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Thread: Removing shelves from built-on-site cabinets

  1. #1
    Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek Mikey's Avatar
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    Default Removing shelves from built-on-site cabinets

    This may be a stretch for a "remodeling" forum, but WTH. I've got about 30 lineal feet of what appear to be very-well-built-on-site oak cabinets in the kitchen. Unfortunately, they were built with fixed shelves at almost exactly the wrong height. I'd like to remove these shelves and install some kind of adjustable-height shelves. I would like to remove them without totally destroying the cabinetwork, obviously. I do not have access to the rear of the cabinets.

    They are fastened in with countersunk finishing nails, and glued as well, based on preliminary research and destruction of a vanity cabinet already removed and replaced. If I could get the nails out, I think there'd be hope for removing the shelves without too much damage. A gazillion-Tesla magnet comes to mind, but a more practical tool might be a very small holesaw, say 1/4" in diameter or so, which I could use to cut around the nail and thus get at the head with some kind of puller, and fill in the hole with a dowel later. Unfortunately, they don't seem to make holesaws this small. Or skinny nail pullers, for that matter, but first things first.

    Another problem is that all these shelves are at the same level, so I can't figure out how adjoining shelves were both nailed into the same vertical divider, although I'm nearly certain they are.

    Any ideas?

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    You sure these aren't installed in a dado (a slot)? Keep in mind that when glue is used, the nails are often just there as glue clamps...they may not be providing much strength except in shear. A good glue joint will break the wood before it breaks loose. You might be able to cut these out, but it would be tough with something like a toekick saw. You'd have to use a blade capable of cutting the nails, or you'd ruin the blade. If you don't care about the existing shelves, you should be able to cut most of it away with a saber saw. If you use a flush cut blade, you can cut up to the sidewalls. If you made a bunch of parallel cuts, you might get enough where you could use something like a flexible cutoff saw in there and then saw the rest out. You may just give up, keep the doors and drawers, and maybe the face frame if possible, and just replace the rest of the carcass.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3
    Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek Mikey's Avatar
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    One cabinet I disassembled used dadoes, but they supported space dividers, rather than shelves. One of the kitchen cabinets partially disassembled didn't use dadoes on its shelves. All in all, it's a crapshoot. I'm going to start on one shelf in a narrow cabinet that I have access to on both sides. One side used 6d common nails (now removed), the other side uses finishing nails, probably 6d as well. I'm assuming the back (inaccessible) uses 6d commons. Current plan is to manufacture a holesaw out of some 4130 tubing, cut around the finishing nails, give the shelf a whack, and see if it moves. Dado or not, I'm sure I'll have to sacrifice the shelves and take them out in pieces.

  4. #4

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    Roto zip the bulk of the cabinet out and pry the rest away (the sides seperate from the back piece) leaving the nails intact. Then pull the nails out the "wrong" way with some angled diagonal cutting pliers.

    Or possibly just Roto zip or sawsall the shelf in half, front to back. This may give enough play to wiggle/pry them out.

  5. #5

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    Try this sawzall flush-cut adapter with a nails and wood blade.

    If it works for you, I may buy one myself.

    http://www.theflushcut.biz/
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  6. #6
    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikey
    ... countersunk finishing nails, and glued as well ...
    Like Jim said, the nails are there only to help hold things in place 'til the glue sets.

    To deal with those nails, I would try using a pin punch to simply drive them on in and out of the way.

  7. #7
    Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek Mikey's Avatar
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    Good thoughts, all -- I especially like the Sawzall adapter stuff (any excuse to buy a new tool). At worst, it might scar the interior of the cabinets, but I could reface them without too much trouble. Their website leaves a bit to be desired, so I've got some telephoning to do when the world wakes up.

  8. #8

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    Would you consider removing a section of the shelving in the center creating a center shelf of the height you want. This would leave cubby hole type store areas on both sides of you new shelving area. Do you follow? Kind of like a california closet.

    Tom

  9. #9
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default shelf

    If you are going to sacrifice the shelves anyway, why not just cut them in the middle and remove the two pieces?

  10. #10

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    Rotozip also came out with a new "X-Shield" that lets you make flush cuts. That might be useful for the areas that the Sawzall would have trouble reaching. There's a video at this website:

    http://www.buyrotozip.com/

    BTW, Welcome Back Mikey!

    Where the heck have you been?

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