I feel like I earned a Boy Scout patch in carpentry this weekend. We’ve been traveling to my father-in-law’s house almost every weekend since the end of March, and one of the many things on the list of repairs was a set of kitchen cabinets that had delaminated and separated from the wall. The house itself dates back to the late 70’s, and the cabinetry is all original builder-grade material. There were two cabinets in play: a single and a double-wide connected to each other. The single, on the end, was in the worst shape.
The previous weekend we’d boxed up their contents and got everything ready, so when I arrived on Saturday morning I hit the ground running. After clearing off the counters and making some room, I pulled the Hi-Lift jack off the back of the Scout and braced the single cabinet, then pulled out a mixture of wood screws and nails holding it to the wall. After disconnecting it from the double it popped off the wall pretty easily. Finn and I repeated the process on the double and within about a half an hour we had both on the floor and ready for triage.
In the 70’s these were built with the cheapest materials possible: particle board shelving, laminate sides, and pressboard everywhere else. They used glue and staples to construct it all, not even bothering with nails, so when the glue finally dried out the staples gave way and the backing board separated from the rest of the box. It’s a miracle the whole thing didn’t fall down under the weight of all the glassware we pulled out.
I’d brought some extra lumber with me, so I got to work re-gluing the wood together with clamps and cutting new backing boards while that dried. When working on the bus with Brian we used his framing stapler—built to shoot 1.5″ industrial staples, not glorified desk staples like the ones they used in 1978—so I’d gone to Harbor Freight and scored one last week. Between that and careful application of wood adhesive, we had the boxes squared tight and sealed in a couple of hours. I then re-hung the double, leveled it to the rest of the cabinets, and attached it to the wall with deck screws. By mid-afternoon both cabinets were back in place and I had the doors re-hung; I had to swap out some hinges from another cabinet to get the middle door to hang correctly. Then I rebuilt one of the drawers next to the dishwasher which had come apart and fixed two bent roller tracks.
Luckily the weather was perfect for a drive in the Scout; because I was laden with tools and needed to go out for supplies while Jen had her Dad out doing errands, we took two cars. We didn’t get on the road until 9PM that evening, but it was a beautiful night to drive home under the stars with the top down.
On Sunday I tackled Finley’s IKEA dresser, which was suffering from similar problems: it’s designed to be assembled with an allen head wrench but not to stand up to an impatient child. She’d stuffed laundry into the shelves and pushed the fiberboard bottoms out so that the drawers wouldn’t close, and instead of fixing the clothes she just shoved the drawers closed until the tracks bent.
I pulled the shelves apart and ran the fronts and backs through my table saw to open the grooves up wider, then replaced the fiberboard with laminate wood and braced them all with strips of wood and framing nails. I glued and screwed the backs in place (IKEA held them together with ribbed plastic slugs) and straightened out the tracks; upstairs in her room they slid into place like butter. She has now been notified that any further damage to the dresser will result in her immediate destruction.
I spent the rest of the day laying about and relaxing; it was good to take a 2-mile walk with Jen and Hazel, wander the farmer’s market for lunch and snacks, and taking the time to slow down a little.