Finally, a Finish!

This is Part 3 (but actually Post 4)  and the final post in the Roadside Redo Cabinet series.  Wanna see how it all began?  Click here.  Learn how I selected and applied the stain here.  Or read Post 2.5 about installing metal drawer slides here.

It has been several weeks now that I have been working on this Roadside Redo cabinet.  What is left to do?  Apply the finish, put the glass in the doors, hang the doors on hinges, and install drawer pulls and door knobs.  Four important things in one post.  I will try my best to keep it short and to the point.  First was applying the finish.

I chose an oil based polyurethane for two reasons: it is very easy to apply and after a few coats you are left with an extremely durable finish (oil polyurethane is more scratch, heat, and water-resistant than varnish).  Plus it isn’t known to “yellow” over time like traditional varnish.  Although you can use a soft cloth or bristle brush, I applied the poly with a medium foam brush.  This cabinet has a lot of vast surfaces and I felt a foam brush would give me a very even application.  Hand rubbing with a cloth gets tiring over large areas, and brushes tend to lose bristles or leave brushstrokes.  Now make sure the piece and your working area is free of dust.  I use a tack cloth on the furniture and spray down the floor where I will be walking with water and a spray bottle (this minimizes dust from the floor from floating up when walking around a workbench).

Now apply the finish.  I applied a thin, even coat to the entire piece, inside and out, as well as to both the front and back of the doors.  The poly I chose is Varathane Oil Based, and on previous projects it has done a great job of self- leveling as it dries if you keep the workpiece horizontal.  After about 4 hours I moved the cabinet to do another surface, careful not to touch the sides which are still tacky.  It definitely takes more time to do only one surface at a time, but the results are worth it.

The product stated you can apply a 2nd coat after 24 hours, but since my garage isn’t insulated and only heated with a portable heater, I waited a full 48 hours to make sure the first coat was thoroughly dry.  Although some professionals use a high grit sandpaper to sand between coats, I find it can result in uneven sanding.  I found a nylon scratch pad made just for sanding between coats of finish, and really like how evenly it works.  Rub down the sheen of the varnish evenly in the direction of the grain.

Nylon scratch pad for sanding between coats of polyurethane.

Once again I used a tack cloth to remove all the dust from the piece and began applying a second coat.  I was not concerned about multiple coats of poly inside the cabinet, so I only applied the 2nd coat to the exterior of the cabinet.  Another 48 hours later, I was almost satisfied with the finish.  I like table tops (or cabinet tops, like this one) to really have a thick looking, glass-top like finish.  That meant lightly sanding the top and applying yet a 3rd coat of poly.

Now the doors.  This cabinet came with a square sheet of glass in each door, though I can’t brag about how they were secured.  Whoever put the glass in used some sort of silicone or gunk that never dried, it stayed thick and sticky almost like tacky glue.  Since there isn’t much stress on these glass doors, I decided to simply use clear silicone adhesive to secure the glass inside the rabbit groove on the inside of the doors.  It applies white and is clear when completely dry.  First I applied a thin bead right in the corner of the groove, carefully placed the glass, and secured it by pushing in glazing points on all 4 sides.

I then applied another bead of the silicone and used my finger to flatten it into the groove so it looked clean.  According to the instructions, I waited until the silicone dried clear before hanging the doors.

Hanging the doors on hinges was pretty simple.  I have a quick rule of thumb for cabinet door hinges.  For large doors, space the hinges 2.5″ from the edge.  For medium to small doors, I space hinges either 2″ or 1.5″ from the door’s edge.  I always mark the holes for the screws and drill a fine pilot hole first; this will prevent the wood from splitting for the screw closest to the outside edge of the door.  Then I secure the hinges with the provided screws.

On a previous kitchen I took all the precious time of measuring and marking out exactly where each hinge should attach to the cabinet face frame… only to realize that although the hinges were exactly where I measured, the tops of the doors weren’t perfectly straight or lined up with one another.  My new method?  Have one person hold the door tight against the frame and eyeball it.  I still measure and put a piece of tape to help line up the hinges, but I have a helper move the door up, and then left, – left some more, NO, LEFT!  – until it is in the perfect place, then I put in the screws.  I find this method of being flexible doesn’t often result in removing the door and having to reposition it.

The holes for the drawer pulls were already made; I simply purchased new pulls with the same distance between the screws and tightened them in place.

Securing  the handles & knobs with a screwdriver.

All in all, here is the completed cabinet!.  I waited to make sure the poly had cured completely before bringing it into the house to keep the smell and evaporating chemicals outside.  Far to anxious to wait (and because I already had things I wanted to store in it), the pictures below give away how my I intend to use the cabinet.  Perhaps later I will photograph it again once all the Christmas decorations are up!

I was simply thrilled with how this cabinet turned out.  Now let me give you the rundown of all my costs involved:

cabinet (lumber)……. free
sandpaper…………….. already had
wood glue………………already had
wood stain……………..$7.99
polyurethane………… $10.99
finish sanding pad……$1.86
drawer glides………….$9.49
glazing points………… $3.29
clear silicone…………. $2.99
new hardware…………$14.10

For a whopping total of (drum roll please?):


Not bad.  Not bad at all.  And cue the feeling of accomplishment; and the excitement of beginning a new project soon!

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  1. #1 by TJ on December 3, 2010 - 10:09 AM

    Pretty nice cabinet for just 50 bucks. How many hours do you have invested?

  2. #2 by Adam A. Ries on December 6, 2010 - 7:22 PM

    Great question, I wish I had kept track of that to post on here! I mostly worked on the cabinet in the evenings after work and during a couple weekends. My best guess would probably be around 30 hours; of course that doesn’t include waiting on glue, stain, and polyurethane to dry!

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