Kitchen Cabinets, Part 1

During our last kitchen renovation, I shared how we built our cabinets.  Over the weekend, Ben built every drawer, 9 total, for the island.  We’ve made a few changes while building our new cabinets, so I’m giving the scoop now.  To get as much detail as possible, I’m sharing how he built the boxes and drawers now.  Once we finish the fronts, I’ll discuss the materials and process for those.

As he finished each drawer, I sanded the tops and sides smooth for clear coat.  Four days later, here’s our island, ready for install.


The right stack are for either side of the stove.  On the left are the shorter cabinets the cook top will rest on.  Originally, we planned to put the trash under the sink again, but started discussing and agreed it is better under the stove.  With a half width drawer under, if someone is cooking, it’s easy enough to scoot to the side to throw something away.  At the sink, you have to step all the way over, stopping what you are doing.  So, that’s why there’s only one drawer in the lower box.

Our bathroom vanity was a trial run of sorts for the kitchen cabinet process.  All boxes are constructed with 3/4 inch thick, double-sided melamine coated particle board.  Melamine is ideal for wet or potentially wet areas such as kitchens.  Box assembly is otherwise the same as before.

One big change we made is the drawer material.  Last time we used 3/4 inch plywood.  It’s sturdy, but everything we can get now is a lower grade.  Low grade plywood warps easier, which can skew the drawer.  We also didn’t want to fill ugly edges.  This time around, we went with 3/4 inch thick poplar for the sides and 1/2 inch double-sided melamine for drawer bottoms.  Using a dado bit in the table saw, Ben cut a 1/2 inch wide by 3/8 inch deep groove a half-inch from the bottom.

Kitchen-Drawer-Assembly-GroovesHe repeated this process for both sides and the front.  The backs are an inch shorter and are glued directly to the drawer base.  A bead of glue inside the groove holds the base in place.  Each side slips in over, nailing the corners for added strength.


After the three sides are in place, Ben runs a line of glue on the base and side corners before sliding the back in.  A few more nails and the drawer is assembled.  That’s when I get to start working.  I used 220 grit paper to sand the top edges and sides smooths, paying extra attention to the joints.  Before sealing, I quickly vacuum off dust.  To keep the melamine base clean, I taped off the edges before applying two coats of clear water based poly.


One really great advantage of building our own cabinets is tailoring them to our needs.  For instance, the drawer heights are perfect for us.  We always prefer three drawers over a shorter stack of four.

Before we start building drawers, I measure a bunch of items to decide the minimum height for each drawer.  I tell Ben what I need the usable space to be.  To accommodate tall pots, leaving a little breathing room, our bottom drawer inside space is 11 inches tall.  Our top drawer can be no shorter than 4 1/2 inches inside to store our spice drawers.  Middle drawers are always the remaining space.  Knowing my measurements and that the bottom and glides take up 1 inch, Ben knows where to attach the glides.


Another big difference this go around are the drawer glides.  Last time, we didn’t want to sacrifice drawer height, so we used side mount glides.  With a bigger kitchen, we are less concerned about that and chose Blum soft close, under mount glides.

Comparatively, these puppies are not cheap.  About $17 per pair versus $6 for the same size.  We made our island deeper than standard, 31 inches, to leave space between the cooktop and bar.  Longer pairs cost $45 each.  That’s 405 dollars in drawer glides for just the island!  Even with the price tag, after using these in the bathroom, neither of us would go back to the old style.  These are the cats pajamas.  Seriously, full extension, 100 pound heavy-duty rating, quiet, and smooth.


With the slide installed, he secures clips to the under side of each drawer.  That’s the orange thing you see in the above photo.


These clips are the only thing physically holding the drawer to the glide.


Did I mention these glides are tucked completely underneath, hidden out of sight.


That’s all we can do on cabinets until we get everything set in the kitchen.  Then we add the face frames, drawer fronts, and hardware.  We’re nailing down those details soon.

We also made unexpected progress on the countertops over the weekend.  Hoping to get pricing and see our options, we popped in a local marble and granite supplier.  I said I preferred a dark, matte to satin finish stone.  The owner showed us really beautiful leathered granite and a gorgeous soap stone remnant pile.  After talking it over with him, he made us an offer we couldn’t refuse: 100 bucks for six soap stone pieces.  Three are more than enough for our kitchen, so we loaded it up that day.  Because soap stone is on the soft side, it’s easy to cut and polish at home.  Ben’s no stranger to working with stone counters, so we’re thrilled.  Right now, the slabs are stacked together, with the backs facing out.  But, I can’t wait to share more!

Our rule is to have everything on site and ready for install before anything gets ripped out.  Slowly, things are coming in.  Flooring, a new door, and the sink should arrive soon.  It can’t get here soon enough.  Almost daily, Ben threatens to tear things out.

7 thoughts on “Kitchen Cabinets, Part 1

  1. I must say, no one does a kitchen remodel like you guys do. I can’t wait to see the results and in the meantime, I shall enjoy the details.

  2. The amount of work that you and Ben get done in a month would take me 10 years. I love that you both are so industrious! I think the kitchen will look great!

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