Rebuilding some Ascend Acoustics Sierra1 cabinets - AVS | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 51 Old 06-08-2015, 07:56 AM - Thread Starter
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Rebuilding some Ascend Acoustics Sierra1 cabinets

So I have a close friend that owns a pair of Ascend Acoustic Sierra-1 bookshelf speakers, and he is wanting me to help him build some new cabinets for them because he does not like the current cabinets, which are bamboo. Plus they have a few dents and dings. He wants them to be gloss black, or maybe veneered with a gloss expresso finish.

i am trying to figure out what the enclosure volume needs to be. The main thing that has me stumped, is what size the tweeter and woofer cutouts need to be? That, and how to line up the tweeter and woofer holes in the exact same spots on the new baffle that match were they are on the factory baffle? It was my understanding that the new baffle and cabinet volume need to match the original cabinets in order for the crossover to work optimally.

Do any of you guys know these things? We sent an email to Ascend, but haven't heard back, and they might not be willing to share this information anyway.
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post #2 of 51 Old 06-08-2015, 08:16 AM
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My post certainly isn't gonna win me any friends, but I think it's more important you hear the truth than make you like me and then later wish you hadn't taken this on.

Gloss black is the hardist finish to achieve. Centering a tweeter and woofer is one of the easiest tasks in building a speaker cabinet. Do you see a disconnect? If you have the woodworking skills to make an airtight box with even dimensions, nice cut outs, hidden joint seams, properly braced, etc, etc. then you know how to use a tape and square to put a center marker on the baffle for a cutout. You've asked this question in another thread and received good answers for it, but seem to still lack the confidence to do it.

Given this, I would first turn down the job. If you won't do that, no matter what, do not take any action that will cause damage to the existing Ascend cabs while removing the drivers (sometimes drivers aren't easily removable from commercial speakers) until you have fully built the new cabs AND have let the climatize for at least 3 months (a year is better) to see if any seams pop through the finish. I've had seams pop through raw wood veneer! I also recommend you start by building the other boxes you asked about (for JBL 2226 I believe?) and see how that goes. Paint them and show your friend how they turn out.

Finally, another word of caution. Even if the new boxes are amazing, the resale value will still likely DECREASE even though the original boxes have dents. This is because they will basically lose the Ascend name the second you move the drivers over to the new box. Most buyers will walk away from something like this. If you look at Passing Interest's Bunker Buster build he recently re-finished a friends subwoofer. I'd suggest it's much better for resale to re-finish than re-build. If you do this though, make sure you know what you're doing. PI got a very good match, and the original damage was quite bad. The effort he went through would not have been worth it for a little scratch. And once you begin a re-finish job, there's no going back

Good luck.
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post #3 of 51 Old 06-08-2015, 01:43 PM - Thread Starter
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My wood working skills are definitely adequate to build the enclosure. I have built several subwoofer enclosures that turned out great. It's not that I am a subpar woodworker, quite the opposit, in fact, I have built hundreds of custom cabinets over the past year, as that is my part time job. With that being said, I dont know how to properly center the drivers because I am new to building speaker cabinets. It's not that I can't figure out how to make them perfectly centered, it's that I don't know how far to make them from the top of the cabinet, nor how far to make the woofer from the waveguide. Nor any particular helpful tips or tricks on this subject. That is why I asked. I have not had a chance to examine these speakers yet as well. So please don't be so dismissive of my abilities to do this. Man, I must have struck a nerve with you. If you don't want me posting and asking questions then I will leave. Perhaps my questions seem repetitive, but the only reason I am asking is because I don't know, and if I ask it twice, it is probably because I did not fully comprehend the initial answer. Sorry. I will take down this thread and try to attempt this on my own.
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post #4 of 51 Old 06-08-2015, 02:43 PM
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I don't think Tux was being rude, just giving a heads up on the project.

Why not keep the same boxes, sand them smooth, fill in the dings, and just veneer over the bamboo?
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post #5 of 51 Old 06-08-2015, 03:17 PM
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I sure wasn't trying to make you leave or something. I knew my post wouldn't give you a warm fuzzy feeling but I didn't think it would be so insulting. That wasn't what I meant by it. And if I've misunderstood where your woodworking abilities lay, I'm sorry, it was just a misunderstanding.

I still don't understand how an accomplished woodworker couldn't duplicate the centering and sizing of an existing speaker box. The task seems trivial. If you truly need help with this, here's my best shot.

1. Use a tape measure to measure the distance from the top of the cab to the top of the tweeter flange/ring/basket/what ever it is.
2. Measure the total height of the tweeter.
3. Divide the height of the tweeter in half and add that to the 1. measurement. This is the center of the tweeter.
4. Measure the distance between the woofer and the tweeter flanges and also the distance from the top of the cab to the top of the woofer flange.
5. Measure the total height of the woofer.
6. Divide the height of the woofer and add it to both measurements from 4. and they should be the woofer centers from the bottom of the tweeter and the top of the cab.
7. You can also do this from the bottom and sides of the cab to fully locate the centers from all directions of the baffle.

Because you have built hundreds of custom cabinets I would think of it like locating a drawer handle or cabinet knob. Or located the drawer above the door in a lower case piece or something. It's probably related to many similar operations.

My concern still stands that it would not be worthwhile for the sake of re-sale to do this, even if you're a high calibre wood worker. Your experience should tell you just how difficult a gloss finish is to keep from telegraphing joints over the course of seasonal changes.
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post #6 of 51 Old 06-08-2015, 03:40 PM
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Keep in mind that new members often come here with grand aspirations and we often either talk them down to something much more realistic and they're happy in the end, or they ignore us and do what ever they want and we never see them again. Once in a while they do what ever they want and bash fully come back asking for help. You're relatively new and i have nothing to base my opinion about your abilities other than a few posts asking question.

BTW, I'd love to see some pics of your cab builds. I need to build a bathroom vanity soon. Just built an entry door and I'm on to the next thing on the honey-do list.
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post #7 of 51 Old 06-08-2015, 05:23 PM
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...it's that I don't know how far to make them from the top of the cabinet, nor how far to make the woofer from the waveguide.

Sounds like the OP is thinking about changing the baffle size and moving components around.

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post #8 of 51 Old 06-08-2015, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by kingpin111 View Post
Sounds like the OP is thinking about changing the baffle size and moving components around.
Which is a no-no (unless he plans to change the crossover).
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post #9 of 51 Old 06-09-2015, 03:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Tip24/96 View Post
It was my understanding that the new baffle and cabinet volume need to match the original cabinets in order for the crossover to work optimally.
Stereodude and kingpin....I think he gets that.

I think sometimes we are so used to being fed every detail of whatever it is we want to do by internet ho-tos that we're afraid to just do it and possibly screw up. I'm not saying that's what's going on here, but I know it's happened to me. By making mistakes I tend to learn more in the process of figuring out and correcting my error.
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post #10 of 51 Old 06-09-2015, 03:13 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by tuxedocivic View Post
Keep in mind that new members often come here with grand aspirations and we often either talk them down to something much more realistic and they're happy in the end, or they ignore us and do what ever they want and we never see them again. Once in a while they do what ever they want and bash fully come back asking for help. You're relatively new and i have nothing to base my opinion about your abilities other than a few posts asking question.

BTW, I'd love to see some pics of your cab builds. I need to build a bathroom vanity soon. Just built an entry door and I'm on to the next thing on the honey-do list.
It's ok man. Perhaps I was being a little overly sensitive last night. like I said, I have not had the opportunity to examine these speakers yet. I wasn't sure where the tweeter or woofer were at on the baffle being that I haven't seen it. I can definitely find the centers once I have a cabinet in my hand. I mentioned the issues to my friend about resale, and he is not worried about that because he intends on keeping these for a long time, and he is saving the original cabinets.

I will take some pictures of the cabinets that I built for my own kitchen. We ripped our kitchen out not long ago, and I have been working on it on the weekends. I have built hundreds of cabinets, they are easy, but I have only built a few doors. Those being, my own, for my kitchen. Give me just a little while and I will show you some of my work!
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post #11 of 51 Old 06-10-2015, 03:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Just to be clear, no, I am definitely not making any changes to the baffle or the overall design of the original cabinets, these new cabinets will be exact clones of the originals.

Second thing to note is that the original cabinets have some sort of veneer, bamboo I believe. It does not appear that the bamboo can be sanded and refinished. I have never worked with bamboo and honestly don't know much about it as it is not common in my area.

Third thing to note is that my friend is not going to be selling them at any time, and even if he did have the wild hair to sell them, he will be keeping the original cabinets so that is a moot point, and I definitely won't be damaging them.
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post #12 of 51 Old 06-10-2015, 03:46 AM - Thread Starter
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I would also like to point out that this is a project for fun, and if it doesn't come out looking nice, then that is ok, we can always start over! I think that one sheet of 3/4" MDF would be enough wood for several of these small speakers.
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post #13 of 51 Old 06-10-2015, 05:46 PM
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Just some quick facts on the Sierra-1 cabinets:
1. They are constructed from solid, laminated bamboo, called V-Lam. It is not a veneer.
2. Rather than stain, which bamboo does not take, Ascend uses dye for the various finishes other than natural and piano black.
3. The drivers and crossover are optimised to work with the very solid and inert quality of the bamboo cabinets. Using MDF will compromise their performance.
Having said all that, in the spirit of DIY, have fun!
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post #14 of 51 Old 06-11-2015, 03:02 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by HOTDIGITY View Post
Just some quick facts on the Sierra-1 cabinets:
1. They are constructed from solid, laminated bamboo, called V-Lam. It is not a veneer.
2. Rather than stain, which bamboo does not take, Ascend uses dye for the various finishes other than natural and piano black.
3. The drivers and crossover are optimised to work with the very solid and inert quality of the bamboo cabinets. Using MDF will compromise their performance.
Having said all that, in the spirit of DIY, have fun!
What kind of material would you recommend using, if not MDF? They offer other cabinet choices that are not bamboo, so couldn't something else theoretically work? My friend whom I am building these for, said that he is open to using any material, and has decided to go with veneer with an expresso stain + poly semi gloss.
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post #15 of 51 Old 06-11-2015, 04:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Tip24/96 View Post
What kind of material would you recommend using, if not MDF? They offer other cabinet choices that are not bamboo, so couldn't something else theoretically work? My friend whom I am building these for, said that he is open to using any material, and has decided to go with veneer with an expresso stain + poly semi gloss.
The Sierra series of speakers are only offered with bamboo except, possibly, for custom work done behind the scenes. Dave did mention at one time a more wallet-friendly Sierra Tower with an MDF cabinet. I'd say you should be fine with MDF. While it won't be as rock solid as bamboo it should still give great sound, just not quite the level of stock. I would be curious once you put it together if your friend notices any differences and what those are.
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post #16 of 51 Old 06-11-2015, 06:31 AM
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I kind of like @tuxedocivic style of blunt force truth, and I respect his ability to tell it without a care of how people think about him. Priority of getting you the truth of the message over the possibility of personal feelings is admirable IMO. I hate when people tell me stuff just because they think it's what I want to hear, or they are just trying to be "nice". To me that is still lying, and those kinds of people are cowards. Kudos to Tux for not being a coward.

You are biting off a good bit of project here. Fit and finish is the hardest part of DIY IMO.

I've HVLP sprayed a lot of stuff- I've read books on different spray techniques and different finish teqniques, watched youtube videos, and all sorts of stuff. It's still the hardest part of DIY for me, and I've got more experience with it than wood working or speaker design theory in reality. It's very challenging to get a superior result.

If you want a gloss piano black you'll need a lot of spray and sanding- A LOT! Hide the seams, get it right. The main thing is the prep work, without perfect prep work you'll never get perfect results. Use a high build primer- the expensive stuff. $80 a gallon+ Don't spray crap. You need to match the kind of primer with the kind of paint you'll use. If you have HVLP or autobody work experience you might be ok, but if this is your first time start small with piece of scrap or something. MDF is the best to use for a smooth finish. Hide the seams is the hard part.

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post #17 of 51 Old 06-11-2015, 06:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Nate Hansen View Post
I think sometimes we are so used to being fed every detail of whatever it is we want to do by internet ho-tos that we're afraid to just do it and possibly screw up. I'm not saying that's what's going on here, but I know it's happened to me. By making mistakes I tend to learn more in the process of figuring out and correcting my error.
+1.

I can appreciate the message of someone telling me it's hard, or trying to explain the reality of difficulty and manage my expectations but sometimes it reads like people are telling me I am not capable and should not even bother trying- and to me there is a big difference between the former and the later.

I really appreciate the advice and warnings, but I do tend to take a little offense on the suggestion I can't do something.

My general philosophy is the world is usually full of idiots, and the average person is generally stupid about a lot of things. This is a world view that's been reinforced over and over again by just looking around over my life. What's really scary is not only is the average person generally an idiot, but half of the people are even stupider than that !

My personal view is that people doing stuff generally have about the same level of intelligence and physical ability as I do, so if someone else can do it I probably can too. I look around now and some of the stupidest guys I went to high school with own their own businesses and are electricians, plumber, framers, general contractors, etc... so if they can do it I can do it. That is why I DIY a lot of things. Also because every time I hire someone to do something I realize I could have done it better myself. But with anything there is a learning curve, and it's very unlikely your first effort will be as good as the ones that come after it. Everyone starts some place- and pushing out of your comfort zone is where you gain valuable experience and knowledge. That is the DIY spirit!

I say go for it, even if your result is a little less than you expect, it's a valuable learning tool. It's a lot more valuable than people giving you advice on an internet forum IMO.

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post #18 of 51 Old 06-12-2015, 03:24 AM - Thread Starter
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I kind of like @tuxedocivic style of blunt force truth, and I respect his ability to tell it without a care of how people think about him. Priority of getting you the truth of the message over the possibility of personal feelings is admirable IMO. I hate when people tell me stuff just because they think it's what I want to hear, or they are just trying to be "nice". To me that is still lying, and those kinds of people are cowards. Kudos to Tux for not being a coward.

You are biting off a good bit of project here. Fit and finish is the hardest part of DIY IMO.

I've HVLP sprayed a lot of stuff- I've read books on different spray techniques and different finish teqniques, watched youtube videos, and all sorts of stuff. It's still the hardest part of DIY for me, and I've got more experience with it than wood working or speaker design theory in reality. It's very challenging to get a superior result.

If you want a gloss piano black you'll need a lot of spray and sanding- A LOT! Hide the seams, get it right. The main thing is the prep work, without perfect prep work you'll never get perfect results. Use a high build primer- the expensive stuff. $80 a gallon+ Don't spray crap. You need to match the kind of primer with the kind of paint you'll use. If you have HVLP or autobody work experience you might be ok, but if this is your first time start small with piece of scrap or something. MDF is the best to use for a smooth finish. Hide the seams is the hard part.
I do actually have quite a bit of experience spraying both stains, and latex/oil based paints, poly, ect.
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post #19 of 51 Old 06-12-2015, 04:03 AM
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Originally Posted by HOTDIGITY View Post

3. The drivers and crossover are optimised to work with the very solid and inert quality of the bamboo cabinets. Using MDF will compromise their performance.

That's not true at all. That's the kind of comment you find in marketing materials, but not here since DIY isn't driven by a corporate bottom line. There is no issue at all using MDF to build a speaker cabinet. Frankly, you can use just about anything so long as you brace it properly.
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post #20 of 51 Old 06-12-2015, 07:52 AM
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That's not true at all. That's the kind of comment you find in marketing materials, but not here since DIY isn't driven by a corporate bottom line. There is no issue at all using MDF to build a speaker cabinet. Frankly, you can use just about anything so long as you brace it properly.
Ok, not going to debate your point. If you make the MDF thick enough with adequate bracing than it could approach the low resonance/energy loss of bamboo.


Just grabbed this from the Sierra-1 product page.....


"Exclusive V-LAM™ Cabinet Construction

In order to greatly reduce cabinet resonance and energy loss common with MDF enclosures, the Sierra-1 cabinet is made from vertically oriented laminated bamboo. There are over 200 individual sheets of ¼" thick bamboo, each laminated to another and arranged such that each panel is vertical forming a baffle that is 3/4" thick. This cabinet has extremely low resonance... Warning, perform knuckle-rap test at your own risk!

The inside walls are lined with top-grade damping material and each joint is well braced. We custom tooled a high-flow flared port tube which is flush mounted into the rear of the cabinet. All drivers are flush mounted to reduce baffle reflections and the front baffle vertical edges have a beautiful radius which aids in the reduction of diffraction."



"Don’t let the good looks of the Sierra-1 fool you, this loudspeaker was designed from the ground up to deliver exceptional performance. Every component of the Sierra is fully optimized for a single purpose, clean and accurate sound reproduction. From the vertically laminated solid bamboo cabinet designed to reduce both resonance and energy-loss, to the advanced crossover optimized for phase and off-axis response accuracy, this loudspeaker is destined to become the reference by which all other bookshelf monitors are judged, regardless of price."



If you know anything about Dave and Ascend, you know he does not post things for "Marketing" propaganda.

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post #21 of 51 Old 06-12-2015, 08:06 AM
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I do actually have quite a bit of experience spraying both stains, and latex/oil based paints, poly, ect.
You have a huge one up right there ^

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post #22 of 51 Old 06-12-2015, 08:21 AM
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If you're convinced bamboo is superior, bamboo ply is available from many lumber yards. It's not cheap, and don't lay it on it's side for long, it will warp quicker than MDF or Baltic Birch...
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post #23 of 51 Old 06-12-2015, 09:37 AM
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Bamboo ply would be a better material to use for speakers than the V-Lam bamboo used in the Sierras.

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post #24 of 51 Old 06-12-2015, 10:46 AM
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Bamboo ply would be a better material to use for speakers than the V-Lam bamboo used in the Sierras.
Supported by.................facts? Post'em if ya got'm!
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post #25 of 51 Old 06-12-2015, 11:30 AM
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Supported by.................facts? Post'em if ya got'm!
If it's single layer V-lam with no cross direction plies, it's glued end to end in small sections just like other hardwood panels. Ply does that, but changes direction. Ply of the same material will always be stronger, less chance to warp, less chance to split between sections........that's what it was designed for.

When glued up, V-lam can open between the individual pieces the same way hardwood panels can. It might take years, but it can and likely will happen somewhere. That's why people would recommend birch plywood over birch hardwood for cabinets that are glued together with no expansion joints.

You can use hardwood panels or V-lam bamboo if it's just a single panel sitting there by itself (like a cutting board), or assembled with room to move. But once you glue it to a box where expansion and contraction can't easily happen, there's a good chance it will eventually develop a split or crack somewhere.


I'm not putting down those speakers because they look great. But ply would be a better material for a product that needs to last many years. This is very common knowledge in cabinet building.

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post #26 of 51 Old 06-12-2015, 12:37 PM
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Thanks for the informative post Eric H, good to know.


I certainly hope my Sierra's don't develop any cracks or splits. Mine are from the very first production run back in 2007, and Ascend has since gone with a different cabinet manufacturer. They have survived the upgrade to the NrT, and most recently to the Sierra-2's. I think a new pair of natural finish cabinets are between $400-$500.
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post #27 of 51 Old 06-14-2015, 05:47 PM
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he does not like the current cabinets, which are bamboo.
I still don't understand why the OP thinks bamboo is a bad thing. Am I reading something wrong? Isn't the main reason he's building the enclosure to get away from the bamboo?
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post #28 of 51 Old 06-15-2015, 04:11 AM - Thread Starter
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I still don't understand why the OP thinks bamboo is a bad thing. Am I reading something wrong? Isn't the main reason he's building the enclosure to get away from the bamboo?
I never said anything bad about the bamboo, it's the finish on the cabinets that we don't like. If it were possible to sand and refinish, we would do that, but the cabinets seem to be covered in some type of laminated material that would render sanding early impossible. My friend that I am doing this for wants an expresso gloss finish. The fact that the cabinets are made out of Bamboo is irrelivent.
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post #29 of 51 Old 06-15-2015, 09:38 AM
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What finish is currently on the cabinets? There are absolutely NO veneers on them from the factory. My natural finish cabinets have a satin finish coating, Urethane or something, over the exposed Bamboo which has been sanded/finished. I have had the drivers out several times to do the upgrades and can verify 100% that there is no veneer. You can clearly see the bamboo grain go all the way through the material.


You may be able to strip the cabinets, sand/sand/sand, and refinish as you desire. Like I mentioned before, however, Ascend does not use stain as they don't work on bamboo. They use dye. I have no idea how it is applied, etc.


If you don't feel like messing with the bamboo, build the new ones and let us know how it turns out!
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post #30 of 51 Old 06-15-2015, 10:40 AM - Thread Starter
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What finish is currently on the cabinets? There are absolutely NO veneers on them from the factory. My natural finish cabinets have a satin finish coating, Urethane or something, over the exposed Bamboo which has been sanded/finished. I have had the drivers out several times to do the upgrades and can verify 100% that there is no veneer. You can clearly see the bamboo grain go all the way through the material.


You may be able to strip the cabinets, sand/sand/sand, and refinish as you desire. Like I mentioned before, however, Ascend does not use stain as they don't work on bamboo. They use dye. I have no idea how it is applied, etc.


If you don't feel like messing with the bamboo, build the new ones and let us know how it turns out!
Interesting. I had assumed that these were veneered. I believe that the finish would be classified as natural. It looks very light and has an almost yellow quality to it, with all of the grains showing.

Refinishing them would definitely be much better for me as opposed to building new cabinets. I wonder how I could go about creating an expresso gloss finish? I could sand the cabinets down with 80grit followed by 150g and then 320g, at which point I would imagine that they would be ready for the finish. I just need to figure out how to make a glossy expresso type finish. Any suggestions on paint? Does sanding 80g-->150g-->320g sound sufficient?
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