Building the closet

Spent the day impersonating a cabinet maker, poorly. Having worked in an actual cabinet shop it always pains me to try to do this in my jury-rigged workshop where nothing is flat, square, plumb, or level. As a boatbuilder those things don’t matter terribly much to me, but for building boxes, a dead flat 8×8 Melamine surface and a table saw that isn’t powered by a hamster is helpful. I surprise myself with what I am able to do accurately with a circular saw but the process is slow and annoying.

The cabinet I’m building is basically just a copy of something you can buy off the shelf from IKEA for about the same price as I’m spending in materials. What doing it ourselves accomplishes is being able to use higher-quality Russian birch plywood instead of pressboard so the right side of this can serve a structural function supporting the counter. A day to build and a day to paint and you’re probably coming out even on labor to the price of a decent quality cabinet. The reason I like copying IKEA cabinets is so I can still take advantage of some of their clever organizers that are made to fit.

I have to admit that I was scared of concealed hinges for a long time. They just looked like complicated little robots that I would never be able to figure out much less place correctly with proper spacing and reveals. I felt silly when I finally learned how to do it, because with the help of a handy jig these are actually easier to install than regular hinges and the three directional adjustability is so nice if a door isn’t sitting quite right. I always start by making a mock up with a few scrap pieces of plywood and physically mounting a hinge just to make sure that things are ending up where I expect them to on the various thicknesses of material.

For tiny houses and vans I use a lot of half inch birch ply. You can go a little bit cheaper and use shop grade but what I like about the better stuff is that it’s usually solid enough that I can sand and paint the edges without having to edge band or add a face frame, which saves a step.

– Brian

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