To begin this sort of project, the first step is demolition. Remove all the parts that you will not be using going forward (doors, shelves, etc.).
Then clean all the surfaces to which you will be applying veneer or some other sort of covering (like my 1/8″ maple plywood).
I wiped the entire surface with a solvent to remove the years of built-up oils and polishes.
In addition to that, I scuffed the surfaces with a good sanding. I didn’t worry about removing the existing finish completely, but I did give it a thorough treatment. When I was done with that, I wiped away the sanding particulate with a tack cloth.
Now I was ready to apply the veneer. Approach this with the same methodology that you would plastic laminate work. Cover the narrow (outside) edges of the face frame with veneer first.
Apply a coat of the contact cement to the veneer strips and to the edges of the face frame. Allow the contact cement to dry. Carefully place the veneer strips in their proper alignment — you won’t get a second chance at this. Stick the veneer to the edges and press it on with a J-roller. That’s it … it is secure and in place. Now trim the edges of the veneer flush to the face of the face frame.
I found a block plane, followed by my sander, to be a quick and efficient means to do this. Next, go through the same steps to apply the wider veneer pieces to the front of the face frame.
I used a laminate trimmer to clean up those edges, and it worked great. I put the veneer around the perimeter of the face frame first, then I applied the crosspieces. In this way, the components of the veneer mimic the look of traditional stiles and rails seen in face frame construction.
Now it was time to cover the interior faces of the cabinet with the 1/8″ maple plywood. I tried a traditional construction adhesive (Liquid Nails®) for securing the panels, but was not happy with the results. I moved back to the contact adhesive and could not have been more pleased.
Take a moment to plan the sequence of which plane of the interior compartments you will cover first, second and third … etc. Trust me, sequencing the panels properly will make a good deal of difference as to which joint lines are most visible. For example, I covered the bottom of the compartment first (I chose to put a piece of paperbacked veneer on the bottom of the compartment rather than the plywood), then the top, and then the back. Next, I put the two side panels in place. It looked very good when I was done.
Doors, Drawers … Done
I had ordered the doors before I started the whole process so they were ready as soon as I had completed all my veneering work. Right after they arrived, I put a coat of clear sealer on them … just to keep them from moving on me. I also ordered the glass earlier, but as is my practice, I did not order it until I had the doors in hand and could measure the openings. The upper doors that I chose came with glass retaining strips precut. That was a nice touch. I bored the holes in the doors for the cup hinges, mounted the clips on the face frames and did a test fitting. The drawers were completed, as I mentioned earlier, so all that was left to do was apply the finish. Using a good quality brush, I put two coats of Zinsser® SealCoat™ onto the raw wood. I sanded down the nibs and followed with two wiped-on coats of polyurethane.
That is about it. I installed the glass in the upper doors, hung them and adjusted them evenly. I drilled some holes to mount the hardware … brushed nickel pulls and some wide drawer handles — and I was done. The shelf in the upper compartment was made from solid maple. Having lived with it for a few weeks, I have decided to replace it with a tempered glass shelf. Hmm, maybe this project will take a while to be “absolutely” done. I’ve been looking at interior shelf lighting lately …