Making Clothing Cabinets

Tuesday August 25, 2015

clothing cabinet in salon

I remember when I thought that when the time came to begin making the cabinets it would be the easiest job in the world compared to the walls.  The walls were at odd angles in which we had to follow the curve of the hull, but cabinets are mostly straight and should be incredibly easy, right?

Nope.  I’m not lying when I say this is pretty much the only thing we have been working on for the past two and a half weeks. Two measly clothing cabinets in the forward salon and they are taking an eternity to build. It’s not making the frame or even perfecting the curve for the side that does butt up against the hull that is draining all of our work hours. Our two major downfalls on this project have been trying to get everything absolutely level and lined up, as well as finding crafty ways to cover up the piece of aluminum frame that juts out into our cabinet space.

I shouldn’t say all of these are working hours, however.  A lot of them are contemplation hours.  With a few trial and error tests here and there.

Covering the aluminum frame still has us dumbfounded where there is a 2″ section that sticks up above the cabinet frame, but inside will just have to be a lot of specially cut and placed pieces of Eurolite. Although the part of getting the cabinet frame lined up as we’d like it is proving quite tricky too.  We’ve decided we’d like the boat to flow together as much as possible, meaning if possible, we’d like to keep a linear line from where the pantry cabinets start at one end of the galley and ends with our clothing cabinets in the forward salon. Since we’re working with a space that curves in and grows smaller the further forward you reach in the boat.  Luckily our aluminum straight edge we’ve been using for routing is long enough to span this area and helps us to find the correct angle we need for the cabinet frame.

Once we had decided how far we wanted the cabinets to come out into the salon it was time to make the frame.  Rather than waste our precious hard wood cherry on the learning process we picked up some pine from Home Depot to do a few test runs on.  Items like checking the measurements, how the pieces come together, and most importantly, how to work our new Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System.  As the name implies, it creates pocket holes so that the screws run in the back sides of the boards without ever showing on the front.  Even though we’ll still be using the tongue and groove format for the doors of the cabinets, this was a much easier way to do the frame.

framing clothing cabinet

pocket holes using Kreg Jig

Who knew we’d ever be so happy to going back to templating pieces of wood.  Once the frame was in place we needed the pieces of 1/4″ cherry plywood that will serve as the side.  Using our compass we traced the curve of the hull onto one of our scrap 1/4″ strips of wood and cut it down until it fit perfectly in place.  The other two lines were straight enough that we could overlap them onto the first, giving us the edges we needed, before being glued together.  Tracing that template onto our cherry ply we had our side within about 30 minutes.

templating the side of cabinet

To give the cherry plywood a little extra strength and stability we also added a piece of Eurolte to the inside and gave it a coat of epoxy since it will be attaching to an aluminum frame.  Cutting a few more strips of Eurolite we covered the remaining frame on the inside, and added cleats to place the shelves on top of.

building inside of cabinet

 Using a sheet of 1/2″ marine plywood we made the shelves for the cabinets, only having space for two total.  The top shelf should give plenty of space, the middle one a little less so, and I have no idea what’s going to be able to fit into the crack of the bottom area.  Maybe I should talk to Eagle Creek about some packing cubes that we can neatly store socks and underwear in?

The shelves themselves were slightly harder to make templates for with the odd shape of having to bend around the aluminum frame, but after minimal cursing and only a few wrong cuts with the jig saw on my part, we had them snugly fitting inside and it was time for my favorite part.  Painting!  Any time you hand me a bucket and a paint brush I am filled with joy because it means that area is ether near or at an end.  Plus this time I was even more so excited because it means that we can now transfer our clothes from where they are randomly strewn on the pilot house settee to an actual cabinet.

painting the inside cabinets

 The last part of this project, which we’re still working on at the moment, is making the doors.  They’re being done in tongue and groove, which Matt just about has perfectly down now, so that aspect is coming along nicely.  Getting them to fit into the frame with the exact same spacing on all four sides is a little harder.  Plus at the moment we’re waiting on our hinges to arrive before we can install them.  You know, the kind where you can’t slam the door because even when you try it will shut nice and softly for you?  We’ve opted for those.  A nice option when you live on a boat and a random wave might send the door cracking down on your hand.

framed cabinet without doors

Matt installing cabinet shelves

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Tongue & Groove

Monday July 20, 2015

settee face

The intricate construction I was mentioning in the last post?  Unfortunately does not just apply to the routed plywood we are using for the ceiling and overhead.  We have decided to make things very complicated for ourselves in the way we are going to assemble all of our cherry doors, cabinets, and pretty much everything made from cherry.  To make them look really nice and add a fine detail, instead of using just plain pieces of cherry plywood we are now using cherry boards to frame an inset of cherry plywood.  I’ll give you a quick example of the cabinet doors in the v-berth before I confuse you further.

(*Let it be known now that I will probably do a terrible job explaining this process.  If you’re looking for actual know-how, visit this page for someone who made cabinet doors for a home using this style of woodworking.)

cherry doors in v-berth

For anyone curious to know the details or specs, for the frame we used cherry 4/4 lumber that we milled down to S4S 1″x3″s and 1″x4″s, and used 1/4″ cherry plywood for the inserts.

To get the boards of the frame to fit together we did it in a tongue and groove style so there are no nails or screws holding any of it together.  Now that we’ve done this process a few times it’s begun to get a little easier, but there were about two solid days of trials on pine 1″x3″ boards, using our table saw to slice 1/4″ grooves right down the center for us to be able to slide the plywood in. The grooves only extended 1/2″ into the boards, so a lot of practice was getting the proper blade height and the distance between the blade and the fence to make sure the grooves ended up in the middle of the board.  Once that part was down we had to spend even more time practicing the perfect cut for the tongue on the end to be able to piece the frame together.

Again, I’m probably getting ahead of myself and should explain the full process better.  Getting into technical terms, the frames are made out of what are called rails and stiles.  Rails run horizontally across the top and bottom, and stiles are anything that run vertically.

rail & stile

After the cabinet doors in the v-berth our next project was to make the face of the settees in the forward salon.  The plan was to use a 1″x3″ rail on the top and a 1″x4″ rail on the bottom, as well as 3 stiles, one for each end and one for the center.  The rails were the easiest part as they only needed one groove.

Using our calipers to measure the blade height of the table saw and getting a few more practice runs in with our pine, we brought the cherry boards over to cut the groove in them, sending them across the table saw twice, rotating the board after each run, front to back, to get our desired width of 1/4″.  Then they were set aside until later when they’d need to be cut to their proper length.

The stiles required this step as well, placing a groove down the center, each end piece only received a groove on the inside, and the center piece receiving grooves on both sides. To be able to fit the stiles into the rails we also had to give them a tongue, with a length of 1/2″ and a width of 1/4″. To do this on the table saw we first cut the stiles to the proper length, adding an extra inch to account for the tongues on each side, and then raised the blade up just high enough so it would not cut through the entire piece of wood, but would only come up approximately 3/8″.  Measuring back 1/2″ from the end you make a swipe on the table saw and then keep moving the board further from the table saw, still making swipes until you’ve hit the end.  Flipping it over and doing the same to the other side you should be left with a small piece in the center that is now 1/4″ wide and 1/2″ long.

The next and easiest step is cutting the 1/4″ plywood insets.  Measuring the length and width of the open space in the frame, we needed to add an extra inch on each side to account for where the plywood would slide into the groove.  Something we almost forgot to do on more than one occasion.  Measuring the lengths we ran them through the table saw to get a straight cut and that was it.

Then it’s time for the dry run!  Setting the bottom rail on a flat surface we slid the tongues of the stiles into the gooves of the rail and lined them up flush on the ends and centered the middle piece.  From there we slid in the plywood pieces and then placed the second rail on top where the groove encased both the tongues of the stiles and the extra 1/2″ of the plywood.  If anything wasn’t fitting properly we’d take it apart and make a few necessary cuts, usually just an 1/8″ here or there.

When we were satisfied with the way everything was fitting together on the dry run it was time to glue it all together.  Bringing all the pieces inside the boat we went through the same process, just adding a wood glue to the tongues of the stiles this time.  After it was all pieced together we used clamps to press the boards tight together and left it to sit for about an hour.  Then voila!  Time to install!

Kind of.  We’re not permanently installing anything at the moment, plus all of our pieces of cherry will need about six coats of varnish in the end (three with gloss and three with satin), but it’s still nice putting them in place and becoming one step closer to finishing an area.

measurements for settee face

Matt making measurements

tongue & groove cabinet face

tongue & groove cabinet frame

gluing v-berth door

glued & installed settee face

cherry settee face

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