A Kitchen Cupboard

I wrote this article a few years ago, and thought that it might be useful reproducing it here. It is specifically Triton-centred, as that was the requirement of the original article.

Ever since purchasing our home a few years ago, we seem to have been in a continuously making improvements, slowly altering the place to what we consider ideal. One of the areas to receive the treatment has been our kitchen.

When my wife and I first moved in, we identified the kitchen as having a cooking area and storage issue. Simply, there was not enough bench space or cupboards. There was one space in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows that seemed to be begging for another bench to be added, so over a couple of weeks, we rectified the problem.

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After approaching a number of kitchen cabinetmakers with our requirements, and cash, we were astounded when we were told in each case that they were not interested, as we did not want the entire kitchen made-over. Next option was to look at kitset benches, which, although about $1000 cheaper than having a bench professionally made, did not result in one that matched the existing kitchen, and looked very cheap and nasty.

Finally, the only sensible option left available, was to build it ourselves from scratch. Once again, having a Triton equipped workshop absolutely saved the day, and also saved between $500 and $1000 on the cost of the resulting kitchen bench.

Design

The space for the unit was carefully measured, and a number of different designs were tabled. We finally settled on a design that provided approximately 2500mm of benchtop, and included a couple of pot drawers, a linen drawer, a couple of ‘normal’ cupboards and a corner cupboard to utilize what would otherwise have been a ‘dead’ corner. After completing a number of sketches, I then modeled the entire unit in a computer draughting package. This allowed me to check all the dimensions to ensure that once I started cutting, I wouldn’t find myself with wrongly sized panels. It also gave very tidy drawing which were invaluable when it came time to putting the unit together.

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The space had constraints at either end, so the solution was to build the unit in two modules. The first module was the corner cabinet, measuring 900mm x 900mm, and the second module was a straight bench measuring 1595mm x 600mm. The 5mm remaining was to allow a little bit of latitude in case any contingencies (such as my cutting not being as accurate as necessary or the room walls not being square). A word of warning however: being able to cut 2400 x 1200mm sheets with 0.5mm accuracy on a Triton Workbench can make one forget that items such as houses are not as accurate! In this case, my 5mm clearance disappeared, and I literally scrapped a thin layer of paint off part of the wall as the unit was finally put into place. Talk about not having room for error!

Cutting Panels

The design required 52 individually sized panels, and this is where the Triton Workbench really came into its own. Rather than buying the presized melamine available at hardware stores, I decided to use the inherent ability of the Triton to work with large sheets, and cut them to size myself. This alone saved over $300 in project costs. To decide on what materials to purchase, I first planned all the cuts on paper, and came up with fact that I would need seven sheets of 2400mm x 1200mm melamine for the job. Just to test that I had the optimum cutting solution, I found a program on the internet that you could feed your existing wood dimensions into, as well as the sizes of the panels required, and it produces a cutting plan. There are quite a number of such programs available- the one that I found useful was from http://www.rrdrummond.com called “The Itemizer”. Even though I had taken considerable pains to ensure I was using the boards as efficiently as possible, the program found my figure of 7 boards excessive, as it showed that I only needed 5 ½ sheets, even when leaving a 30mm gap between each panel.

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I decided to have a significant gap between panels, as 2400mm x 1200mm sheets of 16mm thick melamine is heavy, and although not impossible, is very difficult getting the first cut or two made, even when using the Triton Maxi Sliding Extension Table. Instead, I have a very cheap circular saw that I used to (very) roughly cut the sheets into more manageable sizes, before finally resizing them on the Workbench. Cutting and sizing the panels was a breeze, and by the end of the first weekend, I had 52 perfectly cut panels ready for the construction phase. Obviously, not all edges were cut straight when rough-cutting with the hand-held circular saw. To ensure that I had a straight edge to work from, I clamped a builders metal set square so that it slightly overhung an edge. The first cut then had this running against the fence, rather than the curved edge of the rough cut board. Also, I ensured that the face of the board being cut was up, as this surface is the cleanest cut by the table-mounted saw.

Since then of course, I have discovered compression router bits, and in future a step involving milling the edge perfectly with this bit would be factored in. A video of this bit in action can be found earlier on in this blog – select “videos” from the right hand menu, or use the search function.

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Cupboard Doors & Benchtop

Rather than attempting to make the doors and benchtop myself, I found a local company able to manufacture doors that matched the existing kitchen exactly (including vinyl wrap), and a benchtop using Laminex with moulded edges and a splashback. The company I used was Schiffer Manufacturing in Carrum Downs who did a superb job of both the doors and the benchtop. Although it was a significant proportion of the final cost of the unit, it was worth every penny, and the unit looks so much more professional. The entire length of the benchtop is one-piece, making it nearly impossible to work out that the unit was actually made in two modules.

Assembly

One aspect that I considered very important in the design, was to hide the joint fasteners wherever possible. In the vast majority of cases, I used chipboard screws to assemble the unit. The other joining method used throughout the project was pocketholes, using a Kreg Jig. This gave a very strong joint that was quick to construct, and they were strategically placed so the unsightly holes which are a necessary evil of pockethole construction remained hidden.

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In theory, the entire bench can still be broken back down to the individual panels. This was chosen as the preferred method, because a significant amount of the bench required assembly in situ, or at least very near to (as much because my workshop just isn’t that large!)

Base

The base of the unit is both structural, and also includes the unit kickboard. Extra runners were placed under where each of the walls were located, allowing any load placed on top of the bench to be transferred directly to the floor. The floor of the unit was then attached onto this base, with an overhang at the front, mainly for aesthetic purposes.

Walls

The walls and back of the unit were then attached to the unit’s floor, using pocketholes. This saved considerable hassles in getting the walls correctly located, and again, allowed for in-situ assembly. For the walls that were going to be used to mount the drawer runners, it was particularly important that they were perpendicular to the front, and the correct distance apart.

The shelf for the corner unit was placed into position at this time (resting on the base), as it would be impossible to insert once the benchtop was secured. Stringers were used between the tops of the walls so the basic units were not reliant of the benchtop for rigidity.

At this point, the modules were placed in their final locations, and joined together using a few chipboard screws.

Benchtop

It was finally time to give the unit an appearance of functionality. Needless to say, within 30 minutes of being put into place, and even before it was secured down, the benchtop was being used as it was intended! I guess we were that desperate for extra benchspace in the kitchen! The benchtop was secured by simply using some 25mm x 25mm angle brackets. As it was not intended to be an integral part of the unit’s rigidity, there was no need to use anything more elaborate.

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Shelves and Drawers

The shelves were raised into place, and simple brass shelf-holders (the ones that are pushed into hole of adjustable shelves) were used. I chose this method, as it means in future I can adjust the shelf height if necessary, but at the same time, I have a strong personal dislike for the commercial solution of predrilling a mass of holes in lines inside the cupboards for every possible shelf position.

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The drawers were constructed like the rest of the unit, using the same melamine, and screws. It does make the drawers heavy, but as they were intended to be pot drawers, strength was more of a consideration. With a bit of fiddling, the runners were secured to the inside walls, and the drawers were inserted. There was some adjustment needed to ensure that each drawer had sufficient clearance. As the drawers were going to be subjected to a lot of heavy use, I stayed away from the ball bearing version of commercial runners, having had enough experience of how difficult they become when they fail.

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Doors and Drawer Fronts

The doors and benchtop look stunning- more because of how well they match the existing kitchen. Looking at the completed bench, you would not guess that it wasn’t made at the same time as the rest of the kitchen.

The doors were hinged using fully concealed hinges. They have a threefold benefit as not only are they hidden from the outside, they are spring loaded and are all that is needed to keep the doors closed. They are also fully adjustable, allowing the door position to be fine-tuned after assembly. Mounting them is very simple, as a cutting and screwing template is provided with the hinge, and it is simply a matter of using a Forsner bit to drill the required 35mm hole in the door.

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The bi-fold door for the corner unit was a lot harder. I chose to go with the same type of hinge for the centre of the bi-fold, (it is a different construction specifically for that purpose). It is quite a bit more expensive, around 2 ½ times more than the standard concealed hinge. The main difficulty was getting all the adjustments just right, so the door closed, and opened properly without binding on itself, and also so it fitted into the space provided for the door without impacting on either edge. However, after lots of adjusting and readjusting, it was finally right.

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The drawer fronts were simply screwed to the drawers from the back, and plastic caps used to conceal the screwheads.

The unit was finally finished off using brass knobs that closely matched the rest of the kitchen.

Finally

This may all sound very complex, but it was one of the easiest pieces of large furniture to make. Having the benchtop and doors commercially made the job even easier, which giving a very professional finish. Given that it took just two weekends from start to finish shows just how easy something like this is, when you have suitable tools, and in this case, the Triton Workbench and Maxi Sliding Extension Table was absolutely indispensable.

The major tools used on this job were:

Triton Workcentre 2000

Triton 2400W circular saw and 60 tooth TCT blade

Triton Maxi Sliding Extension Table

2 Triton Multistands

Kreg Pockethole Jig

Drill with forsner bit and screwdriver bit (and standard wood bit for predrilling critical holes)

Iron (for attaching the preglued melamine edging on exposed edges)

Tape measure and Steel Ruler

Handsaw

The final cost of the unit was around $1600, with $1100 of that being the benchtop (~$600) and doors (~$500). The melamine sheeting cost $250. The equivalent bench in kitform in the cheapest finish would have also cost around $1600, or upwards of $2200 with a decent finish. A commercially produced bench (if anyone was willing to make it) would have cost well over $2500. Guess that means the Triton has paid for itself with this job alone!

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