Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Done with Chibi's Cabinet

The woodworking for Chibi's cabinet went by fast. The finishing, however, took me a while longer. With the exception of my router table, this is the biggest finishing job I've had to do. There were a couple of things that didn't make it as easy:

  • This cabinet isn't on wheels, so it took a bit more effort to raise it up so I could stain and finish it. Not having an assembly/finishing table is a liability.
  • There were doors and stuff that required more flat area to work with. Using my outfeed table as a finishing table doesn't really work since it's too tall and there's always too much dust in the garage.
Overall, it took me a while longer, but I think that it came out nice. I used Rustoleum Ultimate Wood stain in Summer Oak. I wasn't counting on the color of the stain to match up well with the bamboo flooring in my room, but it was a nice surprise. I'm happy with how the wood stain works. I get the color I want in one coat, and the color seems fairly even on the birch plywood.

Considering I used cheapo plywood (relatively speaking), I'm surprised at how well the finish took. I thought I'd have to spend a lot more money to have a product that would be easy to work with. I'm not sure as to the durability of the product, but since I made my garage cabinets with this same stuff and it's still working out well, I'm pretty satisfied with the plywood.

Putting on the polyurethane turned out to be the adventurous part of this project. Once the stain dried, I wanted to try a wipe-on finish since it tends not to collect dust and I wouldn't have to worry about brush marks. Doing the research, I tried a 3:2:1 wipe-on mix of mineral spirits, poly, and linseed oil. I thought it added a nice depth to the stained wood, but it took forever to dry. It was basically on the order of apply a couple coats, wipe off the excess, and come back tomorrow. While I like the look, I'm not sure I'm going to use it much in the future. The wait time just kills me, but then again, I'm very impatient.

While doing some research into other wipe-on finishes, I saw an article that recommended a 3:2 mineral spirits and poly mix. Since it was basically the same thing without the oil, I gave it a shot, and I think I found a winner. It dried fast, was very easy to apply, and was predictable. I used a wet sanding process to knock down any dust nibs in between coats, and I was able to get the rest of the coats on quickly and without much issue. Since I don't have much in the way of a finishing area, I can't have all my projects that are being finished sitting around somewhere that's dusty, so the speed of the wipe-on finish is a huge help.

Of course, since there was some really bad weather, I wanted this cabinet in the house. I found out a couple of things the hard way when reassembling the cabinet. The first is that even though plywood is stable, it still does expand and contract a fair amount when exposed to the humidity that the weather brought. I almost couldn't get the drawer back into the case, and it's still really tight. I'm going to let it dry out a little in my room and see if the fit improves. If not, I might have to take the drawer out and plane down the sides slightly so the slides don't bind up. I'll have to be more careful about sizing the drawer boxes on my next build.

The second thing is that the cabinet required me to take off my closet doors because if they were there, the cabinet wouldn't work at all. I could have solved that with sliding doors, but I was going to change out the doors on my closet eventually anyway. I figured I can re-purpose the closet doors in some way. The wood on the doors is great considering how old it is, and if I strip the paint off, I might end up with some great lumber to use on something else.

Overall, I'm happy with this build, and I'm ready to start making the furniture for Nadine and getting the room furnished. I have a couple of night stands, a double dresser, and a bookcase in the works, so I'll have my hands full working on woodworking things. I hope that means I can keep this blog a little more active.