It’s been what, almost a month since the last post? Way too long I know, but there are many very, very good reasons for the blogging vacation.

I referenced this in the last post, but we’ve been navigating a pretty stressful situation the past couple of months on site. Sadly, this led to sleepless nights, meetings with our bank, checks written to lawyers, and a new builder on site. That’s also all I plan to write about the topic on this blog. As unhappy as I ended up, this is a blog about building a house, not flaming a builder.

But on to more interesting things. A week ago I flew to Chicago to meet my father, who lives in New York, and we then drove back to Spokane together. 1,900 miles and two-and-a-half days later we arrived home. Somehow we survived the long trip in an F-250 filled with a bed full of cabinet-making tools.

Cool rock outcroppings in Wisconsin.

More driving in Minnesota.

Only in South Dakota: "Help Manage Your Wildlie. WEAR FUR."

One of my neighbors asked how the drive went. My response? “Well, we didn’t bond enough when he was changing my diapers, so we needed a cross-country trip in a pickup with an AM radio.” I thought it was funny anyway.

So the past few days we’ve started working on our kitchen cabinets. To say we obsessed about the cabinet design is a massive understatement.

We’re building everything from beech, with the exception of the plywood boxes. Beech is a wood that for whatever reason is not in vogue at the moment. I love it though. It’s hard (similar to oak), reasonably stable and has a tight and consistent grain with subtle brown specks. You’ll often see it used in Scandinavian furniture. Lots of Danish Modern designs, for example, are made from beech.


So in addition to being great wood to work with, there’s another upside to beech–it’s relatively inexpensive. To put things into perspective, at wholesale prices beech runs about $2.85 per board foot. White oak is more like $8. This is a good thing, especially given the amount we’re using.

As an aside, if you’re looking for an affordable wood with more figure (or wavy, visibile grain) you should check out ash. It’s similar in appearance (except much whiter) and qualities to oak, but less expensive than even beech. It’s one of those things that confuses me. Outstanding wood, easy to source, absolultely beautiful, yet for some reason not popular.

OK, more about the design. The cabinets use butcher block for both the legs and the countertops. I ordered these through Country Mouldings in Ohio and can’t say enough good things about their service. I’m also thrilled with the quality. Beautiful wood, super-precise sizing, perfectly square corners and edges. Great stuff.

We have a highly-modular design based on using the blocks and plywood boxes. This makes the work relatively fast. The key word in the last sentence is “relatively.” Cabinet work is never terribly fast.

The boxes will sit 8″ off the ground. Some people would call this a waste of space. And yes, we could have shoved another drawer in the void, but I love the way it looks when you turn cabinetry into furniture. I’ll also to take a moment to point out to anyone who doubts this logic that it’s a beautiful waste of space.

Checking things out. The horizontal plywood strips will go away, replaced with a full piece of beech plywood.

Looks good now. When it's finished it should be incredible. And to you cabinet geeks, yes, those are drywall screws. They're temporary.

We haven’t done this yet, but we’ll also use a router to cut in a shallow rabbet, or square notch, anywhere two pieces of wood touch, like for example where a leg meets the counter. This does a couple of things for us. First, it helps hide any inconsistencies in the wood (or mistakes). It also creates a nice little shadow line.

We have a ton more work to do, both in terms of detailing and basic cutting, biscuiting, screwing and gluing. But the general idea is captured here. More to come in the next few days though. It’s a pretty fun start though.