The Kitchen Series – Cabinets

Hello and welcome to my blog!   This post continues The Kitchen Series detailing the process of building the cabinets and other accouterments for a kitchen renovation.  Due to the nature of the installation, which is one with the countertop in place and cannot be removed, I’m building the cabinets in sections at a time.  I’m working in this fashion to ensure that the work is done accurately and to account for unforeseeable challenges hidden by the installed countertop.

My client has requested a slight change to the facade, which I’m accommodating and have accounted for in the plans.  We’ve also run into a minor issue in that the wall adjoining this kitchen is a load bearing wall and so cannot be completely removed.  What appears to be a soffit around the top of the kitchen is actually a 20″ x 12″ beam, which we knew about.  This beam is supported at the wall by heavy framing members, that we found out about recently.  The homeowner, who is doing that aspect of the work, is left with a few options that he is considering.

Returning to the woodwork; next on my agenda now that the cabinets are in place is to continue building details which create for a neat appearance.  To make for a clean interaction with the plumbing under the sink I decided to frame the interior of the cabinet.  The frame, which can be installed in place, utilizes mortise and tenon joinery to locate each component neatly.

The work began by creating a crossmember which was mortised at the ends.


The mortises in the crossmember receive uprights making the whole surround.


The plumbing surround now set aside, I began making the outward facing framework for the cabinet.  This framework will hold a false panel below the sink and a pair of doors below that.  I’ve been requested to make this aspect of the frame removable by the homeowner.  The request to allow quick and easy access to the plumbing should work need to be done.  The work began by dovetailing two legs onto a crossmember.  The crossmember was then mortised to receive an upright.


Finally, the two frames are installed into the cabinets.


There is a reveal around the backside of the frame, in a situation like this it is ideal to use a reveal making for a nice even shadow between the wallboard and the woodwork.


The outer frame, dovetailed the corners, mortised at the center upright and lap joined at the bottom, is sitting in place.  The upper section will be installed with screws and so easily removed, the low section will join to a divider that will double as a support for the drawer sides.


With the center under the sink now well along the way I was able to refocus attention on the outer panel capping off the cabinetry nearest the stove.  This cabinet, being next to the stove is made differently from the other exterior faces, the facade needed to be smooth and without an additional panel on it’s exterior face.  The shadow at the molding is created by a slight chamfer.


The stove and sink cabinets are now complete, less their doors and drawers.  Next, I begin building the cabinets that will be installed under the left most countertop.  This area being mostly exposed can be easily measured and most of my work can proceed in the shop.

Construction type framing members were used to create a base for the first cabinet under the sink because the counter top needed support as the installation went underway.  For this leg of the cabinet work I decided to build a plinth in the shop.  The plinth is a simple structure and utilizes a joined construction.

I cut heavy dovetails for the outside corners then mortise and tenon joints for the center crossmember.  Being able to build this rigid frame to extremely tight tolerance for squareness and flatness will make for a simplified install.


The through-tenons, cut for strength, are setback slightly from the plinth exterior.  These will be covered by a quarter sawn oak molding.


The plinth is now completed then set aside.  Next, I begin building a base frame which will sit atop the plinth.  This work starts by sizing white ash and grooving cross members to be joined into the longer framing members.


To match the style of the previous cabinet I have cut these ash framing members to form bridle joints.


The bridle joints were then set in place and glued.


Happily, I can report that the resulting joints are nice and tight.


I applied poplar strips to mount the back panel and battens which will make the side panel able to be mounted rigidly in the frame.   The frame was then capped off at the front edge with oak.


Now I begin roughly fitting the outside corner piece, this will be a piece constantly in view and so much attention was focused on how it will join into the frame.


The crossmember on the right side, sitting in place, will be cut to form a tenon and joined into the upright with a mortise.


The bottom frame now completed, I can begin to focus attention on the upper frame made very similarly to the lower frame with exception to the exterior framework.   The outside mitered corner was mortised to receive the upright.  This mortise will help to support the miter and help to retain the upright in position.


The outer framing member was then mortised to receive uprights at the center and inside corner.



Making a plinth in the shop did improve the ease of installation.  The plinth, offering rigidity to the base, allowed me to level the base very quickly and easily.  I simply set it against the back studs and interior corner, then double checked the base’s alignment to the countertop and squareness to the existing cabinetry.


Next the upper frame was installed, then plywood cut to dimension and slid into place to form the sides.  I grooved the front of the plywood to accept the hardwood edges and corner caps.   The plywood is very snuggly fit, but an interior framework will locate the plywood more permanently.


The exterior framework is shaping up nicely with mortise and tenon coming together and meeting cleanly.  This is a happy moment in an installation as it continues to suggest that my measurements are accurate and objects are located as they should be.  Add to that a continued checking for squareness along the interior frame members.

The plywood is exposed at the moment, but it will be capped off with a frame and panel.



Next, the upper exterior framing is set into place, and exterior uprights also set into place.  It is a careful assembly as nearly everything is rabbeted, joined with mortise and tenon or grooved.  Also many of these pieces are set into place, I want them removable until the job is nearly complete, and so a minor gap here or there please disregard.


With new measurements in hand, I return to the shop and begin building frames for the cabinet interior.   These frames will bring the drawer sides in allowing them to clear the door hardware.  They’re made in a basic fashion with mortise and tenon joinery, the mortises at the ends are simple open mortises.


Further preparing stock that will become the moldings for around the base frame, these are made from 9/16″ thick quarter sawn white oak.


Finally, returning to the site, I have put the plywood interior panels in place followed by the ash frames.  Once these were situated I put in a set of web frames that make the support for the upper drawers.  The upper drawers will be exposed and the lower drawers hidden behind doors.  These are also simply set into place, so again please disregard any minor gaps, they will soon disappear.


The cabinet is starting to shape up at this point.


With everything in place I can move onto drawer building.  I’ve build the drawer sides and bottoms in the shop, then prepared the fronts and backs.  I needed to have the drawer sides in place to take exact dimensions so that I can build the drawers with confidence.  Rather than build everything upfront, I’ve worked in a stepped approach to allow for unforeseeable changes.  We’ve encountered a few along the way which have reinforced my thought process.


Those returning from the previous post may notice a few changes to the site.  I’ve been making some efforts to make the site as user friendly as possible and act as a portfolio of my work as clearly as possible.   The photography will continue to improve as my sister, a professional marketer, takes photos of my finished work around the studio and in easily accessible places.    Those of you wondering why some of the photos are considerably nicer than others, that is why.   Thanks for following!


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