Garage Cabinets 3

In the previous installment, I said that cutting all the wood to the proper size and painting it before putting it together “assumes some skills that I may not actually possess”. This was not so much a prophetic statement as an acknowledgment of my own limitations. As I learned, the two skills that turned out to be in short supply are counting and measuring. In the work done to the point of my last installment, I was able to lay everything out on the floor or on my giant piece of rigid insulation. But once I had the biggest part of the structure built and fixed in place, my shortcomings came to the fore.

But I’m jumping ahead a bit. Last time, I had the carcasses of the two main cabinets built and fixed in place. I also had the shelves cut to size. I considered leaving them unpainted, but that consideration lasted about six minutes once I had them put in place. They definitely needed paint. I did all of the painting on the floor of the garage. For the shelves, I painted one side of the shelf and half the edges, so that I could pick them up when they were still wet and take them outside to dry. So each shelf got painted and moved four times: twice for primer and twice for paint. The photo doesn’t show it very well, but each piece is sitting on little pieces of scrap wood to keep them off the deck.

Once the paint coat was dry, or dry enough, I moved them all back inside and was able to stand them up, with little scrap pieces in between to keep the painted surfaces from touching each other. This meant the Lotus didn’t have to spend the night outside.

The clever observer will have noticed that I’m attaching the door hinges onto the 2×6 pieces. So each door needs one of those. I’m putting two doors in the center above the workbench and another one in the corner. Said observer will note that there are only two 2×6 pieces cut and painted. What’s not possible to see here is that nearly every stick of 2×2 is the wrong length. Most commonly, they were either an inch and a half too long or too short. The long ones aren’t a big problem, as I can cut them. But, as I can’t find my board stretcher, I had to cut new pieces to rectify the short ones.

Here’s the center cabinet in place. Attaching the vertical pieces wasn’t an issue: they got screwed to the other cabinets. The cleats that went on the wall were also trivial: they got screwed to the studs in the wall. The interesting ones were the horizontal pieces in front, particularly the bottom one. I got them all in, but that last one wasn’t pretty.

Here we have the drawer carcass offered up (but not secured, as it and its base still need paint) and the half-size upper in the corner. I managed to cut the shelf pieces correctly but got every other cut wrong. For a while there, I was thinking I’d bought too many 2×2’s. Turns out, I had just the right number after all!

Once I had all the carcasses built, I needed to work on the doors. As you’ll recall, I made everything slightly narrower than the original cabinets. I needed to rip two inches off each of the large doors and the small doors above them. In the center, I only needed to take off about half an inch. That door in the corner (that has already been primed) was the only one that didn’t need to be resized.

It took me a little while to get the doors properly mounted. Most of the hinges were correctly located, but a couple needed a bit of adjustment. Then, with the doors hung, I needed to figure out how to manipulate the hinge adjustments to make the doors hang square. Looking at the mounted door, imagine an X and Y-axis. A set screw is used to move the door closer or farther from the hinge on the X-axis. Between the two (or three) hinges, you can rotate the door a bit to make it hang square. After a fair bit of monkeying around, I managed to get all the doors square. Now it was time to start cutting.

The rip cut guide came in handy again. It took me a couple of tries to get the best technique, which was a bit stressful, as I’d only get one shot at each door. For my first try, I made a few minor errors. First, I thought I’d be better off using a finish blade on the saw as I was concerned about chipping the laminate and I was hoping to get a smoother cut. Second, I had the saw two inches from the guide rather than twenty-two inches from the guide. Third, I cut from the back of the door rather than the front.

With the finish blade, cutting was much slower and after only two cuts I’d drained the battery. With the slow cut and the short distance between the guide and the blade, I somehow managed not to get a straight cut. And, of course, the hinges got in the way of my guide. Once I corrected those errors (and waited for the battery to recharge), I was back in business.

As I cut each door, I rehung it. Pretty quickly I saw that none of them were square any longer. After more monkeying with the set screws, I had them all square again.

Having cut two inches off the doors, I needed to drill new holes for the handles. The simple solution was to use the scrap that I cut off as a jig for the drill. This gave me the perfect position, both in from the edge and up from bottom (or down from the top, if you prefer). It also ensured that my drill would be perpendicular.

Then it was back to painting. Because I was painting over the laminate, I wanted to hit the doors with the sander to rough up the surface, hoping to get the primer to stick. The inside of the door is a white laminate, and I’m happy to keep that as is. So I masked around the edges. Then it was back to the “paint on the garage floor, dry on the back deck” dance. I did two coats of primer on the faces of the big doors.

On the big doors, I was doing two colors: the edges would get the same gray as everything else while the face would get black chalkboard paint. So once the edges of the big doors were dry, they got masked off. I got about two-thirds of the way done with this masking job when I ran out of tape. A wise person would go to the store and get another roll of tape. I, however, just peeled the tape off the backs of the small doors and used that, hoping it wasn’t a mistake. I got lucky: it worked.

The chalkboard paint was interesting. It comes in black or green or a version you can tint any color you like. When I was in school, all the chalkboards were green and most people called them chalkboards except the older teachers, who still called them blackboards. In one school I attended, they had a variety of colors, including blue and pink. I figured black would be best. I’m not at all disappointed.

The texture of the wet paint was different than any paint I’ve used before. And, even though the final color is a nice deep black, when it was going on it was more like navy blue. The label on the can said it would cover 110 square feet. I have more like 35-40 square feet of door, so two coats would be 70-80 square feet. I barely had enough. I wasn’t applying it that thickly, either. The first coat was thin enough I wasn’t sure that two coats would suffice.

So this is where we stand now. All the cabinets are done and finished. The big doors are chalkboards I can use for scribbling drawings or to-do lists or parts lists or whatever. (Or, they will be in a few days. I still need to “prep” the chalkboard surface.)

But this is the project that never ends. I’m just short of 60 hours into it and still need to build the workbench. It took me a while to decide exactly how to build the workbench, but I wrestled that problem to the floor today and bought the lumber. And, of course, there’s a change order. I did some searching on the web and saw some ideas on how to store various power tools and their associated chargers. That will result in a couple of shelves in the corner above the drawers. And lastly, I’ll need to sort through all the junk that was in the cabinets to start with. Some of it will get sent to the recycling center, some will get landfilled, and most will get organized and put away in my nice, new cabinets.

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