Saturday, October 26, 2013


The journey to a handmade china cabinet begins, as so many journeys do, with a single step trip to Home Depot. Dad and I spent an entire afternoon shopping for materials and considering the upsides and downsides of all kinds of wood, from pine to redwood to the entire contents of our local lumberyard's Unaffordable Hardwoods aisle. We eventually decided to make what we could from poplar, which at the time mostly reminded me of the most underrated Anne of Green Gables book, but is also apparently a good cabinetry-grade wood; we also chose three-quarter-inch AB plywood (top-quality on one side, slightly messier on the other) for the bigger pieces, plus a starter course of twelve feet of quarter-round molding for trim and internal supports.

Sadly, nobody had anticipated the vast market for people turning old gun cabinets into china cabinets, and thought to make all these pieces in exactly the sizes I needed. It turns out cabinetry is like sewing in that way: before the putting-together phase comes a lot of prep. Dad and I spent at least a month of weekends prepping wood. We measured and marked. We re-measured and re-marked. We ripped boards the long way, then cut them off the short way. We rasped. We sanded. We checked for square corners again and again and again. In one case, we did it all wrong, and made an emergency trip to Home Depot. I made friends with the electric sander and the miter saw and sometimes the table saw, especially if its friend the ripping guide was present. (One way cabinetry is not like sewing: sewing machines sew straight on their own.) In total, I got more sawdust in my sinuses than I would previously have associated with the average weekend project.

Let's face it: wood prep isn't that photogenic. It's exacting, precise work, minus the satisfaction of putting stuff together (and having it stay that way). I'm glad it's mostly over--but I'm also glad I did it. Back when I was hunting for a china cabinet, before I ever laid eyes on this $25 worth of plywood gun-cabinet glory, I knew I wanted something unique and interesting and personal--and now I feel like I really know my materials. I know where they're square (and, more importantly, where they're not square), where there used to be dings and scuffs and the occasional saw-burn mark, how deep that little knot actually went, and how much sanding it took to get it out, and how far I distributed the divot to make it less noticeable. Despite the assembly portion of the process, this is no IKEA purchase* (Bonus: Don't just assemble your furniture; complicate your life by cutting all the wood first! This is what they call WINNING). Maybe I'm just turning into Gwyneth Paltrow or something, and will now be required to name my kid something like Plate McGee, but I like that this cabinet and I are feelin' each other now.

Next up: Let's put stuff together (and have it stay that way)!

*Nothing against IKEA purchases; without them, I would have no place to sit/eat/keep anything. But: you know. Something should be made from real wood and weigh less than Andre the Giant.