Kitchen shelves are finished and installed!

Posted: January 21st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, kitchen, woodworking | Tags: | No Comments »

kitchen shelves

After a year of steady work, we’ve finally completed this huge shelf. Here it is on the work bench for the first coat of varnish.

kitchen shelf

After the varnish, we painted the shelf back blue to match the color of our kitchen walls, and screwed on the shelf back (it provides important structural support and makes it easier to hang the shelf.) And then both of my parents helped us to haul it up to Limington and hang it up!

kitchen shelf!

When we built the kitchen walls, we put sheets of 3/4″ plywood instead of strapping on top of the rigid foam insulation, under the blue board and plaster, all around the countertop areas where we expected to hang upper cabinets or shelving. So when it came time to hang the shelf, we didn’t have to wonder about where the strapping was, whether the screws would grab into wood or just plaster, whether the wall’s strong enough. We know the plaster is all backed with nice strong wood because we built it ourselves!

new open shelving

a l m o s t . . . there!

Posted: September 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: kitchen, slow progress, woodworking | Tags: | No Comments »

working on the kitchen shelves
shelves on the workbench

we’ve finished assembly! sanded and planed, plugged the screw holes and we’re ready to varnish.

still working on shelves

Posted: August 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: kitchen, slow progress, woodworking | Tags: | No Comments »

curved shelves
eliza working on the kitchen shelves
working on the kitchen shelves

New Bay Window Installation

Posted: July 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, kitchen, progress, woodworking | No Comments »

the ugly window

picture window in the kitchen

We are FINALLY getting our new bay window in! I’ve always hated this big picture window, mainly because it’s cruddy and falling apart, but also because it’s ugly and ill-suited to our kitchen and our house. I think it would fit better in a mid-century bungalow or split-level ranch, but it looks all wrong on an old victorian farmhouse. When we asked our master carpenter, Lynn, to build the window trim to finish up the inside of the window, he said “are you kidding? that whole window frame is totally rotten!” And so my parents came to the rescue and offered us A NEW BAY WINDOW as our wedding present! It took us maybe 9 months to shop around and pick out which window we wanted. It was hard to pick the best window brand because my parents (who’ve renovated their own lovely old farmhouse) warned that they had bought a bunch of new windows at great expense that they ended up hating! They warned us against windows with plastic frames or plastic sashes or plastic runners or any plastic or vinyl at all (because it can get brittle when exposed to sunlight and weather, and crack and break easily). And they warned us against finger jointed wood in any part of the window whatsoever. Most of the manufacturers we called were disqualified because they do use plastic somewhere on the window, and wooden windows do have finger joints (which allow moisture into the wood and cause the paint to peel away and the wood to rot). Finally we picked out a fancy-pants Marvin bay window from the showroom in Portland, which does have durable vinyl in the runners but does not have any finger-joints on exposed wood and is generally very very beautiful and fancy! The sashes slide up and down with delightful ease, they pivot inwards for easy cleaning, and the double-paned glass means they are very energy-efficient and no storm windows.

Once we ordered the window we called our carpenter Lynn to install it – this was part of my parents’ gift to us! Unfortunately Lynn was very very very busy so it took a few months before he could start the installation.

New Bay Window Installation

New Bay Window Installation

Lynn came with his son Levi to help out. They make a great team. The day they tore out the old window was the most spectacular sunny June day, warm and clear, and the feeling of sitting in our kitchen with no window at all, just a beautiful wide open wall filled with fresh air and the view of sunshine and green grass, was a delight. (Too bad we don’t live in California or we could’ve just left it like that.)

New Bay Window Installation New Bay Window Installation
new bay window

pieces of our kitchen shelves

Posted: May 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: kitchen, woodworking | Tags: | No Comments »

pieces of our kitchen shelves

We finished planing and gluing and cutting down all the wood for the shelves! We’re cutting grooves into the long boards to fit all the pieces together.

mike & router
mike with the router
kitchen shelves
fitting some pieces together

still working on the kitchen shelves

Posted: April 15th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: kitchen, woodworking | Tags: | No Comments »

It is going to take us forever! we finished planing all the new wood and now Mike is sanding them all. I’m hand-planing the edges to get them nice and neat so we can glue the edges together. Once they’re all glued then we’ll start cutting them down to size.

mike sanding the butternut wood

planing, ready for edge gluing


Vermont road trip to buy wood

Posted: March 4th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: fun, kitchen, life, woodworking | Tags: | No Comments »

vermont Bretton Woods

vermont panorama


beautiful drive to Vermont and back

Monday was Presidents Day, so Mike had the day off from work and we made a kind of impulse decision to drive over to Vermont and buy some butternut wood! We needed some more butternut wood to finish our kitchen shelving project, and we were surprised to discover that none of the local hardwood lumber yards sells butternut! Turns out it’s not that popular. Mike took a look around the internet and found a place in Marshfield, VT called Vermont Wildwoods, that sells salvaged butternut wood – we didn’t realize that, sadly, butternut trees are suffering a blight that’s killing them off pretty quickly (similar to Dutch Elm disease that killed all the elm trees a few decades back). Vermont Wildwoods sells “irregular” butternut wood cut from the fallen and disease-killed trees, paying loggers to leave the healthy trees intact and instead salvage the wood from the fallen trees. The wood from these trees has interesting and irregular grain patterns, and the whole concept seems pretty cool. So, unable to work in the wood-shop since we’d run out of usable wood, we decided to take the day off and go fetch some more wood from Vermont. The trip was four hours heading due west, through Crawford Notch and the White Mountain National Forest, into the hills of Vermont. It was perfect and sunny out, and we got to check out lots of snowy peaks, cute little tourist towns, busy ski slopes, old farm houses and winding country roads along the way.
The guy from Vermont Wildwoods was super nice and helpful, letting us pick through a huge stack of butternut lumber to find the right planks for our job. It seems like he normally works with builders on big-scale architectural projects so he did a nice favor in letting us show up (on a holiday!) and dig through his wood for this little small-potatoes project. We took plenty of time to pick just the right pieces. My parents let us borrow their truck for the trip, so we had room to carry all the wood home. Now we’ve got this huge stack of wood waiting to be planed down, glued, sanded, cut up and assembled into our kitchen shelving!

butternut wood

our new wood!

projects and progress

Posted: February 19th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: electricity, progress, woodworking | No Comments »

judy sanding the newel post

Judy sanding the newel post

mike and richard wiring the ceiling fixture cleaning out our new wood shop

wiring the ceiling fixture / cleaning out our new wood shop

finished kitchen cabinets!

Posted: February 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: kitchen, progress, woodworking | No Comments »

finished kitchen cabinets!

finished kitchen cabinets!

Mike and I just installed the final cabinet in the kitchen! They’re all in now! Let’s celebrate for a minute: we totally made these cabinets ourselves! Every single bit of them! (except the knobs and hinges, which we bought.) My dad helped us a whole lot and made a bunch of the hardest parts like drawers and drawer slides. Thanks Richard! Not only are these beautiful and flawless in their function, I think we picked a pretty great color of green for these. (All those little sticky notes in the pictures? That’s our notes to remind us what goes in which drawers. Since it’s all a little new, we still need help remembering where to put everything.)

finished kitchen cabinets! finished kitchen cabinets!
the skinny cabinet

The last cabinet was the skinniest. This little tiny one goes next to the oven, to hold flat stuff like baking sheets and cutting boards.

The remaining “open” spot is where the dishwasher will go. Someday. We’re not really in a rush to get one, so for the moment we just store the dog food in there, and I think I’ll make a curtain to hang there so it looks prettier in the meantime. If you want to look back at the long long process of planning and building our cabinets, there are lots more posts and pictures!

kitchen: new lights, finished cabinets

Just for fun, let’s look back at the same kitchen view, as it’s changed through the years:

June 20, 2011=
June 20, 2011

drilling the first hole

January 16, 2011


December 16, 2010

April 17, 2010

April 17, 2010

March 27, 2010

March 27, 2010

March 5, 2010

March 5, 2010

realtor's photo of the kitchen, 2007

realtor’s photo of the kitchen, sometime before 2008.

Next… on to the upper shelving. We’re going to do open shelves instead of upper cabinets. They’re already on the workbench in the wood shop, but no photos yet, so stay tuned…


Posted: January 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: kitchen, woodworking | Tags: | 1 Comment »

Once we got into building the shelves, we found that the amateur sawmill job resulted in planks of varied thickness, no two the same, and some of them awfully thin. Our first task was to run each plank through the planer to smooth it down and plane away the high points and unevenness. You can only plane off a tiny little bit at a time, so you have to feed a plank through, shave off a wee little tiny bit, adjust the planer blades a little lower, and feed it through again, until the whole plank is smooth and uniform. It took a realllly long time! It would’ve gone a lot faster if all of the planks weren’t different sizes. But it’s pretty neat getting to use this salvaged wood.

mike at the planer
Mike at the planer
Here’s a before shot, showing the rough-sawn texture of the boards before planing.

rough board

And here’s the after shot, you can see the beautiful smooth boards after planing. The planer does the wide flat part of the board and we hand-plane the edge of every board.

smooth planed board

I got a lot of practice with the hand plane on this project! Richard has a beautiful collection of planes and he keeps them all nice and sharp, always. Some of them are hand-me-downs from my grandfather. The shiny new one was a recent birthday gift from my mom. I’ve watched more experienced carpenters work with planes and they make it look like magic, fast and easy, with beautiful long curls of shaved wood flying off to tangle on the floor. For me, it’s hard to keep the plane perfectly level and straight all the time, and if you aren’t careful it’s terribly easy to turn a nice neat edge into a very crooked, wobbly edge with just a few careless strokes. I move pretty slowly and carefully.


We’re going to edge-glue these planks to make the shelf 12″ deep. Most of the boards are only 6-10″ wide so we need to plane at least one edge of each board very very carefully to get it perfectly smooth and straight and square and then glue and clamp the edges together to make a wider plank. I think there’s a power tool that might make this job easier and faster, but whatever it is we don’t have it, so we do it all by hand.

eliza planing

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