Storage Space from Nothing – the Medicine Cabinet (Part 2)

In the first part of this blog post, I covered the prep of the wood and cutting the rabbets and dados for the medicine cabinet build. This part will cover the adjustable storage shelves, assembly and installation.

Drilling Shelf Support Holes

To make the space a  usable as possible, I wanted to have adjustable shelves in the medicine cabinet. I considered a number of different mechanisms for this but, in the end, settled on using holes and brass pin supports. Making the holes for the support pins is pretty straight forward. The old trick of using peg board as a template works great.

Clamp it in place and start drilling with a 1/4″ bit. I can buy bags of the shelf pins from Lee Valley that are inexpensive and work well. For me, the holes in the peg board are actually too close together and so I only use every second one. Because the backside of the case will not be visible,  I was able to just drill through. If the back of your project is exposed and you are worried about breaking through, consider some sort of depth indicator for your drill bit.

Cutting the Shelves to Length

Making the shelves should be a straight forward as cutting to length and painting but, in reality, it was not so simple. One thing I neglected to mention earlier is that the closet opening that I am working to is not square.

This isn’t in any way unusual – just one of the everyday challenges that go with a century home. Most owners, including myself, prefer to call it character. In any case, the intention of the build was to make it look like it had always been there as part of the original house. As a result, I was forced to build the case out of square with the top being about 3/8″ wider than the bottom. As a consequence, to avoid having gaps at their ends, the shelves had to decrease in length from top to bottom.

Here are all the shelves laid out, before and after, for priming on my work bench.

After priming I marked the back of each shelf with Roman numerals from top to bottom. This ensured that I would be able to keep the shelves in the right order when they were installed.

Roman numerals were designed to allow a straight chisel to cut them so they are easy to execute. I also used the tang end of a triangular file to imprint an indicator of which side was up on each shelf. Not very pretty but are on the back which will not be visible when installed.

I gave them a couple coats of paint to finish them off.

Assembling the Case

With all the pieces ready, it was time to assemble the case. The case fit into the opening with a nice firm pressure fit. As I mentioned, the closet opening was not square. I first assembled the sides and shelves with nails and glue and pressed it into place while wet. I left the back off, however, to allow it to conform to the shape of the opening. The resulting frame was distorted exactly out of square in the same way that the opening was. Once removed from the opening, I fitted a piece of 1/4″ plywood into the rabbets at the back, taking into account adjustment for out of square.

I realized at this point that I had neglected to address the gap below the bottom shelf. A quick trip to the discards pile produced a piece of painted pine suitable for the job as a toe kick.

The whole thing then slide back in place with hardly a gap between the cabinet and the door stop of the closet opening.

Despite the slight out of square condition, the joints still looked pretty good.

Painting

Getting near the finish line, I just had to paint the case. A quick coat of primer followed by a couple finish coats did the trick. At this point, it looked pretty much like it had always been there. The only real give away was how clean and fresh the new paint looks – time will take care of that.

I should mention one of the minor, but painful hiccups in the process. As you can probably imagine, the multiple layers of paint affect the diameter of the shelf support holes. It was then impossible to insert any of the support pins into them. The back row of holes was also quite close to the back of the cabinet. This made it impossible to use a power drill to re-drill. I reamed out the holes using my hands and a 1/4″ bit. There are a lot of holes and drill bits have sharp edges. It is something I’ll have to rethink if I do this again. Perhaps paint the side panels ahead of time so I can ream them with a drill instead?

In the end, all is good and we’ve created usable storage space where none existed before.

Thanks for reading!

Part 1 of this build can be found here.

 

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