of the joints very quickly. Failure to do this will result in a permanent stain.

Before he goes further, Norm glues up the countertop. This will need to “cook” for awhile, so starting it now helps coordinate the project so there is less waiting. Starting with 6/4 cherry planks, Norm lays them out to hide any sap wood (lighter colored wood from the outside of the log) from the top and edges. He also considers the pattern of the grain, working to ensure a pleasing layout. Satisfied that he has the correct layout, he cuts the pieces to length, then runs them through the surface planer to ensure uniform thickness. The joints aren't tight, so a pass or two through the joiner cleans them up. A few of the boards are just slightly bowed, so Norm cuts biscuit slots. A waterproof glue will do the hard work of holding the planks together; the biscuits simply help align them. Norm clamps the planks and wipes any glue squeezed out.

Next, Norm turns his attention to the bead detail. He has cut this detail into thin strips. Cutting these to length and beveling them, he secures them to the inside edges of the face frame with glue and pin nails (pin nails, Norm notes, are basically headless brads).

Norm next turns to the solid panel doors. The stiles and rails are solid cherry, while the door panel is made of medium density fiberboard with a thin veneer of cherry on each face. Norm prefers this to a glue-up of cherry planks because it is very stable. It won't expand or contract much, or cup. A system of rails and stiles joins the elements. Grooves in the rails and stiles both receive the panel and serve as mortises to receive the tenons on the rails. To dress up the panel, Norm created a piece of molding on his router table. He'll attach that to the panel.
To cut the grooves, Norm uses the table saw with a feather board to hold the stock secure. He runs the stock through from each direction to ensure that the groove is perfectly centered. With his miter gauge, a sacrificial fence, and a dado cutter he forms tenons in the end of each rail by cutting away the cheeks. The tenon runs the length of the rail, so there is no need to cut away the shoulders. Norm also uses the dado cutter to thin the panel at its edges (basically, cutting a rabbit into the edge). He assembles the door by applying glue to the tenon and in the groove where the tenon will fit – but no glue in the groove where the door panel will fit. A few clamps hold it together while the glue cures. Glue and pins secure the moldings to the doors.

Norm turns his attention to the drawer in the bottom, where bottles will be stored. He makes it from pre-machined drawer stock that comes with a groove (for the bottom of the drawer) and a banded top, in a variety of popular widths. Because this drawer will hold heavy bottles, Norm widens the 1/4” groove to 1/2” so he can use a thicker drawer bottom. He also cuts dovetails into the edges for a secure fit. He applies glue to the fingers of the dovetail but not to the groove – that just drops into place. Norm uses ordinary dado joints on the back, because that takes much less stress than the front (users pull on the front to open the whole drawer, after all).

The final machining step is to remove the top from the clamps when the glue sets, and round over the edge.

In the finishing room, Norm discusses how he'll stain and protect the cherry. The first coat is an antique oil applied with a brush and wiped off after five minutes. That sets overnight, and Norm applies a second coat the following day. This permits the cherry to darken naturally as it ages. To protect the top from spills, Norm will coat it with some polyurethane finish.

Norm has done everything he can do in the shop. The next (and final) episode of this series covers installation at the site.

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