I'm planning on refacing some older kitchen cabinets. The face frames were built out of block board and the outside edges were rounded over. I really don't want to take the cabinets down or turn this into a major project. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how best to apply veneer facing? I had thought about using a router to rabbit out the round over and then glue in a strip of wood to square it up, but would prefer a less complicated solution.
From contributor J:
If the boxes are ok I would build new hardwood face frames. It would probably less labor then rabbeting out the round-over’s and fitting and filling, and will result in a much better finished project.
It's true that many people looking to have their kitchen refaced are doing so for economical reasons. These people are the clients who can't or don't want to spend big dollars and/or huge amounts of time on a kitchen project. But many of these same people don't have a problem paying $3,500 to $6,500 on a kitchen project that takes less than a week.
This is a huge market. The work, for a custom cabinetmaker, is incredibly simple and can be quite lucrative. It is not as glamorous as high-style cabinetry, but I can't see any reason why I should ignore this segment of the market. It's simple work, it pays well and it is actually a stress reliever from the daily grind of custom work.
I did a rather large reface a while back that I charged over $6,000 for. I had about six working days in it and about $1,200 in materials. I made about $800 a day, (gross). Not bad pay for low-end work.
I’m not sure about the rounded corner idea. I rabbet and glue strips just like you describe. I hate doing it, but haven't come up with a better technique. Routing the bottom edge of the base cabinets is a real drag. I know of a shop that replaces face frames rather than reface, and personally I think that new frames are far superior to veneering the frames, but I don't want the liability issues that would come along with removing the existing frames.
Instead of regular veneer, use craftwood laminates made by Wilsonart. It is veneer with a plastic back to it so it stays super stiff. Apply on the side of the cabinet first then use a long flush bit that will ride beyond the routed edge and on to the flat part of the face frame be sure you do not tip the router. What this does is give you a form to fill with Durhams rock hard wood putty. Mix and fill the void with a putty knife and level as best you can. Let it dry till it’s hard and sand with a wood block, then you face the front. The thing about using rock hard putty is if you get any on your pre-finished veneer you simply wash it off.
Comment from contributor A:
There is a very simple solution that I always use. Simply cut your 1/4" end panel, attach with wood glue and pins and fill the routed void with carpenter’s putty. When dry, block sand, apply contact cement, and apply the veneer over the putty filled void. This has always worked very well.