Introduction: Painting Those 'Pinterest Blue' Glazed Cabinets

About: I used to be that curious kid that broke stuff by taking it apart to figure out how it worked. But I got smarter, and now I can sometimes put it all back together! My work and hobbies overlap through an intere…

If you’ve ever looked up painted cabinets on Pinterest, there is a good chance that you came across a few pictures of this one kitchen with blue cabinets with a black glaze. We have been planning to do a kitchen renovation for a few years, and when we saw that one, we decided that was the colour and look we wanted.

From the original images on Pinterest, I did a google image search and eventually tracked them back to their source. They have been reposted so many times that it was difficult to figure out, but are originally from work done by New Jersey designer Heidi Piron. They are on her website, along with a bunch of other pictures from the same installation.

As we are changing the entire layout, we needed to get a new set of cabinets. But buying new custom cabinets, finished like that, would be expensive. We decided to buy a used set, and that I would do the finishing. So for a couple of months, I watched Craigslist for a set of cabinets. Eventually a beautiful solid-oak set with amazing relief detail came up, and I purchased it.

Using this set, I would have to refinish 42 doors and drawer fronts for our layout. It was a daunting task, and I needed to setup a good, but temporary, painting rig to finish these all consistently and quickly. So, here is how I setup to be able to finish all the cabinet doors in one week.

Step 1: Decision to Spray

Because of the planned number of coats, timeline, and the detail in each door, the decision was made to buy an airless electric sprayer. These are easy to use, and the finish is consistent. (I also will need to finish all the cabinet boxes, as well as spray the walls and coffered ceiling in the new kitchen, so I’ve got a lot more to do with this!)

End of summer means that paint crews are gearing down and crewing back, so it’s a good time to get surplus equipment. I bought a used-but-good commercial airless sprayer from a friend. A Graco Ultra 395. I outfitted it with a fine-finish tip, and practiced spraying water through it until I felt confident.

Step 2: Work Area

My work area would need 4 things:

· Clean and Dust Free environment

· A way to support the cabinets while spraying and drying

· Adequate lighting

· Adequate ventilation

I thought about just creating something with PVC pipe and fittings and poly, but that would still be expensive and a pain to make. So I starting thinking on those temporary shelter tents.

Our garage is jammed full of all the cabinet boxes, and besides that, our cat lives in there and sheds way too much to even attempt it at our place. So I asked my dad if I could use some space in his shop. He was fine with it, but wanted to make sure I’d be able to contain my overspray. He also still needed to be able to use the shop, so I needed to seal off my finishing space so his dust wouldn't contaminate my finish. Craigslist came through again, this time with a used garage tent made by Shelterlogic. It is 10 feet by 15 feet, and was only $100.

I bought that tent, cleared a space, and set it up. It is constructed of three 5-foot ‘bays’ so I used poly to separate off the last 5 feet as my spray area. I bolted a piece of half-inch conduit across it to support the doors while I sprayed. That would leave 10 feet up front to use for drying.

I also bought 2 sticks of shallow “Slotted Unistrut”. This is a common material used in the building trades to create supports for all sorts of things. For this, they would support the cabinet doors for drying. I cut these to span the width, and bolted them across the top tent rails.

Step 3: Ventilation and Lights

Although I would be using a respirator to protect my lungs, I still needed ventilation for drying and spray control. Because I didn’t want any atomized spray floating and landing on the finished doors, I would be pulling air through the tent from the drying side, into the spray area, and then out.

I took our cat’s old play tunnel, and cut it through the back wall. Then I taped a small fan onto it to pull air out. Air would enter below the zippered door flap, draft across the floor, and out. Since the overspray sinks, this works well to clear that out. It worked very well, and the dual intake kept the airflow balanced so I had no weird spray patterns.

I’m an electrician by trade, and abhor dim spaces. So my spray area is also bright. I have a massive LED worklight hanging overhead, and a 4 foot LED strip light hanging vertically. Having lights both to the side and overhead is critical for finish, as you can see any imperfections or runs more easily. Both are run off extension cords.

Step 4: Hangers

I read and watched a lot about cabinet finishing online, and there are a lot of methods. Lots of people lay the doors flat, and finish them a side at a time. But that takes forever, as you need to wait for full cure on each side to be able to flip them. Then, I saw this brilliant system being used to hang doors. It has 3 huge benefits.

1. You can move the doors while wet with the hangers

2. Doors hanging vertically take up very little space compared to laid out flat

3. You can spin them on the hangers and finish both sides at once.

So I adapted it to my rig. In a nutshell, what you do is define the non-visible edge of every door. This would be the top edge of upper cabinet doors, and bottom edge of lower cabinet doors. Then you drill two small 3/32” holes in that edge, and screw in two 1” cup hooks. You then hook those over the lower hanger bar, and your door is contact free and easy to move and work with. Those hooks will come out at the end, and the holes will not be visible.

I bought hangers at Walmart. But these are pretty lightweight, and with the size of the doors, I decided to reinforce them so I wouldn’t have any failures. I used short sections of rebar tie-wire, and twisted them with a drill to bind the lower bar to the shoulder supports.

By hanging these through the slotted unistrut, I could keep a very even spacing. I wrote the cabinet ID on each one as well, since the original would get painted over. Honestly, it worked like a Boss!

Step 5: Spraying

Spraying was extremely fast. I would grab a door from the drying side, carry it in, spray, spin, spray, and carry it out. All carrying, touching, steadying, and spinning is done by handling the hanger. You never need to touch the wet paint. Each session took about 1-2 hours. The poly and ventilation kept all the haze in the spray section, and I had zero overspray issues. Setup and actual spray time ended up being almost equal in this project, but that was OK as it was still faster than brush painting and laying flat. (To lay and paint cabinets flat, you need to allow additional cure time before you can flip them onto their freshly painted side. That will double up your project time. With this method, you can go with the minimum re-coat time even if the paint is still a bit soft.)

You can see the need for multiple coats in the one picture. The Drawer front in the foreground only has one coat of Primer, and the Oak tannins are pulling through. The other one has the second coat on and is sealed.

For those of you who haven’t ever used a sprayer before, readjust your pressure until you get a consistent spray cabinet every time you change products. Remember that the thinner your finish, the lighter your pressure. Otherwise you pump more product than needed and end up with runs. My primer was the highest pressure, and the clearcoat was the lightest.

Step 6: Door Sequence

This Instructable is all about the spray rig and door hanging. But I know that there will be some questions about the process. I'm doing these for a lifetime finish, and it is intensive. So short form, here is the process:

1. Wash all doors with water and Dawn detergent and a cloth.

2. Degrease all doors with Tri-Sodium-Phosphate using Scotch-brite pads to scour out all cracks.

3. Sponge off with water and let dry.

4. Sand all doors and molding detail.

5. Clean thoroughly with compressed air.

6. Wipe with Tack Cloth.

7. Two coats of Bonding Primer to lock in the Oak tannins.

8. Two coats of Blue as the base.

9. One coat of Glaze with black glaze.

10. Three coats of Clearcoat to seal it all in.

It’s a ton of work, but we want to use these for years trouble-free, so it pays to do it thoroughly.

Step 7: Final Doors

We are very pleased with the finish on these. It’s just the tip of the iceberg on the renovation and I am far from done. But It feels good to know the look and colour is what we want. By using this system and hanging these like this and spraying, I did in a week what would have probably taken me 2-3 weeks otherwise (8 coats of finishing on both sides). Costs overall were more than reasonable, and I'm looking forward to finishing the rest of the renovation and seeing these installed!

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