Monday, October 3, 2016

A Bathroom Cabinet, Part 3: Finishing

It's been a while since the last post, but I have an excuse for some of that time.  We spent a long weekend tent camping in Yosemite National Park up at Tuolumne Meadows, which is up at about 9000' elevation.  It got into the 20's (°F) the first night which was damned chilly, but other than that it was very nice.  Did a little hiking and one day got to this beautiful location.
Shamrock Lake just outside Yosemite

Anyhoo, after returning home and recovering for a couple days I got to the finishing part of the project.  I was trying to match the color of an existing cabinet under the sink, so I tried a couple things.  Because it's in a bathroom and will hang next to the shower, I knew I needed a finish that could handle getting damp.  So polyurethane was going to be part of the finish.  I just didn't know if I'd mix it with some kind of oil.  So I prepared a cutoff stick and applied some finish.
The test stick
On the left was a polyurethane / tung oil / BLO mix (that I haven't used for a few years), the center was poly and tung oil, and the right was just poly.  On the face towards the camera I planed and sanded the surface and on the bottom surface (not seen) I only planed it.  The verdict was to go with just poly on a planed and sanded surface.

Before starting, however, I checked the surfaces in a raking light and saw some planing marks.
Marks left by the smoothing plane
So I decided to scrape the surfaces.  As usual my scrapers were not sharp, so I sharpened the one I use the most.
My scraper arsenal - the one on the right I use the most
It's about 0.023" thick and I like the flexibility this thickness gives
After removing previous dull cutting edges and flattening the edges on diamond stones, I consolidated the metal using the burnisher and then rolled the burr.
Consolidating the metal
Rolling the burr
Test cut on the underside of the top shows the scraper is ready
After scraping I used raking light again to check the surfaces and they looked much better.
Much nicer surface
Then I gave a light sanding with 220 grit paper and it was time to glue up.  I did the glue-up in stages with the sides and shelves glued together first.  In the following picture, the top is on for alignment purposes only - it is not glued.
Glue-up stage 1: shelves and sides
Later I glued on the top.  This was a separate stage for another reason: the bottom is curved and the shelves being glued in gave me a good opposing surface for the clamps in the front.
Glue-up stage 2: the top
The third and fourth steps were to glue on the two back pieces and these were done separately due to lack of clamps.
Glue-up stage 3: the upper back piece
Glue-up stage 4: the lower back piece
Notice in this last photo the two beams the cabinet is resting on.  They came in handy not only to raise the piece up, but also for clamping surfaces.  In the upper right, the cabinet is clamped to the I-beams and in the lower left the back piece is clamped using the I-beams.  Once again the curve on the lower aspect of the sides made it necessary to be creative with clamping.

Everything was going well until I looked inside where the upper back piece was glued.
Oh, man!  Some bad glue squeeze out.
A closer view of the left side
And I had left this overnight, so the glue was quite hard.  So I used the Sellers method of using chisels to lift off the glue.  But because this was inside the cabinet, some areas were hard to get to and I had to rely on some more creativity to get the glue off.
Using a router plane iron as a chisel to get into tight places
I spent a fair amount of time on this so as not to scratch the piece all to hell.  With a little scraping and sanding afterward it came out good.

On to applying the finish.  I used a synthetic bristle brush to apply the semi-gloss poly at full strength (not thinned).  A light behind the cabinet really helps to see where I've brushed.
A task light helps see what I've done and not done
I applied three coats, allowing a day between coats (the instructions say you can sand and apply another coat after four hours).  I sanded each coat with 220 grit paper before going to the next coat.  And also sanded before applying some paste wax.  The sanding really makes a big difference in the smoothness and while it removes the gloss, the paste wax restores it nicely.
The final luster
And finally it was time to install it.  Two plastic screw-in wall anchors were used to secure it to the wall.
On the wall
And here it is loaded with some jun ... er ... stuff that the wife has to outfit this "ocean theme" bathroom.
Loaded with "stuff"
An angled view
View showing the sink cabinet it was to match in color
Just out of curiosity, do any dudes out there have a "theme" for a bathroom, much less any other room in their house?

Really happy with this cabinet.  I thought about reinforcing the glued rabbet and dado joints with glued in 1/8" dowels, but ended up not doing it.  The thing feels solid enough with glue.

On to the next project ...


  1. What a great looking piece of furniture. Really nice job!

    I Wouldn't say that I have a theme for the bathroom, but since built the kitchen myself I had quite a lot of say in how t should look. Also I have some old brass pressure gauges on the wall and a couple of bronze propellers from boats hanging.
    But generally I don't think we have much in way of a single theme at home.
    An ocean theme is nice for a bathroom in my opinion.


    1. Thanks, Jonas. I shouldn't be hard on the "themed" rooms. I think I just have no vision that way.