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 3, 2019

Guest Bathroom — Part 6 + The Drawer Factory

So I've been working on two fronts since last post — the guest bathroom vanity top, and the nine more dovetail drawers I mentioned.  The drawers are done, but the vanity continues to be a work in progress.

As I mentioned last time, I was initially looking for an acrylic (like Corian) vanity top with an integral sink.  The sink had to be small.  After discarding the idea of getting another custom Corian countertop for my 18" deep vanity, I looked at other Home Depot stock countertops.  They were all for standard 22" vanities.  I looked for a drop-in sink, that I could use with a plain (plastic laminate, or wood top — not wanting to spend the big bucks for marble, granite, or quartz, since this was for a bathroom that would seldom be used).  No drop-in sinks.  I went on Amazon and searched "small bathroom sinks" and found just one — a nice little ceramic undermount sink (for not too many bucks!).  Bought it.

You may recall that I had trouble procuring a kitchen countertop, and finally ended up laminating one from strips of maple, cherry, and walnut — and using a stainless steel undermount sink.  Applied four coats of epoxy resin to that, successfully, and have been very happy with that.

The guest bathroom vanity top would be a much smaller project — 31" wide by 18" deep, versus the 12.5 foot long by 30" deep kitchen monster.  And instead of using strips for the bathroom counter, I used three 6" wide boards glued edge-to-edge.

The sink came with a paper template, so I positioned that on a cardboard template to see where I could eliminate some wood in the middle, then glued the boards together using biscuits to maintain alignment during assembly.

While that dried, I used the cardboard template to mark out the position of the sink, before cutting a hole in the vanity top and then routing a recess to support the sink.  Normal people use vanity cabinets that have no top, and hang the undermount sink with clips from the bottom of the countertop.  Not me.

The sink instructions warned that the template might not be a perfect fit (given the sometimes unpredictable shrinkage of clay during the firing process), so before cutting a hole in the solid cherry vanity top, I used a simple cardboard gauge to mark my cardboard template with a uniform overlap around the periphery of the sink.

With the corrected sink outline marked on the template, and cut, I transferred that outline to the cherry top and then cut the hole close to (and inside) the line.

Then I used my oscillating spindle sander to smooth out the opening.  Because the cardboard template was not real smooth, I sanded to get a smooth curve rather than trying to follow every little irregularity on the line I marked.  In the photo, you can see a couple of the biscuit slots I cut for attaching the front edging.

Then I used a router to round over the edge, with a smaller roundover on the bottom where a bead of silicone caulk will eventually be applied between the top and sink.

Now it was time to attach a bullnose edge to the front of the countertop, and make a backsplash.  As I had run out of cherry at this point (for matching trim), I decided to use a different wood from my inventory for contrasting trim.  In this case, I used rosewood.  With that done, I test fit the countertop.

I now have to apply the four coats of epoxy to the countertop and backsplash, sanding it all smooth for a satin finish.  The cherry on the cabinet front and trim on the shelves has been given a couple of coats of polyurethane, so it looks darker.  Presumably the new bare countertop will darken to match that other cherry once it has its epoxy finish.  We'll see.

I also need to do some work on the cabinet itself to accommodate the drain and supply lines.  Then, make a frame for and install a mirror, along with the LED strip lighting around the sides and top of the mirror.  That work will be the subject of the next post — Part 7.

All of this custom work has pushed the timeline for the guest bathroom down the road a bit, so it's a good thing I didn't order the big bathtub.  After I finish up the vanity/mirror work, it will be time to start detailed design work on the garage extension.  Bathtub, say hello to the fall.

The Drawer Factory

Nine new drawers this time, all with dovetail joints.  Six of these use half-blind dovetail joints, new for me (mostly).

The other three use the more common through-joints, which look like this:

This joint belongs to a new spice drawer for the kitchen, made from maple.  I use through-joints when I plan to use drawer slides.  My cabinets use inset drawers, so the fronts have to fit precisely in the drawer opening, and the drawer fronts have to extend beyond the sides of the drawers to cover the ends of the drawer slides.  The procedure I use is to install the drawer carcass, and then build the front to fit perfectly inside the drawer opening (with small uniform gaps around the periphery), and then position the front exactly before screwing it to the carcass.  As always, pictures help.

Here's a photo of the drawer carcass installed with the slides:

This is a spice drawer, so I have installed partitions to limit the contents sliding about.  Here is another photo with the front attached to the open drawer.

And the drawer closed.  I need to make another two identical drawers below this one (along with about 30-40 others for the kitchen - sigh).

The other two through-joint drawers in this batch include another one for the pottery studio — drawer closed (the shallow top one) and open:

The last of the three through-joint dovetail drawers in this batch is a wide one for the credenza (the other, deeper drawers for the credenza were made from cabinet-grade plywood).

The other six drawers use half-blind dovetail joints.  They just slide in and out of the drawer opening without mechanical drawer slides, and so do not need separate drawer fronts applied after they have been installed.  They do need to fill up the drawer opening (height-wise) so as not to tip when opened.  This type of construction works well when the drawers don't have to carry much weight, and for drawers that don't get much use (although in times past that's how most drawers were built).

Half-blind dovetail joints are easy to make — once the dovetail jig has been set up — because you can cut both pins and tails (fronts and sides) in one pass.  Through-joints need two passes for each joint (cutting only one piece of wood at a time).  This is what the router cut looks like (in this case the dark wood is the front and the light poplar is the drawer side):

The three master bathroom drawers I was making are fairly tall, and they just slide into the drawer opening (with no wood or metal slides used).  The drawer sides had to be as tall as the opening.  My half-inch thick cherry boards were not wide enough, so I needed to glue two pieces together to get the required width.  Again, I didn't have enough cherry (and the wood store is a three-hour round trip), so I used poplar to gain the needed width.  A simple butt joint.

Part of making a nice looking dovetail joint involves sanding the dovetails smooth.  They don't just come out nice and pretty after gluing (at least mine don't).  Before and after:

I made three small half-blind dovetail drawers for the master bathroom vanity, and another three drawers for the new TV console.  These are the three for the master bathroom, open and closed:

That leaves the large (lower left) towel drawer to build (plywood), and the large door for the opening under the sink (that one will be complicated — wait for it).

The last three drawers in this batch were for the TV console (the center shallow drawer open; there is another shallow drawer to its right).

I really need to make more drawers for the kitchen as a priority, but there are also other priorities (the garage, the outside of the house, and on and on).  The only certain thing is that I will be building drawers for years.  😧

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