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The Process to a Great finish at Brighton Cabinetry

The 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 3rd group uses overseas manufacturing for their cabinet fronts.  Brighton Cabinetry outsources the production of its doors and drawer fronts to 2 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. Finishing well has a lot to do with prep work.

After they receive fronts from their supplier Brighton does additional edge sanding-both hand and with an orbital sander. Cabinet fronts also go through the belt sander, on an angle. As a result there are 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 get rid of cross grain marks by skipping to highest grit sand paper. It is process of building from low to high.

The reason cross grain sanding marks are bad is that the marks will “telegraph” through stained finishes. They appear as lines. I have seen cross grain sanding marks in virtually all home center cabinet displays-even in their mid to upper range cabinets. So this is a significant difference between Brighton and its larger but lower quality competitors.

Brighton inspects under LED lighting at each sanding station to catch any defects.

Controlling humidity is a challenge in any cabinet shop. To avoid potential door warpage. And prvent finishing issues related to moisture Brighton doors and drawers sit no more than 4 hours between sanding and final finishing.

Different wood species and finish materials (stain vs. paint) have slightly different processes. For instance paint grade maple is prepped differently than stained cherry.  I’m not going to cover wood prepping nuances of all Brighton’s wood species like Hickory, Alder, Red Birch, Quarter Sawn Oak, or Walnut. Suffice it to say each requires their own care and prep work. I’m going to focus on the big 3-cherry stain, maple stain, and painted cabinets.

With Cherry wood pin holes are filled with Quick Wood.  Rough end grain is sanded on all mortise and tenon doors. End grain is the exposed grain edge of door frame stock. And is present on all mortise and tenon doors. It is wider/more open grain and it absorbs more stain. And as a result finishes darker. To avoid it finishing darker it both needs sanded with different grit paper than face of front.

Also, Brighton uses end grain sealer as an additional step to offset the problem. Simply stated sealer prevents wider/more open end grain from absorbing more stain. Most consumers don’t like darker end grain on lighter finishes. While this doesn’t entirely eliminate problem it does reduce color variation on edges. End grain sealer is applied prior to final door sanding.

Maple wood has a very similar process to cherry when stained.  Because of maple’s characteristics a toner is applied to even out inconsistencies in wood. Toner dries prior to stain being applied. This gives a more consistent finish color after stain is applied. Think of toner as a wood conditioner with color.

To achieve Brighton’s broad color palette this isn’t the case 100% of the time. Certain 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.

Cherry wood tends to stain well without needing toner process to achieve uniform color.  Again this isn’t always the case. Regardless of wood species the stain is sprayed 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 has several steps to get “depth” and “build” with painted finishes. “Depth” and “build” are hard to explain, but easy to see. Understanding how Brighton gets their will help you know why the finish looks good and is durable.

If 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: chalky feeling, rough instead of smooth to touch, a thin feel to paint (like not enough coats were applied-although number of coats applied isn’t necessarily the answer).  

You also may see end grain and rough edges on mortise and tenon doors and drawers.

 You may also see uneven joinery. Although that isn’t a finish problem, but rather poor door and drawer assembly. Or sanding. Prep work is critical to preventing problems from getting passed down the production line.

Again pin holes and inconsistencies are filled with Quick Wood. Here I want to point Brighton’s next step reduces a major problem with painted cabinets. Glue is applied to mortise and tenon joint to seal the joint. And then sanded off.

Why does Brighton apply glue to this joint? The number one complaint with painted cabinets/fronts 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-hairline cracks at joints. 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 unavoidable problem. While Brighton can’t guarantee it not happening, you have a far better chance of it not happening with this step.

Next a high build sealer is applied. This also serves to cover end grain-this way no rough outside edges with mortise and tenon fronts.  Cheaper paints are self-sealing and skip this step. This is a major material advantage

Next the primer/sealer coat gets sanded. This both smooths out sealer coat and “roughs it up”, which improves how paint bonds. The last coat is the paint and this coat serves as the top coat as well.

 Final inspection is the last chance to catch anything.

Finish quality is again inspected under LED lighting. Each cabinet is inspected to make sure it was built exactly to designers 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, are also inspected for accuracy. Final touch ups are done for any damage that occurred as cabinets were handled in shop. Saw dust is blown out of cabinets. Cabinets are boxed and loaded for shipping