The Junky Cabinet Project

November 16, 2014 Comments Off on The Junky Cabinet Project

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A full basement has its advantages. For one, it allows me to have a workshop. It also provides a good amount of storage space, both for the things you want to frequently access and for the things you don’t care to see anymore. We don’t have a garage and our house has but one closet, so the extra space in the basement is appreciated. While our yard is small we do have a garden, and no matter how big or small a yard, it requires work and routine maintenance. Until I build that garden shed, we store our garden tools in the basement, as well as pile of garden-related items like seeds, flower pots, copper-blocker (slugs!), etc. Until now all those little garden things have been relegated to a table in a small area of the basement. At first it was well organized, but then looked like this:

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I wanted to organize the space but I didn’t want to create a six-month project. To jump start things I started with a few pre-built cabinets, and figured no matter how ugly they might be I could turn them into something respectable. There are many salvage stores here in town that accept materials from homes that are deconstructed (as opposed to demolished, thrown into debris bins, and sent straight to a landfill). The largest and most recognized is The Rebuilding Center, which is always stuffed with dimensional lumber, moldings, flooring, countertops,  sinks, and cabinets. I found these two cabinets that would fit the bill.

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These cabinets are what I would describe as junky builders-grade “furniture” in every way. The carcasses are made from cheap plywood and all the faces are flat-sawn red oak. Neither of those are a good look. All the joinery is butt joints, glue, and staples. The hardware was 70s-style porcelain something or others. But they were cheap, the right size, and I wasn’t looking for fine furniture here. This was a piece that was just meant to be functional, and most of the time it would literally sit in the dark.

The build here was fairly simple. First I stripped the varnish off the oak faces because I wanted to paint everything. Stripping paint or an old clear finish is miserable work. I have a bottle of Soy-Gel which works quite well. It’s not as fast as the rattle-can stuff from the hardware store but it doesn’t water your eyes either. The cabinets were from the same set so their height and depth dimensions were consistent. This allowed me to screw them together to make one 4-foot long cabinet. I cut the sides to be flush with the bottom of the cabinet and put everything on casters, which kept the finished height at a typical 36″. To cover the plywood sides, I nailed on some reclaimed CVG Douglas-fir boards to give a beadboard look.

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What fun.

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Then came the paint. Each time I use milk paint I swear it will be last time. Mixing it up, trying to get the right consistency, siphoning off the foam, trying to guess the amount needed because it doesn’t keep for more than a few days – the list goes on. But then I finish painting, take a few steps back and say, “Damn. That looks pretty good.” There is just no other paint that can create that kind of look. In this case I first put down one coat of black, followed by two coats of barn red. After letting it dry for a few days, I lightly smoothed it with some steel wool and then applied a few coats of oil/varnish blend, which darkened it somewhat and gave it a nice sheen.

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And of course it needed a top. Nothing fancy here, I simply picked up a 2 ft by 4 ft piece of veneer plywood, wrapped it with some cherry, and added a backstop, also in cherry. After wiping several coats of thinned polyurethane on the top, I called the project done. At some point I might swap out that awful hardware, though.

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And a few days later, the gardening supplies looked much happier. (Please focus on the cabinet, not the foundation wall behind).

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In other news (if you’ve made it all the way down here), I’ve added a few more tools to my For Sale page. There are a few rasps there, as well as some chisels. Let me know if you’re interested in any of them.



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