By Danny Proulx
A first look at the new kitchen cabinets styles mixing
European and traditional North American styles
Melamine Particle Core Board
Testing a new blade
A few tips for the perfect cut
Decisions on which way to go
A couple of alternatives
Special screws for a special board
be attempting to send out this newsletter on a monthly basis.
It's purpose is to promote woodworking with a strong emphasis
on kitchen cabinetmaking. The idea for the newsletter came
about as a result of the many questions I receive via my
"free advice" service through my home page. Many questions
that I receive are identical and often there is a common
thread. Subjects like cabinet re-facing, refinishing, hardware
sources, and cabinet building are often dealt with. I hope
to address these common issues as I'm sure others are facing
the same situations. I will keep the newsletter as non-commercial
as possible and only mention sources and equipment if they
apply to the topic being discussed. I'd appreciate your
feedback as well as any comments on what should be included
in upcoming issues.
The Hybrid Cabinet
European style of kitchen cabinets are very different from
our traditional North American cabinet. In some European
countries kitchen cabinets are considered furniture and
moved along with other goods when a house is sold. Imagine
buying a house, with our North American ideas, and walking
into an empty room instead of a kitchen full of cabinets.
It would be quite a shock! I'm sure the real estate agents
in those countries would assume we understood the normal
practise of taking the kitchen cabinets when you move. It
would certainly ruin my day. Europeans cabinet designers
have developed the base cabinet leg which replaces our base
frame, the bottom mounted metal drawer slide, and most importantly,
the hidden hinge. Many North American cabinetmakers realized
the advantages of these hardware designs and have incorporated
them into our traditional cabinetry style. The Euro cabinet
doesn't have a face frame. The cabinet sides (called gable
ends) have applied tape to hide the particle board core.
Therefore, the cabinet's strength is very dependant on the
box (carcass) construction. The North American cabinet has
traditionally used a face frame for strength and appearance.
However, in the last few years we've incorporated the Euro
legs, slides, and hinges with the strong carcass and our
face frame resulting in what I believe to be the best cabinet
made to date. The traditional hybrid cabinet is very strong,
adaptable to any floor situation, and equipped with long
lasting and dependable drawers. Most importantly, the center
stile (being the vertical frame member between the doors)
has been eliminated because of the Euro hinge's ability
to hold it's position. It's a great cabinet, a true mix
of the best of two styles, with many, many advantages. I'll
get into more applications and problem situations that have
been solved by using this cabinetry style in upcoming issues.
Cutting Melamine Particle Core Board
of my work in kitchen cabinets involves cutting melamine
coated particle core board (MPCB). The cabinet carcass in
my style of hybrid cabinet is made from 5/8" MPCB. Until
recently I have been using a 10" "triple chip" blade. The
cuts were reasonably "chip free", however they still had
an unacceptable amount of chipping on the underside of the
board. The perfect solution to this problem is a scoring
saw. It uses two blades, in line, on a table saw to get
the perfect cut. But, if you're like me, spending thousands
of dollars on this specialized saw is out of the question.
Just recently I was talking to a local saw blade supplier
and discussing this problem. I said that I was using a 10"
TCG (triple chip grind) blade as I understood this was the
correct one to use. He told me that wasn't the case. A blade
called a melamine blade was the proper one for the operation.
This blade has a 30 degree ATB (alternate tooth bevel) and
it states that it is "recommended for extra fine chipless
sawing on acrylics and formicas or melamine where a scoring
unit is not used". I tried the blade on my 3 hp. table saw
and it works like a dream! This blade is made by FS Tool
Corp., however any high quality blade with the 30 degree
ATB design made specifically for melamine will work fine.
the perfect cut with table, radial arm, or mitre saws, make
sure your blade has carbide teeth. Sharpen your blades regularly
and check the condition of the saw bearings as well as the
"trueness" of your guide systems. During my visit with the
blade rep, I learned that there are many blades designed
for specific purposes. These include cutting solid surface
materials, ripping composite boards, and a blade designed
for cutting wood to be glued into panels. It was time well
spent and I suggest you contact a knowledgable blade representative
in your area.
have been numerous letters recently from those who are trying
to decide whether to re-face or replace their kitchen cabinets.
My response has always been the same. Ask yourself whether
or not you are satisfied with the current location of the
cabinets and if the interior spaces are adequate. Modern
cabinets have adjustable shelving, melamine coated interiors,
and are adaptable to many accessories such as shelf pull-outs.
If you're satisfied with the cabinet body, then re-facing
may be a good alternative. However, compare the re-facing
cost to the replacing cost. Is the difference great enough
to warrant a simple face lift? As always, if you plan to
use a contractor, get three quotes with references and follow-up
on those references.
often seems to be a lack of good task lighting in kitchens.
Normally, the light source is a bulb in the center of the
room. Standing at the kitchen counter makes matters worse
because you end up blocking the light. However, there are
a couple of inexpensive and unique ways to improve illumination,
both general and task lighting. General lighting can be
improved by using a florescent fixture on the ceiling in
place of the tungsten bulb. The four tube fixture can be
hidden with a hardwood box made from 1 inch by 6 inch boards.
Use flat molding such as door stop or parclose on the edges
of the boards to support a piece of white plexiglass. You'll
have a better light source that is cooler and less expensive
to operate. Task lighting can be improved by mounting single
tube florescent fixtures on the back side of a 1 inch by
4 inch board attached to the underside of the upper cabinets.
It's important to mount the fixture to the back side of
the board (valance) and not the under side of the cabinets.
This will prevent someone seeing the bare bulb when sitting
in the kitchen. The wiring for under cabinet lighting can
be run behind the valance and into the wall. Installing
a switch and box completes the job. You'll find this task
lighting systems looks good and is very effective. One thing
to remember about surface wiring, some areas have electrical
codes that require special electrical cable when it's surface
mounted. It's best to check the code in your area before
installing this system.
Particle Board Screws
been getting a lot of questions lately about particle board
screws (PBS). Some people are having difficulty finding
them at the home store or hardware supplier. The PBS or
"chipboard" screw, as some suppliers call them, should be
widely available throughout the US and Canada. They are
very easy to identify because of their thin shaft and coarse
thread. Most PBS screws also have little lines or "nibs"
under the head to help them countersink and grip the board.
Very often they're sold with a square drive head called
a #8 Robertson. They allow you to join particle boards together
with a simple butt joint. It's an amazingly strong joint
that is often used in building the carcass for kitchen cabinets.
is the end of the first issue of Rideau News. I don't want
to make each issue to long as I know bandwidth space and
time is valuable. However, I want to try and include bits
of information that may be of benefit to you. If you have
any subjects, related to kitchen cabinetmaking, that you
want me to try and cover, please drop me a line. I'd appreciate
P.O. Box 331
Russell, Ontario. Canada K4R 1E1