By Danny Proulx
Letters and responses
An alternative to the wood base
Response and Article
A reader's review of a scoring table saw
A simple and efficient method of drawer construction
How to get better looking taped edges on MPCB
An easy way to install doors without jigs
A reference series of articles
A simple drawer system
A pull-out shelf system using Euro drawer glides
A simple and efficient method of using space
Staining, or Polyurethance?
A few comments on cabinet finishing
A simple way to brighten up a kitchen
to thank everyone for the response to the first issue of
Rideau News. Your supportive letters were very reassuring.
It certainly was rewarding to read how some of you found
particular topics useful.
Many comments and suggestions have been received and I will
try my best to incorporate them into future issues. I'm
very busy working on a few magazine articles as well as
putting the finishing touches on the kitchen cabinetmaking
book that will be published by Betterway Books in the summer
of 1997. But, I've always got a few minutes to discuss woodworking
with those who write.
Thanks for now, and I hope you enjoy this issue.
article is a continuation of the overview I presented on
the hybrid North American kitchen cabinet in issue 1. Other
features of this cabinetry system will be detailed in upcoming
The traditional North American kitchen cabinet used (and
some manufacturers continue to do so) a wooden base system
to support floor cabinets. It consisted of a wooden frame
, faced with a finished toe kick board to match or compliment
the exterior finishes of the cabinetry. Other cabinetmakers
and manufacturers simply extended the base cabinet gable
ends (sides) to the floor.
The Europeans developed a plastic adjustable leg system,
to replace the support frame for base cabinets. Many traditional
North American cabinetmakers realized the many benefits
of this support system and modified their building style
to incorporate the adjustable cabinet leg. It should be
noted that some North American cabinet manufacturers have
adopted the total 32 mm Euro cabinet system. However, some
including myself, have incorporated the cabinet leg along
with other features of this system and developed the hybrid
North American cabinet with a traditional cabinet wood face
There are several cabinet leg manufacturers. Most supply
a leg made out of plastic that will adjust in height from
3 3/4" to 4 3/4". Kitchen base cabinets up to 30" in width
have four legs installed while the wider cabinets normally
have six legs. The 36" lazy susan corner base is fitted
with eight legs. Cabinet legs can be secured to the base
bottom board with screws on the underside or with a through
base board bolt that threads into the middle of the leg.
Either method is common and acceptable. The toe kick board
is fitted with a series of spring clips, called plinth clips,
that attach to the front legs. Installation and removal
of the toe kick board, when necessary, is a simple task.
If you weren't aware of this clip-on toe kick board system,
you would think it was a conventional North American traditional
So, what makes these legs so popular? Well, simply put,
they make everyone's life a lot simpler. The installer levels
the cabinet base by adjusting the legs as required, eliminating
the need for shims. Water pipes, heating ducts, and electrical
conduit can easily be installed under the cabinets. And,
water damage to the cabinets, caused when the water "wicks"
up the cabinet side boards, is eliminated. The worst water
damage will only ruin the toe kick board which is easily
Flooring installation is a dream with the cabinet leg and
removable toe kick board system because you can tuck new
flooring material under the area where the toe board will
be replaced. And, for those of you who love spring cleaning,
simply remove the toe kick board, and vacuum to your heart's
content. How about cost? Well, the leg system is more expensive
than the materials needed for a cabinet base frame. Each
leg assembly retails for about $2.00 in Canada and $1.25
in the US, for a total per cabinet cost of $8.00 Canadian.
But, when you consider the labour needed to build the base
frame or extended gable ends, combined with the grief of
using cedar shims to level cabinets during installation,
the added couple of bucks are well worth the investment.
Is the adjustable cabinet leg system worth the added cost?
I believe so. When you look at the advantages you, like
myself and the majority of my clients who buy legs from
me, will never return to the wooden cabinet base system.
Response and Article
time to time, I'll pass on information I've received from
those who are commenting on my articles as well as an occasional
guest contributor. I hope some of you will find this information
Michael Sabourin, a professional cabinetmaker in Montreal,
sent me these comments following the first newsletter. And,
I agree with Michael's observations. However, in fairness
to the manufacturer, I have eliminated the brand name. The
comments are worthwhile if you plan on buying a scoring table
saw or a scoring blade attachment. An actual trial of the
equipment, before you lay down a lot of cash, is well advised
in this case.
To Danny Proulx
"I enjoyed reading your newsletter and do not mind receiving
it again. I would though, like to let you know what I think
of the scoring saw you talked about in the newsletter. I build
kitchens for a management company here in Montreal. We have
680 apartments and one by one I'm replacing the old kitchens
(it should only take me about 14 years, ha ha.)
We bought the XXXXX table saw. It has the 4 inch scoring blade
in front of the 10 inch. It seemed like the ideal machine
for cutting melamine without chips on the underside. What
looked good in the store (and according to the salesman) wasn't
to be. First of all the scoring blade turns the opposite direction
of the 10" so therefore it pulls your workpiece into the 10"
no matter how low you adjust the scoring blade. The forward
motion of the scoring blade also has a tendency to pull your
piece away from the guide from the back which will cause the
piece to bind up in the front between the 10" and the guide.
The smaller the piece the more dangerous it is. You have to
put a lot of pressure on your piece in different places to
guide it through. I'm sure you know that you should never
have to be putting a lot of pressure on your piece to have
to cut ie; feeding pieces through a dull blade.
You can just imagine what could happen if your hand slipped
with that kind of pressure behind it. Second, you can't imagine
the amount of time spent trying to keep the two blades perfectly
aligned. This system will only work properly if the two blades
are perfectly aligned and when I say perfectly I mean micro
millimetres or else the piece will look like @#$%@ and be
useless. The scoring blade is turned by a belt (it might be
improved if it had it's own shaft) so when you lay a big piece
on it, it has a tendency to stop turning rendering it useless.
I had a guy from the store and a service person from XXXXX
in to make it work properly but no one could make it work.
In secret the guy from XXXXX told me they have discontinued
this machine and suggested I try something else. I now use
the XL-4000 from FS-TOOLS and I like it (so do my fingers
and hands) I have never felt so paranoid about using a table
saw or had so many close calls as did when I used the scoring
If you're ever in Montreal and would like to try something
really scary let me know and I'll introduce you to the most
dangerous 4" of blade you've ever seen, ha, ha".
Michael Sabourin, email@example.com
Thanks Mike, they are good observations. If anyone wants brand
names, etc., write to Mike.
receive many questions each month concerning drawers and pull-outs
for kitchen, bath, laundry, and workshop cabinets. It appears,
to many people, to be a very difficult process. In reality,
there is a simple, yet very good method you can use when constructing
As many of you who watch the how-to programs know, cabinet
drawers built of solid wood with dovetail joints are considered
to be the mark of a quality cabinet maker. And, I don't dispute
that fact, they are beautiful and strong. However, in a more
practical sense the drawers for today's modern kitchen cabinets
must be easy to clean, stain resistant, and yes - inexpensive
Many kitchen cabinetmakers, including myself, have adopted
a drawer style that's suited to all "work" cabinets. I include
kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, and workshop as "work" room
cabinets. Simply put, the drawer box I use is a four sided
frame with a strong bottom, using butt joints and particle
I recommend using 5/8" thick industrial or cabinet grade melamine
coated particle core board (MPCB) as your standard. Construct
the box with the back and front pieces, butt joined with 2"
PCB screws, inside the side pieces. By inside I mean, looking
at the box from the side does not allow you to see the ends
of the front and back piece. In effect, if the drawer box
had an overall width of 16 inches and a depth of 22 inches,
you would need two 22 inch long side pieces and two pieces
for the front and back at 14 3/4" long, the overall width
minus the side board thicknesses. The bottom of the drawer
is also 5/8" melamine coated PCB. Given our example, it would
be 16 inches wide by 22 inches long, and attached to the sides,
back, and front board edges with 2 inch particle core board
screws at 4 inch centers.
Apply edge tape the exposed edges, attach bottom mounted drawer
glides, and you've got a strong drawer box that's ready to
take a lot of abuse. I use this drawer box style with an applied
hardwood drawer face for all of my kitchen cabinets and it
has proven to be a very functional, long lasting, and sturdy
drawer that resists racking.
a cleaner, better looking taped edge on melamine boards, apply
the iron-on tape before you cross cut the final "to size"
length. For example, if I'm building drawer boxes I'll edge
tape an eight foot length of particle core board (I've ripped
the board to it's proper width at this point), then cut the
board to length.
By using this method, I'm letting the saw blade cut the edge
tape square and clean. And, the butt joints will look better
at each intersection because of the sharp clean cuts on the
I've received a lot of mail asking how to efficiently trim
the tape. The easiest method I've found is to use a double
edge trimmer, made specifically for this procedure, that is
available at most hardware stores. Two sources are the House
of Tools in Canada at 1-800-661-3987 or The Woodworkers' Store
in the USA at 1-800-713-0289. It has two knives and is drawn
the length of the tape to trim. They'll normally handle boards
up to 7/8" thick, but make sure the tape is well secured to
the board by using a small roller to seal the glue. Always
keep the knives sharp and clean. Any rough edges can be smoothed
with a fine file held at a forty-five degree angle to the
tape. When completed, run the pressure roller over the tape
once again to ensure a good bond.
Edge tape trimmers cost about $20, however they're a very
worthwhile tool. After using the trimmer, you'll wonder how
you ever got along without it.
Have you ever wondered whether or not there was an easy way
of installing cabinet doors with European hidden hinges without
buying a hinge installation jig? Well, yes there is - and
I've used this simple method successfully for years.
First, I mount the hinges and the hinge plates on the door
in their 35mm holes. Then, I hold the door in place (in it's
fully opened position relative to the cabinet) and put two
screws in each hinge plate into the cabinet side. I then remove
the door and hinges from the hinge plates and finish screwing
the plates to the cabinet side.
To get the door to cabinet spacing I place a 1/4" strip of
wood between the door and the cabinet face frame (while I'm
holding the door in it's correct "open" position). Depending
on the hinge style, you may have to increase or decrease the
spacer. And, as you know, the European hinge can be adjusted
in three directions so you can fine tune the installation
after fitting the door. The only exception are the wide opening
hinges such as the 170 degree hinges. In that instance I use
120 degree hinges to mount the doors and locate the hinge
plates. When the plates are mounted I exchange the 120 degree
hinges for the 170's as the plate position is identical for
those of you interested in the cabinetmaking business watch
out for my series of articles in Cabinetmaker magazine (http://www.cabinetmag.com).
Beginning with the January 1997 issue and continuing on throughout
the year, I will be writing a series of articles on "Why Cabinet
Shops Fail". I'd be very interested to receive your comments
on these articles.
the last two issues, we discussed the hybrid kitchen cabinet
and Euro cabinet base legs. In this issue I want to look at
the Euro drawer glide system which has become the defacto
standard in the North American cabinet industry.
Years ago, when I was learning the cabinetmaking trade, drawer
runners and glides were made with hardwood support members.
Drawers rode on these waxed wooden frame supports or in dado
grooves on the drawer. They were prone to binding and were
not always ideal.
Over the last few years, the introduction of bottom mounted
European drawer glide systems have revolutionized the building
process. Simple to install, easy to operate, and virtually
trouble free - these drawer glides offer many benefits. Particularly,
in high usage areas like kitchen cabinets.
In general, most manufacturer's's drawer glides require that
the drawer's total width be 1" less than the drawer opening
width. For example if I was putting a drawer in a 24" standard
base cabinet, which has an inside width of 22", the total
width of the drawer must be 21". The total height of the drawer
must also be 1" less than the height of the drawer opening.
If the opening height of the drawer space is 6", the drawer
, in total, must be no more than 5". Drawers for standard
bases in most systems are 22" deep on 22" bottom mount drawer
glides. Given the above, I would need the following pieces
to construct a drawer as discussed, last month:
2 PCB sides @ 5/8" thick x 4 1/8" high x 22" long
1 PCB back and 1 PCB front @ 5/8" thick x 4 1/8' high x 19
1 PCB bottom @ 5/8" thick by 21" wide x 22" long
2 solid wood strips 1/4" thick x 5/8" wide x 22" long
2 solid wood strips 1/4" thick x 5/8" wide x 19 3/4" long
1 solid wood drawer face 3/4" thick x 23 1/16" wide x 6 3/4"
The solid wood drawer face width should equal the width of
the door or total width of the doors plus the gap between
the doors when mounted in a drawer over door(s) base cabinet.
Clearance dimensions are general and dependant on the style
of drawer glide used. Refer to the manufacturer's specifications
for the brand of drawer glide that you plan to use with your
As we discussed in the drawer building article, use two 2"
PCB screws at each corner joint and 2" PCB screws at 4" centers
on the bottom. The kitchen cabinet hardware supplier in your
area should stock small plastic colored screw covers to hide
the screw heads on the drawer sides. Remember to use countersink
pilot holes for the PCB screws.
in base and pantry style cabinets have become extremely popular
over the past few years. They are a very effective storage
option and increase the ease of access, when compared to the
standard fixed shelf in a base cabinet. And, because we now
use European hidden hinges, base cabinets do not need a center
stile (vertical face frame member). This allows us full access
to the base cabinet interior so that we can install pull-out
shelves. I have constructed many styles of pull-outs over
the years. Some styles are directly dependant on client requirements.
If a deep pull-out is required, I use the drawer style as
described previously. It can be as deep or shallow as required.
Deep pull-outs may be needed for pot storage, dry good storage,
or storage of items such as plastic containers.
In the last couple of years I've constructed the majority
of pull-outs using a 5/8" sheet of melamine coated PCB mounted
on European drawer glides. The front exposed edge of the PCB
is covered with plastic cap moulding which is available at
most home stores. The exposed sides of the PCB are conveniently
hidden by the bottom mount drawer glides and edge tape. A
rail system is installed on the PCB pull-out. This is a very
effective system for pull-out construction and one that I
recommend as the standard design.
There is an extremely important design consideration when
constructing and installing pull-outs in a cabinet behind
doors. The European hinge, that is often used, has the ability
to open in less than the space it requires for door overlap.
In effect, the door mounted with these hinges opens in a space
less than 5/8" which puts the edge of the door slightly inside
the face frame opening. While this feature is extremely beneficial,
particularly when two doors are close together, it means that
a pull-out will rub or hit the door. To prevent this, 1" by
2" cleats are installed on the interior of the carcass, and
the drawer glides are mounted to the cleats. The space occupied
by these cleats must be taken into consideration when determining
your pull-out size.
If you cannot afford to reduce the width of your pull-outs
by using the cleat method, you can use 170 degree opening
hinges that clear the interior width of the face frame when
fully opened. However, the cabinet door(s) must be opened
past the 90 degree position to clear the space. The issues
of instructing everyone to fully open the door(s), as well
as the added cost of the 170 degree hinges, may be a consideration.
I tend to use the cleat method with the less expensive 90
degree hinges in almost all situations.
cabinets, normally a 36" standard base, are not usually fitted
with full cabinet height doors. They are built as a drawer
over doors cabinet so that the underside of the sink is not
visible when the cabinet doors are open. Obviously the "drawer"
is not functional because the sink occupies the space needed
for the drawer carcass. The "drawer" is a false face and non-operational.
Up until recently this space has been lost.
Various suppliers now sell a flip-out kit that comes with
hinges and a plastic tray. You can install this kit on the
false drawer front and have a functional flip-out drawer face
with a plastic tray inside that can be used to store scrubbing
pads and dish soap. It's a very popular option and a very
easy item to install. Your local kitchen hardware supply outlet
should stock these kits.
Staining, or Polyurethance?
get many letters concerning cabinet finishing and re-finishing
through my home page free advice service on the Internet.
Are they difficult question? You bet! Can I answer them and
offer solutions? Not very often!
Painting, staining and clear coating wood is by far and away
one of the most difficult subjects to address accurately.
Sometimes I'd like to leave the wood unfinished so I wouldn't
have to face the inevitable question. How do I finish this
piece? As you know, you can build the best cabinet ever built,
finish it poorly, and it will look like a piece of junk.
As an example, years ago I built a gorgeous dresser for a
client. I was really pleased with myself and the client loved
the unfinished piece. We wanted a white washed antique stain
with a clear coat of polyurethane to protect the cabinet.
I asked the paint "expert" to recommend finishes so the stain
and clear coat would be compatible. He told me to use two
products and guaranteed me that the "clear coat would absolutely
never yellow". Guess what? It yellowed and ruined the cabinet.
How do you avoid these problems? First, make sure you are
willing to live with the chosen finish. It's very difficult
to remove if you're not satisfied. Second, particularly with
wooden kitchen cabinets, staying neutral by using clear polyurethane
is always a good choice. If you want a color change in the
kitchen, it's a simple matter to change cabinet door handles
and kitchen accessories or even the countertop.
And third, spend a lot of time searching for a reputable,
knowledgable paint supplier in your area. Pay a little more
at the specialty shop because their advice is invaluable.
And finally, do what I should have done with the dresser.
Test the finish (all base and top coats) on an area that cannot
be seen or a test board before committing to the final application.
It's a bit of extra effort, but remember, you're going to
have to look at the work for years to come. Next time I'll
smarten up and listen to my own advice.
people don't realize that installing a new kitchen countertop
is an easy process. It is also relatively inexpensive and
a nice way to give new life to your kitchen.
Take accurate measurements of the old top and bring them to
a local countertop supplier. They'll custom cut new tops ready
for installation. Most countertops are attached to the base
cabinets with screws on the underside. Additionally, you may
have to score a line, with a sharp utility knife, to remove
the caulking where the top meets the wall. And in some cases
the new top may have to be scribed to the wall and contoured
with a belt sander. Scribing is simply running a pencil along
the contours of the way and drawing a line on the countertop
The common style of countertop is called a roll top. For ease
of installation, try and match the old roll top profile with
the new style. This is particularly important if the wall
between the upper and lower cabinets has been tiled.
Other countertop styles, such as the wood edged top that's
in my book, can be installed. For those that are planing to
install a new countertop and want something different, let
me know and I'll include a detailed explanation in my next
If the process is a bit intimidating, any of my fellow kitchen
cabinetmaking shops in your area can do the job quickly and
at a reasonable price. It's a great way to get a new look
in your kitchen for the holidays.
P.O. Box 331
Russell, Ontario. Canada K4R 1E1