One Cabinet Down...

This last weekend was a total whirlwind.

But here’s the amazing, killer, totally rockstar news: my first cabinet is done!


Ok, technically, my first cabinet carcass is done. I still have to do the shelves, drawers, and doors. And possibly a face frame. But since we needed to start with the fridge cabinet in order to make sure the next one was measured correctly, the carcass is all we need to get started on the next cabinet. And that’s hugely important, because it’s the cabinet that’s going to house my battery, and therefore the key to my lights, fan, and ability to write blog posts (clearly more important than food and water).

Tim’s circular saw set-up: that black box is connected to the hose so he can suck up the sawdust while he’s cutting, which is pretty darn cool.

Tim’s circular saw set-up: that black box is connected to the hose so he can suck up the sawdust while he’s cutting, which is pretty darn cool.

Friday night we headed over to a neighbor’s house. Tim makes cabinets, and is currently working on some cabinets for his own kitchen remodel. He was kind enough to invite us over and cut my plywood sheets for me, which is a huge help because he has a workshop dedicated to cabinet building, with a huge table, a more precise system, the right saw blades, and a steadier hand. We just cut the pieces for the first two cabinets, but even that was a bit of an undertaking, so we had a lot of time to chat with Tim about cabinet-making strategies. I actually really enjoyed it, they’ve always lived kitty-corner to us, but I’ve never really gotten to know him or his wife, Mel. They’re both incredibly kind, Tim even stopped by the next day to drop off some storage hardware that he thought I might be able to use.

I’m actually really excited about it, it’s this little pole, probably six or seven inches long, that extends out from these brackets. So you can just tuck it away when it’s not it use. I think it’ll be great for… well, any number of things. I can’t decide where to put it because I want to use it for practically everything.

It was getting dark by the time we got back with all our cabinet pieces, but SuperDad and I got right to work, scribing the curve of the van wall onto the two boards that would become the sides of my first cabinet, and then trimming that side. We glued and nailed the plywood boards together before calling it a night.

Saturday, Dad was volunteering at the Alta Alpina Challenge, a bike event that makes the infamous Death Ride look like child’s play (and also founded by my dad (and other people, I guess, but by my dad) while I was a teenager, so I’m pretty proud of it even though I’m not a big fan of riding bicycles further than to the grocery store). So I made it my personal mission to finish as much painting as humanly possible.

I started my day taking the clamps off the cabinet and putting a couple more nails in where the clamps had been in the way. Then I got down to business, trying to finish all the painting prep.

The ceiling was still trashy-looking. Full of nails, obviously uneven, big cracks everywhere you looked. Hideous. So the next order of business was to spackle all the nails, caulk the cracks where the ends of the boards butted together with Alex, let it dry, and then sand it all down. While I was waiting for it to dry, I finished taping off anything I didn’t want getting paint on it.

I vacuumed the entire van — floor, ceiling, walls, seats, in every hole and cubby. I wiped the walls and ceiling with a damp cloth to make sure all the sanding dust was gone.

Then Mom and I got to work with the primer. My mom killed it, doing most of the ceiling while I was taking a lunch break.

The ceiling looked a lot better, but still not… great. The cracks where the tongues met the grooves were really obvious. So I took my paintbrush, and I went down every single crack, making sure that it was well-painted.

The result… well, the result is pretty damn awesome, if I do say so myself. It looks so cool. I can’t wait to see how it all looks finished, because I think it’s going to be amazing. Very beach-cottage-chic.

One coat of paint (and it’s a little rough around the edges), but it’s coming together really well!!

One coat of paint (and it’s a little rough around the edges), but it’s coming together really well!!

We went inside for a little break, then I sanded it down lightly to get any rough spots out of the primer, and we called it a night. My fantasy from that morning (of getting all the painting finished) was unrealized, but that was fine. It was still a lot to get finished, and my super supportive mom decided she would paint the walls for me on Sunday, while Dad and I worked on the cabinet.

We were a little slow getting started Sunday morning. Dad didn’t even get home from volunteering at the ride until 1 am the night before, so he was tired, and I was… well, I’m me, and mornings are not my strong suit.

But we did get moving, and the rest of the cabinet came together fairly easily. We double-checked all our measurements, and there were a few little mishaps (we installed all the 1x3s on the wrong side at first, and had to switch them around), but all-in-all, I was surprised at how quickly we were able to cut out the 1x3 supports, drill the pocket holes, install them, and cut out the back.

At which point, it got a lot less speedy.

Neither of us are cabinetmakers, but I’d had a gut feeling we should have squared it up every step of the way. I was right.

Trying to square up a cabinet that’s finished except for the back is completely ridiculous. We ended up having to build outside corner squares to brace our clamps on the two opposite corners of the cabinet and pull it into square.

Yeah, I know. For anyone who isn’t that handy, that probably sounded like gibberish. It would have to me, too, about five months ago.

The point is, we spent a lot of time trying to fix it, but eventually we did get it fixed, and I finished the weekend with a beautiful, square cabinet!