George & Stephanie’s Kitchen Remodel

March 30, 2014 marks the day we started cutting wood for the kitchen remodeling project. Oak was selected for the wood to somewhat match all the moulding in the house. Stephanie directed the design phase by establishing storage requirements for her cookware. Additional cabinetry will be added to the kitchen area to increase the overall storage space. We hope you enjoy looking at the progress photos.

Old Cabinets

The existing cabinets had seen better days so it’s time to replace them.


George enjoyed working with Sketchup to design the cabinets, taking into consideration Stephanie’s storage requirements.

Oak Stock

Oak left over from my kitchen remodel project provided material to start the project.

Miter Sawing

Taking measurements from Sketchup and a spreadsheet, a cutlist was prepared. Here George is sizing stock for panel glue-ups.

Sawing to Width

The stock was dimensioned to width at the cabinet saw.

Preparing the Edge

The edges were milled flat at the jointer then milled with a glue joint bit at the router table. This bit provides alignment and more surface area for a superior glue joint.

Panel Glue-up

The panels were glued using a jig designed for the task.


After cutting the pieces to the proper width, they were drum sanded to a uniform thickness.

Dimensioned Lumber

Pieces cut to rough dimension waiting for additional milling and assembly.

Drilling Dowel Holes

The face frame incorporates dowel joinery. Here George is using the Dowelmax jig for precisely locating the holes on the rails and stiles.

Inserting Dowels

Gluing dowels in place for face frame assembly.

Cope Cut

Coping the door rail ends using a coping sled.

Panel Raising

Door panels were milled in about 5 passes. The back cutter was removed to mill the drawer faces.

Cutting Dovetails

Cutting dovetails using a Dovetail Wiz jig on the router table.

Sanding Door Panel

Sanding a door panel

Sanding panel end grain

A Fein Multimaster with sanding attachment makes quick work of sanding difficult end grain on a raised panel.

Gluing a raised panel door

Father teaching son the finer points of gluing up a raised panel door. To avoid confusion, the father is the guy with the gray hair.

Toe kick notches were cut using a jigsaw and temporary fence for alignment.

Toe kick notches were cut using a jigsaw with a temporary fence for alignment.

Sanding a face frame

The face frames were finished sanded to 220 grit.

Carcase glue up

All carcase members were glued together using tongue and groove joinery.

Gluing Carcase

Gluing the cabinet carcase parts to the face frame.

Door Hinges

Drilling the cup hole for European style door hinges.

Drilling Shelf Holes

The holes for the shelves were drilled using a jig.


Stephanie and Grace were a big help with sanding and tacking prior to staining. Here Stephanie is teaching Grace how to tack a piece of moulding.

Spray Finishing

George got an opportunity to apply the Urethane top coat using an Earlex HVLP sprayer.

Drying parts

Every square inch of garage space was utilized for staging and drying parts between coats of finish.


Finally! The cabinets were loaded up in the trailer and transported to George and Stephanie’s house. I get my garage and workshop back and Marilyn gets her craft area back to use on other projects.

Last Look

The old floor was removed and here is one last look at the old base cabinet before demolition.


Stephanie had a blast using a Sawsall to cut through the old counter top.

More Work

You never know what you will find when an old kitchen cabinet is removed. Here we have water damage and a rotten sub-floor. The drywall and sub-floor must be repaired before proceeding with the installation.


George cut out the rotten sub-floor and found leaves and other debris under the floor. He also found bad joists that needed attention.

Repairs Completed

Everything was repaired and re-insulated in preparation for the new sub-floor and drywall.


Installing new drywall.

Everything Patched Up

New drywall and sub-floor ready for sanding and painting.

Install Upper Cabinets

The upper cabinets were installed by finding the high spot on the floor plus 54″ using a self leveling laser. Since the base cabinets with counter top sit 36″ above floor level, the space to the base of the upper cabinets becomes a standard 18″.

Another Upper Cabinet

George attaching the doors to the upper refrigerator cabinet.

Partial Installation

Father and son in front of installed base and upper cabinets. The microwave oven gave us a little problem with door swing interference so we had to move the upper left cabinet over 3/8″ to correct the problem.

Project Complete

A photo of the completed project. George and Stephanie installed a ceramic tile floor by themselves to add the final touch to their kitchen remodel.

Breakfast Bar

After the cabinets were installed, George & Stephanie wanted a breakfast bar so the old man made this cabinet to finish the project. Unfortunately they were only able to enjoy their new kitchen for a short time because they sold their home in 2016. Goodbye cabinets!

Kitchen Backsplash

After the kitchen remodeling was completed, Marilyn wanted a backsplash behind the stove and stove counter tops. Off to The Tile Shop to learn all about tiling.  They have an enormous selection of tiles in a wide variety of materials and all of the stuff to make them stick to the wall.  They also have free “how to” classes every Saturday at 9:30 AM.  We selected natural stone tiles and with some design help, we created our own focal point using a smaller tile pattern surrounded by double pencil tiles.  I like the new look and it adds a touch of class to a successful kitchen renovation.



I drew up the layout using Sketchup to help visualize the pattern scheme. Here we are laying out the tiles according to the plan.

Wet Sawing

The part I hated most was wet sawing the tiles because it’s messy and we had to do it indoors since it was sub-zero outside. The splatter was fairly well contained with plastic sheeting. A friend lent us his wet saw so we didn’t have to rent or buy one. I figured that I could do all the sawing in two days but it took closer to four without rushing the project.

Final Layout

The final layout with the focal point cut. The reason the wet sawing took so long is because there were a lot of picky cuts.

Protecting the counter tops

The counter tops were masked, then a layer of plastic followed by a layer of red resin paper. The floor between the counters was protected as well.

Closeup of Focal Point

The focal point is cut and ready for installation. A ledger board was attached to the wall for the bottom pencils to rest upon.

Installing the focal point

Installing the focal point using thinset morter.

Focal point installed

The focal point went up smoothly and we let it dry overnight before installing the larger tiles.

Installing large tiles

Installing the larger tiles.

Tile installation completed

It was a lot of work but well worth the effort! We let the tiles dry for two days before grouting.

Sponging the grout

After grouting, the excess material was removed with a damp sponge. Several wipings were necessary to adequately clean the tiles and level the grout below the surface of the tiles. The grout will cure for three days before applying a sealer.

Completed Kitchen Project

View of the completed project with the appliances moved into position.

Kitchen Remodel – The Details

It’s been nearly a year since I began the design phase of our kitchen remodel project. The summer was consumed with cabinet construction and finishing and the fall was spent doing demolition, reconstruction and shopping for floors, counter tops, lights, plumbing fixtures, and hardware. With any large scale project, you run into surprises that must be addressed if the job is to be done correctly and this project was no exception. I ran into rotten drywall, squeaky floors, and ventilation issues. Speaking of drywall, if I never hang another piece, it will not break my heart. It seems that gravity kept throwing drywall mud in my hair and on my face, not to mention a few pounds on the floor. Grossly uneven 2×4’s meant elevation mismatches that required shimming and multiple coats of mud to even out. Despite sectioning off the kitchen from the rest of the house with plastic sheeting, drywall dust is everywhere.

Another observation is that everything is connected to something else. Translation – where does the project end? We realized that the carpeting in the adjacent family room looked crappy next to the new kitchen floor so we decided to replace it even though it’s not technically part of the kitchen. Oh no, the hallway carpet needs to be changed as well because it matches the family room carpeting. The family room walls need repair and re-painting, but that’s for another time, we had to stop somewhere. So here are a lot of pictures detailing the largest project we have ever attempted. Overall, it turned out quite nicely and we saved tens of thousands of dollars doing the cabinetry, demolition and construction ourselves.

I will be adding more pictures to this post as the project unfolds so stay tuned for more!

Beginning point

Where to start? In the corner by the patio door! Out you faded, sun burnt floor. I decided to rip out the entire old floor including the luan because I did not want to change the elevation when the new floor was installed.

Floor removal

Here’s how the floor removal proceeded.

Pulling staples

The old luan was held down with 8 billion staples which Marilyn meticulously pulled.

Old cabinets

The old cabinets had seen better days and the uppers were hung below a soffit. Ugly dated Z Brick was applied to the walls which meant that they too must be removed.

Kitchen ventilation

The ceiling had a ventilation fan which served as a makeshift cooking hood. The new plan called for a real hood above the stove so it had to be removed.

Removing the old uppers

It was fun getting rid of the old cabinets but I was not looking forward to dealing with the walls.

Removing uppers above the sink

Across the room, more upper cabinets were hung from a soffit above the sink. The plan called for complete removal of the cabinets to open up the space leading to the family room.

More upper removal

The upper cabinets came out fairly nicely but the drywall underneath suffered water damage from a leaky roof so it all had to be removed.

Drywall removal

The old soffit needed extensive repair. The old drywall had to be removed.

Drywall removal 2

Down to the insulation. It was an extremely messy job because the attic insulation was revealed. Luckily it stayed in place long enough to staple new insulation below it.

New insulation

New insulation was pushed into the rafters and secured with staples preventing the existing insulation from falling down.

Wall demolition

Back on the other side of the room, Marilyn was removing the old wall behind the stove.

Goodby Z Brick

Marilyn holding a portion of the old Z Brick to which she bid a not so fond farewell.

Soffit removal

Mark went after the old soffit with a Sawsall. Lots of fun!

Insulation removal

Not so much fun was removing the old insulation contained in the soffit.

Insulation mess

Much of the old insulation fell to the floor when the soffit was removed.

View into the attic

Some of the old insulation stayed in place between the rafters but some fell through revealing a look into the attic. Cold air was pouring in so the holes needed immediate re-insulation.


New insulation was stapled into place keeping the cold air in the attic where it belongs.

Island counter removal

Back on the other side of the room, the island sink counter gets it’s first cut in the removal process

Goodbye plumbing

We are now without a kitchen sink because the plumbing has been removed.

Island cabinet gone

A dramatic change in appearance without the kitchen island cabinet.

20 Yard Roll-off

We rented a 20 yard roll-off for the debris and literally filled it up to the brim. It saved a lot of effort because I didn’t have to cut the old cabinets into small pieces. We struggled with the old cast iron sink because lifting it over the top edge tested our strength to it’s limits.

Drywall 1

Not exactly in sequence, the following couple of photos show the fun we had with drywall, NOT!

Drywall 2

Taping and mudding seams.

Drywall 3

Overhead mudding. Now I know how the expression “Here’s mud in your eye” originated.

Drywall 4

Taping, mudding, sanding, sanding, sanding, sanding, remudding, sanding, sanding, sanding, etc.

Drywall 5

Starting to look like a wall!


After the drywall was completed, the ceiling and room were primed and painted. We had the ceiling paint tinted to the same color as the walls but a lighter tone.

Cabinet Assembly

Meanwhile, the cabinet carcasses were being glued up.

Cabinet Drawer Slides

Hettich self close, soft close, full extension drawer slides rated at 100 pounds were installed in the cabinets. Marilyn wanted all drawers in the lower cabinets instead of doors for ease of access to her kitchen stuff. 14 drawers total were constructed in the three lower cabinets.

Stove Cabinets

Here are the two cabinets on either side of the stove fully assembled awaiting installation.

Finishing the doors

The 8 doors for the upper cabinets and the 2 below the sink were stained and finished with three coats of polyurethane applied by HVLP. There was still a lot of hand sanding between coats but spraying saved an enormous amount of time and provided a superior finish.

Drawer finishing

The drawers were finished with 2 coats of lacquer applied by HVLP.


Because the weather was turning cold, the doors were carried indoors to dry between coats. It was challenging just moving around without tripping.

Upper Face Frame

The upper face frame was constructed in the garage because there wasn’t enough space in the basement for an object this large. I wanted the upper cabinets to be a single unit to give the completed project a built-in look.

Face frame sanding

We took every advantage of the weather to sand and finish outdoors.

Upper Face Frame Storage

The upper face frame was nearly 12 feet long so we had to store it in our hallway before attaching the carcase.

New Flooring

The old floor was completely removed in order to fix squeaks and preserve the elevation. Here new luan is being installed.

Leveling the luan

After stapling the luan to the subfloor, the floor was leveled similar to the way drywall is mudded and sanded.

New vinyl rollout

Rolling out our new vinyl floor.

New floor installed

The new floor installed and drying overnight to seal the seam. The color of the floor was chosen to compliment the cabinets, counter tops, stainless steel appliances, carpeting and wall color. This gave the kitchen a completely new look!

Sink Cabinet Assembly

Due to it’s size, the sink cabinet had to be assembled near it’s final position.

New Sink Island Assembly

Another sink cabinet assembly photo. Although it’s one piece, the side facing the family room is a book case.

Completed Sink Cabinet Carcase

The sink cabinet as it appears from the family room. Raised panels similar to the doors were incorporated into the design of the cabinet side. The cutout is for an electrical outlet.

Upper Cabinet Assembly

Like the sink cabinet, the upper cabinet carcase had to be assembled in the family room because of it’s size. Although I don’t have any photos of the installation, my son George and his friend Ron lifted the completed assembly unto cleats attached to the wall and held it in place while I drove screws through the nail rail into wall studs securing the cabinet.

Test Fitting the Upper Cabinet

The upper cabinet had to fit between a wall and a chimney chase. The right stile was left off the assembly in order to fit and scribe to the final size. Notice the temporary cleats attached to the wall holding up the cabinet. This line is exactly 54″ above the highest point on the floor as determined by a story stick and a self leveling laser. Once this line is established, all other cabinets are leveled and after the counter top is installed, the distance between the upper and lower cabinets is a standard 18″.

Door Hinges

Blum bluemotion soft close European style hinges were selected for all the doors.

Door Hinges 2

Each door needed only two hinges despite the fact that the large doors were 41″ in length.

Installing the cabinets

Here’s a nice picture of my butt as I’m doing some work leveling the cabinets and getting the anti-tip bracket installed for the stove. As you can see, a new Broan hood was installed into the cavity of the upper cabinets above the stove. The hood is ducted outdoors which required several trips into the attic.

Completed Kitchen Project

View of the completed project. The last step was the natural stone backsplash.

Machining Dovetails

I wanted half blind dovetails for my kitchen drawers because they convey craftsmanship in addition to being a solid joint. Every time I use the Porter Cable dovetail jig, I have to check the manual because setup and orientation are critical for success. Once I have cut a few, orientation becomes second nature and the project proceeds smoothly. I constructed a total of 14 drawers of varying sizes for the kitchen cabinets and at the end of the process, I was glad to put the jig back on the shelf.

Positioned for Cutting Dovetails

The drawer fronts and backs are positioned horizontally on top of the jig and the drawer sides are in the clamp positioned vertically. The pieces are offset by a stop so they go together properly after routing the dovetails.

After the Cut

Here is what the dovetails look like after the routing operation has been completed.

Cutting Dovetails View 1

Cutting Dovetails View 1

Cutting Dovetails View 2

Cutting Dovetails View 2

Cutting Dovetails View 3

Cutting Dovetails View 3

14 Drawers

Here is the stack of drawers dry assembled to test the fit. The next steps are cutting the dado to accept the drawer bottom and machining slots and holes for the under drawer full extension soft close slides.

Pin or Tail? Identifying Dovetails

Call me slow but it took a long time for me to figure out the difference between a “pin” and a “tail” when looking at half blind dovetails.  When I look at the outside corner of a drawer, the pins and tails look identical in shape, so which is which?  After years of study, I now understand the difference and I want to share my knowledge with my website visitors.  I use a Porter-Cable 4216 Dovetail Jig and the drawer fronts and backs (pin boards) are always positioned in the top clamp horizontally.  The drawer sides (tail boards) are always positioned in the side clamp vertically which means that the tails are cut completely through the board (duh!).  Other ways to identify the pins from the tails are shown below.


Looking at the corner of a drawer, the shape of the pins and tails are identical so which is which?

Pin - Tail Identification

Looking at the dovetail cuts from the inside surface reveals the difference between the pins and tails. The pin cuts are blind and have parallel sides. The tail cuts go through the board and have the dovetail shape.

Constructing Cabinet Cathedral Doors

Some might say that the cathedral door look, or even using Oak, is outdated. I don’t care because I like the look and I’m the one who has to live with it every day. Constructing the raised cathedral arch proved to be quite a challenge for me because I could not use a fence when raising the arch. The Freud panel raising router bit is 3″ in diameter and comes with a back cutter and a center shaft that did not accept a bearing between the cutters. When I tried to freehand a test panel, the bit grabbed the panel and tried to turn it into a ballistic event. Not good! I called Freud and asked them about the proper method for raising an arched panel and they told me that the technique I used was how it was done. That advice was completely unacceptable so I decided to raise the arch in 4 separate steps using two different sized bearings that would fit in place of the back cutter. So here’s what I did…

  1. Remove the back cutter and install a 1-1/2″ diameter bearing. Raise the arch using the bearing for support.
  2. Replace the 1-1/2″ bearing with 1″ diameter bearing and make a second pass.
  3. Remove the smaller bearing and make a third pass against the router bit shaft.
  4. Replace the back cutter and shim stack and make a 4th pass.

This technique worked for me and I felt safe doing it. Below are some pictures showing my method and other things of interest regarding the cathedral arch doors.

Bit with back cutter

This is the Freud panel raising bit with back cutter in place. My final pass was made using this configuration.

Bit with large bearing

For the first pass, I replaced the back cutter with a 1-1/2″ diameter bearing which limited the depth of cut because the arch was resting against the bearing as the cut was being made.

Bit with small bearing

The 1-1/2″ diameter bearing was replaced with a 1″ diameter bearing and a second pass was made. Following this, I removed the small bearing and made a third pass against the fixed shaft of the router bit shown here. Finally, the back cutter was replaced and a fourth final pass was made using the bit in it’s original configuration.

Maintaining bit height

I had to remove the bit from the router each time the bearing configuration was changed. In order to re-register the bit height, I used a Wixey digital height gauge indexing off the top of the bit.

Gluing the panels

I use a Freud gluing bit to provide more surface area and register the panel pieces when the clamps are applied. Setup is finicky but well worth the effort.

Panel glue up

No need for elaborate upper and lower cauls when gluing panels that have routed glue edge joints.

Rough cutting the arch

An auxiliary table was fitted to my band saw to support the large door panels. Here a cut is being made to within 1/16″ of the line.

Template routing

The template was attached using double sided carpet tape and the final arch was cut using a pattern bit.

Door upper rails

The cathedral arch rails were template routed, cope cut against a fence, and rail cut against the rail cutting bit bearing.

Door glue up

A look at how the doors were assembled. Two space balls were inserted into the rail cuts on all sides of the frame in order to hold the panel in position and keep it from rattling.

Goof up

I used marginal quality wood on one of the door stiles so I decided to take it apart and make new rails and stiles. In order to save the panel, I cut carefully into the stile on each side and pried the assembly apart.

Breaking the stile

It took considerable force to break the stile apart despite being nearly cut apart on the band saw.

Glue joint inspection

Since I destroyed the rails and stiles, I decided to see how well the glue joint held at the lower cope cut. You can see that the wood broke before the glue let go so I’m confident that my doors will hold together long term.

Making Cathedral Arch Templates for Cabinet Doors Using SketchUp

Template Sets

Matching rail and panel templates for 2 different width doors made from 1/4″ plywood

Cathedral Door

Here is a cathedral door made from scrap wood used as a prototype to test the template.

I’m just too cheap to purchase templates so I will share a method I used to make my own cathedral arch templates.  My top rails are all 6″ in height which provides plenty of room for a nice visual on the arch.  The tricky part was designing the templates for a consistent look for various width doors, so I used SketchUp Make, a free program from Trimble, to draw the arches and then obtain the necessary compass radii for the arcs.  I use Freud router bits which cut a 13/32″ stub tenon.

Cathedral Arch Template

This is the SketchUp drawing that I made using the instructions on this blog page.

How to construct a cathedral door template using SketchUp

  1. Draw a rectangle 6” tall by the length of your top rail including the stub tenons, in the example above 12-9/16″.
  2. Draw a construction line parallel to the top the same distance as your stile width, typically 2.25”.
  3. Draw a construction line in from each edge the sum of the stub tenon plus 1-5/16”, in my case 1-23/32″.
  4. Draw construction lines parallel to the construction lines just drawn a distance of 1” back toward the edge.
  5. Draw a construction line parallel to the bottom by 1”.
  6. For the rail template, draw an arc using the intersections of the bottom and the construction lines drawn in step 3, with the arc extending to meet the construction line drawn in step 2.  This is the large cathedral arc.
  7. Draw smaller arcs at the bottom using intersections of the bottom of the rail and the construction lines drawn in step 4 as the first point, with the intersection of the large arc and the construction lines drawn in step 5 as the second point extending to be tangent to the arc.  Be careful as there are two possible tangent snaps, one to the bottom and one to the arc.  You want the one to the arc.
  8. For the panel template, select the individual pieces of the cathedral arc and offset them upwards by the length of the stub tenon minus 1/8” for the panel expansion allowance.
  9. Since my printer cannot print a template at full size, I obtain the arc radius information by looking at the “Entity Info” and selecting the arcs drawn in steps 6 and 7 and setting my drawing compass accordingly.  To obtain the panel template, I use the rail template cutout and scribe a line with the same offset as step 8.
  10. When you cut the patterns from the template drawing, mark the rail length points on the bottom and mark the center point on the top and extend the overall width of the pattern about two inches to the left and right. The marks will help position the pattern on the rail or panel and the extra width will allow you to have a bearing surface to enter and exit the router cuts when pattern routing.


I hope my website visitors find this information to be useful.  If you do, send me an e-mail with your comments.

Bathroom Cabinet



Completed cabinet in bathroom


















Now that I am retired, I can make things that I only dreamed of in the past.  I have always wanted to build casework but didn’t have the time nor the necessary tools to accomplish the job – now I have both so my first project was a bathroom cabinet.  The impetus for this project was a visit to a bathroom remodeling business.  We decided to gut the old tub surround, install a new one, install a new floor, plumbing fixtures and medicine cabinet.  Light fixtures had to be replaced also since they were 1970 vintage.  We looked at vanities and got sticker shock for anything of quality so that was the push I needed.  Where do you start with no knowledge of cabinetmaking?  I found loads of information on the Internet, in magazines, books and DVDs.  I studied for a few months then wrote a spreadsheet to help size various components.  Next, I learned to use Google Sketchup (now called Trimble Sketchup) and drafted a 3D model of the cabinet.  The time invested in learning this program was well worth it because the project was too complex to “design as you go”.

Cabinets in general conform to certain standards because tops and drawer slides are made in standard sizes.  The next consideration was drawer sizes.  Because I wanted dovetail joinery, I needed to make my drawer sides a certain height in order to avoid splitting a tail when you look at it from the top so, based on my dovetail jig, this dimension needed to be in one inch increments plus 1/4″.  Armed with these parameters, the spreadsheet figured out all face frame openings and door opening, drawer dimensions, panels, etc. taking into consideration my desired cabinet height, number of drawers, raised panel router bit clearances, door and drawer overlaps and stock thicknesses.  Transferring these figures to my Sketchup drawing allowed me to see if any adjustments were needed or if there were interferences.

Red oak was my choice for the face frame, doors and drawers.  Hard maple was selected for the drawer sides and maple plywood was chosen for the drawer bottoms.  The cabinet sides were made from oak plywood and the interior cabinet parts were made from melamine panels so everything would look nice and bright when you opened the door.  Blum drawer slides were selected for the drawers and soft close European style hinges for the door.  Dovetail joinery was used for the drawers and dowel joinery for the face frame and cabinet assemblies.  The cabinet was finished using General Finishes Pecan stain followed by 5 coats of General Finishes Arm-R-Seal satin urethane top coat.



Drawer sides showing dovetail joinery



Raised panel drawer fronts


Rear view of open back cabinet to allow for plumbing



Installing drawer slides


Checking door and drawer fronts for fit



Rough lumber and finished cabinet


Completed cabinet ready for installation