The Homestead Kitchen: Locally Made Hand Crafted Cabinetry

in #homesteading5 years ago


There was a time when craftsmanship was a source of pride. Furniture used to be both aesthetically pleasing and built to last for generations. When we were deciding on what to do about our kitchen I soon realized this isn't the standard anymore. I was quite disappointed with my options.

After much research, we decided to contract a local carpenter/wood carver to build our kitchen cabinets. This has the added bonus of: supporting local artisan, having a smaller footprint by using locally sourced materials and well's just way cooler!

I've been to visit the workshop several times and Kerry O'Tool at the O'Toole Gallery & Celtic Fox Studio our carpenter has been happy to walk me through his process, explaining his craft and techniques to me. He's been doing this for well over 30 years and tells me that he is a dinosaur in this modern age. Businesses simply can't afford to build cabinets this way anymore. People want it faster and cheaper.

His passion for carpentry is infectious but he is even more passionate about carving, his real passion. I've never met someone so eager to explain his craft and share his knowledge. Kerry actually offered to mentor high school kids. He wanted to give kids who have had hard lives a skill and a way to focus their energy in a better way. No one took him up on it.

Blue Streaks On Pine

Certain microscopic fungi can cause a bluish or greyish discolouration in the sapwood of the pine tree. It's not a decay fungi, it simply lives on the nutrients stored in the cells of the wood. It creates this great contrast that really pops when you apply stain.

Some carpenters will leave the wood out in the summer to achieve this, others hate it and go to great lengths to keep their pine perfectly white. I've seen a sample of pine with the blue discolouration stained and it's quite beautiful!


Square Pegs - Round Holes

Maybe that saying " You can't fit a square peg in a round hole" is wrong after all. This just goes to show that if you want to, you can fit a square peg into a round hole and get a beautiful result.

Round holes.


Square pegs.


Perfectly filled holes.


Here's the cabinet for the farm style sink. It was a bit of a pain to get this all to fit just perfectly.


To build the panels for the cabinet he cuts wood into strips and glues them together. Then the planks are planed, cut and sanded. This is a technique that makes the wood stronger. When it's complete it looks like one solid piece of wood - you'd never guess it was strips.

These will be the drawer fronts. It can be a bit hard to imagine how this plain, rough looking wood will become something so beautiful. I've seen examples of what the end product will look like so It's been far easier for me to envision.


This is a cabinet door. We just slid all the pieces together for the photo.


Here are the drawers. They've been sanded and smoothed. They are really heavy and the bases are solid wood.


Here's the inside of one of the cabinets.


Counter Tops

I decided to let Kerry build the counter tops as well. I wanted granite or some other type of contrasting material but soon discovered that I could either get laminate for $19 a square foot or thick, solid wood, locally sourced counters for the same price ... not a hard choice. I quickly scrapped the idea of granite and quartz. Although beautiful the prices are more in-line with what you'd spend in a fancy house, not our sweet little log cabin.


When you are working with someone who is passionate and skilled at carving it makes sense to have some special carving added to your cabinetry. We've left this creative process up to Kerry although I did request that a raven make an appearance! :)

I don't know all the correct carpentry terminology so I won't try to explain any of that right now but everything is carefully notched and grooved. The smallest details have been considered. It's heavy and solid and built to stand the test of time.

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Oh, my. That is just beautiful work. I just love real live honest to god craftsmanship. And when it is applied to an ordinarily mundane project like kitchen cabinetry it is spectacular.

Thanks for a great post of Kenny's work. I really do appreciate it.

Thanks! Glad you liked it. I keep wishing my son would take up something like this. He is very creative and would do well. That said, I'm learning that it is also quite stressful to try and make a living at it in this day and age. Its sad to see this type of skill coming to an end and its worse to see kids today with such limited opportunities ... it makes no sense. crazy world!

Fine carpentry is almost a lost art. You are so fortunate to find someone close to you. I currently have no cabinets in my kitchen. (we are still a work in progress) but I would dearly love to have cabinets such as you are having made. Unfortunately, wood crafters here are very few and far between. But I keep searching...

I agree that we really are lucky. The sad thing is that his gallery is filled with gorgeous art and furniture, the pricing is insanely reasonable but he finds it hard to sell. When I first walked into his gallery I immediately assumed there was no way I could afford anything from him. People would rather go to home depot and the Brick. :(

I didn't know what caused the bluish streaks- that is interesting. I love all those natural streaks in the wood, it is beautiful. Great Carpentry Work! We were lucky to find a local craftsman too who did all of our cabinets, built ins and vanities. Our contractor gave him as a recommendation and We are very happy with his work too.

I've really enjoyed seeing the progress and how all the pieces fit together. I know a lot more about carpentry now as well. Such a treat to work with someone who loves what they do!

I have often dreamed of when we build on, being able to find a craftsman who could do REAL building work. My husband often decries the dearth of craftspeople who really know how to make or do anything anymore.

Loved looking at your cabinet makers work!

I hope you find your cabinet maker. I know they are few and far between. Ours is semi retired and sadly there is no one to take it over when he retires.

And the "sadly there is no one to take it over when he retires" part is the scariest of all!

I wish my son would take up a craft. He would be happy doing it and is very charming so he would also be good at networking and selling his work. I've hinted that he should apprentice but he's at that age where what I say has so little merit.

We tried to get my son to apprentice with the local Raptor Rehab guy who really needed the help but had the same results as you....

ah well. They've got to follow their own path and make their decisions but I miss the days of being able to boss him around and tell him what to do (lol).

With materials that gorgeous, plus an experienced hand at using them, your kitchen is going to be stunning!

Thank you! I've never had new cabinets before. Having the choice of where to put drawers and shelves etc was a bit overwhelming but I think I made the right choices. If it works out as I imagine it - I think will be more efficient which is a nice bonus.

Dang, those are a lot of options to sort through. I'm betting that, having worked in the space for a time now, you have a good idea of what's needed.

Your kitchen is going to be so beautiful! Thank you for sharing these progress photos and showing us how your cabinets are being made. What gorgeous craftsmanship!! It's a terrible shame that no one wanted to apprentice with him and carry it on :(

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