Saturday, September 17, 2016

DIY CNC Cabinetry: Cultivating an alternative to the Home Depot/IKEA model.

The Cabinet Carcasses

I've had a small cabinetry project in the works for a while.  It needed to be done on a shoestring budget.  I made the requisite trip to Home Depot and tried to keep things simple.  Three Melamine cabinets in a "U".  One cabinet for each leg of the "U".  The doors would be simple slab doors.  Nothing fancy. For the uninitiated Melamine is pretty much the same thing as "Formica" (or HPL).  Both products are essentially a resin impregnated paper finish covering a "lovely" particleboard core.  Melamine just uses a thinner paper and therefore presents less of an edge at corners.  It is both cheaper and more esthetically appropriate for cabinet boxes and fronts.   Formica is more logically used on countertops for its wear resistance and that is the probable choice for the counters on this project down the road.

Even at Home Depot, these three stock cabinets were $2500.

Cabinetry can be tedious work so I'm not ungrateful for that pricing. But the Shopbot in my studio was the obvious alternative. What could be done with sweat equity for a fraction of the cost?  It also felt like the hardware quality could be improved on. The Blum Metabox system was used and I ordered these components, as well as some good drawer pulls at   This greatly simplify the assembly process and helped to ensure good operability.  So far the project is looking like it will cost somewhere around $700 in parts.

The milled panels

It is worth noting that there is an MDF (medium density fiberboard) alternative to particleboard for the core of these products.  For this application it felt unneccessary and would have sourcing the material more challenging. I still used my friendly local Home Depot for the raw Melamine sheets.

Thus far the cabinet carcasses (or boxes) are complete.  I used Confirmat screws to assemble the boxes and was relieved to see I could attach the panels to each other by hand quickly and easily.  The CNC toolpath writing is primarily useful for locating door and drawer hardware, which can be unforgiving with a lack of precision.

It is also important to get your cutting speed right since Melamine has a real tendency to chip.  A lot has been written about how to avoid this on line.  I found a compression bit really helped to minimize this although it is my single biggest concern on the project. If the drawers and doors turn out okay, the process will be posted on Instructables in the future.

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