Master Closet Project - Assistance And Suggestions Please


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I am in the early design phase of a master closet remodeling project.  This is going to be a complete gut and rebuild.  The only shelves and racks that exist now are those installed by the builder - painted particle board with beautifully caulked joinery.  The existing closet is 10.5' deep x 11.5' wide.  It's not a huge space but it isn't tiny.  (Some of these fancy closets have a cool drawer stand with marble or granite tops in the middle of the floor - I am not certain that I have enough room to accommodate that.)

I have included some pictures that I found online and admire.  I do not want glass doors but do want all of the LED lighting that is shown in the cabinets.  I really like the "cabinet look", with no wall showing behind the clothes.  One of the included pictures shows the inside of the cabinet (i.e. behind the shoes) as being painted a light color (or perhaps being a light, unstained wood like maple).  That look, with the LED lighting, is the most attractive to me.

I am a decent woodworker.  I have completed the Morris chair, Maloof rocker and Roubo bench projects.  I have most if not all of the necessary tools.  I spoke with a full time (business) woodworker friend of mine here in Dallas.  He suggested that I pay a cabinet company to work with me on the design and have them produce a set of plans (CAD, including cut list).  I am willing to do that - and I am willing to pay for consultant services.  I don't have a set budget in mind, but I have done woodworking projects so I do understand what things cost (that DIY doesn't mean free).  I know that I can execute the project but feel that I need some help in the design, cut list, materials list (board footage requirements) and technical drawings (akin to what Marc provides in his projects).  I'm not too worried about the finishing work as I use a company that will do that on site.

Is there anyone here who owns a professional cabinet shop, or another hobby woodworker like myself that can offer some advice on this project?  Am I biting off more than I can chew?  Does it make sense for me to do this myself?  I asked for a quote from one cabinet shop in my area that did my kitchen in 2008.  Their price this time around was completely unrealistic.

How would you approach this project?

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One additional detail: 

The closet contains a walnut armoire that I would like to incorporate into the design.  This isn't an absolute must but a definitely desirable to have.  I got it at an estate sale for almost nothing.  It also locks and does a great job hiding Christmas and birthday presents from prying eyes and little fingers.

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Years back I did the same thing for my kitchen.  My brother in law was a high end home designer and he drew up plans for me.  It was pretty easy this way because you just build each section of cabinet by itself.  It is a lot easier then building any of the projects you have done and I have seen you stuff, you will be fine.   Your looking at the closet as a whole and this can look overwhelming but when you build it you are building a single piece and when you are done with that you build another single piece until all the cabinets are complete.  

The way I did it was to build all the new stuff (actually stored it in our living room until all was complete :D) and once it was done tear out the old and put in the new.

Another thing you might consider just to kind of prime your self is pick up Bob Lange's "The complete Kitchen CabinetMaker"  because for the most part what you will be doing is building kitchen cabinets for you closet.  If you order the book from his website he autographs it ;) and I think he gets more profit that way also.

 

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1 hour ago, Chet said:

Years back I did the same thing for my kitchen.  My brother in law was a high end home designer and he drew up plans for me.  It was pretty easy this way because you just build each section of cabinet by itself.  It is a lot easier then building any of the projects you have done and I have seen you stuff, you will be fine.   Your looking at the closet as a whole and this can look overwhelming but when you build it you are building a single piece and when you are done with that you build another single piece until all the cabinets are complete.  

The way I did it was to build all the new stuff (actually stored it in our living room until all was complete :D) and once it was done tear out the old and put in the new.

Another thing you might consider just to kind of prime your self is pick up Bob Lange's "The complete Kitchen CabinetMaker"  because for the most part what you will be doing is building kitchen cabinets for you closet.  If you order the book from his website he autographs it ;) and I think he gets more profit that way also.

 

Thank you for the suggestion.  I ordered the book and will start there.

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I built new houses for 33 years.  I'd set up shop in the garage, which I built first.  For cabinets, I'd set the carcasses in place as soon as I assembled them.  Since that's where they're going anyway, it's no use having them take up space, and be moved around multiple times.   I wouldn't even make the doors until all the carcasses were permanently in  place.   It saves a lot more time than one might think.

I don't know how you will work in finishing, living in the house, but that could be able to be done in process too.   Maybe use prefinished plywood for the carcasses, if that will work for what you want.

Once I had all the carcasses set, I'd make face frames, sometimes taking up a whole wall, in one piece.

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I totally agree with the above. Although from the door it looks like a shite ton of work, it's really just steps. Design, Demo, carcasses face frames and doors/drawers. Obviously over simplified. I can do all but the  computer drafting plans you want. I'd happily pay for that.

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Take Tom's advice it's very solid. When i did the cabinets for my kitchen i designed them myself to fit the space. I used all prefinished ply for the interior. It wasn't the greatest ply but it came with a UV cured finish so i took some bad with the good. You could prefinish your own ply. Also doing the doors after all the carcasses are installed does save a lot of headaches and time.

The dimensions are fairly strait forward hangers are x" wide and the longest thing that a person would hang would be a gall gown which are only as long as the lady is tall.

To incorporate all the detail separate the trim into parts the crown along the top is a profile and the other moulding's have their own profile most of that stuff is created after the fact and attached to the plain carcass to dress it up. I did some of the large moldings that you see above windows and doors in old houses this way. Cremona's highboy build covers this to a degree. It's just like the rocker or Morris chair it's daunting to look at the finished piece but break it into individual parts and it really doesn't seem like much at all.

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Everyone does things different . On a big job I build all my face frames first. Then the doors and draws and build the cabinets last because they take up the most space. The only thing I do in the home is install the cabinets and molding exc . The doors and draws have already been installed and adjusted in the shop so it only takes 5 min to put them on. I don't want to be laying on the floor installing draws and such when Its easy on a workbench. Just the way I do things and no offence to others opinions. 

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  No offense taken by me.   A lot of what I did works in my particular situation only-a new house under construction, with no one else doing anything in there except me and my helpers.   My method should only be considered if the shop is in the house, or at least very close.

 I always install the drawer slides in the carcass before it gets carried to its spot.  With my method, that's before the face frame gets installed. A scrap piece of plywood is ripped to set the top slides on, they're screwed into place without a face frame in the way, then the same piece of plywood is ripped down to go under the second down pair of slides, and so forth.

Story sticks skip several measuring steps, and cut down on measuring errors, to make face frames by.  Drawers are made, finished, and put where they go after the face frames are on.  No need for time on the floor.   Hinge brackets for doors are installed the same way-at carcass assembly, on the assembly table.  My favorites for hinges are Salice.  There may be some fine tuning of the hinges needed after they are snapped in place, but that takes very little time with plenty of easy adjustments built into the hinges.

There's never anything taking up room in the "shop".  It gets assembled, and taken the few step where it goes, and then the same for the next up on the assembly bench.  You don't have to remember, or even think about what you need to do tomorrow, because it's always what's up next, that will go in place as soon as its finished.

 I set up one of the rooms as a spraying room, before that room even gets painted, to spray drawers, and door panels.   Of course, this method only works if the shop is in the house, which is the only way I ever worked, and some of it only works in a new, empty house under construction.

If the shop is in the house, I can't see a more efficient way.  Handling steps are eliminated.  I'm not talking anything at all about making cabinets to take to someone else's house to install.   I never did that.  My two helpers, and I, would dig footings in the early Fall, and have a house ready to sell at the end of the next May, and no low end houses.  Everything was built from scratch, except for the house doors (I did that one year, but took too much time finding wood to suit me).  That can only be done by saving footsteps, and not spending time on the telephone, or waiting for subcontractors to show up, or even spending time talking to them.  I never get in a hurry to do anything, but am lazy enough to save as many footsteps as possible.

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I guess you no I was thinking about building in a shop.   I should have remembered that you build everything on the job.  That takes a good craftsman to take the shop to the job and do fine work.  I admit Id have a hard time doing that.  Thanks for your post Tom.

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1 minute ago, wdwerker said:

Most big cities have pro shops that will build all of your doors and drawer fronts to your dimensions. That can take a large chunk of work out of a project for you. 

Good point.  When you do something like the, very few drawers or doors are the same size so batching isn't real useful.  Doing what Steve suggests can save a ton of time.

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Building a raised panel door that is flat and square with perfect corner joints is not as easy as you might think. You can do it with a router table( or 3 ) but shapers with a coping sled do a much better job. Drum sanders will work but a wide belt sander is excellent !  Space balls are a very good idea no matter who builds the doors. 

I have double strength glass cut about 1/16 th smaller than the rabbet and have the edges lightly sanded to knock the sharp edges off. Finish the doors especially in the rabbet. Lay the clean glass in place and center it. Then caulk one edge at a time with Clear Lexcel caulk then smooth the bead with a finger dipped in mineral spirits ( gloved finger if you are in California). Might take a couple days to completely cure but the door will never rattle , let it cure laying flat. . Unlike silicone Lexcel won't peel out . I've been using it for about 40 years .

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28 minutes ago, wdwerker said:

gloved finger if you are in California

We can still get mineral spirits here in Northern California.  It SoCal that has gone super goofy.

+1 to the clear Lexcel.  More $ then other silicon but worth it.

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Thank you for all of the excellent suggestions.  From the advice that all of you (or y'all as they say here) have provided, I'm leaning towards the following:

  1. Read the book "The complete Kitchen CabinetMaker" by Bob Lange.  Familiarize myself with the construction of cabinets.  I did take a cabinet class and a raised panel door class at WoodCraft a few years ago.  This by no means makes me an expert but it does help to get exposure.  It makes sense to batch things out (make all of the carcasses, then face frames, doors, drawers, shelves, etc.
  2. I really want to make the raised panel doors myself - just for the hobby of it.  I have a router table and can purchase some raised panel and matched rail and style bits.
  3. I will make the drawer fronts but will likely buy the drawers.  This isn't (in my opinion) a hand-cut dovetail kind of project.  I do not own one of those slick Leigh dovetail jigs - I just don't make enough drawers to justify the cost.  I have never attempted a whole "kitchen/closet" project.  I understand that the drawers don't have to be dovetailed to be sufficiently strong and attractive.  Buying the drawers seems like an balance of using time and money wisely.
  4. I strongly doubt that I will make the moldings, unless I just cannot find what I need.  Then again, I have not chosen a wood species yet.  I'm not going to use an exotic species, but walnut is a possibility.  Can you even buy walnut moldings, I mean reasonably?  I have no idea but I guess that I will find out.  I watched Matt Cremona's molding video earlier this week (for the secretary/highboy).  That would be a TON of work to make large moldings for an entire room.  There is a shop in Dallas that makes custom router bits.  Not sure how much a large bit costs but smaller bits weren't that expensive (~$50).  I might go that route if I had to.
  5. I'm not sure about the finishing - it's something to think about.  I am not at a point in this hobby where I do spray finishing.  Again, I just don't finish enough projects in a year.  I usually outsource that to a local shop.  How can they spray in a finished house (they say that the do)?  Do they plastic off the room and suck the air through a flexible duct vented out of the closest window?  Is that even possible?  I'll ask them.  Clearly I need to figure out that detail before starting.  I am a slow reader so it might take me a bit of time to get through the book!

I love woodworking as a hobby and I wish that I had more time to do it.  But I also have a family with 2 young children, a full time job and a pretty impressive honey-do list (though I have severely pared that down recently).  Like many of you, I cut my own grass, tend to the landscaping, handle minor car repairs, walk the dog and fix whatever plumbing and electrical issues arise around the house.  It's also not the 1950's any more - my wife works and I try to help out around the house.  So I basically have a second job as a part-time janitor!

One more question: To make the face frames, I have seen most people use pocket screws.  I think that is a fine choice for a project like this.  But there's also the Festool Domino.  I'm not a Festool fanatic like some, but the Domino is a cool piece of kit.  What do you think?  Is this the project that justifies the purchase of the Domino?

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9 minutes ago, SeventyFix said:

Can I justify the purchase of a Festool Domino?

I had this internal debate in 2013, when I did a complete tear-down/remodel of the house where we raised our kids.  I finally realized that the domino was going to save me a great deal of time, and aggravation, so I bought the XL700.  Ended up doing 2 separate remodels that year and was really glad I had it.  For me it was money well spent.  (It's for sale now ) if you decide to go that route.

 

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So I would never make the moldings myself either i'd buy them. If you go to a mill work shop you can get them in what ever species you want for a price obviously. Box store might be able to special order but i don't know if that would really get you anything other than inferior trim for the same price. My point with the trim is the big elaborate trims usually aren't 1 piece but multiple.

I think the domino is worth it but i use mine all the time. Top glue ups every piece of furniture everything.

I don't know how a router bit loan would work but the sets aren't cheap. I bought this bit set and never use if. I'm not looking to sell it but i' be willing to let you use it. I've made a few doors with it and it works great. If it's not your style no worries.

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Id like to have a Domino but its not something I need for building cabinets. If I need to build furniture a M&T work fine for now.   I feel a pocket screwed and glued face frame is fine and have never had any problems with them.  I have build quite allot of cabinets and bookcases (same thing) but I am not a expert with many years of experience and knowledge as Steve.

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If you are going to make your own doors on a router table a coping sled is a very good idea. You can cobble something together or buy one. Cut the blank for the top and bottom rail a bit wider (3/8)  than both parts. Then you can cut the molding pattern (sticking ) and cope both ends before ripping to produce 2 identical parts. Doing all this can be frustrating with only one router table. Once you have cut the sticking on all the inside edges then you have to switch bits to cope the ends of the top & bottom rails.This requires the bit to be adjusted for the cut to exactly match the height of your first cuts so make extra stock the same thickness out of cheaper wood like poplar to test your setup before cutting the walnut. If you tear up any ends while coping without some spare stock you have to switch the bit and cut more sticking then back to set up the cope cuts exactly again. 

I set up a second very basic homemade router table to make the cope cuts. Then once you get the bit heights set up to match perfectly you can go back and forth until you have a set of perfect frame parts.  Then you can setup your router table with the biggest motor to cut the raised panel profile.  I keep a small 3/8 roundover bit in my second router table most of the time and set it up to route the molding on the outside of the doors after they are assembled & cut perfectly square.  

If you are going to make a bunch of raised panel doors and drawer fronts out of walnut or other pricey wood practice a few doors using popular or other cheap hardwood. Those could be sized for a shop cabinet to get the most from your practice. 

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A pocket screwed face frame is fine for built in cabinets but if the screw holes will be visible from a see through case or a reflection in glass or a mirrored back then a Domino joint is a better choice.  But using a closet that your wife will enjoy as an excuse to buy a Domino seems like a smart move.

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