Putting the custom in cabinetry
There are an incredible number of parts and products that can be used to create cabinetry, and a custom woodworker might want to know the options in case a client asks for something special.
Many of these items can be ordered through outsourcing suppliers, and most are easily sourced elsewhere too and can be used in-house to turn bland boxes into custom furniture. The choices range from new panel materials to connectors, drawers, slides, doors and drawer fronts, decorative pulls and knobs, hinges, shelf hardware and pullouts, drawer dividers and organizers, coatings and laminates, edgebanding, veneers, adhesives, fasteners, hardwoods, moldings, furniture parts, glass elements, electronics and metal components.
There’s no way to discuss all of those in a concise manner, but we can look at some of the newer options.
For woodshops that are dedicated to producing formaldehyde- and VOC-free casework, there may be something new on the horizon. Chinese researchers have reported successfully combining glucose and citric acid (basically sugar and an orange juice ingredient) into a strong, water-resistant, nontoxic wood glue for plywood. The team cut full sheets into smaller pieces for strength tests and found that under pressures greater than 101 psi, the plywood samples all broke along the wood fibers and not at the glued seams. It may take a while to be validated, but it sounds promising.
One surprising panel product in casework is corrugated plastic sheet, which is being used by furniture artist and designer Peter Danko (peterdanko.com). With its frosted surfaces, it can act as a diffuser for interior cabinet lighting.
Danko has built a kitchen where motion sensors operate the lighting when a person is occupying the room, and then turn off when they leave. He is using it for doors, drawer faces, and even cabinet sides, and housing it in metal or wood frames. He says the “illuminated cabinets have the soft rich light of a Japanese Lantern”. Another surprise is that his doors have no hinges: watch the video on his website.
There’s quite a bit happening with the sheet goods that shops use for cabinet sides, backs, tops, bottoms, shelves, and drawer bottoms. One of the most intriguing is CalPlant’s new Eureka MDF (eurekamdf.com), which is made from the straw left over from California’s rice harvest. Because of the very short renewing cycle for rice, the manufacturer doesn’t see it becoming bogged down in the international supply chain woes.
There are some new FSC-certified panels including Echo Wood from Hardwood Distributors (hardwoods-inc.com) that features a very natural looking grained surface, and an engineered core veneer from Lenderink Technologies (lenderink.com) that is bendable and flexible until laminated.
Other new entries include Formwood’s dye-infused Rainbowood (formwood.com) and Ultralite MDF from Uniboard (uniboard.com), which weighs a lot less than standard MDF.
For outdoor casework and cabinets in moist areas, there’s Armorite exterior MDF from Roseburg Forest Products (roseburg.com). And for scratch, impact, water- and stain-resistant panels, take a look at the new Premium panel from Mirlux (mirluxpanel.com).
Need to have a continuous molding that follows a curved wall, an archway, or a block of casework? SAF Metal Fabrication (saf.com) offers stretched and formed radius extruded metal cornice moldings that can be customized to fit any building’s interior or exterior circumference. That means installers don’t have to settle for segmented miters or continuously welded cornice systems to create a one-piece curved classical building element.
Woodshops looking for metal grilles for cabinet door panels, or for vents to accommodate electronics, may want to visit Barker Metalcraft (barkermetalcraft.com). The company manufactures a wide variety of custom metal grilles that can solve a host of problems in restoration, renovation, and new construction.
Brown Wood (brownwoodinc.com) has one of the larger catalogs of metal decorative grilles and a range of kitchen and bath components, available through its Designs of Distinction division.
Wouldn’t it be nice to make a cabinet component in wood or MDF, and then be able to magically convert it into metal? MakeItMetal (makeitmetal.com) uses liquid metal coatings on a variety of surfaces to create the look, texture and feel of real metal. These coatings not only allow for unlimited design capabilities, but they are much more cost effective and environmentally responsible than using traditional sheet metal, metal laminates, plating, or casting. A woodshop can use the metal coating on both interior and exterior surfaces, and the company offers training and education in a fully equipped facility.
Eagle Mouldings (eagle-aluminum.com) is an aluminum extrusion company that supplies items such as aluminum corner trim, aluminum Z-bar or clips, aluminum flat bar, aluminum hat channel, stackable aluminum slatwall, aluminum slatwall inserts, slatwall panels, aluminum French cleat, stainless steel corner guards and stainless-steel kick plates made to specifications.
DOORS AND DRAWERS
Over the past decade the cabinet industry has moved from solid wood and veneer panel five-piece doors to foil and paint on MDF. There’s also an emerging trend toward powder coating MDF. Now shops are finding that customers are asking for a solution that offers the warmth of a natural wood look but the sterility of foil.
Elias Woodwork (eliaswoodwork.com) has created an alternative to wood and thermofoil by using a very familiar product, plastic laminate, in true five-piece construction. The result is a permanent antibacterial surface with high heat, scratch and stain resistance. The doors have tight, mitered corners and a premium, formaldehyde-free MDF core. They can be ordered in several styles and numerous finishes, including solid color and realistic wood grain. Unlike some foil solutions, they simulate real wood doors because there’s different grain direction on the stiles and rails.
Osborne Wood Products (osbornewood.com) supplies cabinet and furniture feet, decorative corbels, pilasters, and the like. But the company also offers a selection of decorative wooden cabinetry panels that are perfect for adding dimension and detail to a kitchen. These hand-carved designs can complement various interior design themes such as contemporary or traditional, and they can be somewhat customized. For example, the Basket Weave panel is available in variations that include smaller and larger weaves that complement table legs, molding and corbels in the Osborne catalog. The door panels come in multiple wood species, including a paint-grade option.
Sliding shelves in base units are a hot option for most kitchen buyers. They let the cook reach deep without bending too far. But sometimes they aren’t as well arranged as they might be, and culinary clients can’t get their pots, pans, and bowels to fit. Keystone Wood Specialties (keystonewood.com) offers the X-Series Bracket that lets a customer change the height/spacing of shelves in about a minute with no tools required. It works with four pilasters (thin, low-profile columns with shelf pin holes). The customer slides out a solid wood shelf, changes the slides up or down to the next hole, and pops everything back in place. It’s remarkably simple, and it works with both undermount and side-mount drawer slides. It also works equally well in frame and frameless cabinets, and it can be installed in either new or existing cabinets. The pilasters are made by Keystone in standard sizes for base and pantry cabinets.
WalzCraft (walzcraft.com) offers leaded glass inserts that can add lots of drama to cabinet doors. They offer a more decorative appearance than just glass and can seamlessly blend new cabinetry into a historic home. The inserts are available independently or with frame only doors. WalzCraft will calculate the size of the glass needed to fit the opening. There are 12 standard configurations for leaded glass patterns, and 144 standard combinations.
Basic boxes can be quite beautiful, but sometimes a design needs a little pizzazz. Several manufacturers offer items that can dress up a blank palette and turn it into something more three-dimensional. And some suppliers offer machining options so that the woodshop doesn’t need to tweak parts or risk damaging them and hold up an entire project while waiting for a replacement.
For example, Adams Wood Products (adamswoodproducts.com) has just expanded its selection of kitchen island legs and the company will split each leg in half, cut out a corner, cut the leg in quarters longways, or notch the leg for a bracket before it is shipped. That lets a woodshop use outsourced turnings to accent the outside corners of square islands or peninsulas, and thus transform a not too exciting set of drawer bases into something special.
Outwater Plastics & Architectural Products (outwater.com) also offers a huge range of furniture elements, and among them is a collection of unfinished polymer resin corbels. These are most often used as countertop brackets, decorative shelving, and for creating fireplace mantels. The resin corbels are non-porous and absorb stain evenly for a uniform finish or color. They are moisture resistant and can be used in both indoor and outdoor environments when properly finished.
Cabinet shops that are looking for a fast, easy, and strong way to install floating shelves might be interested in a bracket designed by Stronghold (strongholdbrackets.com).
There’s a trend back toward natural wood surfaces in the wake of the stark white Covid-induced sanitary spaces, and darker wood tones seem to be among the favorites. Consumers are asking for wood edgebanding and veneer elements to offset light painted, laminate and foil panels. That may be what’s behind the addition of several new American black walnut moldings to the New Mouldings catalog (newmoldings.com). There are a couple of dozen profiles available on the website already, including crown, nose and cove, rosettes, and mitered blocks for crown molding inside corners, outside corners and mid-run butt joints.
TECHNOLOGY AND HARDWARE
We live our lives attached to phones and other devices, so very few kitchens (and even baths) manage to avoid the tentative hooks of the media moguls. Fortunately, wireless solutions make electronics much easier to include in a cabinet design. And one of the latest offerings from Doug Mockett & Co. (mockett.com) makes is incredibly simple to include cordless phone charging. Part WCS10-90 in the catalog is an under-the-desk wireless charger that can transfer a signal through tabletops up to 1-3/16” thick.
Hardware Resources (hardwareresources.com) has designed and manufactured a new line of tunable in-cabinet lighting in a huge variety of strengths (120, 225, 300, 400 and 600 lumens per foot in standard 12 volt or high output 24 volt). They come in lengths up to about 44” (they vary slightly), in various Kelvin colors, and in angled, flat or recessed profiles. The white-bodied light strips feature TandemLED technology, and they arrive completely assembled for easy installation. The cabinetmaker just needs to attach mounting clips (included) with a single screw, connect the wire, and snap the strip into place. They can be used under and above cabinets, in toe kicks, inside ceiling coves, or behind the face frame for interior cabinet lighting. A remote control is sold separately, and the lights are dimmable with a compatible LED dimmer.
There’s a simple but very clever idea from Häfele America (hafele.com) that can add years to sink bases and utility cabinets. It’s a polystyrene mat that comes in black, gray, white and maple color options. On the top surface is a unique pattern of dimples that can collect a small spill or leak. The mat material comes in 45 1/4” widths and standard cabinet depths. It can be cut to size with a utility knife.
Our population is aging and more of us are staying in our homes longer. Cabinet shops are catering to a less agile clientele by incorporating features such as lower and more accessible countertops, handle-free cabinet door hardware, and awning-type wall cabinet doors with lift mechanisms. Rev-A-Shelf (rev-a-shelf.com) recently introduced a new pulldown closet rod in its Sidelines collection. The rod (item CPDRSL-48SC) pulls down and out, giving a customer complete access to clothes that are hung on the rail.
Blum (blum.com) has new hardware for doors and drawers with thin fronts. The company’s Aventos HK top, HS and HL lift systems will all work with thin stock. Soft-close technology has been integrated into the new Clip top Blumotion hinge for thin doors, eliminating the need for a hinge cup. With a 110°-degree opening angle and zero protrusion, this solution can work for a variety of applications. And the slim design of Legrabox can now be mirrored in the drawer front. The new attachment system for thin fronts is based on Expando T technology, where a steel pull-in anchor ensures a secure fit for harder materials, while plastic jaws secure the fit in softer materials.
Getting the most out of closet cabinets often entails being able to slide heavy units aside to access a second layer behind them. Fortunately, Accuride (accuride.com) has developed a new drawer slide that can handle up to 594 lbs. The AL4165 was launched last year, and it offers two-way, full-extension travel.
There are so many options when building cabinets that a shop might want to start by fully exploring the catalogs of its outsourcing suppliers. Those factory shops that build drawers, casework and doors usually offer a healthy range of hardware, accessories, organizers, finishes, colors, and materials.
This article was originally published in the July 2022 issue.