I have his workshop, and I have most of his tools, but I don't have Norm Abram to do the work, so I won't be attempting next season's project - a complete kitchen - marking
The New Yankee Workshop
's 20th anniversary on PBS.
There are two other good reasons: We bought our present house because it came with my wife's "dream" kitchen, and I've already experienced the "pleasures" of remodeling a kitchen - the one in our old house. The memories, although 10 years old now, remain nightmarishly vivid.
Still, Abram is certain the project will lure some of his regular viewers into their workshops to attempt elements of it.
"The pantry cabinet would be a good one to build since, with so many people buying in bulk to save money, there is need for this kind of storage," Abram said in a phone interview earlier this month.
Another element that might be attempted is the home-office area of the kitchen, which "requires a blank wall or a cubby," he said.
The difference between this project and the typical kitchen redo, Abram said, is that "contractors come in and tear out the old kitchen before the new one is started, so the food-preparation cycle is interrupted, often for weeks or months."
"We won't be making a lot of significant changes in this kitchen," which is 30 years old, was built by a friend of Abram's, and has cabinets with heavy doors growing loose from their hinges and rusting metal drawer hardware verging on inoperability.
There's also a lot of bending required to get into the base cabinets, and I imagine Abram's friend is having difficulty with them.
By building the new cabinets first and stockpiling them, you reduce the amount of downtime involved in the traditional kitchen renovation, Abram said.
I thought about building cabinets for my kitchen-renovation project, and even went as far as buying and reading a couple of cabinetmaking books before realizing that even if I could develop the skill, I didn't have the time.
Abram believes that if you follow the steps he demonstrates, you can knock off a base cabinet in a few hours.
Once I get some time, maybe after the holidays, I may try one. I have a couple of good lumberyards nearby (home-center lumber is of iffy quality and overpriced). I can slip the DVD I received of the first program into my laptop, bring it into my workshop, and just keep repeating it over the tough spots.
After Abram lists the tools and materials needed to build the cabinets, all of which I have, the first tool he goes for to cut the three-quarter-inch prefinished plywood for the cabinet end panels is a circular saw.
I informed him that he didn't mention the saw in his list.
"I expected that every workshop would have one of those," Abram said, because it is a basic tool in a home workshop and among his target viewers - many of whom became furniture builders after watching his show.
Abram has long wanted to do a full kitchen, but he and his producers realized it would take the better part of a season, or nine of 13 half-hour episodes, to do it. The first episode premieres Jan. 5 - check local listings for times.
There are so many new materials, types of hardware and construction techniques available these days that watching will be well worth your investment in time, whether you rush right out to your workshop with a video copy of the show in hand or are simply interested in the components of the modern kitchen.
Though millions of fans assume Abram was born with the skills he uses on The New Yankee Workshop and This Old House, the master carpenter is always the first to acknowledge that there is something to learn from everything he does.
"As the show advanced and we began responding to e-mail requests, I did projects that I didn't really feel like building," he said. "These and every other project I've done over 20 years have taught me a lot."
And us, too.