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  • Date Constructed: December 2002

  • Lumber: Hard maple

  • Dimensions: 17.5" wide x 16.5" deep x 52" high

  • Stain: 50/50 blend of Minwax Red Oak and Minwax Jacobean stains

  • Topcoat: Minwax Helmsman Satin Polyurethane, to protect the piece against the harsh environment of a bathroom.

  • What I Learned: This is the first project that required me to edge-join boards in order to get the lumber width I needed. I bought a biscuit joiner to help me with this task.
    I also learned how hard it is to control long boards on a table saw. I wanted to cut dado slots into the sides of this cabinet to accept the shelves. But at 51" in length, I knew I wouldn't have any control on the saw. So I cheated and used the biscuit joiner to connect the shelves to the cabinet sides. This worked well, but isn't as strong as dado joinery. I'm going to have to either build a sled jig for my table saw that will give me more control over big boards, or use a router to make dado slots in long boards.

  • What Didn't Work:

    • Cost! I paid $200 for the this piece's maple lumber at a local home center. I've GOT to find a cheaper source of lumber.

    • Stain - Getting an even stain on maple is really difficult! The blotchy finish I ended up with gives the piece a more informal, piney appearance than I was after. I've since read that many people have similar difficulties staining maple.

    • I was more careful this time to damp sponge my joints after gluing, and took extra time sanding in the corners. As a result, the lumber took the stain darker in these areas than on the rest of the piece. Apparently I "raised the grain" by using a damp sponge, causing the wood to take more stain in those areas. Further research suggests that you should use a scraper to remove excess glue after it has dried part way. If you do damp sponge, make sure that you wet and sand the entire piece, not just where the glue was. This way, you'll raise the grain evenly on the entire piece, not just in the corners.

    • Polyurethane - It's hard to prevent drips/sags on the vertical surfaces. I tried putting the polyurethane on as thinly as possible, but I still ended up with some sagging. I wonder if using a foam brush would be better than using a bristle brush?

    • Expansion - I built this cabinet in the winter when the air was dry. I thought I left plenty of space around the door to account for humidity expansion, but I was wrong. Starting in May, the door started rubbing against the face frame. I ended up jointing 1/8" of material off the hinge-side of the door, then reapplying stain and polyurethane.

  • Get the Plan: ​I designed this cabinet myself to fit into a very narrow space in my master bathroom. View and print the plan.

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