Oh, right. I’ve been putting this off for a long time. It’s been almost two months, to be exact, which feels more like 3 years to me, since I usually hop right on projects like this one. You see, after I sampled staining my kitchen cabinets, I got cold feet. All of you who commented on that post gave me great encouragement, great reason to keep on trucking along with this plan to refinish my oak kitchen cabinets and transform them into a lush, rich espresso brown, and even still, I froze in my tracks, concerned that after doing the test subject, the whole job would be a disaster.
I wasn’t quiet about my concerns at home though, and after Pete and I talked about it, we decided that even if the staining does go as poorly as I’m cautiously bracing myself for, we can still paint the cabinets and live with them painted instead of plain oak. Win if the stain works out, win if we have to paint them. A little extra work in between, but you know, it won’t kill us.
And that’s what brought me to getting my butt in gear late last week. I took a few quick shots of the (still messy) kitchen before I started dismantling it so you could be reminded of its oakiness in all its glory, and also so you could see how nicely it actually hid all of the junk we really have crammed in an unorderly way into those kitchen cabinets.
The island is blocking line of sight to a few more doors. The island of misfit empty soda cans. We had friends over for the fourth of July holiday last week. And right now we have enough cans and bottles to fund a week’s worth of groceries.
And so I got at it.
It was easy enough to disassemble everything. I took off every last piece of hardware and kept it in a single plastic container. Almost all of it is identical; knobs, hinges, screws. The few pieces that were different (like the screws that attached the drawer fronts to the drawer sliding mechanism) I wrapped with masking tape and labeled appropriately.
Taking the doors off in a way that they’d remain organized took a little extra effort; since both sides of the doors would be heavily sanded, I took precise measurements of each doors dimension, and noted what side it hinged on so I could tell where it would need to be replaced. Each door and drawerfront would match back to its respective A, B, C, D, etc that I outlined in my project bible.
I started with 12 doors. 12 very managable doors that consume the wall on the left side of the kitchen. Until I see how all of those look sanded, stained, and rehung, I’m not going to bother with the other 13 doors/drawers/lazy susan until I know that this is going to go well.
With my selected 12 in the driveway, I prepared the same TSP-PF high-power cleaning formula that I had already explored during my trial run, complete with rubber gloves and a dog helper, and scrubbed the cabinet doors clean. The TSP doesn’t eliminate the need for sanding, but it does clean up the inevitable oils, grease, and gunk that gathers on the cabinets while you cook.
A sponge was a fine cleaning tool for most of the job, but I also brought out a green scrubbie to get down on some visibly grungy spots.
And if I learned anything from my trial run, it’s that the average door will require at least one hour of sanding. And that means a whole lot of perma-hand convusions. And it means that I will be developing some strong arm muscles. So that I could work consistently, I bought a whole new pack of varying grit sandpaper for Pete’s multitool. And a new mini-sander, a detail attachment with cute little detail sandpapers. A $30 investment total, but a necessary step.
It’s going to take a long while, because even after sanding, each surface will require several coats of stain, but I’ll be back with progress periodically. Stay tuned for more (and cross your fingers, please).
Editor’s Update: In reality, the technique used to refinish my oak cabinets went much smoother than this test run. Check out the finished cabinets right here.
Looking for the Gel Stain that I used to stain the kitchen cabinets? I could not find it in stores, and my best resource was General Finishes via Amazon. Learn more about the product and purchase it for yourself right here.