Cabinets for the Barn

Barn owners invest a great deal of time and attention in their animals, facilities and equipment. The price of that dedication is often a cluttered house with mud-tracked floors.  A cluttered barn, on the other hand, will not to be borne. Our barn aisle is swept clean daily, tack suspended neatly from hooks along both walls, and tidy stacks of saddle pads draped on blanket bars attached to each stall door. A picture of orderliness.

But well-ordered is not perfectly ordered.  We are kicking off our own little Kaizen improvement initiative. That neat array of hooks will be replaced by a set of matching cabinets that I am building from scratch (of course).

I had a difficult time grasping the vision at first.  I imagined something like bathroom  medicine chests or dart board cabinets distributed along the barn walls.  It was not until we actually pulled out the tape and started taking measurements that the idea made sense.  The dimensions would need to be 24 inches wide  by 42 tall.  Each cabinet had to accommodate two bridles, along with shelves for brushes, fly spray, helmet, gloves and miscellaneous other items.  They could not extend any farther from the wall than the blanket bars – about 10 inches.

Measuring the space available to determine cabinet size
Measuring the space available to determine cabinet size

The next step was to draft a plan.  The cabinets were going to have a side-by-side door configuration.  After sketching the design, I determined what kind and how much material would be required.  The simplest design would use 3/4 inch thick pine planks (1 by x stock).  But I also wanted to try using thin plywood (1/4 inch or 5mm) in some places to keep the construction thin and light.  After estimating, it was off to get the supplies.

Cabinet Plan
Cabinet Plan

The current requirement is for four cabinets, so it made sense to use an assembly-line approach.  I outlined the 10 major steps in the process, however, I ended up grouping those into 3 phases.  For each phase, I planned to construct a prototype, and then quickly reproduce it 3 more times.   The prototyping method allowed me to work out the fine details for each phase, while risking only a limited amount of material in the event there was a serious design flaw.

Creating a Prototype - Sides of the basic shell
Creating a Prototype - Sides of the basic shell

The first phase was to cut and assemble the cabinet shell.  This was the most challenging because of the many grooves that had to be cut, where the pieces would join together.  Although I’ve learned to make pretty precise cuts with a circular saw, the table router was the most valuable tool in this phase.

Assembled Cabinet Shell
Assembled Cabinet Shell

At present, I am working on the steps in phase 2 – adding the insides.  The center divider is composed of 5mm plywood with a 1 x 2 facia – again, to keep construction light, and to preserve as much internal storage space as possible.  The left-side compartment will have two bridle hooks on the back wall and a small coat hook on the inside of the door.  The right side will have a hook in the top compartment for helmet and gloves.  A retaining rim on the middle compartment will keep brushes and small items from falling out.  And the bottom compartment is sized for even the tallest fly spray bottle.

More to come.


One thought on “Cabinets for the Barn

  1. It is fun watching all the improvements over the years. You are doing some beautiful work. I am looking forward to our next trip up there to see it.

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