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.
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.
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.
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.