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Appliance Garage

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Appliance Garage

Clear off your countertops!

By Rick Christopherson


An appliance garage provides functional storage for the hodgepodge of appliances that clutter kitchen countertops. Close the doors, and everything is out of sight. Open the doors, and the appliances are at the ready.

Unlike most appliance garages that have a roll-top tambour door, this bifold door design provides twice the opening size, is easy enough to build in a weekend. For smooth operation, a roller bearing and routed track guide the doors.

Most factory-built corner cabinets are 24-in. on each side with a 17-in. diagonal face. Measure yours to verify the size. If your cabinets are a different size from those in this story, you can resize the dimensions following the instructions in “Resizing Your Garage,” below.

 

Cutting the top

To cut the top of the appliance garage, start out with a 213⁄4-in.-square piece of plywood or melamine-coated particle board. From this you need to cut the 45- degree face using the dimensions shown in Fig. A. If you don’t have a sliding table on your tablesaw, you can use the miter-slot in your saw’s table as a guide (Photo 1).

After the top is cut, drill for pocket holes across the front three edges, as shown in Photo 2. These pocket holes are used to secure the face frame.

 

Making the face frame

The face frame stock is 11⁄2-in. thick by 2-in. wide, and has 41⁄4-in. shoulders on each end where the frame meets the side stiles. The material is made from two pieces of 3⁄4-in. stock (48-in. by 21⁄8- in. by 3⁄4-in., and 39-in. by 21⁄8-in. by 3⁄4- in.) face-glued together. One piece is shorter than the other to create the shoulders. The stock is oversized to allow for trimming. Center the 39-in. piece onto the 48-in. piece and glue it so there is a 41⁄2- in. shoulder on each end. After the glue is dry, joint one edge so the pieces are flush. Rip and joint the other edge to 2-in.

Next, trim the ends of the board so the two shoulders are 41⁄4 in. long. With the miter saw set to 221⁄2 degrees, cut the face frame parts from this stock. I cut my joints slightly long at first to check the angles. When the joints are tight, I make the final cut to length without changing the saw’s settings.

 

Resizing your garage

If your existing diagonal corner cabinet is not the same size as discussed in this story, you will have to modify the dimensions of the garage. The easiest method for changing the dimensions is to draw them out on a piece of plywood.

Draw the size of your existing corner cabinet on a sheet of plywood, then draw three offset lines at 3⁄4-in., 13⁄4-in., and 21⁄4-in. setback from the first. Because the appliance garage is 3⁄4-in. smaller than the existing cabinet, the 3⁄4-in. offset line is the front of the face frame and doors. To determine the size of the bifold doors, measure the length of the 3⁄4-in. offset line across the front and divide by two. This will be the width of the center doors. The outside doors are 3⁄4-in. narrower than the center doors. (Remember to make your doors 3⁄8-in. oversized for trimming.) Mark the width of the outside doors on the plywood. The width of the cabinet stiles can then be measured from this plywood template, but add an extra 1⁄4-in. to this measurement for the scribe (see “Installing the Garage,” below).

The 1 3⁄4-in. offset line gives you the dimensions of the template for routing the door track, and the 21⁄4-in. offset line gives you the dimensions for the top of the cabinet.


Installing the face frame

Using pocket-hole screws to secure the face frame to the top is the fastest and easiest method. After applying glue to the edges, clamp the righthand frame to the plywood, and drive in the screws. The end of the frame should be flush with the back of the plywood. The top edges should be flush as well.

Next, attach the center part of the frame. Screw a clamping block to the top of the plywood, but make sure your screws don’t poke all the way through the plywood top. With this in place, clamp the middle frame the same way you did the side frame (Photo 2). Finish with the left-hand frame piece.

 

Routing the door track

To rout the door track into the bottom edge of the face frame, you need a 9⁄16 in., top-bearing pattern bit for your plunge router (see Sources, below). You’ll also need to make a template for the router to follow.

Cut a piece of scrap plywood for the template which is 1-in. inset from the front of the face frame. Next, round the corners of the template with a 4-in. radius, using a smooth, sweeping motion with your belt sander.

Position the pattern 1 in. back from the front of the face frame, and clamp it down. Add spacers under the template for clamping.

Routing from left to right (counterclockwise), make several shallow passes until the depth of the dado is about 1⁄2-in. (Photo 3). Don’t let the router wander—jogs in the track will interfere with smooth door-roller operation. When completed, soften the sharp edges of the track and sand the inside of the dado.

 

Side stiles and frames

The vertical sides of the cabinet (the stiles) determine the height of the garage and support the doors. The length of the stiles should be 1⁄8-in. to 1⁄4-in. shorter than the distance from your countertop to the upper cabinet.

Rip the stiles to 41⁄2-in. wide (1⁄4-in. wider than the face frame shoulders), and cut them to the length needed. Then rabbet the back edge 1⁄4-in. wide by 1⁄2-in. deep to make scribing the cabinet to the wall easier.

When screwing the stiles to the face frame, angle the screws as shown in Photo 4 to draw the side joint tight. Because the doors attach to these stiles, it is very important that they are mounted square to the frame.

Using 2-in. frame stock, assemble the mounting frame (Fig. A) to the cabinet. Use pocket-hole construction to hold the frame together.

 

Building the doors

This garage has a frame-and-panel door design to complement the existing doors. It takes two doors to make up each bifold. The outside doors are 7 7⁄8-in. wide, and the center doors are 8 5⁄8-in. wide. These dimensions are 3⁄8-in. oversized and will be trimmed off when the bevel is cut. The door height should be the same as the opening size. You’ll trim the doors later when you square them.

After the doors are built, lightly sand them to flush-up the edges, but don’t soften any of the corners yet. Joint one edge from each door. After measuring the cabinet to determine the size of each door, bevel-rip and joint the other edges at 2 21⁄2 degrees to fit the opening. After the doors are the proper width, square the tops and bottoms so each door is the same height.

Using a 1 3⁄8-in. Forstner bit, bore 1⁄2-in.-deep holes in the two outside doors for European cup hinges, positioned as shown in Fig. B. Then install the continuous (piano) hinge to the bifold pairs. To simplify the installation of the hinge, I taped the doors together tightly (Photo 5) before screwing the piano hinges in place.

Next, plane a piece of 1 1⁄2-in.-wide stock to 1⁄2-in. thickness, and cut two pieces 1 1⁄2 in. by 1 1⁄2 in. by 1⁄2 in. Glue and clamp these pieces to the back side of the center doors (Fig. A). Make sure they are flush to the top and the outside edge where the bearings will be mounted.

 

Installing the doors

I used European cup hinges for the doors because they have 3-dimensional adjustment capabilities. Cup hinges come in two parts—the hinge, and the baseplate. After predrilling the screw holes, screw the hinges to the doors. The baseplates have a small tab on the back that lines up with the edge of the face frame stiles. The easiest method for locating the baseplates is to attach them to the door hinges, place the door in position, and screw the baseplates to the cabinet (Photo 6).

With the doors mounted on the cabinet, locate the position of the track bearings. You have to determine the front-to-rear spacing to ensure the doors are flush to the face frame when closed and also the side-to-side placement so the doors don’t bind when fully open. I found that a piece of clear packing tape made a good marking gauge. For the front-to-rear placement, I stuck the bearing to the back of the tape, and inserted it into the dado slot with the bearing touching the back wall of the dado. With a marker I traced the front corner of the face frame, as shown in Photo 7. To mark the side-to-side placement of the bearing, I placed the tape and bearing at the end of the track, fully opened the door, and marked where the edge of the door lined up with the tape.

Using the tape as a template, transfer these positions to the top corner of the door, and drill a hole for the bearing’s screw. Because the forces on the bearing are side-toside, you can mount it by just driving a No. 10 by 1-in. machine screw into the edge of the door.

 

Finishing the garage

Sand the garage cabinet completely and soften any sharp edges. When you sand the doors, don’t soften the miter joint corners unless the doors are closed. If you soften these corners separately, you will have a visible gap in the bifold. (If you use melamine, be careful not to scuff the surface—the wood stain will discolor it.)

To match the stain color with existing cabinets, take one of the original cabinet doors to a full-service paint store and have them custom-mix a stain to match.

 

Installing the garage

The first step is to scribe the garage cabinet to fit the wall. I started by making a rough scribe to fit the existing back splash, as shown in Photo 8. This allowed the garage to be placed closer to the wall for a more accurate final scribe. The garage is 1⁄4-in. oversized, so remove as much of this as needed when fitting it to the wall.

Locate the studs in the wall, and pilot-drill screw holes through the mounting frame. When you screw the cabinet to the wall, be careful not to rack the garage out of square, this will cause the doors to fit poorly. After the garage is in place, install molding to conceal the gap between the garage and the upper cabinet.

Finally, adjust the doors. There are three adjusting screws on each hinge. The front screw is used to flush the door with the face frame. The middle screw moves the door up and down, and the back screw adjusts the sideto- side placement of the door.

Now shove the toaster, the mixer, and the blender in the garage and shut the door. You’ve got counter space!


Sources

(Note: Product availability and costs are subject to change since original publication date.)

Eagle America, 800-872-2511, 1⁄2-in. door bearing, #196-0800; 9⁄16-in. pattern router bit, #104-0992; 35 mm. hinge installation kit, includes 35 mm (13⁄8-in.) Forstner bit and drilling guide, #400-2021.

Cabinet Parts.com, cabinetparts.com, 800-857-8721,Grass 3303 blind corner 95° self-closing hinge, #GHA3303M, 4.3mm baseplate, #GHA11704.


This story originally appeared in American Woodworker August 1999, issue #74.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Hide your appliances behind extra-wide bi-fold doors.


1. Cut the plywood top at 45 degrees using a 3⁄4-in. strip of scrap wood as a guide in your saw’s miter slot. Screw the guide strip to the underside of the plywood. Saw guard removed for photo clarity. Use yours!


2. Install the face frame to the top using pocket-hole screws.The clamps hold the frame in place while the screws are driven in.


3. Rout the door track using a 9⁄16-in. pattern bit and template.Make several passes to reach the final depth of 1⁄2 in.The hold-down clamps also serve as guide stops for the stopped dado.


4. Screw the stiles to the frame using screws tilted at a slight angle to draw the side joint tight.


5. Install the piano hinge by taping the door joint closed.


6. Install the hinge baseplates by attaching them to the hinges and fastening them to the stiles. Rough-adjust the hinges so the doors don’t bind. Appliance garage turned upside down.


7. Mark the bearing locations using tape and a marker. Stick the bearing to the tape and locate it to the rear face of the dado. Mark the front edge of the face frame and transfer these locations to the door.


8. Rough-scribe the cabinet to the existing back splash using a compass and a coping saw. After this is cut out, re-scribe the cabinet for final fit to the wall.


Fig. A: Appliance Garage Exploded View


Fig. B: Hinge Cup Location