Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

Refacing Kitchen Cabinets: Adding End Shelves, Part 3 of 6

by Jim Mallery
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

In the first two articles on building kitchen cabinet end shelves, you learned how to pick your materials and shape individual shelves. In this article, you will learn finishing tips for your end shelves.

"Finishing" Touches for Your End Shelves

Now that you've constructed the basic shelves, it's time to give your end shelves a finished look. These steps will take you through the process:

  1. Edging. You've sanded your curved corner into a perfectly rounded edge, but still, it's only plywood. It's going to look pretty tacky without a fine, finished edge. Begin with the ¾-inch board you purchased (Part 1 of this series), the same wood as your cabinets--cherry, hickory, oak, maple, etc. It can be 5- or 6-inches wide and 3- or 4-feet long--at this point, dimensions aren't critical.
  2. Straight. Shave the edges of the board on your table saw so that it is straight, then rip a strip of wood that is less than 1/8-inch wide. You will have to experiment to get the right width--you want it flexible enough to bend the curve of your shelf and stay there when it is glued, but you want it thick enough to have some substance. Different woods will have different flexibility.
  3. Sanding. You can sand the strip a little before gluing it to the shelf--maybe you want to make it a little thinner for flexibility, or maybe you have some blade scars you need to remove. If you have cut a 3-foot or 4-foot strip, then you have a long expanse of wood to choose from to get the best section for your shelf edge.
  4. Cheating. Before going any farther, you should know that for many kinds of wood, you can buy an edge tape for finishing a plywood edge. It saves you a lot of work, but it's a cheap finish--no substance, easily damaged-- designed for inexperienced woodworkers.
  5. Glue. Using your clamps and glue, attach the strip to the edge of your shelf. Take care not to spill glue on the finish surface of the wood, and if you do, wipe it up immediately with a damp rag. Clamp the long edge first, using two clamps and remembering to protect your wood from clamp damage with a protective 1-inch by 2-inch strip of wood. Let a few inches overhang each end for now; it might help you make adjustments as you set the edge into position. You can cut off the ends of the edging when the glue is dried. To finish, wrap the strip around your curve and clamp. A helper comes in handy in the glue process, unless you have a couple of extra hands.
  6. Sand. Use a progression of 80-grit through 220-grit paper. Start with 100- or 120-grit on the plywood. The veneer probably is micro-thin, so be very careful sanding. It's very easy to break through the veneer. You might find hand-sanding a better choice.
  7. Finish. Stain if you need to--you should have done some testing on scrap wood to match the stain on your kitchen cabinets. Use the finish of your choice. Polyurethane works well. Remember that oil-based poly gives you a bit of an amber touch, while water-based will not tint the wood.

This gets you to the finished product. In Part 4, we'll explore including a spindle rail on those shelves.

About the Author
Jim Mallery, a semi-retired journalist and onetime registered contractor, has extensive experience remodeling, repairing and rebuilding homes.

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