First Floor Bathroom Cabinets! Holy Cow: Part One.

Thursday, June 1, 2017




We have first floor bathroom cabinets.

Unbelievable!  I mean.  This bathroom has plagued me for what, every single damn day of the near-four years we've been here?! And wow.  I am so close to finishing the entire room.  And all I can do is shake my head in shock.

Shock of "I can't believe it took me this long," and shock of "omg, it's done," and shock of "wait a minute, there's nothing left to do in there?," all tumbleweeded into one big gigantic shock.

Seriously, I have replaced or redone near everything in this nine by five space sans the vitreous china of the toilet itself.

By myself.  Everything.  Me.  Whole room.  (Well, one helping hand with plumbing but still.) Flabbergasted is the mildest understatement.

This is like some Momentous Sh*t, dude.

So ok!

Remember my drawing?

My original plan* for the cabinets.  Well, not original original, but the finally agreed upon basic plan.
With a smidgie of free time at work on the movie one day, I fleshed out the design.  Before I started that job, I did oodles of research, oodles!, on consoles, sideboards, credenzas, cabinets, furniture, blah blah blah, looking for ideas.

I noticed a theme running through my saved images so I went with that flow and let the ideas stew and simmer.

Omg, you have no idea oodles, heh.  Hands down, one thing you can say about me?  Thorough.

Ideas though that were not too complex for me to accomplish yet not super lame, ya know?

Here is my final inspiration:  The Sahara Credenza.  That photo, meh, terrible.  Try this link.  Or this one.  Really it was the middle link, the main inspiration, the ah ha momo.

Added in the details here.  And baseboard at the bottom left as that posed a dilemma.  And challenged myself with things lining up.  Uh oh.
After getting a design drawn up that met my stringent approval, off through the ethers it went to the Even Tougher to Get Approval Department, Mike.  His emailed reply?  A mere two words, "Do it."

All righty!  Plan was set!  Next?  Motivation.

That, that was a little tougher as this project was Intimidating.  Fear inducing.  Never have I built cabinets before.  Let alone ones that have to look better than schlocky.  Generally sucky carpentry skills here.  I've been excessively lucky working with chipper and bored carpenters here and here.  My luck was out.

But as soon as my movie gig wrapped, magically the motivation cropped up and much to everyone's surprise here at home, I dove right in.

First step was figuring out how much plywood was required.  In AutoCAD* I drew up a 4'x8' rectangle and pieced in all the parts as efficiently as I could.

Layin' out all the pieces.
Aaaand more plywood than I anticipated.  Rats.

Which sucked extra as I had to get it from Home Depot because they do cuts; Menards mostly does not.  Which meant spending extra dough on plywood as Home Depot prices are higher.

I perused their panel products online and saw for some reason they had two different kinds of birch plywood.  Same description, just that one was about five bucks less than the other.

Off I went.

As the guy who parceled out the OSB for our wall mount television console thingie did not do the dandiest of jobs, I opted to hit up a different Home Depot.

Ah, a joy of city living I must say:  options.  There are five Home Depot, five Ace Hardware, three Menards, and two Lowe's all within reasonable driving distance of home.  Yup.  A DIY'er dream.

But all right, all right, I know, it says right on their sign they do not do accurate cuts; still a wee double check makes a major difference.  And so does not being a schmoe to the folks helping you.

Arrive.  Try to find option A birch ply.  Of course the only one they had in stock was the more expensive one.  Of course.  Eye roll.

The super nice guy at the saw took a little extra time and his cuts came out much better, more accurate.  Projects are only as good as the cuts you make which can be entirely too frustrating for me as we are a table-saw-free zone nor can I handle a full sheet of three-quarter ply by my wee self.

Crazy Super Woman prowess only goes so far.  Grrrr.

So while his cuts were generally near spot on, a coupla pieces, eh, not as much so.  That's ok.  Close enough.

Anywhooo, I was way saddened to discover that they now charge a dollar per cut, jeez louise.  As such I had to minimize the amount of cuts in-store, just enough to slide pieces into the Golf otherwise on top of the more expensive wood, cutting would add up fast.  Thirteen bucks fast if I had him do all.  Plus people were gathering and circling impatiently and glaring.

Extra concerning as this meant I had to do them at home.*  Nail biting ensued.

Luckily as I was a helpful-not-schmoe to the nice guy cutting and the friendly cashier and had my drawings and knew what I needed, I escaped unscathed of cutting fees altogether.  Nice.  So today's PSA:  don't be a schmoe.

Ok, a hundred sixty five bucks in on the birch ply.  Oomph, yeow.

Four trips from the car to the basement.  Oy.  Whooie.  Wiped.

Three sheets of chopped up three quarter birch ply, all loaded into disheveled basement.  Wheeeeewww.  
Start tomorrow, I will.

Tomorrow came?  Powered up the fancy compressor, bona fide excited to use it for more than a meager few nails.  A joy to use, indeedily do.  That was fun.

Now.  There's gotta be a good smart way to put together cabinet boxes, box shapes, larger boxes of plywood that I don't know about because I am clearly a bonehead and don't know it.  I struggle.  Endlessly.  I will henceforth research, dammit.

Seriously.  Need to learn how to assemble large boxes.  Oh.  That's the compressor cabinet I made that I meant to tell you about.  That's a good project.  Soon on that one too.  Oops.
Also a bonehead move?  Starting on the big cabinet first.  Shoulda started with the smallest, got my bearings then moved on.  But noooOOOooo.  Heh.

Gettin' there.
Middle cabinet in action......
.....and the top cabinet done.  Nice!
Regardless.  A couple hours here, a couple hours the next day and the boxes were assembled.  Yay!

Finn came by to check in day one, say hey, s'up, isn't time to come upstairs and pet my tummy instead?
And holy crap, wow, they're huge!  Huh.  The largest one was to house our previous vacuum; now it seemed ginormous.

Ok.  We have large cabinet box built.  Whew.  Uh, huge?
So yes, panicked I measured, went upstairs to the bathroom, measured there, went back down, remeasured.  Three times.  Spatial proportions of the basement to cabinets versus the bathroom were messing with my head.

I added a two inch tall toe kick to the big cabinet, set back one inch from the front.
At this point it was time to pause, ponder stain and finishings.  And pick up the stick lumber I needed over at Menards for the details.  And maybe other things but best test out the stains on hand before I make two hundred trips back and forth.  Right?  Right.

So I guess the color on the inspiration cabinet is black ("matte ebony".......) but the photos looked midnight blue to me.  And sometimes, alas, see it, can't get the concept out of my noggin.  Plus, and oddly, I did not want black cabinets.  Whaaaaaaat?!  Yep.

Which didn't stress me out as I had that near-full pouch of Marine Gray left from the generous gift the PureColor folks sent.  Sweet.  Thinking if I mixed in a tad of Ink Blot black, then thinned at fifty percent, I'd hit on the exact color stuck in me' weird head.

The Old Dad's stain came from Chicago ReStore and eh, not a fan.  Tried the Watco on the trim detail pieces; eh, not what I wanted.  Heh.  Then testing the Marine Gray with Ink Blot in different mixes/variations.
And it was close.  I think if I had had a full quart of the Marine Gray,* added some Ink Blot and did not thin, that may have been bingo, winner winner chicken dinner.  Patience was on vacay at this point; I was eager to finish (and not shell out yet more cash) therefore I did not order more stain.

Ah well.  Make it work.

Checking it all out in situ, much like testing a paint color on a wall.  Because it looks good in one spot doesn't mean it will in the actual spot.  Samples proved to be too small.
Experimenting was key as I was not enamored with my results of brush on, wipe off, let dry.  And why is it that every single time, the sample pieces always come out nicer than the finished product?  Heh, I will never know.

For some odd reason, I grabbed a sanding block and gave one sample a mild scrubbing.  And then ah ha, for some odd reason suddenly the color came out just right.

Ah ha, larger samples, yes.  The one on the left was sanded after staining., the right not.  So weird right, that there'd be such a color difference just from a wee bit o' sanding?
Heh, at which point I sighed deeply as this meant I had to stain then sand vast expanses.  But, again, going for not schlocky cabinets, must do what it takes.  Buck up, buttercup.

I hadn't stained the insides as I was concerned for running out of stain.  That'd be bad.  So one evening I dragged poor Mike downstairs and asked him, "should I stain the insides or what do you...."

Before I could even finish my question, he blurted out "GOLD!" and dashed upstairs.  Gold?  "Yes babe, gold.  I'm not a fan of gold in general but gold.  Truuust meeee," I hear trailing as he runs away.

Gold?  Uh.  Baby said gold.  Shrug; what baby wants, baby gets.

So my shopping list got longer.  And longer yet as I needed to test out sealers before deciding if the color was a done deal.

I picked up some Soft Touch Matte* by Varathane, regular matte* by them, then also Paste Finishing Wax,* all surfacings I had not tried previously.  Clearly going for no shine whatsoever here.  Redundant statement.

Also got some a' that gold paint.  Heh.  Doubting Mike's rightness but trusting.  Trusting.

Sadly both Varathanes had that plastic look about them once dried, as do most water based polys where it looks like it's going to shatter off in sheets like mica.  Not in a good way.

But the wax, wow, zing and bingo, exactly what I was looking for.  Plus it dried hard and baby-butt smooth.

Indeed the polyurethanes deepened the color, a plus for sure, but from this angle and light in this photo, it's hard to see how unappealing the finish actually was.  Nope.  No thanks.  Trading color for finish.
Ok!  So then it was time to stain.  Then sand.  I tried using my swanky perma-sad faced palm sander to speed things up.  Nope, did not do the trick so by hand it was.

SO wanted the color to stay that nice deep rich midnight blue on the righthand side.  Oh!, gorgeous, right?!  Swoon.
But it didn't.  Oil based it probably would have.  Hm.
Before waxing the whole shebang, I stained all the poplar strips of detail wood in Kona.*  After that dried, it was time to do far too much math then attach those pieces to the door panels.

All righty folks, everything is stained and waiting for the next steps:  final assembly.
Aaaand here's where we shall pause before this turns epic in length and math destroys my brain.

Be sure to come back and see the finished cabinets!  And then later a mighty damn cool shelf!  And then the finished room!

Holy cow, people!!  Holy cow!

Jump to part two here!

*The AutoCAD link is an AutoDesk affiliate link.  The compact circular saws, PureColor stain, Soft Touch Matte polyurethane, regular matte polyurethane, Paste Finishing Wax, and the Varathane Kona stain are Amazon affiliate links.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab for more info.


  1. Can't wait to see the cabinets installed!!! I just finished a makeover of my half bath and will be posting the final reveal in a couple of days :o)


    1. Thanks Tania! I'll be looking forward to checking that out! Hope all is fantastic with you!

  2. I love your blog and just got to your most recent post, after going back to the very beginning and working my way through. As a woman who loves all things building, DIY, and tools, I have a couple of recommendations for you to check out, specifically because of your bathroom cabinets. First, a circular saw/track system. IMHO, Festool makes the best and I have one, so even though the price is a little high, I can't recommend this tool enough. Even when I had a fully equipped woodworking shop, tablesaw and all, my Festool was my go to when I had to cut sheet goods down to size. I believe DeWalt also has one of these and probably at a better price, and DeWalt makes great tools, so their saw is likely just as good as Festool. I just got mine before anyone else had one on the market. The second tool is a Kreg pocket hole jig. For cabinet construction, it's the bomb! You could screw together boxes like your cabinets in a jiffy! And the screws actually hold better than if you are screwing into end grain or the edge of sheet goods. And these are super reasonably priced. As for stainable wood filler, I never found any I thought worked, but a slightly better and vastly cheaper solution I use occasionally is mixing fine sawdust(like from around your miter saw)with regular yellow wood glue until you have a thick paste, then shove it in the holes. Once it dries, the glue is clear and the sawdust will sort of take a stain. But you might find that to be a moot point if you check out the Kreg pocket hole jig.

    1. Tracy, thank you so much! First, thank you for taking the time to start all the way at the beginning and work your way through the years! Second, thank you for the tool recommendations! I’ve never been quite able to manage a circular saw; I’ve always found them too heavy and unruly but I bet with the guide, it changes everything. And I keep meaning to get a Kreg — someday! Lastly, thanks for the great sawdust/glue idea. I am definitely going to give that a whirl. Thank you so much and I’m so thrilled you’re here!


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