Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: DIY Built (Page 2 of 3)

Adding Sliding Drawers to Our Kitchen Cabinet

Hi Friends! How come that we are in the middle of the holiday season already? Before I knew it, Slav and I were on the airplane to SFO for Thanksgiving. And by the time we returned, every other house on our street was lit up with Christmas lights! I’ve never seen that many inflatable snowman and Santa before. In the mornings, our street looks like a massacre has happened in Santa’s village – nearly every house features an empty sac of Santa laying on the front lawn or hanging off the chimney.

We always decorate light, and this year is no exception. A tree in the living room, a wreath on the front door, and a few string lights here and there. It is hard to decorate for Christmas when the house still needs lot of work – the garage ceiling is still open and the attic needs new insulation. But Slav is simply too busy with his work, so big renovation to-dos have to wait.

Without his help, I turned my eyes on small projects that I can handle myself, such as building sawhorses. I have never done carpentry before, but I really enjoyed working with a drill and a saw. This week, I had my eyes on another fun wood project in the kitchen.

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Picture above is our kitchen sideboard. It looks newer than other kitchen cabinets, but features the same countertop materials. Despite being very bulky, it does not offer much storage, due to the lack of drawers and shelving:

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See the images above? The long drawer front in the middle was fake. It was attached to the framing and there was no drawer behind it, leaving only two narrow drawers on the sides. The bottom cabinet did not have any shelf in it either. All of our pots and pans were cramped in and on top of each other.

To create more storage in the sideboard, I came up with a simple plan of adding a sliding shelf two-third way up in the bottom cabinet, and converting the fake drawer front to a real drawer. The sliding shelf will host our frying pans and small pots, and the drawer can be used for utensils. Giving my limited experience, I picked the simplest drawer design and the most basic drawer slides. The goal was to maximize the function over look and to gain more woodworking experience during this project.

1. Giving the sideboard a new back

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The first step is to clear everything out and detach the sideboard from the wall. We always wanted to rotate it 90 degree, against the stair rail, and it seemed to be a good opportunity to do it. The problem is that this sideboard had no back. It was bolted to the wall with some screws. So we also need to put a back on it.

Slav caulked the seams when he replaced all the silicone in the kitchen. He did such a good job that it took me quite some struggle to cut off all the caulking.

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We moved all the appliance to the sideboard in our living room.

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I picked up some a sheet of 4’x8′, 1/2″ thick MDF and cut the back pieces with a circular saw. The reason I had to do two pieces instead of one, is that the top rail of the sideboard is a bit wider. We do not have any clamp or guide, so it was hard to do any precise cut than running a straight line.

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The back pieces were bolted on the back with 2 3/4″ screws. The sideboard was rotated and pushed against the stair rail, which freed tons of space.

2 Converting the fake drawer front to a real drawer

Next I took the fake drawer front off and took some measurements. The drawer front was connected to the frame with some scrape pieces. A few pry with the smallest pry bar we have took care of them. I was definitely more comfortable using the pry bar now. Small progress!

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Our cabinet is 24″ deep and the other two drawers have 22″ drawer slides. So I picked up these 22″ drawer slides for the new drawer. The frame opening behind the fake drawer front is 33″, which meant that I needed to make the drawer 22″ deep by 32″ wide, allowing 1″ for drawer slides on both sides.

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Having all the measurements on hand, I moved onto cutting the drawer bottom and four sides out of the MDF sheet. I wish I have picked the 3/4″ plywood instead – the MDF sheet created so much fine saw dust that it was impossible to keep the work area reasonably clean. MDF sheet is also too soft to offer enough resistance to my circular saw. Without any guide pieces, it was hard to keep lines straight.

I did wear some PPE to protect myself from breathing in the fine saw dust as much as possible. The earmuffs was also very helpful as my circular saw is old and loud.

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With the help from this instruction, I managed to put together this drawer:

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And installed it into the sideboard. The whole process went very smoothly and so is does the sliding drawer!

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As you can see, the original fake drawer front now became the real drawer front. We pressed it against the drawer when it was closed, then carefully opened the drawer and drilled from the back. It would have been a lot easier if we had doubled-sided tape or a small nailer. Now I started to understand why Slav keeps buying tools!

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Here is my first drawer, loaded. 🙂

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3. Adding a sliding shelf in the lower cabinet

As I showed you above, we have so many pots and pans in the lower cabinet that they stack on top of each other, making it difficult to take them in and out.

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So I decided to make a shelf about 2/3 way up from the bottom of the cabinet. I want to make it sliding out in between the two framing posts, so we can easily reach for any pots and pans. It will have very low sides around to prevent anything from falling out, kind of like a very shallow drawer.

I had just enough MDF left to make this sliding shelf. To make sure that I can get all pieces out of it, I planned everything on the MDF first:

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I love it when there is very little waste.

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With the experience from the previous drawer, I did a better job designing and assembling this one. The biggest different is that the previous drawer bottom was flanked among the four sides, so the drawer slides were attached to the bottom of the sides. I made this shelf differently, by putting the sides on top of the bottom piece, so both drawer slides support the bottom. I think this design can handle more weight. Truth to be told, I’ve opened and closed drawers so many times and never paid any attention on how they are constructed! It is amazing that how much and how quickly you learn from building things yourself!

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Another lessons I learned is that I should have put on the back piece the last. It would have made it a lot easier to put on additional vertical support for the drawer slides to attach. We had to add scrape pieces of 2″x4″s due to lack of access.

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The front filler piece was added to make sure that the shelf slides pass the doors, which sit inside of the frame. As a consequence, the shelf is 1″ narrower than the drawer above it.

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Here is the shelf when I finished installation:

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Sliding out smoothly:

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And supports a good amount of weight:

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4. The updated sideboard,

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Here is our updated sideboard with a lot more storage than before. Its new compartment and location made the kitchen a lot more functional and feeling more spacious. Needless to say that I was beaming with pride. This building experience taught me how to pick the right screw for cabinet work, made me feeling a lot more comfortable with circular saw and planer, and allowed me to design something for the first time. It is incredibly fun!

 

 

My First Carpentry Work!

Ladies and gentlemen, I built these!

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And I built them 100% by myself, without Slav’s help!

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I’ve been wanting to learn woodwork for a while. But as a handyman’s wife, I am both lazy and intimidated to start. I do plenty of DIY. In fact, I designed most of the furniture we built. But when it gets to the actual cutting and drilling, Slav shows up with his drill and takes over. Over the years, the separation of our work flow became more and more exclusive, to which point I do not even know where our drill is anymore. There is nothing wrong with job specialization – it does speed up the process of a big project. But for small projects like door trims, a picture hedge, or hanging shelves, it would have been much more efficient if I did not have to call Slav every time I need to drill into a wall.

The problem is – better Slav gets, more clumsy I get, and more intimidated I am to try. I think we both just assume that I will hurt myself using tools at this point. And I really really want to change that. I want to feel comfortable with power tools. I want to be able to pick the right screws for the right job. And I want to be able to take over small projects so Slav can focus on large scale project such as walls and plumbing. The ranch house has brought so much work, and every single one involves using power tools. I do not want to just make a honey-to-do list and nag Slav to complete everything.

When the need of a pair of saw horses comes around, I saw a great opportunity for me to start. Sawhorses are simple to build – Ana White published this simple plan with a complete cut list and an easy-to-follow video, so I can just focus on the building part. The material is cheap and simple, just some 2″x4″s, so if I screw up, little will be wasted. Most importantly, these are just saw horses. They do not need to be pretty or have a nice finish, so I can feel free to practice on them and learn from my mistakes.

I started by gathering materials. We took down a wall in our utility room a while ago and still have some of these 2″x4″ framing lumber laying around. They are cut into random length during the demo process, and a lot of them have nails on them. But they are long enough to provide some usable pieces for the sawhorse.

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I picked out all the long and relatively good pieces and hammered out the nails. Slav reluctantly pointed out that 2″x4″s are cheap, so it does not make much sense to dig into junk wood pile and risk to cut my hands with rusty nails. And he is absolutely right. But I also to wanted to practice using pry bar and hammers, and I am stingy genetically. So I kindly reminded him that it was International Men’s Day and World Toilet Day, and he should be doing what men do on the toilet and leave me alone.

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After half an hour of work, I managed to harvest lots of good-looking lumber without breaking my skin. Points for that!

I did need more 2″x4″‘s, so I picked up two from Lowe’s along with some wood screws. I made two mistakes while doing that – one is I did not inspect the 2″x4″s carefully. I did check the straightness – and you bet I did it proudly because it made me felt like an expert. But I did not double check the length of these lumbers. One 2″x4″ is 4 inches shorted than expected 8’. But fortunately I did not need the whole length. The other mistake is that I did not get enough screws, apparently 50 of them are not enough for two saw horses!

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I marked length on all the pieces according to the cut list, and fired up the miter saw:

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Roxie watched me and licked saw dust off my hair. It is truly wonderful to have dogs.

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I dry fit the pieces together after cutting. I can definitely get better at the miter saw – the pieces were a bit uneven at the end and corners, and sometimes I did not push the miter saw down enough, which resulted in jagged edges. Luckily, none of the mistakes prevented me from continuing the assembly.

The next step was to put the pieces together. I picked deck screws for the job, which might be a bit overkill, but they grab so well that they made the job really easy. I made a mistake not picking up enough of them, which became a good lesson, because I got to try all different kinds of long screws we had around, and figured out that I did not like self-drilling screws so much. I also learned quickly that having two drills around can make the work a lot faster when pre-drilling is needed.

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It took me probably 20 minutes to assemble the first sawhorse, but a lot quicker for the other one. After building the first one, I decided to spice it up by adding on top a piece of 1″x8″ we had laying around:

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If you have looked the cut list, you will notice that I skipped the 1″x3″ cross braces. The sawhorses were already very steady and I was running low on long screws, so I decided that having a pretty top was more important than cross bracing. 🙂

Here are the sexy pair. Aside from the scrap wood, I bought one box of screws and two 2″x4″s.

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These saw horses are built to give our miter saw a boost, so we no longer need to cut on the patio. We have work benches in the garage, but we prefer to cut lumbers outside so our garage remains saw-dust free. Without a miter saw table, it can get really hard on our backs.

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Slav immediately used it for his quarter round trims (another weekend project, stay tuned). My build is now Slav-approved! Below is the photo evidence – right after Slav crossed himself for using my saw horses.

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To end today’s post, I want to give a shout to Ana’s Youtube channel. I have been watching it for a few months now, and it really inspired me to tackle woodwork myself. Guess who will be building more after today’s first project? This lady!

DIY Ski Rack

Happy Friday, friends and family! We are enjoying our first Colorado Fall here, which is gooooorgeous. The night temperature falls below freezing now, but we are able to stay cozy thanks to our new roof, furnace and tankless water heater. Interestingly, our garage did not get as cold as we thought it would be. We have not had any freeze in the garage.

Unlike our neighbors, who dread the soon-to-be winter, we are looking forward to it with open arms. That is why we moved here! An early snowfall a couple weeks ago really got our hopes up – we dragged our winter gear out of the storage to make sure that they are in good working order. However, with five snowboards, two pairs of skis, and many pairs of boots and snowshoes, our basement living room immediately became a winter gear dump ground. We need a ski/snowboarding storage badly.

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Pick a Design

We searched up and down on the internet for ski/snowboard storage systems, and were surprised how expensive they are, especially given that the constructions are very simple – in the form of vertical or horizontal racks. One of the design which we both liked is this one. It offers a minimalist design, and it is flexible. Both side of the rack are independent from each other, so we can mount them with any distance in between, in order to accommodate the location of studs and the distance between bindings. Most importantly, the design is so simple that we can make it ourselves.

The sites selling it has shown the dimensions, and we found a good instruction video for building something similar:

Decide the Location

We picked the opposite wall to our paint storage for the ski rack. This is the northern wall of the garage, and living room and kitchen are behind this wall. Icleared everything away from the wall and removed all the nails on it:

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I then taped out where we want the ski rack to be:

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The rack will be mounted higher to allow some storage underneath. You can see from the photo that we have an air compressor, a power washer, a box fan, and our loyal shop-vac below the rack. This corner has its own outlet and faucet, connections needed for using these equipment. So it is convenience that we can connect any of them right at the spot.

As you can see, we planned for five shelves, which required us to compress the spacing between the dowels from 12″ to 10″. It should still allow us to take down and put up snowboard with ease. We also cut down the length of the dowels from 16″ to 14″ to make the rack narrower.

Just to throw it out there, we also liked the design showing in the video below, and this video did a great job explaining how to build it. If we had more space in the garage, or we were building this rack for a cabin, we would have chosen this design.

D.I.Y Ski Rack

Slav started with a couple 2″x 4″s and some 1 1/8″ dowels and followed the video instruction. We do not have fancy wood-working tools like the guy in the video does, but with a basic drill, a saw, and some wood glue, Slav still did a decent job:

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He mounted the ski rack on the studs with 2’8″ in between, a perfect distance between his snowboarding bindings.

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This is what it looks like when they are loaded:

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For boots, Slav mounted a 1″ x 8′ x 1″ horizontal board on top. It is nice to see every gear polished up and ready to go!

Creating a “Mud-area” on the Northern Wall

Another thing we really need is to create a “mud-area” in the garage, so we can leave our winter shoes out of the kitchen. We’ve had these hanging shoe organizers from Real Simple for years and like them. So Slav hung them next to the kitchen door. He also hung a pair of vintage skis for keys and coats. Along with a big floor mat, This half of the northern wall became a “mud-area”:

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I wish for a real mudroom someday, but for now, we are just thrilled to have this setup so we can keep our kitchen clean. We squeezed out the last bit of storage by mounting another 1″ x 8′ x 1″ horizontal board on top of the mud-area for fishing and camping gears.

After many big renovation projects, a simple DIY and some organization makes me feel really good. It is relaxing and energizing. It feels like a break. We are spending rest of the week nights next to our fire pit and with some cocktails, and this weekend, we will start working on the last wall in our garage!

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