The follow pictures and edited description was submitted by Al from North Vancouver, BC:
I’d like to thank George at the Windsor Plywood North Vancouver store for cutting all that Maple and Birch for me, for my medicine cabinet in December.
I finally finished it last weekend. The weather was horrible for drying of stain and lacquer. We bought a framed mirror and medicine cabinet from restoration hardware, as the last items for our bathroom reno. As the last items, the size was limited and also the colour had to match. Both items arrived damaged and we sent both back. The second set, the cracked mirror was now replaced and we hung that. However the medicine cabinet had the same problem, all 3 hinges had pulled out.
I will refer to the ‘box’ and the ‘door’. The box is the main rectangular area where items are placed, and the door is a frame that has a mirror in it that pivots off the door.
Problems with the cabinet:
• The box was made of particle board – so it wouldn’t hold a screw.
• The outside measurement of the frame was 1″ larger than the outside measurement of the box – the door had a slight overhang all the way around, so it is not flush and you can’t see the box.
• The cabinet weighs 65 pounds has a mirror on the back of the inside of the box and the door has a mirror on both sides (heavy).
• The cabinet is shipped on the bottom side, and the door is attached. This means that all 65 pounds are put on the bottom of the door, this pushes up on the hinges as all 65 pounds are on the door, plus the shipping box was badly damaged.
This product was doomed.
We kept the mirror, returned the cabinet again, and I embarked on my first cabinet and went to your shop in North Vancouver, BC.
After figuring out what I was going to do and some rushed measurements, I wanted to start asap so the new bathroom wasn’t going to look unfinished for too long. I bought a Kreg Jig to make the box and was looking for some advice while buying wood.
George recommended Maple for strength and Birch for the larger pieces as they stain in a similar way.
I measured as best I could and George made all my cuts for me around Dec 27th, which was great.
It is raining and I don’t have a workshop, I have a small table I setup in the alley and a 7″ tile saw that I have squeezed a 7.25″ wood blade into.
The measurements and cuts were pretty much spot on. Except for a couple of my blunders.
I wanted about 5″ of space so we used 1″ x 6″ Maple for the box which was put together with pocket screws and sanded prior to assembly. The wood was slightly warped, so getting that last screw in proved difficult.
I then attached the .5″ plywood into the back after sanding. I put some holes in the side panels for shelves, put some pocket hole filler notches to cover the holes, they were also Maple.
I then put the shelves on, and they were totally short by about 2″. This was an afterthought and the last cut we made. I probably missed the thickness of the box or something, there was some spare plywood left and I hadn’t thought well enough about their size, so the measurements I gave George were incorrect, I did think of them on the spot.
I did have some plywood left and cut it to size. However I ripped up the wood with my saw blade, mainly because it had too few teeth.
Making the door was difficult. The hinges I bought required to overlap on the frame, so I had to trim bait off the size of the frame, but it went together well, only one broken screw on the Maple. I also got the exact size based on a mirror i bought. I cut the mirror and got 90% of it done when it split twice; I and to buy another one and had adjusted my door size prior to assembly.
Not having a router I had a small router bit on my rotary tool, which was not easy, but it worked.
I started staining the back and oiling it to test it out. Then I did several coats of stain and danish oil. Then I covered the stain with lacquer and oil with tong oil. Both were wet sanded by hand. Oh, and all screws were turned by hand to get a feel for the screws to not break them. The only 600 grain I could find was a metal sandpaper and when it got wet the green paper backing was leaving a green smear, so I had to get different paper. Eventually it worked but I did have some scars on the wood I didn’t notice until later when I had set the box down in the alley on some rocks. I did remove all glue on the frame so it stained nicely but the scaring was invisible to me until lacquering… oh well!
I came back for some Maple veneer which I applied to the shelves and two end cuts. I had some 1″ x 2″ Maple pieces I also bought as a shelf support, which will be used by the hanger to screw into for better strength. More broken screws… had me figure out the pilot holes in Maple had to be bigger and I also dipped the middle part of the screw in water and dishwasher soap (but not the top as that was going into plywood.)
Due to the reduced size of the frame because of the hinges, I now had to trim the 1/8″ plywood that was to be the back of the door, I needed to take an inch off. The experience with ripping the shelves caused me some stress. I found a 150 tooth saw blade on sale, I scored both sides with a strong knife and I covered both sides with masking tape and redrew the line on both sides. I put it through my little saw slowly and it didn’t split any ends at all, whew!
I wanted to use nice gold brass screws to attach the backing to match the colour. Used some #8 and #6s (size). I broke 3.
I managed to use the frame trim to put on the back at the bottom to ensure the box hangs level as the French cleat hanger in the back pushed the top of the box outward and I didn’t think my wife would appreciate a 2.5 month long box build to dump all of her makeup into the toilet.
Anyway the thing is done and I am quite happy with the results. I had a bit of stain overlap, the hinges aren’t mounted perfectly, but work well, there are no fancy wood joints, just well hidden pocket screws, and the thing has a mirror, only weighs 45 pounds and obviously didn’t have to ship it. I got a good grain showing on the inside that was not dark… I didn’t want the wood hidden. I have a correct blade now and understand fragility of top layers of plywood, and have a better appreciation for good clamps. The one thing that really bugged me was I stained the inside of the door so that the mirror would not reflect anything on the edges, but the $8.00 glue purchased from a big box store wasn’t transparent and it showed the white grrrrr! So there is some reflection.
I think I need to go with an even thicker brass screw next time. I had #9, #10, #11 and #12, but they were steel intended for the hanger on the back and were also too long to use on the door. 1.25″, door is .75″ + 1/8″.
Thanks to George for helping me with the proper wood, sizing, cutting, great measurement and advice on wood and staining. And for all that cutting he did, as I don’t have a chop saw and the table is pretty small for plywood. It was my 3rd wood object, my first cabinet with complicated measurements (a lot of little details), so thank you.
I have attached some pictures you can use if you like it. My labour on it was pretty long, I think the cost was a little more than the one we purchased…. the wood was 1/2 but the metal pieces screws and all the various stains and oils in their weird quantities that I had to use put it over the one we had purchased but it is a better size.
The next one will probably be an open long shelf, as the measurements are very unique. No door this time!