Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rowan's Play Kitchen

It has taken many months and a little blood, but Rowan's play kitchen is finally finished.

It started off as a used recycled kitchen cabinet from The HabiStore (a really cool recycled/reused home-goods store that benefits Habitat for Humanity). The front frame and door (one was missing) was actually wood, so that made modifying that part easier. The rest of the body of the cabinet was particle board, so that made some of the modifications tricky and delicate.

We started off by sanding the whole thing down as best we could. The trusty Milwaukee random orbital sander was perfect for the job. Since the kitchen would need an oven and an under-sink cabinet as two separate spaces, a divider had to be installed. This was made of sanded and primed plywood from some scraps I had lying around.

As this was a hanging kitchen cabinet in its previous life, there were already some holes in various places for things like lighting etc. This was not a problem for me, because I was going to install another countertop on top of the cabinet anyway. Note the handy label to remind me of which side was up.

What was a problem was the case of the precisely misaligned holes that I drilled to mount the sink-oven divider. Sometimes even measuring twice doesn't help.

This is the view of the installed divider. One note on using screws in plywood: try to avoid putting the screws between the plys versus though the plys... even with nice pilot holes they have a highly predictable tendancy towards splitting and making a nasty mess that requires wood putty and hope to repair. So I hear.
Another complication of the play kitchen's hanging cabinet origin lay in the distance between the floor and the inside bottom of the cabinet... virtually zero. So, I built a 2x4 frame that fit inside the rim of the cabinet which raised the whole thing about 3 inches. Onto the 2x4s I attached casters, so we could roll the whole thing about.  That way Rowan can cook in any room of the house.
I attached the base by shooting screws through the floor on the inside of the cabinet.  An oversize pilot hole through the floor and a slight countersink allowed me to cinch the base up tight to the floor and to use wood putty (my new favorite wood-working tool) to cover up the screws on the inside.

Now, particle board has all the holding power of soggy toilet paper when you put a screw unto it lengthwise, as I would have to do to mount the countertop.  So, I built up a few hardpoints out of a few layers of spare plywood that I could screw the countertop onto.  The countertop was also made of sanded spare plywood I had hanging around from either the shed or the Arizona room remodel (both coming attractions to this blog).

Here I am drilling holes for the countertop.  I waited until after I had added the backsplash (more left-over wood) and sanded, primed, and painted the countertop before actually mounting it.  You can see the faucet (9$ at HabiStore... score!) and the sink-bowl (1.5$ at Casa del los Ninos, a great thrift shop) on the left.  The bowl originally had handles and a bottom flange that were spot welded on... I ground off the spot welds with the ever-useful flexible shaft tool and snapped them off.

Once all the requisite holes and hardpoints and whatnot were drilled and installed, the whole cabinet needed a serious priming.  Although the front piece and the door were real wood, the rest was particle board clad with plastic wood-esque veneer stuff.  So, it got roughed up quite a bit with the random orbital sander and then thoroughly primed with Zinnser Bulls Eye primer (also left over  from another project... it was getting rather thick so I thinned it with a little water).

OK, there's quite a bit of stuff that happened between the last photo and this one.  The backsplash was installed and the countertop mounted. As you can see, the cabinet has been painted grey on one side (matches the grey in our kitchen), and white for the stove.  I used a hinge from The HabiStore to attach the oven door.  The oven door was made out of the original cabinet door with the center panel cut out and replaced with a square of acrylic (purchased from the Home Depot... one of the few things not repurposed).  I found a really slick method of cutting the acrylic online: score the line you want to cut with a  utility knife and snap it like glass.  Made a really clean break, with none of the noise, mess, and melting that you'd get with a saber saw.  The rack inside was originally a damaged baking rack that I repaired.  

 All of the screws and unwanted dents, holes, and features were wood puttied over, sanded down and painted.  The countertop was sprayed with a gritty spraypaint for some texture, and then the whole thing was polyurethaned for durability.  The texture is still easily felt beneath the polyurethane.  To that point, eventually every surface of this play kitchen was polyurethaned.

This is a view from in front of the sink-side cupboard, looking up.  You can clearly see the nut and washer that hold the faucet down onto the countertop.

Here's an intermediate view.  The faucet, oven door, and the sink cupboard door have been installed.  The sink cupboard door is actually one of our old kitchen doors that we removed from a cupboard during the microwave installation.  It did have to be cut down and fitted to the opening, but it is a perfect match for the rest of our kitchen.  What has yet to come is the sink bowl, the burners, and the stove knobs.  The burners, that are epoxyed to the surface, were made from three wooden coasters and one larger stone coaster, all painted black with some left-over high-temp flat black paint.  The high temp protection was obviously not necessary, since Rowan won't actually be cooking here.  It just happened to be the type of paint that was left over from when I repaired a broken glass plate in our fireplace.  We searched forever for just the right coasters, and finally found some at Casa de los Ninos.

To your right you can see the humble beginnings of the knobs to Rowan's kitchen stove.  We searched for a very long time to find some sort of something that could be re-purposed for knobs, but really never found anything that really shouted "Use me!" so we went with DIY knobs from tree limbs.  I grabbed a couple of branches from the firewood pile and used my trusty (and slightly rusty) bowsaw.  I cut four discs of one size for the burner controls and one slightly larger for the oven control knob.  They had to be shaped and sanded individually, at great risk to my tender fingertip flesh.  Then I primered them and Sara painted them to look like real stove knobs.  To attach them, I drilled a hole that was slightly larger than the screws that I was using, so that they spun freely.  I then piloted a hole into the cupboard surface, slid two washers on so there was a bit of a standoff between the knob and the countertop, and tightened the screw until the knobs just spun freely.

 To the left we have the finished kitchen with the doors opened.  You can see the shelf on the sink side and the pan already cooking in the oven.  To the right is the kitchen with the doors closed.  Compare the sink cupboard door to the cupboard door behind it, which is our actual kitchen.  See, they match!  We used handles from The HabiStore... turns out someone had painted them the exact color that we were looking for, but we did not notice that they had been painted until after we got them home.  Bonus points to us!

UPDATE: We added a post giving the cost breakdown.

1 comment:

  1. love the repurpose - purpose. Also, blog! I shall follow you.