When deciding which manufacturer to use for our kitchen and mudroom cabinetry, we looked at many options. Ultimately, we decided on Fehrenbacher Cabinets, Inc. due the high quality product they make and their ability to customize.
They’re a family run company located in southwestern Indiana (about an hour drive from our home in southeastern Illinois). Not only did they get the big-picture feeling that we want to bring into our old home, but they are also keen to the smallest details of cabinet making and design, and left no stone un-turned when helping us design our custom cabinets.
Our final design board
The process started many weeks ago when we met with Fehrenbacher designer and project manager, Dana. We hashed out room dimensions, cabinet construction type (we decided on Frameless), door & drawer style (shaker style), sizes, color (White Dove), finish type, materials, hardware (un-laquered brass), hardware placement, appliances, sinks (apron front fireclay sinks), baseboard/crown/trim types, assembly, and more! (So many important little details!) 🙂
After a few design iterations, we finalized everything and cabinets were ready for production. I got to watch as our cabinets were made!
PART I – BOX CONSTRUCTION
First, to create the cabinet boxes, our CAD design files were fed to this CNC routing machine. It makes precise cuts of the box parts and optimizes plywood so that there is little waste. Cabinet grade plywood in 4’x8′ sheets was used to create our boxes.
The brain of the CNC routing machine.
So that nothing is missed or overlooked, each cabinet component is numbered and bar-coded.
Once the box pieces were cut, the next step was to cover the newly cut edges of plywood with an edge banding. This banding can be wood or PVC. We used the plastic based PVC banding in the color White Dove (to match our cabinet fronts). The banding is glued on.
A giant glue stick used for adhering the edge banding to the unfinished edges of our plywood cabinet boxes.
Here is the edge banding machine in action. It’s hard to see, but a roll of edging is being fed into the machine at the right of the photo. The machine heats the glue and compresses the roll of edging to the cut piece.
A few edging options – lots of colors and materials to choose from!
Here is our White Dove colored edging in place on assembled cabinet boxes.
With finished edges, the box pieces were gathered and placed on a large cart. Within the cart, the pieces were organized by cabinet box number.
The Hust Project cart. 🙂
Can you guess what this piece with the hole in it is for? (Farmhouse sink!)
Jerry pulls pieces from our cart and assembles boxes.
Here is one of our assembled sink cabinets.
More assembly happening – the vent hood!
PART II – DOORS AND DRAWERS
We chose five-piece shaker style doors, drawer fronts, and end panels. These start with boards of hard maple.
Various width boards used in making our doors and drawers.
The various width boards are cut down to size for the five-piece rails and stiles
The center panels of our doors and drawers are made of hard moisture resistant MDF.
Center panels made of hard moisture resistant MDF. (Here the panels are shown before paint was applied.)
With the five loose pieces (one center panel, two rails, two stiles) made, each door is assembled and squeezed by this huge door rack machine.
The door rack machine (it simultaneously compresses each of the fours sides of the five-piece doors).
Our five-piece doors and drawer fronts – ready for final finishing. (Notice the center MDF panels have been painted in this photo).
Our drawer boxes were constructed of solid wood with dovetail joints.
Dovetail cutting machine.
Freshly cut dovetails.
Here, the guys are assembling our drawer boxes.
Some of our drawer boxes. We included mainly drawers (and very few doors) in the base cabinets of our kitchen and mudroom. I find drawers to be much more useful for storage than doors.
Once drawer boxes are assembled, a finishing coat is hand applied to the raw edges of each dovetail joint.
Drawer hardware is mounted on the bottom of the drawers, which is hidden from view when drawers are opened. I really like the clean look this provides when drawers are opened.
Here is a side-view of our dovetail joints today. Also notice you can’t see the sliding drawer hardware because it’s mounted on the bottom of each drawer (rather than on the sides).
Speaking of hardware, a soft-close system was used on all of our cabinets. Below is the soft-close device for the drawers. We used soft-close hinges for the upper cabinet doors too. No more slamming doors and drawers!
PART III – FINISHING
The finishing consisted of lots of sanding, painting, and baking. To start, our pieces were both hand and machine sanded.
A slight edge profile was hand sanded onto our door and drawer fronts. This way, edges won’t be super sharp and will be less likely to chip over time.
Most of the sanding takes place on these downdraft tables, which sucks sawdust into a central vacuum system. This is critical for a safe and clean work environment and ensures finish quality (no specks of dust in your painted finish)!
Pieces are also run thru a large sanding machine. It has thousands of tiny pieces of sandpaper strips hanging down. It rotates and spins over all the doors, drawer fronts, and end panels – making for a perfectly smooth surface, evenly taking all sharp edges off before entering the finish room.
A look inside of the big sanding machine.
Now the smooth surfaces (not too smooth or else the paint won’t stick) were ready to accept paint.
Entry to the paint room; we’re in the lineup for a painted White Dove finish. 🙂
The paint station has seen lots of stains and paints over the years. 🙂 They can do just about any color or stain you’d like. It’s all customizable, which is nice. We went for plain ole’ White Dove – which is a shade of white with a slight yellow/cream undertone.
Spraying our center panels in a paint booth.
Pieces are attached to a rail system, which goes thru an oven. The paint is baked on.
This isn’t our piece (it’s a beautiful custom vanity for another client), but in the same manner our items were painted.
Then into the oven each piece goes… (these aren’t our pieces).
Our paint was a type of post-catalyzed acid-cured conversion varnish, so it gets really hard when baked/cured in this manner. Our finish should hold up really well over time with lots of use.
Special thanks to Dana and Billy for the shop tour!!!
PART IV – DELIVERY AND INSTALL
Our finished cabinets were recently delivered to Hannah’s Hill.
Everything arrived wrapped in protective blankets and padding.
We opted to install everything ourselves. Blaine and my dad are quite handy! Shown here is Dad and our friend, Altie, helping with the unloading.
More unloading. With 3 guys and myself, it only took a couple hours to carefully unload the big truck.
We gently stacked everything in the dining room and kitchen.
After a few late nights and weekends working to install cabinets, today they’re leveled and in place. Thanks to Dad & hubby Blaine!
The kitchen today! (Please excuse the mess – we have moving boxes everywhere…) Note, we still need to install our crown molding, base trim, under cabinet lights, etc.
The mudroom today. (What a luxury it is to live with a washer and dryer!) I need to sew a skirt for the sink, install crown molding, a few more handles/pulls, etc.
So, what’s next? Countertops!
Our stone fabricator templating for our countertops this morning.
Our soapstone countertops should be installed sometime before Christmas if all goes to plan. Though, living with plywood countertops isn’t stopping me from doing a little holiday baking now.