Monday, May 26, 2008

The Corner Cabinet Is Finished!

Well, I finally finished the corner cabinet today. It's been about 7 months or so of interrupted work / fun, but it's finally done. And I am incredibly happy with the way it turned out. And my wife's happy with it, too.

When last we met before Safety Week, I had finished the first four steps of the five step finishing process. To refresh your memory, those steps are:

  1. Dye the wood with Brown Mahogany TransTint dye, 1 oz of dye diluted in 1 quart of distilled water.
  2. Apply one coat of Waterlox Original Sealer Finish. Allow to dry over night.
  3. Sand with 320 grit paper.
  4. Glaze with Walnut Bartley Gel Stain, to even the color & pop the grain.
  5. Apply 4 wiped on coats of Waterlox Satin Finish.

The first four steps only took about a week to get done, with a couple of hours put in after work in the evenings a couple of nights in the week. It took about 2 weeks to finish step 5 because I had about the same amount of working time each week & I had so many parts to finish & only 10 Painter's Pyramids. If you recall, I received these for Christmas & they worked great in this application. I just needed a lot more than I had. I've ordered them, but they won't be able to help me with this project.

I believe that the solvents & chemicals in the Waterlox products had negative effects on my family's health while I was using it. We all came down with what seemed to be sinus infections after the first week of finishing. I didn't have any time to apply the final coats on the doors & shelves in the middle of last week, so I didn't get to them until Friday & Saturday. My son seems to be most sensitive, as he started having some trouble breathing while lying in bed on Friday.

I finally applied the last coat of Waterlox Satin Finish on Saturday morning, while waiting for my guests for a family barbecue to arrive. I was able to leave the garage door open all day while that was drying. Luke had a little trouble that night, but he was fine last night.

We ended up going to one of my sisters-in-laws' house for a barbecue yesterday afternoon, so I didn't get a chance to do a thing on the cabinet on Sunday. But today was another matter.

After the fourth coat had been applied, I noticed that the build-up & sheen on the piece did not match the build-up & sheen on the pieces I am trying to match. The finish on these seemed to be more of a semi-gloss polyurethane that completely filled the grain.

I had posted a question on on WoodNet as to whether it was possible to apply polyurethane on top of the WaterLox. My thinking was I could probably brush on one coat of poly & match the build-up & finish, as I had already matched the color. The responses I got indicated it was possible, but a number of people questioned the look.

In the end, I decided not to apply any poly. It would have just added more time to the finishing process, and I didn't feel that the finish had to match exactly. And I really need to get started on my next project.

So what did I do to finish the finish? Simple: I went out this morning to the local Ace Hardware & bought a package of 0000 steel wool. I rubbed the parts with the steel wool, then cleaned up the dust with a Norton micr0-fiber tack rag I picked up a few weeks ago. These things are great -- you mist them with water & wipe. They just pick the dust right up & leave no residue of any kind. You can machine wash these things & re-use them.

After wiping down, I then applied some Butchers Bowling Alley Wax. This is the only paste wax I have on hand at the moment, and I normally use it to wax my table saw & jointer tables. But it worked fine in this application. After applying the wax, I took my steel wool & wiped some more, in the direction of the grain. I then buffed the wax with a cotton cloth. The resulting sheen was nicer & more pleasing to this beholder's eye.

Below is the base cabinet finally in the house, out of the garage, near the china cabinet which was the piece I used to determine the details of the corner cabinet. You can see that the color match between the two cabinets is very close.

On the left you see the two carcases stacked on top of each other in their new home, the corner of the dining room. At this poing, the two carcases have been screwed to each other (I have screws driven up through the top of the bottom cabinet into the legs of the top cabinet. This lets the two cabinets act as one unit).

On the right, you can see the upper cabinet head-on in its corner. The dining room table is in the way of the lower cabinet, I'm afraid, so I don't have a head-on shot of that. I do, however, have the shot below.

The next step after joining the two cabinets together was to hang the doors for the last time. So I grabbed my hardware & got to it. This went easily enough -- all the headaches during the initial hanging weren't repeated at this point. After hanging the doors, I had to mount the four door catches -- two on each door, one at the top & one on the bottom. This went reasonably well, though I did somehow strip the heads off of the shanks on three of the screws. Lastly, I put the shelf pins into their holes & mounted the shelves into their new home.

You can see the finished cabinet with everything installed & the doors closed in the picture on the left, and with the doors open in the picture on the right.

As I've said, I'm extremely happy with the way it came out. A cousin of mine, who came over for the barbecue on Saturday, was looking at it while it was still in the garage & remarked that it looked flawless to him. I didn't bother to point out the defects -- it's amazing what some stain & putty can hide!

Thanks everyone who has been following this project. It's now time to move on. I'm going to get started on the next project this weekend. This will be a pulpit I'm making for our pastor. I will be posting about that project soon.

See ya in the funny papers!


neil said...

YEAH.......Tony!!!!!! Really great job. Your pulpit for your Pastor, sounds exciting. Some of the first few craftsman that contributed to Fine Woodworking magazine had alter pieces in their portfolio's...COOL man!!!

I admire your persistance on this piece, its frustrating and quite difficult to build while balancing all your obligations. (I'm tipping my hat) The end result of a happy spouse makes all the difference.

Looking forward to the pulpit, one of my favorite parts to this Corner Cabinet Build/Blog was the extensive early preparation you did. I remember following along, building the piece in my head. I'll be check'in and will try the same with the pulpit.

Thanks Tony, the Corner cabinet was very enjoyable to follow.


Tony V said...


Wow! Thanks a lot! Comments like those coming from you mean a lot to me.

I started blogging this at the end of October, 2007 and I finished blogging it at the end of May, 2008, a total of 7 months. It wasn't continuous effort -- something like this should probably take a week's effort for a man working full time to build. Finishing would probably take another week or so.

As for the pulpit, I've been building it in my head every night while lying in bed. I pretty much know the order I'm going to do things in. I still have to inventory all of the wood I received about 2 weeks ago and I have to go buy 2 sheets of red oak ply. But I'm gonna get started with the planning & blogging soon.

And Neil, thank YOU for staying with it & commenting. Your feedback was one of the things I looked forward to most after posting a blog entry.