Dishwasher Install Followup

In my last post I told you about my dishwasher install project.  The process involved shifting the entire face frame, and associated drawers and doors, 6″ to close up a gap at the side of the dishwasher.  This of course left me with a subsequent 6″ gap where the cabinets met the adjoining wall.

Milling up a piece of stock to fill the gap was a simple enough process.  Measure, cut, plane and scribe to fit against the wall (nothing is ever truly plumb in a house).  I then nailed it into place and filled the nail holes with a little wood putty.  With the easy part done, I was faced the more daunting problem of matching the existing finish on my forty-plus year old cabinets.


Every bit of woodwork in my house is finished exactly the same as these cabinets.  All the trim and every door, as well as the bathroom vanity, which is built in place just like the kitchen cabinets.  So I knew it would be in my best interest to figure out how to match both the color and the sheen.

If you have been here before, you know that I generally eschew from using any toxic finish medium.  My favorite finish to use is Tried & True Original oil finish.  Which is a blend of linseed oil and bees wax.  The MSDS literally states that consuming large quantities may cause nausea.  Can’t get much safer than that unless you don’t use anything.  The point is that any finishing medium outside of shellac, wax and oil is outside of my wheelhouse.  So I had a little studying to do.

My best guess as to the original finish used on the woodwork in my house is that it was a true varnish.  I came to this conclusion based on the sheen and how durable it has been over the years.  Plus its resistance to water and alcohol.  The original finish used also may or may not have contained added pigment or an underlying stain.  Everything was/is just a guess.  The bottom line is that I needed a finish that had an amber tone, high gloss and would hold up to water and wear.  Oh, and match a color that was decades old.  How  hard could that be?

After hours of research and reading I found myself no closer to a solution than when I started.  I basically resigned myself to the old standby, trial and error.  My frustration led me to the finish aisle in Lowes on my lunch hour Tuesday.  After looking at the offerings I decided to start my experimentation with a can of oil based Minwax Polyshades Pecan.  I also had to pick up some mineral spirits for cleanup and a natural bristle brush.

It’s at this point in the story that I should be explaining how I completed a couple of test boards to verify color and familiarize myself with the product.  That’s what I should have done and what I recommend for you to do in such a case.  However, I just jumped in with both feet and applied the first coat in reckless disregard for the consequences.

The first coat went on without issue, but was a little too light in color.  I waited twenty four hours and rubbed out the first coat with steel wool and applied a second coat.  This deepened the color and brought the new closer to the old.  Another twenty four  hours passed and I rubbed out the second coat with steel wool and went for a third coat.  The final result is a finish that is quite close to the original in sheen and color.  Frankly, I got lucky.


The color of the new is a little more orange than the original finish, but it is as close a match that I could hope for.  Especially straight from a can of off-the-shelf finish. At any rate, I have found a product that works quite well for my particular needs.  Which will prove handy for the next “honey do” project, a kitchen  island.

Greg Merritt

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Honey Do-Dishwasher

The life of an amateur/hobbyist woodworker is fraught with perils that conspire to steal the precious little time that can be devoted to woodworking and furniture building.  If you happen to be married than the risk to that time is exponentially increased.  The dreaded “honey do” is always lurking just around the corner.  Almost always posed in the guise of a request, but the seasoned among us know better.  It is just such a “request” that has been taking up all of my shop time as of late.

The house that we purchased and moved into over this past summer was built in 1968 and designed by the original and sole owner.  As such, it remained virtually unchanged over the years.  There is no master bath and the bathroom and kitchen are essentially time capsules.  Lovingly maintained over the years, the house aged in almost pristine condition.    These “outdated” features however are what kept the house from selling.  Most folks looked at it and saw total gut jobs and tens of thousands of dollars in expense.  My wife and I fell in love with the details and those “dated” aspects are what drew us to this house.

All of the cabinetry in the house was built in place.  No mass-produced boxes installed anywhere.  The bathroom vanity and the kitchen cabinets were all built in place piece by piece.  They are nothing fancy, but solid beyond belief and have stood the test of time.


The above is a photo of the kitchen as it looked on the day that we viewed the house for the first time.  Notice anything missing?  I didn’t at first, but the wife was quick to point out the lack of a dishwasher.  I told her to go and stand by the sink and I would take the picture again and solve the problem.  She failed to see the humor however, and my fate was sealed.

“Honey do” mission number one would be to install a dishwasher.

So after a couple of months pondering and putting off the inevitable the time came to tackle the dishwasher install.  The electrical and plumbing were not that big of a challenge, I can do that stuff in my sleep.  No, the big issue was the built-in cabinetry.  If the kitchen had standard cabinet boxes, I could have just taken one out and slid in the dishwasher.  These cabinets are a continuous mass running from the wall.  Cutting into them was a little daunting.  To make matters more complicated, the cabinets are 30″ “blocks”.  In other words, two drawers with two doors below are about 30″ wide.  A standard dishwasher is only 24″ wide.  What to do with the extra 6″ puzzled me for a while.  The epiphany came Saturday morning.  Since the front on the cabinets is just one large face frame, I could cut out a section and mover everything over 6″, frame, doors and drawers.  Then install a filler board where the cabinets meet the wall on the far right.

The gaping hole conundrum.

Version 2

I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow, but after not one, not two, but three trips to Lowes for parts and supplies I managed to install, with the help of my brother, a new sink, faucet and dishwasher.  Leaving me in good graces for at least a little while.


Greg Merritt

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Extrapolate…extend the application of (a method or conclusion, especially one based on statistics) to an unknown situation by assuming that existing trends will continue or similar methods will be applicable.

Edit 01/25/16

My reference to “plans” in the following is referring to 3rd party plans.  I fully support working from plans that you create yourself.  I also advocate for the creation of full-scale shop drawings before starting a project.

Detailed woodworking plans can be a great learning tool.  They help us to start visualizing furniture.  Elevation views (looking at the front, sides and back) and plan views (what the piece looks like from above or below) help us to understand how a piece of furniture comes together.  These views also strengthen our ability to “see” the piece in our minds.  Eventually leading to our ability to mentally manipulate the piece in our minds.  Turning it, adding or subtracting details and even changing the scale of the piece in our mind is an important skill to develop.  As we build from these detailed plans, we further develop the ability to visualize the joinery and how it relates to the whole.

The plans also help us to understand what the important elements are that need to be addressed before building a piece of furniture.  Overall dimensions, decorative details and joinery notes as well as positional details for such things as drawer pulls and the like.  The plans help us to develop patterns of workflow and establish norms for certain details.  This latter bit can be difficult when learning from plans that come from several different sources though.  Plans, especially highly detailed plans, obtained from multiple sources can create frustration.  These multiple sources will inevitably have differing tool sets and differing ideas as to where things, such as drawer pulls, are to be located.  Developing your own “norms” can fall to the wayside and thus make the workflow in your own shop slower and introduce more opportunities for error.

The cut list included on many woodworking plans seems to create the most frustration, particularly the thicknesses of required material.  Again, highly detailed plans or plans that include imperial and metric can be frustrating due to conversions.  Plans based on antiques can present some odd material thicknesses as well.  Which leaves many asking questions pertaining to deviating from the indicated thickness listed by the provided cut list.  In extreme cases, folks simply abandon the entire project because the listed material thicknesses are not available to them.  Which brings me to the point of this post, extrapolation.

There is nothing wrong with direct duplication based upon a given set of plans.  There are some instances where it may even be required.  But what if you like the overall design of a piece, but the size given does not meet your needs?  What if no plan exists for a piece that you would like to build?  What if obtaining certain sizes and thicknesses of material is difficult or impractical?  What do you do?  You employ extrapolation.

Some may call the process improvising, others may call it ingenuity.  We, as a people, used to be masters at this.  We possessed a “can do” attitude.  Sometimes out of pure necessity and out of curiosity at other times.  Often taking very little actual information, filling in the blanks and creating something of use and/or beauty.  Generally speaking, we seem to have lost this ability somewhere along the way.  I touched on this idea in a past post, “Expectations and the Literal Thinker“.  We have lost the willingness to take a chance and gamble the outcome.  In many ways, woodworking has become a “paint by numbers” activity, IMHO.  Didn’t a lot of us take up woodworking as a direct opposition to mass production?  Why the hell do we then try to replicate the sterile methods of that same mass production?  Verbatim replication of another’s work, while a great learning tool, still smacks of being a production, not creation, process.

David Pye’s term, the “workmanship (craftsmanship) of risk”, gets quoted quite a bit in various circles.  I’m not sure that very many truly grasp the idea, let alone put it into practice.  Woodworking, as with other crafts, is not an activity that has ever had absolute outcomes.  Wood is a dynamic material, with no two pieces behaving exactly in the same way.  Besides, where is the fun, let alone the feeling of accomplishment, when you approach woodworking with such absolute parameters?  The “workmanship of certainty”, while comforting and safe, is not where I find joy and satisfaction in my woodworking.  I would much rather be certain of the risk and then go with the flow, so to speak.

Please, relax and enjoy the journey. Endeavor to take chances, make alterations and fill in the blanks for yourself.

Excuse me now while I dismount this empty crate of cleanser product.

Greg Merritt

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Two Distinct Paths

Following up on my post “Perpetual Beginner Mentality“, I encouraged the amateurs/hobbyist woodworker to be bold in their woodworking.  This post is also written for the amateur/hobbyist.

Many, many moons ago when I was coming up thru public school students were separated into two distinct groups.  College bound and vocational bound.  Although there was some overlap, the curriculum varied dramatically.  The college bound group were placed in advanced trigonometry and chemistry.  While the vocational bound were in basic math and geometry  as well as wood shop and industrial arts classes.   Shortly after I graduated from high school the program was abandoned in favor of the “everyone goes to college” theory.  Looks good on paper, but the result is that a large group of people now graduate high school with no applicable skills and a real sense of failure due to being forced through a “college bound” curriculum.

What does this have to do with woodworking?

I believe there are also two distinct paths for woodworkers.  There are those on a professional path and intend to build furniture for a living.  Then there are those, like myself, who are on the amateur/hobbyist path and simply want to build furniture for the pleasure of it.  The two paths overlap in many ways, but diverge in many ways as well.  So does it really matter what path your own?  I believe that it does.

If, like myself, you get your woodworking information and instruction from anywhere and everywhere you can.  That means we are gleaning our information from professionals and amateurs alike.  Here is where the problem begins to sneak in.  While I believe that it is of paramount importance to obtain information and instruction from the best sources possible, I believe that we must also temper our expectations based upon our own path.  Some of these sources can have better than 50 years experience.  We cannot a watch a video or take a class and hope to match that amount of experience and skill.  I know that this seems obvious, but I wonder sometimes as I read blog posts and comments.  Folks tend to be very hard on themselves, or worse do not even attempt something for fear of failure.  Woodworking is a journey of skill building, not a “one and done” activity.  Just because an aspiring musician watches a video of a concert pianist doesn’t mean that aspiring musician will be able to replicate the performance.  Why would you expect to do that in woodworking?

The professional path is generally an intensive one.  Similar to the apprenticeships of old.  A high level of skill is  sought out in the shortest time possible.  Often the professional path leads to a specialization.  Examples being a particular furniture style or technique.  Inlay and marquetry being technique examples.  There are other aspects to the professional path as well that are not directly related to skill and technique.  Those on the professional path need to be concerned with the matters of running a business.  The understanding of marketing, purchasing, production and accounting will play heavily in their success or failure.  From an ethical standpoint, those on the professional path must be able to consistently perform at a level commensurate with that of the industry standard or better.  What is built is also heavily dictated by either the intended customer or the current market trends.

The amateur/hobbyist path is more of a meandering  path.  Skill and technique tends to be built up in spits and spurts as time allows.  Shop time tends to be measured in minutes rather that days, months or years.  Proficiency at any technique can take months due to this limited linear flow of “shop time”.  Most of us are driven by the simple act of creation in wood, with no thought as to the making of money.  In many ways we are practicing woodworking in its purest form.  Beholden to no one other than ourselves, we are free to explore various styles, forms and techniques.  Yes, often times progress is slow, but we progress nonetheless.  Pursuit of unattainable perfection at a snail’s pace is often the path of the amateur/hobbyist.  We are free to error without any real consequences.  Besides, as you progress, your definition of perfection will evolve.  What you consider to be “perfect” now will not be the same a year from now.  In fact, I will venture to say that in some instances it will be drastically different.

So what is my point?  Be realistic about your true path and judge your work accordingly.  Embrace the freedom that is enjoyed by being an amateur/hobbyist.  Embrace your successes, as well as your errors.  The fact that you recognize an error means that you have attained the knowledge to do so.  Relax and enjoy the journey, its only wood after all.

Greg Merritt

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Hillbilly Tsuitate Screen-Part 6-Complete

hillbilly_tsuitate-000Winter showed up over the last couple of days and the temperatures plummeted into the teens.  Even so, I couldn’t resist getting out into the shop and assembling my screen.

Assembly was quite easy and quick.  I first installed the cross rails into the uprights along with the center panel.  Then the uprights were secured by driving the tapered pins into place through the feet. This is a draw pin setup.  Same as draw bore, except with a square pin, and I used a 3mm(~1/8″) offset do to the high compression rate of the fir that I’m working with.


Finally the top rail was set into place and secured with wedges.  The only fussy part was guiding all of the bamboo skewers into place as the assembly pulled up tight.

All that remained was to cut the pins and wedges flush, dress them up a bit and wipe them down with a little Tried & True.



I had hinted at one last decorative element in a previous post.  Knot tying is another of my interests and I try to work a knot or two into all of my projects.  Usually in the form of drawer pulls.  Alas, no drawers on this project, but I still managed to utilize a little knot tying regardless.  Drawing inspiration from Japanese bamboo fence construction, I added a few bamboo skewers oriented horizontally across the vertical skewers.  I secured them in place with knots of course.



I had originally planned to add a minimal texture with the uzukuri, but I started having a lot fun with it and went very bold instead.  All-in-all I’m very pleased with how this project turned out.  Not too bad for construction grade lumber and bamboo skewers from the grocery store. IMHO

Fair warning, I need to work on my photography setup in the new shop.  Plus, it was well below freezing when I took these.






Part 5 Greg Merritt

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Hillbilly Tsuitate Screen-Part 5

hillbilly_tsuitate-000I didn’t manage as much shop time this weekend as I had hoped.  The original plan was to have this project completed by Sunday evening.  Alas, I came up a little short, but I’m close. Continue reading

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Hillbilly Tsuitate Screen-Part 4

hillbilly_tsuitate-000At some point since my “Part 3” post I managed to sneak enough shop time in to shape the feet for this screen.  My original plan was to create a cloud type detail on the feet, as indicated on my drawing.  But the more that I looked at the emerging assembly, the more that I realized that the feet needed an angular detail.  So that is what I went with. Continue reading

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