Constructing your own cabinet might look pretty straightforward – at the end of the day, it’s really just a box with a door. Or is it? Truth is, it’s not as easy as it may seem, especially if you’re going for anything even remotely sophisticated.
You want it to carry heavy loads, or include drawers, pull-outs or Lazy Susans?
Even if you just want to make sure it’s finished in such a way as to withstand the daily onslaught of moisture, spills, sticky fingers and cleansers, building a cabinet becomes a little bit trickier.
First of all it’s important to understand a bit about the materials required for building a cabinet. Among the hardwoods available to choose from are oak, ash, maple and many others, each with their own unique characteristics which can make the job easier or harder.
Numerous grades of plywood and fibre board also exist, to make up the “carcass” or body of cabinets (and also sometimes their doors).
In order to make the face frame of a cabinet, you must first know the difference between rails and stiles. Making these involves ripping, cross-cutting and, in some cases, re-sawing and planing. You’ll also have to get the hang of squaring edges and boring holes so that they are clean, accurate and at perfect right angles to the surface you’re drilling into.
In order to make strong joints, it’s also essential to know how to cut rabbets, mortises, dovetails, doweling and dadoes. Not to mention what is possibly one of the trickiest parts of cabinet construction – the doors and drawers…especially for cabinets with raised or recessed panels.
Not to put you off here, but you’re also going to need a substantial array of tools. The following items are all essential:
- Table saw
- Router and router table
- Thickness planer
- Assorted hand planes
Other very useful implements to have handy include:
- An orbital sander – this will save you literally hours of manual sanding
- A drill press – great if you want to bore holes easily and accurately for hinges and other cabinet hardware
After reading all this, you might well be ready to run for the hills…why go to all this trouble when you can just get your cabinets at IKEA or Pottery Barn!!?
Well, if you want something with that personal touch and you’re willing to put a bit of effort into undertaking a little project like this, you can’t beat the feeling of satisfaction when you complete something that you’ve crafted yourself from start to finish!
Still here? Great! So once you’ve created your masterpiece, the final touch is to get that beautiful glossy finish that you sometimes see in cabinet showrooms. For this you will either need some pretty solid finishing skills and high quality spraying equipment..or be willing to hire a professional to finish this final part of the process for you.
If you’re doing it yourself, make sure you have a good brush and that you’ve done all of your homework on how to prepare, condition, stain, thin and apply a clear coat to your cabinet. Still, if you have little or no experience in this are, BEWARE – many projects are ruined during this finishing stage. So, if you’re not sure and you don’t want to risk jeopardising all of the time and effort you’ve put into building the actual cabinet, maybe consider hiring a professional at this point to take care of the finishing touches.
When building your own cabinet or any other furniture, if you want to do a decent job then you need to have the right equipment…you can’t do all of this on the kitchen table and expect good results. To do this properly, you’ll need to habe access to a well ventilated workshop with a workbench and the full array of measuring tools, squares, vises, clamps, glues and safety equipment.
If you’re doing this as part of a wider renovation project which involves stripping out a lot of old furniture, you’ll also need to make sure to dispose of any unwanted materials and waste as responsibly and efficiently as possible. James Foster, CEO of Lincolnshire-based waste management experts Skip Hire Grimsby (www.skiphireingrimsby.co.uk), says:
“Rubbish is rubbish…not very glamorous compared to the excitement of doing something creative like building your own furniture or renovating your house! But it’s got to be done…best to get an expert to take care of it so you can focus on the fun part!”
If any of this is new to you, it may very well be worthwhile enrolling in woodworking classes. They can be extremely fun and rewarding and are available in most cities – check out colleges and other further education establishments, as well as home improvement centres and woodworking and carpentry supply outlets.
If you can, getting a membership at ‘maker spaces’ or cooperative workshops is a great way to get access to woodworking equipment and tools that would otherwise cost you a fortune to buy yourself. Plus, as well as the fact that there’s nearly always someone around to answer any questions you may have, the blades and cutters you’ll be using will always be razor sharp and well maintained!