Introduction: Group Build - Community Kitchen Installation


Our Makerspace is very young. We started from literally nothing a year ago, and have fought hard to acquire the premises, tools and equipment that we need to make it happen. We are not wealthy, being almost entirely self-funded, but what we lack in cash, we more than make up for in community and can-do attitude!

We have made a point of looking around and seeing how we can use our skills to further our grand plan for our makerspace. We enjoy undertaking projects that utilise our making abilities to raise a little much-needed cash while benefitting the wider community - think of it like Bob-a-job week in the Scouts, but on a grand scale!

We built this kitchen for the community centre in which our makerspace is based. We earned some funds, they got their kitchen created for less than they would have paid they professionals, and by people who, as some of its future users, really care about completing the work to a high standard. It sounded daunting to some members at first, but one of the newer members who had no previous DIY experience of any kind ended up participating from start to finish and was surprised how simple most jobs were once they were demystified.

So this instructable, while about kitchen fitting, is also about how to mobilise the troops and complete big projects to benefit your makerspace and community :-)

Step 1: Design Kitchen Layout

The first thing we needed to do was design the layout and determine what we needed to complete the job. Because this was a brand-new kitchen there was not much that we could reuse, but there was a sink unit that, while not brilliant-looking, was super-solidly made and of superior quality to anything that the community centre could have afforded otherwise. The community centre was thrilled that we managed to virtually double the amount of available storage - partly through planning, partly because we were saving them money on what they would have had to pay professional kitchen fitters.

We used the manufacturer's website to create our layout. It was a well-known Swedish furniture flat-pack store who have branches everywhere...

Step 2: Collect Kitchen Flat Packs and Store

Once we had our plan, we knew exactly what we needed and in what quantities. The store we visited was close by but it still took several hours for them to pick our order ready for us... it then took two cars filled absolutely to the brim to get it back to the community centre! Once there, the makerspace became command central. Everything was checked and double checked, then like stacked with like. Printouts of the plans were posted along with parts lists for every cupboard. Getting everything straight and organised now saved us a lot of time and stress the following day, as we could quickly assign each person a job, provide them with the parts and tools they needed, and show them exactly which part they would be building.

Step 3: Project Manage Your Group to Assemble Cabinets

On the morning of the build, we had assembled a small army of members to help build all of the cabinets. As previously mentioned, organisation and project management were vital to ensuring that this all went without a hitch. As our tiny makerspace was crammed with flatpacks yet to be built, work extended out to every available space, including the corridors. Everybody worked hard and within two hours every cabinet had been successfully assembled! For some, this was old hat and they had built these particular cabinets so many times they could virtually do it in their sleep! For others, it was the first time they had ever assembled anything at all.

Our top tips when lots of people are involved:

  • Make sure that you are organised. Have a designated project manager - one person in charge of giving out jobs, logging them, doing quality control, and generally knowing exactly what everybody is doing at all times. You might feel that this is a waste of manpower, but in fact they is invaluable.
  • Make sure that everyone knows what they are doing. If you are new to flatpack furniture, even the simplest pictogram instructions can be incomprehensible. Get people to buddy up if necessary.
  • Beware the experts! One of our makers remarked that mistakes would most likely not be made by the newbies who are following every step to the letter, but by more experienced makers who felt they knew enough not to refer to the instructions. He was proved right! Ask that people take their time and get it right. Don't let competition or bravado between makers lead to mistakes.
  • Ensure that you have enough tools onhand. If you are a small space, like ourselves, this might involve members lending their tools for a day or two.

Step 4: Fit Wall Cabinets

Fit the wall cabinets first. They will be much trickier to fit if you fit the low ones first, and they won't impede other work once they are in place.

We paid a little more to purchase rails to hang our cabinets off. This proved to be money well spent - they saved us an awful lot of time and made it far easier to hang everything - we just had to make absolutely certain that the rails themselves were hung absolutely straight!

Step 5: Fit Lower Cabinets, Shelves and Worktops

Once the wall cabinets are in place, you can begin work on the lower ones. One mistake we made was not buying rails to hang the lower cabinets - in hindsight, this is inexpensive and would have saved us many hours levelling all the cabinets individually. If you do have to level the cabinet feet, start with the lowest point first.

Once the cabinets were in place, we could measure, cut and fit the worktops. Adding in the shelves helped the kitchen to take shape!

Step 6: Fit Sink and Cabinets

We salvaged a sink unit that, while a little grubby, was solid and of great quality. Because we had built it into our plan, it slotted right into place. Slightly trickier was fitting a handwash basin alongside, but this was not too difficult. Once working out where the basin and pipes needed to be, we cut out space for them and sealed them in place.

Step 7: Fit Doors and Handles

Now it was time for all the little jobs that made a big difference. We fitted cabinet doors first, then added handles after. A drill template was another cheap purchase that turned out to be a lifesaver! Using the template, fitting the handles into the correct place was a breeze!

Once that was done we fitted door dampers and adjusted each of the doors so that they all hung level and correct. This took a little time but added to the quality feel of what was an inexpensive kitchen.

With that, the kitchen was complete... for the time being. We are all still fundraising for more (and better) appliances, but the community centre, and those who use it, are all thrilled with their lovely new kitchen! As for the makerspace... well, we put the money we earned towards buying a laser for the makerspace, something that will benefit both our members and the wider community, so we're pretty happy too!

Thanks for reading about our big build. We hope that it will inspire other makerspaces to consider undertaking similar projects!