Every place I've ever lived has been designed for that "average American family," with lots of bedrooms, living room, dining room, family room, etc. The problem was that I was a single person, not an average family. I needed space, but for hobbies, not people. And because I'm over 6'2", bending over to use sinks designed for children was a constant frustration. Over the years, I collected a list of things I would change if I could have my dream house. As I approached retirement, I realized time was running out for that house; it was now or never.
Dreams are not always perfect, however. I could never afford my dream house, a spacious Southern California home overlooking the Pacific Ocean. But I could afford a modest ranch house, with a 20-mile drive to the beach. It was a very long way from perfect, but it had potential.
This blog documents the process of turning that small average house into something that matches my lifestyle. It will be as close to my dream house as I can make it. I'm doing all the work myself to stretch my resources. By not hiring contractors, I can afford high quality materials, and I'll know the job is always done right. The remodeling will be my primary avocation for a few years, even as I try to fit in my writing and other hobbies.
It promises to be an interesting journey, and a challenging one!
Sunday, March 25, 2018
At the end of the last post, the two cabinets that make up the whole were in place, the left one attached and the right one just sitting there looking pretty:
With the back installed on the right half, and it screwed into the studs and base, I started work on the shelf connecting the two (didn't want to waste that space — good for storing pottery trimming chucks — I'll explain later). I also started to fit some of the birch trim, but discovered my stock of birch was low, so another trip down to the wood store was needed.
With the cabinets in place, I fabricated the counter top. It was about nine inches longer than eight feet, so I had to carefully glue (with reinforcing biscuits) an extension. I screwed on a couple of temporary braces while carrying the long piece from the garage to the pottery studio. Just a little awkward.
Where the plywood spanned the space between the two counters, I glued and screwed more plywood to the underside of the counter top (flipping it over to do that).
The top right-side up for a test fitting:
It was time to glue the plastic laminate top to the plywood. It was too cold outside, so I set up two makeshift tables in the pottery studio — one for the plastic laminate and the other for the plywood. The contact cement is applied to both surfaces and left to dry. Then the laminate is placed on top of the plywood, but separated by wooden dowels to keep them from touching. Once they touch, they can't be adjusted. The dowels keep them apart while they are aligned in position. Then the dowels are removed beginning from the center toward the ends.
A roller is used to apply high pressure to ensure a good bond without any air bubbles trapped between laminate and plywood, again, working from the center toward the ends until the laminate is fully cemented. The laminate is cut slightly larger than the plywood; the small overlap is removed with a small router (laminate trimmer) fitted with a carbide straight cutting bit (with guide bearing).
Then the top is moved back into place and attached to the cabinets with screws (from the bottom).
At this point, I started attaching the birch trim on the edges of the plywood, using biscuits (for some pieces), glue, and finish nails. I also worked on the birch backsplash. I again ran out of birch, which has both light and dark coloration, and decided to substitute maple for the last bits rather than make a special trip to the wood store (hour drive each way).
Next I started on the drawers. Not all sixteen of them, mind you, but four of the larger ones, which would be made of plywood. Because the large drawers could be holding fifty pounds of clay, I opted to install a 3/4" plywood base. To avoid the problems I had with the half-inch plywood sides delaminating with the drawer bottom dado, I simply glued and screwed the half-inch sides to the edge of the 3/4" base.
I use plywood for the deep drawers because finding wide solid wood that stays straight and flat is difficult. That said, it adds complications. The edges have to be covered with trim that also stiffens the sides, and I have to make from scratch the maple trim I use (a real pain and consumer of time).
Here's the type of joint I use for the plywood drawers (viewed from the bottom). I'll start using dovetail joints when I get to the shallower drawers that have solid wood sides.
And of course gluing the trim on takes time (and there are a lot of drawers).
So jumping ahead to where I am now, this is the half of the pottery studio where the cabinets are. This half also houses the sink and the kiln (to be ordered in a couple of days). The kiln will sit on the right where the spot light is shining on the floor.
Here's a photo showing the both sides:
So I've just made the four plywood drawers and put the plain white painted fronts on three of them.
And the two on the right side of the cabinet, one with the front on and the other without.
This is the cabinet as it now stands. You can see the birch backsplash, installed with silicone adhesive. The side splashes are actually made of maple.
I also made a couple more of the side-loading kitchen drawers. The first photo shows the carcasses, and the other two photos show them with the fronts attached.
As I mentioned, I will drive down to San Diego to order the kiln in a couple of days, and continue building drawers. This time I'll be setting up my dovetail jig and hopefully cranking out drawers for both the pottery studio and the kitchen. Also on the horizon is more bamboo flooring, this time for the living room.