Kitchen Project - The Wet Wall (4 of 9) - Recap

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Norm's dream kitchen project continues with the wet wall where the sink, dishwasher and related storage reside. Norm returns to the kitchen to confirm his measurements. There is a window in the wet wall that will not move, so Norm knows he must keep the sink centered on it. A single cabinet from the corner to the dishwasher incorporates the sink base and a bank of drawers. A second cabinet fits on the other side of the dishwasher, between it and the refrigerator. It will contain two banks of drawers in a single unit. Above and to the right of the sink (as one faces it), Norm will build a wall cabinet with glass door panels, but he wants to raise it so there is more clearance between the counter top and the cabinet. Right now, that height is 14” which traps some of the more modern, larger appliances (like a food processor crammed in the space where Norm measures). He'll raise that cabinet so the difference is 18”, the modern standard. To the left of the sink, Norm will create a replacement for the cabinet already there, allowing space for the ductwork that carries exhaust from the range hood outside. Standard cabinets are 24” deep, which leaves little room behind the sink. Norm plans to build his cabinets 2” deeper, to provide extra room.

Norm has already started by constructing the carcasses of the cabinets. They're similar, but the one destined for the left of the dishwasher will contain one bank of drawers and the sink, and the other will contain two banks of drawers. They're constructed from the usual MDF, joined with glue and screws, and featuring room for a toe kick. Each is a basic box with a center dividing partition that also provides support, and a heavy back. With the boxes done, he turns to the face frames. He'll attach them with pocket screws, and use a special clamp with a large pad to hold the pieces flush. He also uses a measuring stick sized to the drawer opening; this approach works more reliably than simply measuring and marking the frame. Where the face frame meets the hot wall, Norm completes it with a wider panel. That ensures that when the drawers open, they won't hot the handles on the range. He makes that piece from pine plywood, which is more stable than a solid board. He checks the measurements by laying a piece of his beading inside the face frame and confirming that it is flush with the inside of the cabinet box. Then he uses his biscuit cutter to make a few slots for the biscuit. Both carcass and face frame must be accurate.

While that sets, Norm builds the drawer fronts and door panels. He makes 1/4” dadoes using the dado head cutter and a rip fence. He makes the tenons using a wider dado setting and a sacrificial fence. Finally, he rabbits the back edge of the door panel material, which is otherwise too thick to fit into the 1/4” dado slot. With dadoes, tenons and panels cut, Norm assembles the door and drawer fronts with glue, and then clamps them together before turning his attention back to the cabinet carcass.

Norm makes more of the beading (he explained how to make this in a previous episode) and attaches it to the inside of each opening in the face frame with glue, using pins to hold it while the glue dries.

He'll need a way to attach the drawer runners, so he first fits a cleat to the left of the drawer divider, and then attaches a double-thick layer of plywood to the cleat. Because of where Norm positioned the cleat, the plywood partition is directly behind the divider in the face frame. A few screws secure it to the cleat, to the back and to the top of the case.

After the doors and drawer fronts finish drying, Norm applies molding to the inside of the panels for additional detail, using glue to secure them and pins to hold them in the correct position until the glue dries.

It's time for the drawers. Norm uses his dovetailing jig to create the tails and pins of a half-blind dovetail that will secure the front of each drawer to its sides. A dado receives the back of the box, and another receives the 1/2” bottom (on the larger drawers) and a 1/4” bottom (on the smaller drawers). A pair of bandsaw cuts knocks out a small rectangle in the back of the drawer on each edge for the drawer slide. Glue secures the front to the sides; it and the interlocking dovetail ensure these pieces will not separate. Norm then slides in the bottom (using a little glue near the front), and fits the back, securing it with more glue and a few brads. Using a special jig, Norm drills the holes that will receive screws to secure the hidden drawer slides.

Using two carefully sized sticks, Norm props the drawer slides at the correct spot on the cabinet wall, and then secures them with screws. Norm shows how he uses the jig to drill a hole in the back of each side that receives a pin on the slide, and a pair of holes in the front (at a slight angle) that receive screws. These screws attach hardware that mates with the front of the drawer. When he has attached that, Norm slides the drawer box into the opening until it engages, the slides it all the way back and gives it a tap, listening for a click that indicates the mechanism has engaged and locked into place. A quick pull verifies that the slides work properly. These runners support heavy loads, feature a soft closing mechanism and fully extend for better drawer access. The drawer even conceals them from view. They adjust in several dimensions, making them a good choice for inset panel cabinetry.

Norm installs a drawer panel to the front of the drawer. He positions it very carefully with the drawer box in, starting with it completely up and then centering it and dropping it until the top gap matches the side gaps. A couple of pins hold it steady while Norm removes the drawer to his workbench where he places it face down and secures it more sturdily with several screws installed from inside the box. Reinstalling the drawer, Norm notices it is inset slightly from the face frame. A couple of quick adjustments to the slide brackets corrects that problem.

Norm turns his attention to the wall cabinet above the dishwasher, which includes storage for heavy plates. This cabinet is narrower than the base unit and made of pre-finished plywood. That's important here because the doors have glass panels, making the inside visible.

Norm makes a face frame using the same techniques and attaches it with biscuits. The continuous groove in the carcass makes attaching this face frame easier. Norm also designed and built this unit with a deeper recess that supports under cabinet lighting. While the face frame glue dries, Norm makes some doors.

These doors have the same basic design, but feature mortise and tenon joinery instead of simpler groove and tenon. A groove across the entire rail and stile would be unsightly on a glass paneled door. Norm uses his mortise cutter with a 1/4” chisel to cut the mortises, and uses the same technique of turning them around that he uses on the table saw to ensure a perfectly centered cut. He cuts the tenons at the table saw using a stop block to cut the shoulders, then he nibbles the top and bottom of each tenon. Finally, he turns to his tenoning jig to make the cheek cuts. With mortises and tenons cut, Norm glues the door frame together. While it cooks, he turns back to the case, carefully cutting and gluing more bead details to the inside of each opening in the face frame.

The shelves are adjustable. Using a special clear plastic jig and a bit with a collar, Norm drills a series of holes that will accept shelf pins. He drills the first hole and then uses a shelf pin to lock the template in place, ensuring that the remaining holes are properly spaced. He repeats this process near the back edge, then repeats the process on the other side of the cabinet. For the extra long shelves in the larger side of the cabinet, Norm creates some pin holes in the back of the cabinet, to add support.

The glass doors are ready for the next step. Norm uses a router fitted with a 1/8” slot cutting but to cut a thin groove inside the rails and styles. He then taps pieces of 1/8” plywood into that groove. This spline and the frame hold the exterior molding in place. The spline adds a corner and extra gluing surface for the molding. Norm leaves that to set.

He turns his attention to shelves for the upper cabinet next. Using a panel cutting jig he cuts the shelves to the precise length from cabinet grade plywood. He then attaches a strip of maple to the shelf with biscuits. Instead of a veneer, he uses an actual piece of maple that will stiffen the shelf so that it can support heavy china and glassware.

Norm uses non-mortised hinges for the doors. These save the work of creating mortises in the door and cabinet, and permit adjustment of the door (within limits) to ensure a good fit. This is important in inset designs. He finishes with a strip of poplar at the top of the cabinet that serves as a doorstop.

That concludes the wet wall. Norm will continue the kitchen next episode with the pantry.