Cabinet fronts and their finish quality are probably 90% of what consumers appreciate with semi-custom and better cabinetry. While they certainly appreciate a smooth operating drawer, or a one-of-a-kind custom piece, the finish is the focal point of cabinet quality.
Some cabinet manufacturers make their own cabinet fronts. Others outsource them to American manufacturers. While a third group uses overseas manufacturing for their cabinet fronts.
Brighton Cabinetry outsources the production of its doors and drawer fronts to two industry-leading American manufacturers. Brighton maximizes quality, price, and customer service depending on the door style that designers specify.
That doesn’t mean Brighton doesn’t add its own processes and expertise to get the fronts ready.
Finish Quality Has A Lot to Do with Prep Work
After fronts are received, Brighton performs additional edge sanding -- both hand sanding and with an orbital sander. Cabinet fronts also go through the belt sander, on an angle, that creates cross grain sanding marks. Eliminating cross grain sanding marks is a multi-step process using different grit sand paper at each step.
You can’t correctly prep wood for finishing and eliminate cross grain marks by skipping to the highest grit sand paper. It’s a process of building from low to high.
Cross grain marks will “telegraph” through stained finishes and appear as lines. I have seen cross grain sanding marks in virtually all big box home center cabinet displays, even in their mid- to upper-price range cabinets. This is a significant difference between Brighton and its larger but lower quality competitors.
Brighton inspects under LED lights at each sanding station to catch any defects.
Controlling humidity is a challenge in any cabinet shop. It must be done to:
- avoid potential door warpage
- prevent finishing issues related to moisture in the wood
Brighton doors and drawers sit no more than 4 hours between sanding and final finishing.
Prepping the Wood for Stained Finish | Cherry
Different wood species and finish materials (stain vs. paint) have slightly different preparation processes. For instance, paint grade Maple is prepped differently than stained Cherry.
With Cherry wood, pin holes are filled with Quick Wood. Rough end grain -- the exposed grain edge of door frame stock -- is sanded on all mortise and tenon doors. End grain is a wider, more open grain that it absorbs more stain, and, as a result, finishes darker. To avoid it finishing darker, Brighton uses end grain sealer, then sands the ends with different grit paper than the face of the front.
Prepping the Wood for Stained Finish | Maple
Stained Maple gets processed similarly to Cherry. However, because of Maple’s characteristics, a toner is applied to even out inconsistencies in the wood grain. The toner gives a more consistent finish color after stain is applied. Cherry wood tends to stain well without needing toner to achieve uniform color.
Think of toner as a wood conditioner with color.
Prepping the Wood for Stained Finish | All Species
Certain stain colors have slightly different processes to get the color quality just right for the wood species. And by color quality, I mean DEPTH OF COLOR and CONSISTENCY.
"Nobody likes to see blotchy stained cabinets", said every kitchen designer ever.
Regardless of wood species, stain is sprayed on and wiped off.
After stain dries, a high build sealer is applied. The fronts are sanded again. And then the final top coat, conversion varnish, is applied.
Brighton’s Painted Finishes
Brighton has several steps to get "depth" and "build" with painted finishes. "Depth" and "build" are hard to explain, but easy to see. When you put Brighton’s painted cabinets side-by-side with comparably priced cabinets, you will see a difference.
Lower quality painted cabinets will have one or several of the following characteristics that are absent in a Brighton painted finish:
- chalky feeling
- rough instead of smooth to touch
- a “thin” feel to paint, like not enough coats were applied
- visible end grain and rough edges on mortise and tenon door and drawers
Prepping for Paint
Using the same process as used for stained finishes, pin holes and inconsistencies are filled with Quick Wood. Then glue is applied to mortise and tenon joints to seal the joint and sanded off.
Why does Brighton apply glue to the joints? To reduce a major problem with painted cabinets. THE NUMBER ONE COMPLAINT WITH PAINTED CABINETS IS HAIR LINE CRACKS AT THE JOINTS.
I recently read a quote from Norm Abram, of This Old House fame, to a question about this very issue. I quote Norm: "Hairline cracks are unavoidable in wood cabinets, top-of-the-line or not".
I’d be a fool to disagree with Norm.
What I want you to know is that Brighton takes an additional step to reduce this problem. While Brighton can’t guarantee it won’t happen, you have a far better chance of it not happening with this step.
Superior Painted Finishes
After gluing and sanding the joints, a high build sealer is applied. The sealer covers end grain to eliminate rough outside edges on mortise and tenon fronts. Cheaper quality paints used by Brighton competitors are self-sealing and skip this step.
Next comes sanding to smooth out the sealer coat and "rough it up", which improves how paint bonds to the wood. The last coat is the paint, and this coat serves as the top coat as well.
Final inspection is the last opportunity to catch any defects.
- Finish quality is again inspected under LED lights
- Each cabinet is inspected to make sure it was built exactly to designer’s 2020 file
- All doors and drawers are opened to make sure guides and hinges operate smoothly
- Custom quoted cabinets, cabinets that go through specials department, inspected for accuracy
- Final touch ups are done for any damage that occurred as cabinets were handled in the shop.
- Saw dust is blown out of cabinets.
- Cabinets are boxed and loaded for shipping