My friend Emily and I share the same house. Not the same same house, but the same floorplan. In fact, that’s how we became friends. I’m nosy and saw her husband out in their driveway working at his tile saw and I just had to see what was going on inside that house. So I asked for a tour. That was about seven years ago and we’ve been great friends ever since.
Being friends with someone whose house is like your house’s fraternal twin is pretty fun. It’s fun to see what they’ve done differently and it’s really fun to bounce ideas off of each other. Or, like Emily sometimes says, you can wait for the other person to make a change so you can see how it turned out before committing to it at your own house.
In our floorplan, we’ve got a loft that is a fantastic, flexible, multi-use space. You can check out mine here. Emily and I both have sewing nooks in our lofts where there used to be a closet. Here’s my sewing nook. She also has a computer area in her loft, and so do we. But instead of devoting the remaining loft space to crafts, like in my loft, hers is a media area for playing video games or watching tv and movies. Emily’s family has a lot of movies (which is one of the many perks of being friends with them). Until now, they didn’t have a great place to store their movies, so Ana White and I worked together with Emily and her husband to create a cabinet that would fit their space and their DVDs. Ana designed the piece to be built with 1×12 boards but since Emily’s loft is not a very deep space and since we only wanted to put DVDs in the cabinet, we built the piece out of 1x8s instead, making it significantly more shallow — the perfect depth for all of those movies and video games. You can get Ana’s plans for the piece here.
When we were designing this cabinet, we did it with the look of an old pie safe in mind but we doubled the width and instead of using traditional hand-hammered pie safe inserts in the cabinet doors, we used laser cut sheet metal inserts that you can pick up at any Lowe’s or Home Depot (here’s what I used — and I got all four panels out of one 36″x36″ piece of material). You could do the same or you could try your hand at making your own metal inserts. Or you could make your doors completely out of wood. Any way you do it, your result will be a beautiful, functional piece!
For me, this piece was a big step up from what I’ve built in the past. Why? Two reasons. First, this is a stained piece. Whenever a you build a piece with a stained finish in mind, you’ve got to be super careful as you’re building. With a painted piece you can fix most mistakes with wood filler and even caulk if you’re desperate. But on a stained piece? Uh uh. Your cuts have to be right on and you’ve got to be mindful about how many holes you put in the wood and where you put them. Second, I built this piece out of oak, and oak is expensive. I’m used to working with pine…sometimes even super cheap #2 pine. If you’re working with pine and you screw up a cut you can run back to the lumber yard and grab another piece. You probably won’t be out more than eight bucks. But with oak? You screw it up and you’re looking at some serious dough to replace that board. For me, that’s intimidating and it was a big hurdle I had to overcome in order to build this piece.
Honestly, if it weren’t for Emily’s husband being adamant that this cabinet must be made from oak and must be stained, I would have made it from pine and painted it. Sometimes it takes a good friend’s stubborn challenge to make you grow, doesn’t it? I’m so thankful for his challenge and for their confidence in me.
In order to get perfect cuts, I did all of the cuts when I had plenty of time and knew I wouldn’t be distracted. Also, since I don’t have a sliding miter saw (sliders can cut wider boards — mine will only cut up to a 1×6), I stopped by a friend’s house to borrow hers for the cuts on the 1×8 boards. I didn’t want to make the cuts with my circular saw or do the whole cut one side, flip it over and cut the rest of the way on my miter saw. I wanted the cuts to be perfect.
Another change for me on this piece was that I finished the cut boards before putting the piece together. You know how difficult it can be to finish the inside of a piece. I didn’t want any goofy looking corners on the inside of the piece, so I finished the insides before putting it all together, leaving the spots where I’d be gluing joints unsealed so that the glue would take to the wood rather than the sealer. For the doors, I finished both sides before putting them together with the metal inserts inside.
Let’s talk about that finish. It’s probably my favorite part of this whole project (even though it was painfully slow going). For the finish, I used powdered milk paint by The Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company. I mixed a bit of the Pitch Black powder with the Antique White powder and then watered it way down to make a stain. I don’t keep very good track of things like this, but I’d guess that I used around 1:3 or 1:4 ratio of black to white in order to get the grey color I wanted.
I tested a few different stains (including my nemesis, oil-based stain) and a few different species of wood before deciding on milk paint and Red Oak. Those two together were the only way to get the look I wanted!
I used my favorite Blue Hawk brush to apply the stain and I let it dry (don’t try to wipe it off like you would with oil-based stain). Then I applied a second coat. To seal the wood, I used one coat of clear wax, buffed, and followed it with two coats of brown wax, buffing between coats. The stain looked a bit opaque when it first dried, but once I sealed it with wax, the grain popped right out. I would imagine you’d get a similar result from sealing with some kind of poly sealer (for a heavy-use piece like a coffee table or dining table).
Oak boards cut and ready to be finished before assembly. From left to right you can see the two legs, the bottom, the top, and the center divider. The legs and center divider all have pocket holes where they’ll meet up with the face frame so that I didn’t need to face nail the face frame.
The cabinet box is laid out on top of the face frame and ready to be attached. I built the face frame separately, joining it with pocket holes, and then attached it to the cabinet box using pocket holes from inside the cabinet itself.
In order to get the right height base moulding in the right species of wood, I had to use two separate pieces of base and attach them individually. Next came the back. I finished it first before clamping it to the piece and stapling it in place with my pneumatic stapler.
For the doors, first I cut the boards using a stop block on my miter saw (so they’d be precisely the same lengths). Then I used my table saw to cut a 1/8″ channel on the insides of the boards into which I would later slide my metal door inserts. Next I drilled my pocket holes, stained and sealed all of the individual pieces, and then clamped the pieces together before joining with wood glue and screws.
For the hinges on this piece, I used the Amerock full wrap hinges in oil rubbed bronze. These hinges are somewhat adjustable so if your doors are off (mine were a little off because my miter saw is out of square) you have some wiggle room. Since these hinges aren’t self-closing, I attached blocking to the inside top of the face frame where the tops of the two sets of doors close. Then I attached this magnetic catch to the blocking to keep the doors closed.
Now, the cost to build this beauty in the 1×8 size (obviously the price will go up if you build it from 1x12s). If you build it out of pine, you’ll save significant cash. Here is an approximate breakdown of what I spent:
- Lumber: #1 pine $200.00 OR red oak $350.00
- Hardware: $40.00
- Metal door inserts: $35.00
- Finishing supplies: $20.00
- Total: $300-$450 (plus tax!)
What do you think about that finish? Do you also need a little push to work with nicer, more expensive materials when you’re building?