Monday, September 14, 2015

Kitchen Cabinets

I like old Welsh cupboards and jelly cabinets or cupboards.  When I was growing up, we always stored home made preserves etc. on shelves in the staircase that went down to the cellar.  But most households in the 18th through the mid to late 20th century had an unused room, a summer kitchen, basement room or root cellar where it stayed cool, but did not freeze.  This is where the jelly cupboard would be kept.

  They were shallow, deep enough for two or three jars, depending upon how wide the boards were that were available.  Some boards in my old house in Wiscasset, Maine had boards in places that were 28 inches wide, and floor boards that were 22 inches.  But those boards would accommodate just too many jars of heavy preserves and would likely sag in the middle.  I have rarely seen these more than a foot deep.

Here is a jelly cupboard or pie safe photo from Wikipedia.

  Making preserves and pickles is not a dead art, but as a kid, most people made at least some of grandmother's old recipes and it is a rare phenomenon today.

   I wish there was more scope for experimentation in the little house as there are so many old designs and colors.  Now I have to decide how to paint them.  I have some wonderful quilted pine board.  I may use pieces of those for the panels in the middle of the doors with a clear finish and paint the rest of the pieces some startling color.

Today, at antiques fairs all over, there is a rush from the gate to find startling blue painted furniture, aged, chipping and worn at the edges and where generations of hands have touched the doors and frames.  Perhaps I can find some milk paint in that color.  That would open some eyes as they stepped into the room.  Browns, old reds, soft yellows and greens were also common, but less sought after today.

I went so far as to buy an antique beading plane, but I cannot get it sharp enough without practice to get a nice edge.  I will perhaps ADD a bead of some kind instead. 
It is a joy to use and own these antique tools and eventually I will master this one, though I think I will avoid my Birdseye Maple as the grain is far too contorted.
The toe space below will also hold shallow trays for storage, covered with a piece of cloth to keep dust out.  I have to have some place to keep my pizza stone and peel after all.

This is an eighteenth century design for a hanging set of shelves.  All the shelves are supported from underneath as well as the top, being attached to the underside of the loft floor above.  The cavities between studs will become storage all the way across the underside of the floor, possibly for pan covers, spices and seldom used utensils.  All the unsightly things and things usually found in more ambitious cabinets can go there and not take up the extremely valuable counter and cabinet space.

These have not been shimmed for level, as the floorboards have not been laid yet.  This will add 3/4 inch to the height, plus the thickness of the counter top.
The void in the corner will have counter on top, but it will be storage for batteries when I go solar.
These cabinets are pretty easy.  I used bead board cut to the final height of the cabinets minus the counter top.  They were thirty-six inches in my case as my family is not short. I assembled and trimmed to width the four or five boards and nailed on a 2x4 top and bottom across the boards to hold them together.  (You might wish to make the 2/x4s a quarter of an inch short and add a piece of 1/4 in ply to the back, but I did not, so I would have access to the wall inside. (before I assembled the panels, I trimmed the tongue off the leading edge, but left the bead detail next to the tongue, and grooves at the back against the wall.  (The groove side will be easy to plane to fit against the wall if you want to be that precise.) 
I nailed the ends of the tongue and groove boards with tiny finish nails to the 2x4s  just to hold them together while I continued.  I placed the panels on the floor and drilled a hole in the center of each of the tongue and groove boards and nailed the rose head nails into them. 
The two side panels were ready and I stood them up with the 2x4 sides toward the center.  I cut, nailed and screwed the floor of the cabinet, cut from heavy plywood, to the bottom 2x4s.  You could use wide boards or ship-lap for this. 
Then I made the face frame from 1x4 lumber, with half lap joints just cut on the table saw. 
The half lap boards are as follows:  The top rail has the half lap cut on each end of the front of the board.  Each leg has the top back removed, and a foot cut into the bottom.  There is no bottom rail.
I glued the ends of the top face board to the cabinet,(to the 2x4s) then screwed the board to the frame (inside the joint where the next piece of the face frame would cover the screws).   The top board has the two ends with the cut half lap facing forward.
  The two "legs" (stiles) of the face frame have the half lap cut side facing into the cabinet.  They overlap the top rail of the frame. 
Then I applied glue to the open face of the joint and placed the vertical parts or legs of the frame on the left and right sides.  I clamped the halves of the joints together while I drilled and nailed the edges into the cabinet with the rose head nails and finish nails. 
In all cases the finish nails were just supporting roles.  The rose headed nails were the workhorses.  See the clamps below on the face frame.  These cabinets will not be attached permanently to the walls or the floor as they may need to be moved for access to the batteries stored in the corner.
The tops or counter tops will be manufactured separately and attached to the top 2x4s on each side of the cabinet.   
I will probably put a corner brace in the top of the cabinets from the 2x4s to the walls to prevent racking but will allow quick access to the wall and for removal.  If I decide to move these elsewhere, I can always add a back board to prevent racking.
The feet were cut out to lighten the look from the front, with a jigsaw, but continue to hide the 2x4s behind them.
A close look with give you all the information  you need to build these yourself.  I did both cabinets in a few hours with minimal tools.  The cabinets and the wall shelves took perhaps 6 hours total.  They will take less time if you use normal finish nails and avoid the drilling.  You can also use new or antique cut nails to do the same job, and if the wide part of the nail is aligned with the grain of the wood you should not split too much wood.  Try a few samples first, or drill anyway.
Always remember that with ANY square nail, to avoid putting them too close to the end of any board even if you have pre-drilled.

These look a bit awkward and squat because the base cabinets are deeper than normal for storage.  Also, fitting a sink into the top of one required a minimum depth.
I tried to align everything so that it had some of the effect of a Welsh cupboard.
The shelves are pretty close to correct, but most antique cabinets tend to be pretty shallow.  These are deep enough for a little storage, as well as the refrigerator.

Fortunately there is a factory that makes cut nails and reproduction rose head nails right here in my town.  I used them for all the joints, in addition to a little glue, screws (where invisible) and finish nails.  I will also use these nails in a larger size, in the front door.  
In a project where it is almost routine to run to the building center twice a day, I had exactly the right number of nails for this entire project.  Good thing too, as they are quite expensive.  It is hard to get things level in this project as the trailer moves a bit and sinks in the sand a bit as well.
To make this pattern, you just draw a center line that will become the little vertical barb in the curves.
  Then you divide the space you are going to use into the number of shelves plus the cornice(this measurement will be determined by the moldings you have chosen.) and the return to the wall.
Then I just used a salad bowl after trying five or six different pieces of crockery, and drew the semicircle on each side of the central line, one protruding out from the wall and one cutting in toward the wall.  I left a 3/4 inch space between the curves to form the little barb that you see in the picture. 
 Then I measured in from the extreme outside curve to the width of my boards, and drew a line there parallel to the original central line.
  The top is added to hold the moldings for the cornice and a return to the wall added below with the same soup bowl radius.  If I had more height to waste, I would have added some flat space to the lower edge of the cornice.
  I cut the pattern from newsprint(an artists paper, not the local newspaper.  The ink will rub off the newspaper.) and transferred it to the wood.
  I cut it out with a jigsaw and sanded the hell out of it.  Jigsaws leave a horrible rough edge.  A band saw and a good drum sander would be a great help here.
I assembled the entire thing with small finish nails to hold it together while I went on to the next step.  Glue would help too. 
 The square-shanked rose head nails can be very rough on a piece of wood, so to prevent splitting,  (The square nails increase in width as they are driven in, and the rose headed start small and sharp, then grow to a large square and then taper a bit.)  I drilled holes into the finished piece and hammered the rose head nails home.
I screwed the top board to the top of the shelves and screwed the entire piece to the ceiling.
  Then I placed a small strip of wood up against the wall under the full length of each shelf and nailed them up with the rose headed nails into the wall studs.  This will give the shelves support for the entire piece, but will also minimize sag on the individual shelf. 
You often see decorative front boards, cut into lacy patterns, nailed on the shelves in many Victorian pieces,(at least the more ambitious or skilled pieces) with the width of the board going at right angles to the shelf.  This would stiffen the front of the shelf as well.  However, I have no tools to do this, and it lessens the space for tall things to slide in easily.  Very early shelves might be very thin indeed.
Then I came back and nailed the back edge of the shelves into the little shelf supports with small finish nails to prevent them from coming away from the wall and losing support.
A narrow shelf can be added to the very bottom return to the wall for spices etc..
A dado can be cut for each shelf to fit into the vertical members, but I just did not have the tools or patience for this. Old pieces can be found made both ways, often with a tiny shelf support like a half round to add support to the ends.  I may still do this, but what I have done should be enough.  It should be OK as the shelves are too narrow for big stacks of plates etc.. 
I remember marveling at 18th century houses with thin, delicate but wide shelves cut with tiny rabbets for supporting intersecting shelves like tiny half lap joints.  They could not have been 1/2 inch thick, yet these thin boards had tiny rose and square shanked nails driven into them at the joints. and were still solid after 200 plus years.  It is amazing what impresses you about old houses sometimes.
Shelves like these could easily go from floor to ceiling, as long as they will not hold very heavy loads.  Great for a porcelain collection or something of that ilk.  Books might be too much.
You also have the option of cutting a thin groove a couple of inches from the back edge of each shelf.  These will allow you to stand a plate on edge for display.  Sometimes the same thing is done with a little piece of quarter round molding tacked on the shelf.

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