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Flat Flat Super-Flat

Posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

Dave!The weather has been exceptionally nice these past couple days, which is both good and bad. Good because I can park outside and do some light woodworking in my garage. Bad because I worry about us having enough of a snow pack in the mountains to avoid drought this summer.

Yesterday when I got home from work I started experimenting with making cabinet doors and drawer facings. What I want are simple shaker-style pieces which look like they would be easy to build. And, relatively speaking, they are...

Jake Perching
These are the doors and drawers I want... almost exactly. Photo from HGTV.

But getting doors and drawers that will look great takes great patience, attention, care, and time.

Take the drawers in the above photo, for example. It looks like you just saw off a piece of wood, paint it, slap a handle on it, then crack open a cold one because you're done. But it's not that simple. Every edge has to be routed because a sharp corner has little strength and will be nicked up and dented in no time. But you can't overdo it or else they won't look like they're meant to look. And then there's the biggest issue I face... having flat, flat, super-flat boards to work with.

This is a surprisingly weird thing to have to worry about.

You'd think that the boards you buy would be cut flat (which they are) then processed in such a way that they remain flat. This is not even remotely the case. After the wood has been cut from a log it's usually dried so it doesn't warp too badly, but temperature, humidity, and other factors work on the wood over time and cause it to bend. Every single "true-wood" board I have ever bought has been warped in some way. Every board. This is a huge problem when you are trying to build something that's supposed to be flat. Like a drawer face or a picture frame.

So... what to do?

Option A is to use a material like MDF (medium density fiberboard) or hardboard. It's real wood fibers mixed with resin and heat-pressed into sheets for building. It's inexpensive, smooth, flat, won't warp, paints super-smooth, and is easy to work with. In the past it was fairly weak and lacked the strength of true wood, but now-a-days it's pretty durable stuff and can be almost as strong. As a bonus, it's easy to work with as well. The downside is that it can chip or come apart easily if you're not careful about how you use nails and screws. Since I'm painting everything white, this may be a good choice for me because you'll never see the material. I also like the idea that it's cheaper and won't warp or split.

Option B is to use "true wood" and buy a planer. Running everything through a planer will provide the super-flat boards I need to build nice doors and drawers. This is wasteful and time-consuming, but you get the durability and strength that's made wood the material of choice since cabinetry began.

Option C buy fresh-planed wood from a cabinet shop. Not really an option because it's far more money than I have to spend.

My plan is to build a couple drawer faces and cabinets with MDF and see how it goes. Once I get them built I'll beat on them a little bit to make sure they're not going to fall apart. If they hold up well, then I guess I've found my material. If not, I guess I'm getting a planer. Which is something I wanted to buy anyway, but my kitchen remodel is such a huge deal that I am not thrilled with the time involved in having to use it.

For the most part I am anxious to get started on my kitchen and excited to tackle such a challenging project. But there's a small part of me who is very aware that I don't know what I'm doing yet and no amount of YouTube videos will prepare me for the real thing. Which is why it's nice that the weather has been so good and I can experiment. I'll be a lot more confident about my plans if I have some experience under my belt.

Also? By starting in on cabinetry early I'll have more time this summer to work on more catio projects. Jake and Jenny are wanting new adventures!

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Comments

  1. Michelle Phillips says:

    Have you looked into RTA cabinets. I’m sure you would do a great job with the carpentry doing it all by hand but it seems like such a huge undertaking. https://www.rtacabinetstore.com/RTA-Kitchen-Cabinets/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&gclid=CjwKCAiAs8XiBRAGEiwAFyQ-ehBQsBJsOm8qiF1PkXOHxwlZ97AUL3VILallaoyZl4cNhuXYIhuunRoCN2MQAvD_BwE. I’m going to redo my kitchen and I think this is where I’ll get my cabinets. Can’t wait to see whatever you decide to do.

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