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Finishes

Before we had a spray room, we relied on a triple-stage HVLP turbine gun to spray waterborne finishes. (Because of health and fire hazards, if you don’t have a spray booth with a high-volume exhaust system, you pretty much have to use a waterborne finish.) HVLP guns lay on a really smooth coat with little overspray. The turbine air is heated, making the finish flash over a little faster. Dust control is a must because the paint remains tacky for an hour or so after spraying.

Last year, we expanded the shop and invested in a spray room with high-volume exhaust and a fire detection and suppression system. We also bought a CA Technologies Cougar AAA (Air Assist Airless) system (888/820-4498, spraycat.com). We run air from a large compressor through a five-stage air cleaner and dryer inside the spray room. The compressor supplies air to the AAA pump head at 60 psi, while the system has its own regulator, set at 45 psi. The gun has twin hoses; one supplies paint to the tip at 600 psi and the other provides air to atomize the fan pattern at around 15 psi. Because it lays a lot of paint on at once, the AAA system takes a little getting used to.

We spray finishes made by ML Campbell (800/364-1359, mlcampbell.com). For primer, we use Campbell’s Clawlock, a two-part catalyzed undercoat that you mix just before spraying. It has a working time of about eight hours, after which it becomes too thick to spray and must be discarded. Clawlock is made for sealing MDF, but it works well on maple, too. It can be applied at a thickness of up to 5 mils per coat, and sands nicely.

For the top coat, we use Campbell’s MagnaMax precatalyzed lacquer, which produces a hard, high-quality finish. It flashes over completely in five minutes; parts can be stacked within 25 minutes (unlike parts sprayed with waterborne finishes, which can’t be stacked for days). MagnaMax comes pretinted and has a shelf life of about three months.

Cabinet Installation

A typical installation takes us two days. I use a RoboLaser RT-7210-1 (robotoolz .com, 800/984-0404) to mark base cabinet height, upper cabinet height, and all plumb lines on the walls. The laser displays a level line of dots across the wall, which I can move horizontally with a remote as I install. I watch for the dots to be split, with the bottom half displayed across the top front edge of the cabinet and the upper half on the wall line. This ensures a level plane for the countertop.

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Splitting the laser dots between the front edge of the cabinet and the wall line provides a level reference side to side and front to back. This ensures dead-true support for a stone countertop and eliminates unsightly shim gaps.

I shim behind the cabinet’s back rail to correct for any unevenness in the wall, then screw the cabinet to the studs with 4 1/2-inch HeadLok screws (800/518-3569, fastenmaster.com). Using these may seem like overkill, but I like them because they self-tap and have large heads that don’t sink into the wood. They also provide solid insurance against shear and pullout when we’re hanging uppers, which can be quite heavy when they’re loaded. We always install solid blocking behind the drywall at the top and bottom lines of the upper cabinets. In cases where a visible fastener is objectionable, I countersink and cover with an inlaid patch of edge banding. If the cabinets have glass doors, I use finish washers behind the screws. I nearly always use obscure glass rather than clear glass in these doors.

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Here, the author blocks a backless drawer base off the wall to increase countertop depth, using structural star-drive screws to fasten it to the wall framing.

When the cabinet installation is complete and the last coat of floor finish is dry, I apply a finished facing to the toekick, usually with a small profile routed into it for a little extra customization. Nail holes in the toekick are hidden with wood filler topped with latex paint.

Bob Cifelli is the shop manager at Kurzhaus Designs in Dennis, Mass.

Emphasis On Access

I’m a big fan of monster silverware drawers (1) located as close as possible to the dishwasher. I put them on soft-closing, full-extension slides (800/438-6788, blum.com).

Below the cooktop, I put two drawers. Big pots and pans go in the larger, bottom drawer; lids and smaller pots go in the upper one. The top drawer also contains an inner drawer (2) for cooking utensils. Near the oven, I put a vertical flat-pan rack and a knife drawer customized to suit the clients’ collection (3).

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I almost never install a false drawer front under the kitchen sink, or one of those drop-down trays where old sponges go to die. Instead, the doors close on a top rail that’s the same width as those adjacent (4). There’s no stile between the doors, and the shelf behind them is only 16 inches deep. I leave the space behind the shelf open to the floor for plumbing access. Beneath the shelf I put a full-extension drawer, handy for storing trash bags and other items used in the sink area. A bottomless base under the drawer makes it easy to service a kickspace heater (5).

There’s no perfect answer to the corner base-cabinet problem, but Rev-A-Shelf’s (800/857-8721, cabinetparts.com) quarter-turn pull-out hardware (6) is one user-friendly option. I also build my own solution: diagonal drawers on full-extension undermount slides as deep as 30 inches (7), for ample, easily accessible storage.

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Many kitchens include breakfast nooks. A 42-inch-tall peninsula cabinet is a good way to separate this area from the kitchen (8). Elsewhere along the countertop, I’ll drop a section down to 32 inches for a baking station (9). The marble top shown here provides a nice visual break.

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A standard 24-inch-deep cabinet doesn’t make for easy access. So I divide the space in a pantry cabinet, putting a third of it on the door, improving visibility and reach (10). To handle the heavy door, I may install as many as a dozen hinges.