Sunday, July 28

A Revamped Pantry

The Problem

Our kitchen has big cupboards. The largest is nearly three metres high which means I need to stand on a stool that is perched on a chair to reach the second to top shelf, else I need to bring a ladder in from the shed! The height arises from the fact the house has cathedral ceilings for its entire length, and these cupboards are mounted in the centre of the house from floor to ceiling. At the bottom of these cupboards are two cupboards, one that houses the hot water system (one day to move out doors) and the second is the pantry. The pantry was old, and was lined with selves, and although relatively tidy was not an efficient use of space. My wife always wanted the pantry changed – getting rid of the hot water service would be one way.

Pantry doors
Inside the old pantry Doors: these have not changed

We finally decided to do something about it, so after examining countless magazines and brochures and visiting local kitchen show rooms, we settled on a pull-out system. The pantry is 680 mm wide and a little less than 2000 mm high, so we thought two pull out systems running parallel would work. Specifically we had look at the photo shown below:

Hettich pull-out system

Finding a solution

However, when we actually went to the show rooms, it appeared such a large system was not practical. Essentially it requires one to pull in and out one half of the weight of all the objects in the cupboard every time one needs to get something out of the pantry. For items, as shown in the picture, this appears practical, and we might use such a system in a redesign of our laundry, but for the pantry this did not appear to be a good idea. So we were persuaded to use drawers. This presented two difficulties – my wife is short, so having drawers up to the full height of 2000 mm was not practical – one needs to see into the drawer to discover what one wants, and two, objects in the pantry are heavy – we needed heavy duty drawers. On the first point we opted to have drawers up to 1500 mm then have two shelves taking up the top quarter. This is occupied with two first aid boxes (yes two, as both of us are health people and we are well prepared), along with items that are used less frequently.

On the second point we happened upon the German brand Hettich that makes very heavy duty ball-bearing drawer runners capable of taking 30 – 50 kg, depending upon the model. We opted for the Quatro V6 system and InnoTech drawer system both from Hettich. The runners are capable of taking 30 kg (we assume the kids were not going to climb up the drawers – they are supposedly adults, all over 18 yrs!) These drawers are soft-touch so one merely pushes them in, and they slide fully to their rest-position by themselves, using a set of pre-tensioned springs – very clever.

The Hettich shop on Main North Rd Medindie Gardens SA were extremely helpful. Although they are setup to deal with tradespersons, both the sales lady and the technical people treated us extremely professionally and very honestly – telling us what would not work and what would, spending a lot of time showing me how things worked, and how they needed to be constructed. As the pantry was not a standard width, the drawers had to be manufactured – which I opted to do myself. The show room is well set up and well worth a visit.

The current trend is to add lighting to interior design – using LED or similar systems. We opted for some LED lights which although rather more expensive than expected (good German quality that will outlive me – cheaper Chinese system could perhaps be substituted). These are attached to a detector that switches on a row of lights that ring the inside of the cupboard. Although we thought this was a bit lavish, it has proven very popular – the kids can come into the kitchen at night and open the pantry door turning on 8 watts of light (which are very bright) and this saves turning on the main light (which with cathedral ceilings and glass panels above all doors is visible through- out the house. Also we leave these on for the children should they come home late.

Building the pantry

During this time I took a day out to learn “Sketchup” < > a program to enable drawings to be made of objects. It was terrible frustrating to learn, but once mastered, was incredible helpful, especially for keeping track of measurements – and producing professional drawings that enabled the hardware stores and Hettich to see what I was attempting to do.

The first task was pulling apart the internal structure of the pantry without wrecking the skeleton of the cupboard (it’s a skeleton & plywood structure). This was fairly easy. After this I undercoated and painted the interior and doors with some heavy duty kitchen paint (white).

After ordering the drawer kits (they came from Sydney) – which came with runners, front (single piece of aluminium), sides and rails (see photo below), I purchased the necessary timber (white melamine) for the drawer bottoms, ends and carcass of the cupboard. The latter was necessary as the doors of the pantry were swung on piano hinges on the inside edge – so I had to essentially add a spacer of 32 mm either side to enable the drawers to slide pass the open doors.

Pantry drawer with anti-slip mat

I own a Triton saw bench but not the necessary benches to cut very long pieces – so most of the cutting was done with a circular saw. I tended to use a cross-cut saw for the drawer ends and aluminium sides & rails, the Triton for the drawer bottoms (width 570 mm) with the help of my son, and the long pieces making up the carcass using a hand saw.

Of interest was the pantry was nearly parallel in all directions, losing only ~6 mm from top to bottom with both walls parallel. I initially opted to ensure the error in cutting the drawer bottoms (which was determined by the width of the pantry) was on the large side – however I found Hettich drawers need to be cut either to size (obviously!) or slightly smaller. The instructions were understandable and very exact – to the nearest 0.5 mm which was beyond the accuracy of my skill. But the runners were very robust and able to cope and all the drawers slide smoothly and closed on "touch" as designed. I only had one major hiccup – I cut the top drawer too wide and it was binding as it slid in. So I pulled the drawer apart and re-cut it – it ended up slightly on the small side of ~1mm (so the screw holes would not overlap) but it works with no problems.

The daunting task was putting the drawer runners in – these need to be parallel, level and in-line – ie the front edges of each need to line up vertically and horizontally. So after drawing a lot of lines, trying to use a laser leveller (it was cheap and too inaccurate) I ended up with the lines in the right locations.  Each drawer runner required 24 screws! To enable this, I made a template with the holes pre drilled. I then got the first screw hole right, made sure the template was level, and placed a second screw in the template, thus holding it in place, allowing me to drill the rest of the holes.
Template for drawer runners
The final task was putting in the LED lighting. The lighting came in a single strip with two ends – enabling it to be cut into two. The design of the inner carcass allowed the strip to be placed around the pantry walls immediately adjacent to the drawer runners. This enables light to be thrown into any open drawer. I cut it into two so a gap could be made in the middle top which allowed the door latch and electronic door-open detector to be unhindered by the light strip. The strip came with self-adhesive backing, and it was quite easy to merely push on. Now the rest of the kitchen needs painting!

The finished product with light on!

Finished system

More on Yamba

I took five weeks off in May and spent a few of those on the north coast of New South Wales – mostly in Yamba with friends. Yamba is a fabulous little spot off the main highway and on the mouth of the Clarence River. It is probably over crowded during the summer holidays, but was calm and tranquil during the time my wife and I were there. The water was warm and the weather balmy although it did rain a little in the second week. If you ever visit Yamba – take time to visit Iluka which is a small village on the opposite side of the Clarence River, which you either drive to (approx. 40 km), or catch the small ferry. It has a beautiful beach (one can drive on it) and some beautiful native forests.  Also impressive are the views from the Pacific Hotel in Yamba (18 Pilot Street Yamba) which overlooks the ocean. The dinning room and has a very large expanse of glass allowing 180 degrees of view. We visited both for lunch and dinner – typical pub meals being in-expensive but filling – which we ate as we took in the beautiful views. While in Yamba the weather turn inclement for a day or two during which we manage to watch a couple of water spouts out at sea, and saw a spectacular double rainbow (typically we had left the camera at home as it was raining!) that arched over Yamba beach – it was one of the most brilliant rainbows I have seen, with each band clearly visible.

Yamba Beach (south end)