DIY IKEA Maximera Drawer Fronts

It’s no secret. I’m a big fan of IKEA’s Sektion cabinets. So much so, that I sometimes use their cabinet frames and drawer hardware as a basis of my own semi-custom cabinetry for budget-conscious clients. There are a few companies making really nice drawer fronts and doors that work with IKEA hardware and frames, but sometimes even that dizzying number of options won’t work. Sometimes, it’s a matter of matching an existing finish. Other times, it’s a large enough job that it makes more sense to produce the doors in-house, assembly-line style.

For producing your own IKEA Maximera drawer fronts, all you really need is a good template and a basic woodworking shop. This template should get you half-way there. You’re on your own for the rest 😉

Ikea drawer front layout

Spraying Polyurethane: Minwax Fast Drying Semi-Gloss

I had some success spraying Minwax fast-drying polyurethane with a 1.4 tip HVLP, thinned 10% with mineral spirits. Dry time was long as opposed to pre-cat lacquer, but the finish quality was adequate. 45 mins between coats, and fully dry to the touch after 3 coats, 3-4 hours out. 10-20% humidity (atmospheric) and 80-90*F. It was applied to grey barnwood, which darkened considerably upon application. While still tacky, I sprayed the pieces with white spraypaint from 1-1/2 feet away, creating a fine, even mist that stuck to the polyurethane very well. Top coats over that added dimension and a nice sheen. Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 8.24.06 PM

Barn Door Installation: Demystifying Sliding Door Layout for Perfect Results Every Time

There are many issues that arise when people are trying to install barn doors. With their recent rise in popularity, many carpenters avoid hanging them because they’re frustrating and not as profitable as other tasks. However, with a systematic approach, any sliding door with any hardware kit can be installed with minimal frustration.

Most issues have to do with the layout of the hardware. Affordable kits are produced overseas, but documentation leaves much to be desired. Custom kits that are fabricated to fit a specific application come with no instructions whatsoever and the stakes are much higher with the high expense of custom metalwork. Using this method I hope you’ll find it you can hang any sliding door any hardware kit by making a few calculations.

First, let’s have a look at the factors affecting layout:

Installing a Barn Door

Installing a Barn Door

The Rough Opening

The opening may be wrapped in drywall or simply left as exposed studs intended for a jamb or pre-hung door. Rough openings intended for bypass sliding doors are different from those intended to have doors hung and cased because their height takes into account standard door heights plus the hardware track and rollers, spacing off the floor, and tolerances are generally tighter for “plumb” where the doors strike.

Similarly, a sliding door requires a perfectly plumb jamb to look as good as possible. When a door overlays or insets into an opening, the margins have to be much tighter because there is not room for error. Even a tiny gap is a tapering black line against bright white paint. Plan to rework this rough opening when planning for a barn door, either by shimming out drywall and retaping and texturing, or adding a jamb and casing–my preferred option.

Overlay, where the doors meet the margins of the opening, is important for a number of reasons. First of all, privacy is determined by the overlay of the door. What is the point of installing a barn door over a bathroom opening if anyone standing beside the door can clearly see in? When privacy is required, start with a generous overlay. 2″ is usually about right. If width is already limited in the doorway consider adjusting the stand off distance. We’ll get to that in a minute.

If overlay is important, height is critical. 80% of the issues carpenters have when mounting barn doors are with height and finding support at that height. I’ve seen 30-year carpenters mess this up! And it’s no wonder…there are only about 6 different factors determining the height of the barn door.

Height of a Barn Door

  • The finished floor surface. I allow up to 3/4″ for high pile carpets to avoid premature wear or dragging. In production home building, it’s common to allow much more. One of the most common call-back items for a new construction finish crew is cutting down doors for carpet, especially sliding doors.
  • Next, allow for the center guides. There are several styles of centering guides, but I prefer a floor-mounted T-shaped bracket that rides into a dado* on the bottom of the door. Allow for the thickness of the floor mounting plate.
  • Leave a small margin between the mounting plate and the bottom of the door, like 1/8″, and use a countersink screw so the cap head doesn’t drag.
  • The slab height is added to the height of the flooring change, the thickness of the flange, and the margin to give you a starting point for the track hardware.

Track Hardware Height

  • Rollers mount to the door slab. Most are through-bolted, some are top-mounted and screwed or lagged. I’ll focus on through-bolted rollers here, but these principles apply to both styles.
  • Through bolts need meat for provide strength. Mount rollers to the stiles, centered horizontally. Shoot for 1″ of wood between the top bolt hole and the top of the stile, but don’t drill yet!
  • Top of stile to inner groove or the roller wheel is critical. Clamp the roller in place at this position and measure from the top of the stile to the inner groove of the roller wheel. This distance must be greater than your track rail width by the difference between the roller groove and outer flange for you to be able to install and/or service the door successfully. While it is possible to cheat here by installing the rollers with the slab and track in place, it’s not advisable. At minimum, the top of the stile must be away from the outer roller flange by the width of your track rail.
  • Now, set your rail height off the door height and mark the center of the bolt holes. If they fall above the rough opening you’re good. If not, there are a few adjusting points.
    • Cut down the door. If the top and bottom rails are equal sizes, this is not advisable. Many doors traditionally have wide bottom rails for this very reason.
    • Raise the track and raise the rollers by the same amount. This means a weaker through-bolted connection, but this isn’t an issue for all but the heaviest barn doors.
  • If your track is below the rough opening height, pad down the opening. Plywood, 2×4, of whatever is necessary, but make it sturdy if you’ll be mounting through it, and avoid driving lags between the header and blocking.

Stand Off Distance

  • Barn doors stand off the wall some distance depending of a few factors:
  • The size of the stand-off spacers in your kit
  • The thickness of the door slab
  • The rough opening trim (casing)
  • Baseboard on adjacent walls and/or quarter round or shoe moulding
  • Track hole spacing to stud framing, or blocking

Making A Structural Connection

To achieve a solid connection is existing door openings, a common trick is to apply a board across the span of the track rail. With a solid connection at every stud position, the mounting lags can go anywhere along the span without worrying over studs. If the client prefers the look of a drywall surface here, it’s possible to add blocking behind the drywall, patch, float, and texture the drywall and lag through as usual. Keep in mind, you’ll need to add spacers to account for the thickness of the drywall as it’s very compressible and could compromise the hold–causing the door to sag.

Other Tips for Barn Doors:

Never use a hollow core door for this! I’ve seen hacks specify hollow core doors for this application and they always fail. Through bolts collapse the slab, bottom guides blow through the bottom rails, the door rollers are sticky because they’re not under enough load, etc.

Team lift these onto their tracks, use airbags, or use a door lifting lever such as those produced by Trend to save your back.

Build a centering jig and use a spiral upcut straight bit for your router to cut a bottom groove. Add sacrificial blocks at the ends of the stiles to prevent he inevitable blow-out. Take light passes to avoid the bit straying. Even better, use a slotting cutter bit and a wide, sturdy router baseplate.

When drilling for through-bolts in the field, start with a small pilot bit and drill through both sides, gradually sizing up to you final size. This keeps the holes in the same plane and prevents blow-out.

And finally, just assume that the painters are going to lose some of your hardware or screw up a roller or two. Keep an extra kit on hand for emergencies.


* If you want to get into semantics, a groove in the bottom of a door isn’t technically a dado, but give me a break.

Built for Speed: Efficiency and Production Trimming part 1

If you’re doing production trim and general finish carpentry, it’s all about efficiency. Developing systems to speed up processes while still putting out a good product sets you apart from others in the market. The biggest time-sucks doing to trim work are moving from your cut station to the work, setting up a cut/beveling the saw, changing tools, and moving material. Every time you’re digging through a tool box, rearranging stacks of trim boards, beveling your saw, or anything else other than cutting or nailing, you’re losing money, I’m going to show you how to streamline all of these processes. Here’s how I tackle trimming a whole house.

Setup a game plan

Every house I trim, I approach the same way:

Set the cabinets–that means all of them.

  • Set every cabinet in the kitchen, butler’s pantry, wet bar, vanities, pre-built mudrooms, etc. This has several advantages:
  • Gets the cabinets out of your way
  • Less likely to damage them while moving things around
  • Allows time for replacements of any incorrect cabinets or damaged doors
  • Gets ready for plumbing and electrical final (and gets them out of your way)

I’ll do a future post on setting cabinets. It’s often the most demanding task on these jobs.

Coffers and Crown

  • Do it now before there’s a bunch of trim and tools in you way.
  • Pre-build blocking.
  • Measure every run and cut.
  • For crowned coffers, build the whole frame on the bench, then fit into place!

Hang the doors

  • Stock every door (with a helper ideally)
  • Hang and case every door
  • Trim all your shims

Case the doors

  • Measure all your casings
  • cut, glue and clamp every casing **pre-assembled on a bench and stacked against the wall in order**
  • stock every casing (ideally with a helper, carrying them in pairs
  • Fix any out of plane drywall or mud build up
  • Run air hoses to top floor, furthest room
  • Nail off casings, starting top floor, furthest room, and work your way back out.


  • Make a story pole with stock heights for each cleat. Write the material thickness your using for each.
  • Walk closet to closet with your story pole and a stud finder. Label each closet with a letter or number. Mark each height and any non-standard features. Mark center of each stud.
  • Measure every closet with a laser and framing square. On the framing square, put painters tape on one leg at each shelving depth. Measure the back of the shelf, check for square, notate variance at the shelf depths (1/4″ out of square at 2 inches is way different than 1/4″ out of level at 12″). Make a note of front and back dimensions and which sides are out.
  • Cut all your cleats and put a clamp around the stack (like an irwin quick grip). Profile edges as needed.
  • Stock cleats in each closet.
  • Nail them off. Put a torpedo level on the top of the cleat, level it off your mark, nail to every stud. Put the clamps on your story pole and take them back to your cut station.
  • Cut and stock shelving, labeled for each closet, each position, clamped together with a quick grip clamp.
  • Nail off shelving, bulkheads, angle bracing, closet rod supports.


  • Measure the whole house. Cut and stock a room at a time. Nail the whole house.
  • Splices get a butt joint, glue, and biscuit.
  • Outside miters get an accurate angle measurement, pre-assembled with glue, collins clamps, and left to dry.
  • Inside miters are coped or, for 1E1, butted, but never inside mitered.

Windows and jambs:

  • Box in windows at the bench, pre-assembled with pocket screws and glue.
  • Cut all casings at once. Apply 4-sided “picture frame” casings to boxed window assemblies before mounting.
  • Jambed openings are built with boxed windows. Bypass doors are done with windows.
  • Aprons and sills are measured and cut all at once, then leveled and nailed off. Apron miter returns are done at the bench and micro pinned.

Miscellaneous Millwork and Stairs

  • The fancy stuff. Do it last so it doesn’t get messed up as you move all your materials around and other subs do their thing. This is your reward for schlepping baseboards for weeks.

Organize your material

Stack your material the way you trim!

Stack it this way. Set up or build your racks, then load it in the opposite way.

Stack it this way. Set up or build your racks, then load it in the opposite way.

trim lumber rack for on site storage

trim lumber rack for on site storage

IKEA Kitchen: Floating Shelves to Match Your IKEA Cabinets

I had a client with a kitchen layout recently that did not fit neatly into IKEA’s available stock options. After some troubleshooting, we were able to come up with a solution: floating shelves. Using stock components in Bodbyn Grey, we were able to create color-matched shelves that reclaim unused space above the windows and doorway.

By mounting cleats to the sides of the shelf with wide headed cabinet screws and construction adhesive such as PL Heavy Duty, the weight bearing is significant! Add plywood ribbing for added strength to prevent bowing, and you’re left with a “stock” looking Bodbyn floating shelf with enough interior cavity to mount any of their lighting systems.

ikea kitchen floating shelf bodbyn

ikea kitchen floating shelf bodbyn

ikea kitchen floating shelf bodbyn grey, assembled view

ikea kitchen floating shelf bodbyn grey, assembled view

exploded view, ikea kitchen floating shelf bodbyn

exploded view, ikea kitchen floating shelf bodbyn

Are FastCap’s Powerhead screws cost effective?

I’ve been a fan of FastCap LLC ever since I started in finish carpentry. I use several of their products daily. I simply will not hang upper cabinets without their 3rd Hand products. They lift heavy cabinet boxes into place and allow for precise adjustment without risking a back injury or hiring a helper. Their accuscribe pro is a great scribe tool for cutting filler panels. I’ve been curious about their Powerhead cabinet screw system for a while and after watching Ron Paulk’s video on them this week, I decided to order a sample pack and see what the fuss is about.

The powerhead line-up

The powerhead line-up

They’re obviously a great fastener, offering superior hold, excellent positive connection to driver bits, and a full range of cover caps to make them nearly impossible to spot–especially nice for glass-door cabinets. But are they cost effective? I did a comparison of their bulk packs against their nearest competitor, GRK fasteners, and I was surprised to find that the cost difference was negligible! Given the advantages of Powerhead, it’s kind of a no-brainer for the professional cabinet installer. But don’t take my word for it; here’s the data:

drive finish mfg length bulk qty price per bulk price per fastener price per inch price per install
T20 z FastCap 1.125 2,000.00 $142.56 $0.07 $0.06 $7.13
T20 z FastCap 1.25 2,000.00 $130.90 $0.07 $0.05 $6.55
T20 z FastCap 1.5 2,000.00 $148.29 $0.07 $0.05 $7.41
T20 z FastCap 2 2,000.00 $178.80 $0.09 $0.04 $8.94
T20 z FastCap 2.5 1,500.00 $110.88 $0.07 $0.03 $7.39
T20 z FastCap 3 1,500.00 $137.61 $0.09 $0.03 $9.17
T20 z FastCap 3.5 1,000.00 $128.04 $0.13 $0.04 $12.80
T20 z FastCap 4 1,000.00 $142.56 $0.14 $0.04 $14.26
#2R z FastCap 2.5 1,500.00 $110.88 $0.07 $0.03 $7.39
#2R z FastCap 3 1,500.00 $137.61 $0.09 $0.03 $9.17
#2R z FastCap 5 1,000.00 $121.00 $0.12 $0.02 $12.10
#2R BO FastCap 2.5 1,500.00 $100.80 $0.07 $0.03 $6.72
#2R BO FastCap 3 1,500.00 $125.10 $0.08 $0.03 $8.34
T20 yz GRK 1.25 4,000.00 $162.86 $0.04 $0.03 $4.07
T20 yz GRK 1.5 3,000.00 $140.68 $0.05 $0.03 $4.69
T20 yz GRK 1.75 2,000.00 $103.18 $0.05 $0.03 $5.16
T20 yz GRK 2 2,000.00 $122.84 $0.06 $0.03 $6.14
T20 yz GRK 2.5 1,500.00 $109.36 $0.07 $0.03 $7.29
T20 yz GRK 3.125 1,000.00 $98.83 $0.10 $0.03 $9.88
T20 ss GRK 1.25 4,000.00 $556.80 $0.14 $0.11 $13.92


How to: Setting a vanity cabinet


Here’s the finished vanity securely fastened, level, plumb, and ready to be plumbed.

Setting a vanity is a great skill to have under your belt. Here I will go over my method of laying out the plumbing in the cabinet and cleanly cutting the pipes into the cabinets.

Tools Required

  • Drill and impact driver
  • 48″ level
  • Measuring tape
  • Square
  • Holes saws: 1″ & 2 1/2″
  • Taper drill bit (the size of your mounting screw’s shaft)
  • Paddle bit (the size of your mounting screw’s head)
  • Driver bits (in my case, T15 and T10)
  • Wood plugs that match your paddle bit size and wood grain (I make my own with a plug cutter
  • Wood glue
  • Stud finder magnet
  • Mallet
  • Clamps (I like the ‘quick clamp’ style)

fig 1. Hidden fastening has kept this install looking clean!

So, A word on fasteners. There are many different options on the market, but there is a difference between an economy screw and a premium screw. More on this in a future blog post. For vanity cabinets and all my euro cabinet installations actually, I use 1-1/4″ GRK trim head screws to attach cabinets to cabinets and either these or Spax MDF/Hardwood trim head screws for attaching fillers. There are many reasons for this, but to hit the high points, they can be made to disappear, they’re wicked strong, the torx drive doesn’t torque out (no strippy, strippy), and they’re easy to patch. As an added bonus, some amateur-hour crapenter probably won’t be able to come in behind you and mess with your work.

fig. 2: The wall floor is not level, so I marked a line from the high point in the floor (left) to level, all the way across. I measure down from this level line to find my vertical hole positions.


fig. 3. Positions marked on the back of the cabinet.


Step by Step:

  1. Find the center of the wall. For a three-cabinet vanity like this (master bath), mark the center of the middle cabinet. Line up your marks.
  2. Check your middle cabinet for plumb. If it’s close, mark the sides of the middle cabinet.
  3. Measure from the middle cabinet’s sides out to each pipe’s center. Mark the measurements above each pipe
  4. Find the high point of the floor. To do this, measure your cabinet (here it’s 34 5/8″). Mark that height on both sides and use a level to transfer the mark across the wall. The higher of the two marks represents your high point. Start here and work across the wall. By starting and your high point and establishing a level line, you can shim up your low points to level! (fig 2.)
  5. Measure down from your level line to the vertical positions of your pipes. Always mark centers.
  6. From here, transfer the marks to the backs of your cabinets. Keep the cabinets in their same orientation to keep things easy. Connect your horizontal and vertical positions to form cross marks (figure 3), and circle the intersections
  7. Chuck up your hole saw. Doesn’t matter which. Drill the center of each mark through the backing, but don’t complete the hole!
  8. Now, drill through from the inside to the back of your cabinet with the correct size hole saw. This keeps your holes looking clean with no blow-out.
  9. Now find your stud locations. Lay these out on your top rail. Drill through the backing, back to front, with a taper drill bit to prevent blow-out. Now, use a paddle bit to remove excess material to allow your screw head to seat into the stud and your head to be hidden.
  10. Put the cabinets in place, clamp them together, line up the fronts, and screw them together with trim screws through the drawer slide hardware holes, or in front of the hinge mounting plates. That way, the holes will be hidden. (fig 1.)
  11. Shim, level, and plumb the cabinets, then drive the screws through your pre-drilled holes into studs.
  12. Measure the gaps to the walls on the right and left, top and bottom. Cut fillers to match and screw them into place with trim head screws.
  13. Replace drawers and doors. Adjust to perfect.
The finished product.

The finished product.

Aliexpress Tool Finds: new blog series

I’ve been curious for a time about the quality of tools that are available on import sites like AliExpress. I have a feeling that there are some gems out there to be found, and given the incredible prices on some of these items. In short, I’ve decided to give it a shot. I’ll be posting reviews of small hand tools and multitool blades here to start.

First up, some stop collars for drilling. Stop collars are cool because they allow you to have more control over your drilling depth without using a drill press. They’re good for doing repetitive tasks in the field especially. This set was $2.29 shipped to my door from China.


Here is how they came. 8 collars and an allen key packed in a poly bag.


Everything is as described. All the set screws are in place. Decent fit and finish.


The verdict? Worth every penny! Do any of these look familiar?

Identical sets on

Identical sets on