Inspiration in obvious places

A nice set of kitchen cabinetsMaybe I’m a different kind of woodworker, but I really do enjoy the challenge of making doors and drawers.  Those are typically the pieces of a project that cause woodworkers the most angst.

Sure, building a large cabinet or series of cabinets is the fun part.  You get to do the giant case work and, once it’s moved into place and installed, you get an idea of how the project will look.  Heck, you can even begin moving stuff into the cabinets once you are done installing and get to the doors and drawers whenever… maybe years from now.

I guess I got my love of doors from seeing just how they can change the overall look of a piece.  Any set of cabinets without its doors and drawers looks just about the same as any other set of cabinets.  But, add some flat slab doors, raised arched panels, flat panel Shaker models or glass panel doors and the entire look of the piece changes from utilitarian to works of art.

Unfortunately for me, I got myself into a rut.  You see, I fell into the trap a lot of other woodworkers fall into – once I bought a nice set of matched cope and stick joints to build doors with, everything started to look the same.  Every door had the same profiles, and it was getting redundant.  What I needed was a readily available source of inspiration to shake me from the ho-hum everyday doors I  was building.

Then it hit me like a sack of bricks.  I got into my car and drove over to my local Lowes and Home Depot.  There, in the kitchen cabinet section was all the inspiration I needed.

Kitchen remodeling is a very lucrative business.  Sure, right now very few people have the available cash to do that kind of work, but the real estate market is even worse than the remodeling market.  Until the real estate market rebounds and people feel confident in going out to purchase a new home, they are far more likely to redo that ugly 1970’s vintage kitchen to make it more functional and easier on the eyes.  It doesn’t hurt that it makes sound economic sense to remodel the kitchen, since the return on the investment can usually be recouped at the sale of the property.

Just some kitchen cabinet door stylesIn that kitchen remodeling section, big time manufacturers such as Kraft Maid and Thomasville have catalogs of their kitchen offerings.  Since these companies spend a tremendous amount of money to market their products, their sales literature is loaded with full-color, glossy images of their installed kitchens in show homes.  Talk about a treasure trove of ideas for the average woodworker!

Their door and drawer options are shown in different species and finish options, which can really help you envision what the final piece looks like.  And the varieties of styles – WOW!  Sure, some would require a large tooling investment, but others (such as doors with mitered rails and stiles, Mission style doors, etc.) can be built with an average collection of router bits and a decent table saw available in most shops.

As a bonus, most of the catalogs offers useful suggestions on how to properly set up a kitchen to ensure it is efficient, ideas on how to address problem storage areas and recommendations on how to incorporate cabinets in other areas such as bathrooms and walk in closets.  Not a bad resource for the beginning cabinetmaker to get their hands on.

Do these catalogs offer step-by-step guides on how to cut these profiles and joints?  No.  The companies don’t want to give away all of their secrets – after all, they want you to buy!  But, it’s not a bad idea to poke your head in at your local home center to pick up a few catalogs and put them to good use.

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