7. Imperfectly Sanded, Imperfectly Primed

Kitchen Cabinet Redux:

We bought the imperfectly sanded, imperfectly primed kitchen cabinets in two different places at two different times. The first (and main) batch was purchased at Construction Junction for $225. They include 3 base cabinets and 4 wall cabinets in almost exactly the sizes we needed. The sink base was seriously injured–it was in such bad shape that it was almost a deal breaker. We tried to get them to come down in price because of it, but they were firm. We left the cabinets there the first time, thought about it overnight, and went back the next day. They were still there. (Surprise, surprise–everyone else thought they were supremely ugly as well!)

It took Michael an entire day to rebuild the sink base. Here are before/after shots:

On the dolly headed for the workshop…

What a difference!

While sanding the sink base, I found a clue as to its origins: on the top was stamped William Schenck & Co., Inc. and underneath were the words Step Saver. When I googled these words I found a fragment of a newspaper article from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, May 31, 1952. Apparently the cabinet company was going to have a display booth at the brand new, state-of-the-art Greater Pittsburgh Airport. The cabinet company was located in Evans City, PA. Judging from the quality of workmanship, I’d say these were not expensive cabinets. The owners didn’t take care of them well either. Four layers of paint scraped off at the same time, which left only the original varnish to sand off.

The second batch we found at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Edgewood. These were much nicer and higher quality cabinets, both in the way they were manufactured AND in the way the owners had restored them. They were primed; they were painted beautifully in a very nice shade of high-gloss cream. I spent some time wishing the paint wasn’t chipping off in key places. I even asked Michael if they could just be touched up? Of course, the answer was no. We bought 3 wall cabinets–two for $35 and one for $40. Two are exactly the same size; Michael will build a base for them, and they will be re-purposed as a pass-through/peninsula/bar between the kitchen and the dining room. To finish, they will get a butcher block top made from Sapele wood from the Hardwood Lumber Company in Ohio. The third cabinet has lovely glass doors (which is why we bought it) and, as yet, it is place-less. While sanding them, I found a tag on the back dated May 11, 1949.

Tag found on the back of the high end cabinets dating them in May of 1949.

It says they were to be made for General Interiors for the Rose job. These cabinets are made of poplar–no plywood here–and are very heavy and expensively made. Mrs. Rose must have had a yellow kitchen, for underneath the nice cream paint is a sunny shade of BRIGHT yellow. Yes, an early 50’s kitchen color!

The cabinets are ready,

The tools are set,

Let’s go Prime!

Some tips for priming:

  • Put on some good music or a book on CD. Priming is as boring as sanding, but it’s not as LOUD! One can actually hear the birds singing outside.
  • Have a clean rag and a dish of water near by for goofs. Not that anyone would goof…but if one would happen to get a spot of primer somewhere it doesn’t belong, a wet rag applied immediately will help.
  • We are going to use oil-base paint to finish the cabinets, but Missy at Sherwin-Williams assured us that using a water-based primer will be fine. It sure is easier! If your cabinets aren’t as well sanded as ours are :-) you can buy adhesion primer that is miraculous stuff and will stick to everything. It is $$$.
  • Primer dries quickly, so don’t put much primer in the paint pan. Have both a brush and a roller handy, but keep them moist with primer, so they don’t dry out. And don’t go away and forget to cover them. Clean your brush when finished, but a roller will keep overnight in a plastic baggie if you tape it up tightly.
  • I worked on two drawers/doors at once. By the time the second one is done, the primer has dried on the first one, and it can be turned over and finished on the second side.
  • Prime the spots that need to be brushed first; then go over the brush marks with the roller. (All tips courtesy of Homeworks Contracting, Inc.)

    The corners are brushed on;

and then finished with a roller.

The cabinets are almost ready to be painted. The only step left to do is to sand the primer lightly with a fine grit sanding block to get rid of bumples.

And the next installment is: Painting the imperfectly sanded, imperfectly primed kitchen cabinets. (I’m sure they will be imperfectly painted as well…)

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