Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Kitchen Update + Shelves

     Hi, friends! Yes, it's been awhile. The cabinets are far from being finished; however, the kitchen is much more livable than it was in our last post. I have finished most of the shelves and moved pretty much everything we use regularly out of the temporary kitchen set-up and into the real kitchen. It feels great!!

I hope we never need to store shoes and pantry items in the same space again - file that under #renovationrealities, haha :) All non-shoe things seen above are now back in the old pantry.

     About the shelves: I wrapped up finishing them over the weekend, and they turned out really nice. You can see in the photo above that each shelf consists of 3/4" plywood with a quarter-sawn white oak strip on the front. We considered using a veneer across the front of the shelves but decided that the oak looked more polished. Plus, the oak adds some stability to the plywood. Steven attached the oak to the plywood with an 18-gauge pin nailer. We covered the nail holes as well as we could. The end result looks fine, but the nail holes are visible if you're looking for them... not a huge deal since the upper cabinets will have doors. If we had been going for the open-shelving look, joining the oak strip to the plywood with biscuits would have been neater.

     Finishing tips (clockwise from right): Since each shelf consists of a piece of plywood and a piece of solid oak nailed together, I had to do something of a dual process. Yes, there was lots and lots of tedious taping! Whenever the can of Cabot Spar Varnish (satin finish) is left to sit for a couple days, a "skin" of dried varnish forms over the top. I just use my stirring stick to pull as much of the dried varnish out as possible, then stir the product well. I found that pouring the spar varnish through a paint strainer was essential to keep the smaller dried bits out, which obviously makes the varnished surface much smoother.
     Keeping the oak strip taped off, I finished the plywood portion first - three coats of spar varnish, buffing with super-fine (0000) steel wool then tack cloth after the first two coats. Working indoors with plenty of natural light was helpful for ensuring an even application - the varnish looks really glossy in the light, so it's easy to see if you've missed a spot.
     Prior to finishing the oak portion, we filled the nail holes with wood glue that had a bit of sifted sawdust added. Steven suggested that mixing in some oak sawdust would tint the glue a bit and make the nail holes less conspicuous. As I said earlier, the nail holes are visible if you're really looking for them, but we are pleased with the outcome. I thoroughly sanded the oak strip prior to finishing, making extra sure to sand the front side with the filled nail holes as smooth as possible. While keeping the plywood side taped off, I followed the same gel stain process that we used for the face frames.
    As far as taping goes for both the varnishing and staining steps, I prefer to remove the tape right after I apply the product instead of allowing the piece to dry with the tape still in place. That way, the part that is taped off won't get stained if the product penetrates the tape over several hours of drying time, and no product will get get ripped/peeled off with the tape when you remove it.

     The current state of things: We moved the table and chairs into the kitchen when Steven's parents visited in June. I must say, sitting around a table to eat a meal and play board games together felt so strange but really normal, which was much needed around here! We've hardly used the table and chairs since we've been in the house because there wasn't a good place to put them. Since I'm using the future dining area for all the cabinet finishing, the table and chairs work well in the kitchen for now, but there will be an island here in the future (outlined by green tape on the floor).
     We still need to assemble and install the cabinet boxes for the voids over the fridge and over the dishwasher. Steven has cut out drawer fronts for the smaller top drawers - I need to get on finishing those! The smaller drawer fronts are plain, flat panels, but the larger ones will feature a panel with rails and stiles.

Happy Tuesday - thanks for reading!


  1. To keep your vanish from creating a film between uses, you might try cutting a piece of wax paper the same size as the inside of the can and floating it on top of the varnish when you are not going to use it for a while. It keeps the air off the varnish and in principle should keep it from drying out. I use this trick with my stain, and it works. Just remember to pull the wax paper out before you use the varnish again.

    1. Ah, great tip! I will try that next time. Thank you :)