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"Perfection" in Woodworking and Construction

Posted on May 23, 2015 at 1:09 PM Comments comments (1)
Perfection. Just what is that? 

According to the dictionary it means, "lacking nothing essential to the whole; complete of its nature or kind; being without defect or blemish.” In my experience very few things in this world live up this high ideal and those that do are purely subjective judgments. Thankfully I learned about the illusive nature of perfection when I was young.
 
I was 21 when I started my apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker and of course I knew everything. I was assigned to the semi-retired owner (his son-in-law now ran the shop). On my second day he asked me to pull an oak board out of the lumber rack. I brought it to him and laid it on the bench. It was a rough sawn piece, was uneven in width and thickness, had a twist to it and a crack at the end.
 
With youthful confidence I said, “Boy, they sure don’t make lumber like they used to!”
 
Sam, turned his head to me and in gruff voice but with a chuckle replied, “Son, I’ve been doing this for over 40 years and they never made lumber like ‘they used to’”.
 
He then continued on and said, “All of the materials we use come to us in imperfect shape - always have and always will. And remember that people are imperfect and the whole world is imperfect. Perfection is a false concept. Your job is to take imperfect materials and make them appear perfect – note I said appear – not make them perfect. If you do that then you have taken the first step in being a good cabinet maker because your expectations will be realistic. Keep high standards but always be realistic.”
 
He then went on and said, “While I’m at it, there is no such thing as level, plumb, straight or square and ‘a joint is a joint is a joint’. Things just appear level, plumb, straight and square and joints are always visible. Now you have one day to whine about these things and then for the rest of your career you just need to deal with these imperfections and attempt to make things appear perfect.”
 
Of all the things I learned in my apprenticeship that was the most valuable one.
 
Every piece of wood I have worked with had some imperfection (although perfection is, in this case, subjective – beauty is in the eye of the beholder). Every house I have worked in, no matter how new or old, was out of square and level and the walls were out of plumb. (Your house is not unique in that regard! When you put 200,000 pounds on top of a foundation it is guaranteed to move no matter how level and plumb it was built.) I’ve also never seen a truly straight wall and seams seldom disappear no matter how much I try.
 
Appearing perfect is what I aim for. The best example is on several jobs through the years I have installed crown moldings out of level in order to make them appear perfect. In these cases the ceilings were not level and making the crown molding level would have accentuated the issue. It took some creative solutions (usually following a night’s sleep) but when it was done the crown and the ceiling appeared level.
 
Imperfect materials – imperfect people – imperfect world. That’s the reality. When we keep that in mind our expectations are then realistic and in the end we all will proclaim “Wow that appears perfect! I love it!”

Cabinet sizes and why they are what they are

Posted on May 3, 2015 at 10:33 AM Comments comments (3)
I often ask myself questions about strange things. You know things like "why is the sky blue?" and so forth (drives my wife and kids crazy). One question I had years ago is why are kitchen wall cabinets typically 12" deep? After all is this the most practical size for wall storage? Those of you who have large dinner plates are replying "Heck, no!"

The answer lies in how the whole idea of built in kitchen cabinets evolved and the short answer is that back in the day when carpenters and trim carpenters built cabinets on site rather than in a shop or factory they used 1 x 12 pine boards for the ends and shelves. And if you have ever bought dimensional lumber at the lumber yard you know that the "nominal" (technical term for "actual") size is 11-1/4" (3/4" lost in planing the lumber smooth and straight). These were attached to the wall with cleats and then a 1 x 2 (3/4" X 1-1/2" nominal) frame was nailed to the faces and voila! you got 12". Now 12" works fine but it wasn't because the carpenter actually engineered it that way, it was just easier to use the board in the size it was already cut to than to add to it or have to rip it down with a hand saw. Chalk it up to efficiency and practicality for the carpenter (that's the PC way of saying "lazy"). 

Base cabinets ended up about 24" deep for the same reason. They would use two 1 x 12 boards cleated together and add the 3/4" face frame  and ended up with 23-1/4" deep. When plywood became readily available they then started cutting them to 23-1/4", added the 3/4" face frame and got 24". 

Factory cabinets today are a standard 12" deep and the interior useable depth varies from 10-1/2" to 11-1/4" depending on the construction. I have done many jobs where, at the owner's request, we built the wall cabinets 13" deep to accommodate large plates and I recently did a kitchen where we made them all at 15" deep at the owner's request. Many factory cabinets offer the option of increasing the depth for an additional charge. 

As an aside, if you have old job built cabinets like this, they may be made of clear old growth sugar pine or 'D' select pine or Douglas fir and are valuable pieces of wood. I have salvaged many beautiful boards through the years from old kitchens. Usually the boards were painted and had to be planed to get to the raw wood but it was worth it. Many of our early furniture in our home when I was a poor cabinetmaking apprentice were built from these boards. 

This leads to other dimensional questions. Here's a few for those of you who just have to know:

Why are wall cabinets typically 18" above the counter? Because that's the way it has always been done, dingo! In truth I have no good answer other than "because it works." The only people I have seen complain about it are short people. But there is no hard-and-fast rule here. If you want them lower that can be accommodated either by lowering them or ordering longer wall cabinets. In some cases I have done jobs where we made the space taller in order to accommodate larger appliances like the old Kitchenaid mixers which wouldn't fit in the 18" space.

Why are base cabinets typically 36" high including the countertop? See the answer above. It's always been done that way and overall, except for short people, it works fine. 
I can see the carpenters standing in the kitchen and the carpenter's helper says, "So, boss, how high should we make these cabinets?" 
Pointing to his belt the lead carpenter Joe replies, "I don't know, Bill. About this high I suppose." 
"How about we ask Mrs. Smith, the owner?" 
"Don't complicate things, Bill. Asking the home owner questions like that just makes our lives difficult. About 3 foot works fine, my wife is perfectly happy with that and I'm sure Mrs. Smith will be happy, too." And so here we are today... :)

Note that the appliance industry makes ranges and dishwashers based on 36" thanks to Joe's expertise. If you want your cabinets shorter consider doing one main work section rather than the whole kitchen to avoid problems with the appliances. If you want them taller again I recommend making one work area taller, not the whole kitchen because, while it will work for taller people, it can be a problem if you want to sell your home. 

Is there an advantage to base cabinets deeper than 24"? This can be very nice when you want a bigger work area but in most cases 24" works fine for most people. As to storage I have found 24" deep is plenty deep and making the interior deeper is impractical for storage access. 

Why are bathroom vanities 30" high? The only reason I can come up with is this goes back to the day when homes had only one bathroom and it had to accommodate the children (either that or plumbers were all short and installed the sinks lower to suit themselves!). Of course, there is only about a two year period when 30" high is the right height for kids, the rest of the time they either use a stool or bend over like the rest of us. For years we have made our vanities to the same height as the kitchen at no additional charge and most factory lines offer 34-1/2" high vanities as a standard option. 

Why are bathroom vanities 21" deep instead of 24" like the kitchen cabinets? Again, because that's the way it has always been done! There is also the issue of many bathroom doors are 2'0" and you can't get the cabinet in the room. However, if you can use a 24" deep cabinet it will give you a decent amount of space behind the faucet so you don't need a toothbrush to clean back there. So, consider using kitchen cabinets in your bathroom if they will fit. Your back and your housekeeper will love you for it!

Why are factory cabinets built in 3" wide increments? This is a matter of efficiency and best use of materials and inventory. By maintaining this standard, which works in most cases (except for those dang big fillers that waste space!), they can produce the cabinets quickly and keep their costs down. Many "semi-custom" cabinet lines today, though, offer "odd" dimensions less than the 3" for additional cost (although some are now not charging extra -Showplace Cabinets for one - you just order the next largest size and specify the desired width). With our own custom cabinets we build them to any size needed since we are not working from stock parts. 

I probably have missed a dimensional question here so please feel free to comment or email me and I will add it to the blog. 

Fifty (and more) Shades of Grey

Posted on February 12, 2015 at 8:40 AM Comments comments (0)
Back in January I attended the KBIS (Kitchen & Bath Industry Show) in Las Vegas to keep up with the trends in the cabinet industry. The one trend that stood out most was the shift to grey as a dominant design color for cabinetry. I saw inklings of this at last years show but this year it was an avalanche. Virtually every manufacturer had a version or versions of grey in every style - traditional, old world, Shaker, contemporary and modern. Unlike past "me-too" trends where everyone had the same color of espresso or white this one implied a lack of consensus as to just what shade of grey homeowners wanted. No one company seemed confident and so they they were trying a lot of different versions. Some were beautiful, some were downright ugly and others were just so-so. Ultimately the homeowners will vote with their pocketbooks and perhaps we will see more standardized greys next year...

...or perhaps we won't see any greys at all. 

Why do I say that? In my 39 years of being in this industry I've seen a lot of trends and fads come and go (trends are long lasting, fads fizzle fast). In the 70's everything was practical earth tones, then in the 80's the shift was to easy-on-the-eyes lighter tones (as a revolt against the dark colors). The 90's saw a shift to mid-tones and artistic coloration (glazes, etc.). The early 2000's was a confused period due in part to the explosion of choices (manufacturing advances made larger color pallets more readily available) and the aftermath of the shock of 911. Then starting in 2006 we saw the shift to espresso (thanks to Ikea) and white (in 2013 50% of all cabinets sold in the US were white). And now... maybe... we are gravitating to grey. 

We've been here before. On the color radar grey briefly popped up on the screen in the mid-80's and 90's. I saw it come and then, poof! two years later it was gone. And while it has always had a following in the coastal states of New England, nowhere else that I have seen did it endure long. Why? I think because, while grey is easy to live with and calming, it is also the color of a cloudy day and, like it or not, color affects our emotions. Perhaps people walk into their two year old kitchen or bath and say, "Hey this is depressing!" 

The colors individuals, communities and nations choose reflect their mood. And while the Color Marketing Group (http://www.colormarketing.org/) dictates the colors that most manufacturers of stock goods offer you (clothing, cars, etc.) when we have choices outside their standard offering we choose the color that best reflects our outlook on life or we choose colors that we hope will cause us to change our outlook. 

Make no mistake grey will affect your mood. Initially it will calm you and in light of the constant demands on our time and attention that is a good thing. But ask yourself, "How will I see this color in two years?" before you plunk down thousands of dollars on grey cabinetry. 

There is no wrong or right answer. It is up to you. But if you are feeling somewhat overwhelmed and depressed by the world and life I strongly recommend that you don't choose grey because odds are you won't feel this way forever and you may regret your choice. 

The best way I know to make this decision is to be able to get in touch with how grey makes you feel. And a simple way to do that is to go Houzz here - http://www.houzz.com/grey-kitchen - and imagine yourself standing in a grey kitchen or bath. Enlarge the picture and imagine walking around in there two years from now. If you like how that feels go for it. If not, look at other tones. 

Paint Finishes on Wood or MDF

Posted on January 13, 2014 at 7:38 AM Comments comments (15)
I recently had someone contact me with questions about painted cabinets. I have copied over my response to them below and I hope it is useful to others. A little background first, though. 

Painted solid color cabinetry is very popular now. To get a solid color you can either use paint or tinted varnish. What's the difference? In simple terms, any solid color finish is a combination of pigment (color) and solids content (which is the "armor" that protects the color and gives it a sheen). Industrial grade paint is composed of pigment and a high solids content and generally 2 coats are sprayed on with no need for a primer (it is "self-priming). Tinted varnish is mostly all pigment with a low solids content. It requires a solid color primer to seal the surface, then the tinted varnish is sprayed over that and finally 2 to 3 coats of clear varnish are sprayed over that. So, it is less labor intensive to use paint and therefore less expensive. However, the tinted varnish process is much more durable and 2-3 times as thick as a painted finish. You can compare it to the "clear-coat" finish that car companies use nowadays. At The Cabinet Guy LLC we use tinted varnishes which we can make in any color that you can get with paint. 

Paint or tinted varnish can be applied over any cabinet surface. Most manufacturers use hard maple but some use poplar or other "paint-grade" woods. Then there are others who use MDF - medium density fiberboard (in most cases that is what we use for our clients for solid color finishes). 

The question that was posed to me was "Is MDF a good product for cabinet doors compared to wood for a solid color finish?" Here is my response:

"To me using MDF instead of wood for a paint surface can be compared to using metal or wood for your car fenders. Wood would be more expensive than metal in that case but it wouldn't be a better product for the application. When people say that MDF is "cheap" it would be like saying that metal is cheap when compared to wood for fenders just because it is less expensive. But less expensive in cost does not necessarily mean cheap in quality. You would be disappointed in how the wood reacts in a car accident compared to the metal and, likewise, people are often disappointed by how painted wood cabinets perform over time. 

MDF is 50 pound density compared to about 20 pounds for hard maple and 15 pounds for poplar. That means the impact resistance of MDF to the rigors of daily use is much better than wood. Also, in my experience, a door made with MDF will last as long as a wood one and perform just as well. MDF does not shrink and swell with changes in humidity so the likelihood of cracks appearing at the joints is much less (which is very, very likely for wood). MDF is admittedly less expensive, about $1 per square foot for the raw material versus about $3 for hard maple. However, because it is a superior product for this specific application I would never call it cheap. 

It is true that once a varnish is applied over paint it would be more difficult to repaint but the varnish adds years to the durability because it acts like a coat of armor (just like it does over a stain) and you shouldn't need to repaint for a long time. However, if you buy unvarnished painted cabinets you will find that the results of painting over them aren't any better and you would need to repaint them much sooner. The aim is to get a product that holds up so you don't have to repaint. That being said, you will find it difficult to get a varnished solid color finish from most manufacturers since it is too expensive a process for most of them. If you want a varnished paint look you will probably need to find a cabinetmaker who knows how to spray tinted varnish (not paint) and overcoats them with varnish like we do in our shop. 

As to your question about the sheen level and how it relates to quality. Low sheen does not mean less paint or that it is a cheaper product. All finishes come in a variety of sheen levels. Sheen is measured as a percent of light reflectivity compared to a mirror. Low sheens have more pores so they capture more light rather than reflecting it. Dull or flat = 10-15% sheen, satin = 40-50%, semi-gloss = 60-70% and high-gloss = 80-90%. All sheen levels perform pretty much equally. It is simply a matter of aesthetics although high gloss paints tend to clean up easier because they are smoother since they have less pores for dirt to catch in. 

I hope all of this proves helpful. In closing, let me say that six months from now when you are enjoying your new kitchen all of the headaches will be a dim memory so keep your eye on the goal, not the task. :)

Water Damaged Sink Doors

Posted on January 5, 2014 at 12:34 PM Comments comments (24)
We do a lot of repair of the finish on cabinet doors in our shop for our clients. Very often people complain that the finish seems to have disappeared in places on the false drawer front and doors under the sink while not having done so elsewhere (except above the stove which I will deal with in another blog). There are places on these doors where the finish is worn, dull and/or blistered. What causes this? Most often it is due to water that has spilled on the door or transferred from our wet hands when we open the doors.

This exposes a consistent weakness in the finishing process of many manufacturers. While most companies use very high quality varnishes or lacquers the problem is they do not apply a thick enough coat to protect the wood. In most cases, the manufacturer’s spray on only two coats which results in a minimal buildup of only 3 mils whereas 5-6 mils is recommended and can only be achieved with 3 or more coats of varnish or lacquer. So, there is not enough finish on the door especially on the end grain and at the joints between the frame and panel of the wood.

In the case of the end grain, which is the grain at the top of the door (see picture below), the open pores of the wood are not filled with enough finish to keep water from getting inside the wood. Once the water enters the unfinished wood below the surface evaporation causes it to condense under the finish (much like water collects on a skylight or greenhouse roof) and then blisters the finish exposing the now-raw surface wood to more damage. 

Likewise, water tends to collect where the center panel meets the frame at the bottom of the door (see picture below) and is drawn by capillary action into the groove of the frame where it then is absorbed by the raw wood panel and causes the same damage as the end grain situation.  

Solutions:
1) Pay particular care to avoid getting these parts wet and if they do get wet dry them off immediately.

2) If your cabinets are new and you don’t see any damage yet you can either use paste wax or spray lacquer or varnish to add the coats that the factory failed to put on there.
     a. Wax is the simplest but needs to be re-done every 6 months or more depending on how hard you are on your          cabinets. Be sure to use paste wax (Johnson’s floor wax, Minwax, Trewax, etc), not liquid wax, lemon oils or          sprays like Pledge. Paste wax is the most durable of the easy to apply protectors.



     b. Spray varnishes or lacquer are more durable and long lasting but require more work. If you choose to do this            you must do it outside in an open area for safety and follow the finish manufacturer’s directions. Before                  spraying the whole door test a small area on the back of the door to be sure the finish will adhere to the old f          finish. Apply 2 or 3 coats with special attention to the end grain and the joints where the panel meets the                frame. Sand between coats with 320 or 400 grit wet (black) sandpaper. If you are spraying the false drawer              front be sure to coat the back which is usually left unfinished by many manufacturers.

3If your cabinets are old and damaged you will need to use a spray finish as in 2b to restore the finish (paste wax will not do the job in this case). In this case, first wash the door using an extra fine 3M pad and mineral spirits (paint thinner) to remove any traces of food residue, grease, etc. Allow the door to dry completely and then lightly sand the whole door with the 320 or 400 grit paper. If the door is discolored you can attempt to apply some stain to the raw spots but you are better off doing this after you spray one coat of finish on the door. (Usually the stain will not penetrate into the wood fibers due to presence of some finish in the pores). Use a fast drying stain such as Rustoleum Ultimate Wood Stain (which takes about an hour). If you use a stain like the typical Minwax oil base stains you will need to allow it to dry for about 24 hours before spraying on any additional coats of finish. Brush the stain on with a small brush and blend it into the surrounding area. About a week after applying a spray finish (to allow for curing) you can then use the paste wax as noted in 2A above.

4) Or, you can have us do this for you at our shop.

As always, if I can help you with this or other cabinet problems do not hesitate to email me. 

Frameless Cabinets Versus Face Frame

Posted on October 1, 2013 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (19)
Here at The Cabinet Guy, LLC our standard cabinet construction is what is known as frameless cabinetry. It is also referred to as "full access," "European cabinetry" (even though it originated in the US), and "32 millimeter cabinetry." The most common cabinetry in the US is what is known as "face frame cabinetry." 

The reason we offer frameless cabinetry is I am convinced that it is a far better value for the money. Here's why:
  • It is just as strong as face frame cabinetry
  • It is simpler to build 
  • It provides full access to the storage space inside the cabinet
  • The drawers are 1-1/2" wider than in face frame cabinets (example: on a 15" wide cabinet the drawer in the face frame cabinet is 11-5/8" wide whereas in 13-1/8")
  • Drawers are also taller on frameless cabinetry because there are no horizontal rails in frameless cabinetry. Thus, for example, we can put 5- 4" high drawers in a base cabinet whereas in a face frame cabinet you only get 4 (the rails waste 6" in height) or we provide deeper drawers on 2, 3 and 4 drawer cabinets
  • There is no need for the big center post (typically 3" wide) between doors on a double door cabinet
  • Full overlay doors, the most requested style, are standard on frameless cabinets (the face frame manufacturers charge extra for this look).
  • The frame around the cabinet on a face frame cabinet reduces your accessible storage space by about 2"
  • Frameless cabinetry is greener because it reduces the amount of trees harvested for cabinet construction. A typical face frame kitchen requires about 30 board feet of wood, equivalent to about 1/3 of a tree. With frameless cabinetry you don't need this frame and thus reduce your carbon footprint and impact on our forests.

So why do face frame manufacturers continue to use this outdated type of construction? Because that's the way they have always done it and they have a lot of money tied up in equipment and don't want to make the change. They are making the same mistakes as the US auto and appliance industries were back in the 1980's when they refused to change to newer and better technologies. 

If you are looking for new cabinetry I encourage you to check out frameless construction. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the value and efficiency. For more info on frameless cabinets clickhere 

Cabinet Wood Hardness & Durability

Posted on February 24, 2013 at 1:08 PM Comments comments (51)
CABINET WOOD HARDNESS & DURABILITY 
 When a client is choosing the wood for their cabinetry one of the questions I am often asked is “How hard is the wood?” What they want to know is how well it will hold up under daily use. I’ll try to keep it simple and hopefully the following proves helpful.   
Hardwood Versus Softwood 
 First, clients often say they want hardwood cabinets, not softwood. Unfortunately this can be misleading. The terms “hardwood” and “softwood” have nothing to do with the hardness or softness of the wood. Hardwood, by definition, simply means a deciduous tree, that is, a tree that sheds its leaves every year whereas Softwood is a coniferous or evergreen tree – one that does not shed its leaves. Based on this balsa wood is a hardwood although it is one of the softest woods available. Cork is also a hardwood. White pine, hemlock and Douglas Fir are all softwoods and are softer than most hardwoods but yellow pine is harder than silver maple (also called soft maple). An old lumberjack I knew years ago said that he thought the two terms had to do with the hardness of the bark but I’ve never been able to verify this.   
Wood Hardness 
 There is a hardness scale called the Janka Hardwood Scale which tests the impact resistance of woods and is used primarily by flooring companies to demonstrate the durability of their flooring. They run the test by forcing a metal ball into the surface of a board with a machine to see how much force it takes to penetrate halfway into a board. 

To give you a sense of the scale: Brazilian walnut is one of the hardest available and has a Janka score of 3684. Red oak, which is the most common cabinet wood, has a Janka rating of 1290. At the low end of common cabinet woods, Eastern white pine is rated at 380 (for comparison, balsa wood is 100).   

 While the Janka scale is useful in flooring it is not as useful for cabinets. This is because flooring is subject to tremendous stress from people walking on it. Flooring must take a lot of abuse due to the weight and velocity of people walking on it. My dad used to work in an office in New York City in the 1960’s and at that time spike heels became very popular for the women working there. They had oak hardwood floors and soon discovered that spike heels do a lot of damage to wood floors. A 125 pound woman wearing ¼” spike heels exerts 2000 pounds per square inch of force and that is just standing there. Add velocity and the force exerted can reach 5000 pounds of force! As a result the company stopped allowing the employees to wear spike heels.   

 But we don’t walk on cabinets and they are seldom subject to impact with hard objects (unless you have children who like to throw things). (As an aside, here at The Cabinet Guy LLC we repair busted cabinet doors and after the Broncos lost to the Ravens in the AFC Championship game this year we had several clients bring us doors that had been kicked in from frustrated fans).   

 The most common wearing of cabinet doors and drawer fronts that I see comes from fingernails and knives, silverware and utensils. The scars from fingernails are usually around the door handle or, if you don’t have door handles, at the place where you grab the door to open it. The damage from metal utensils is usually along the top of the drawer fronts where you keep these items. No matter how hard the wood, eventually all this scraping will wear off the finish and scar the wood. The only sure way to avoid it is to be careful (especially if you have long fingernails).    
Practical Advice Regarding Wood Durability for Cabinets 
 Rather than get into the Janka hardness scale I simplify this by grouping the most common cabinet woods into three categories: Very hard, medium hard and soft as it applies to the fingernail and metal utensil test.  

  • Very Hard: Birch, hickory, pecan, hard (sugar) maple (the species used for butcher blocks), white and red oak, ash, lyptus and beech
  • Medium Hard: Yellow (Southern) pine, carbonized bamboo, American walnut, American cherry, soft (silver) maple, wormy maple and African (ribbon-grain) mahogany 
  • Soft: Cypress, alder, hemlock, white pine, basswood and poplar (commonly used for paint-grade cabinets but medium density fiberboard - MDF - is a much better choice since it is much harder, about 1200 on the Janka scale -similar to oak - versus 540 for poplar)     

 I have had people tell me they want knotty alder instead of pine because pine is too soft. The truth is that while alder has a Janka rating of 590 and Eastern white pine is 380, practically speaking, there is not much difference in the durability of the two woods. (If you want the look of alder but much harder consider knotty beech which has a Janka rating of 1300 versus 590 for alder.)  
Veneered Panels 
The above scale applies to solid wood parts. When a veneered panel is used its durability is determined by the density of the core material. The densest core material commonly used is medium density fiberboard (MDF) which has a rating of 50 pounds per square inch (PSI) meaning it takes 50 pounds of pressure to dent it, the equivalent of a strong person swinging a hammer hard from two feet away. In comparison, cabinet-grade particle board is around 37 PSI and standard plywoods are around 25 PSI. Thus, MDF core veneer panels will hold up better than plywoods.

Effect of the Varnish on Wood Durability 
 Another factor that affects the wear on the cabinets is the thickness and hardness of the finish coats. The heavier and denser the coats the more durable they are. At The Cabinet Guy we use a water-borne Greenguard certified finish called Aqualente made by ML Campbell and build a 5-6 mil layer of varnish through successive coats (a mil is 1/1000 of an inch – a strand of hair is 2 mils). In the world of varnish 5-6 mils is considered a heavy coat sufficient to stand up to years of wear and tear. Aqualente  has a very high solids content (42%), almost double a standard industry lacquer (25%), which makes it very durable. (Click here to see the performance and chemical resistance characteristics of Aqualente).     

 Many factories apply less than 5-6 mils, the average is 3 mils. Also, many boast that they oven cure the finish (we don’t) but don’t be fooled by this. It does not make the finish any harder, it only speeds up the drying so they can ship the cabinets sooner and bill the buyer faster.   

The Bottom Line 
 While the hardness of the wood is a factor in your cabinet choice I recommend to my clients that they focus more on which wood they like the best aesthetically. You could be very disappointed in how your kitchen feels if you don’t love the look and chose the wood solely based on its durability.   

 One more thing, for many years white pine furniture was “distressed” at the factory meaning they actually beat up the wood prior to finishing it. They did this because the pine could damage easily during manufacturing and intentionally distressing it eliminated complaints from customers. It gives the cabinets a warm “old-world” look that many clients find very appealing (not to mention practical since if they ding a cabinet it doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb!). This distressing is commonly available on all hardwoods nowadays and we often do it at The Cabinet Guy for our clients.  

For those of you who want to know more the website Woodgears has a great layman's review of the impact resistance of many woods and other materials. Click here to see the article.  And as always, if I can help you in any way do not hesitate to email me at [email protected]. 

Some Thoughts on Quality, Service and Price

Posted on January 31, 2012 at 10:07 PM Comments comments (4)
Every company offers, to varying degrees, products, service and pricing. Some have high prices and with that one would expect excellent service and high quality products. Others have lower prices but usually at the cost of quality or service (or both).
 
It is very difficult for any company to offer high quality products and outstanding service along with low prices. Some may do it for a time but at some point something has to give because without sufficient profit due to low prices they can't afford to provide both quality products and excellent service.
 
I am a frequent customer of Amazon.com. Right now they offer great prices on a lot of products, ship it for a very low price (or free) and back it all up with great service after the sale. However, if you follow their stock you know that their profit picture has never been very good and that many quarters they post a net loss even though they do billions of dollars in business. At some point the investors and owners will get tired and go elsewhere unless they can find a way to make a profit. This can only be done by raising their prices, or cutting back on their service.
 
The reason I bring all this up is that this is all very true in the cabinet business. There are few companies (in fact no major manufacturer that I know of) that provide low prices along with excellent service and quality. The truth is that a profitable company has 3 options:
 
> Offer low prices with lower quality cabinets but good service
> Provide low prices with quality cabinets but poor service
> Sell at high prices with quality cabinets and good service
 
It all comes down to the old adage, "You get what you pay for." Keep this in mind when shopping for cabinets for your remodel or new home.
 
 

Remodeling in this Sour Economy

Posted on November 16, 2011 at 9:34 AM Comments comments (0)
Well, I don't know about anybody else but we are pretty busy which I think speaks well for the economy (at least here in Colorado Springs). Homeowners are remodeling and fixing up their homes since many of them cannot sell in the current market.
 
I have noticed that people are being a lot more careful with their investments. Five years ago my clients were spending money like water but now they are thinking much harder about where to best invest their money. Personally I think this is good. It seemed like people were getting a little crazy for a while there, not really weighing the cost/benefit of their decisions.
 
The significant changes are 1) how much they spend on the overall budget, 2) the value of the work verses the value of the home and potential payback, and 3) whether they can live with simpler styles, finishes, etc.
 
If you are thinking of remodeling the foundational question to ask yourself is "Will I be glad I made this choice 5 years from now?" I have found that many of the things people "had to have" turned out to be not near as important once they started using them. Make a list of what is truly important to you versus what you'd like to have but could live without. For example, if you only use a second oven twice a year do you really have to have it? Or, is granite so much better than laminate (e.g. Formica) that I am willing to spend 3-4 times as much for it? Or, would a frame and flat panel cabinet door suffice or do I have to have a raised panel? Step back and think about each decision carefully and you may find that you can cut your budget by 10% to 25% and still get an environment that will make you very happy.
 
Finally, stay grounded. I intentionally go primitive camping every year to keep my perspective on life. It always amazes me just how good food tastes cooked over an open fire under the stars. Using about $30 worth of simple cooking tools I can cook up a meal that rivals anything I can make on a $10,000 Wolf range. Now that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to have a Wolf range but I have better grounds on which to make my decision. Life can be very rich when we keep it simple and stay thankful for what we have.
 
If you would like help with your budgeting feel free to email me at [email protected]. I'll be glad to help.
 

New Kitchen Design Blog

Posted on April 24, 2011 at 9:59 PM Comments comments (10)
This is very humbling. A little over two years ago I opened a website for my business, The Cabinet Guy, LLC, in order to promote my business. Since that time I've had over 10,000 visitors to my site, something I never expected (if 1,000 people had visited I would have been thankful). About 50% have been local searches in my immediate business area (Colorado front range - Denver to Colorado Springs). The other 50% have come from all over the world - New York, California, London, Moscow, Koala Lumpur, Xian, Christchurch, Paris, Bangkok, Delhi and many others.
 
I asked myself, "Why would people all over the world visit my site, let alone spend over 5 minutes looking through it?" It turns out, based on the statistics that my web host provides, most people were looking for pictures of kitchens which I understood completely. After all, if you are looking to change your kitchen seeing pictures is a huge help in making decisions. But what surprised and has humbled me is how many people read my pages titled Cabinet Basics 101 and Kitchen Design Insight. Apparently people from all over the world have the same questions that these two articles address.
 
Many clients have told me they appreciated my candor about this business and how to navigate it as a customer. Further, they were thankful for making them able to be smarter consumers. One client recently said, "You really should start a blog." I had been thinking of doing so and her suggestion gave me the push I needed.
 
I have always maintained that my job when working with a client is not to sell them anything. Rather, it is my job to give them enough information to make decisions
that work for them. I will attempt in this blog to provide information and insight to that end for anyone in the entire world who is interested. In my over 35 years in the cabinet business I have seen and learned a lot of things. In these blog articles I will deal with different topics. If there is a particular topic you would like me to cover or you have a specific question please feel free to let me know and I will respond as quickly as possible.
 
Thanks for visiting my site. Kitchens and custom cabinets are my passion. It is a privilege to share a little of what I have learned with anyone who is willing to listen!
Me-Geoff Dunn
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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