Using Cat Eye from the STUDIO Collection® and Light Tape®, Jerry Michaels (the idea man) and Jim Glinski (craftsman and author) create an incredibly unique solid surface kitchen countertop.
Here at SolidSurface.com we enjoy getting to know our customers. It’s always interesting to learn their background, hear their ideas for the solid surface sheet material they purchase, and then see their projects come to life. We had an opportunity to talk with one such customer, Jerry Michaels, and his craftsman, Jim Glinski, about their DIY project and how it turned out.
The Backlit Countertop
Jerry Michaels first came to us with an interesting project in mind for his kitchen remodel. He discovered a product online called Vitrazzo, which is a countertop product made of recycled glass. He found pictures of their product done with backlighting and knew he just had to have a countertop like that. What he also discovered was that the cost was way too expensive. He then set out exploring what other materials he could use for his unique project.
Finding the Right Materials
Jerry found SolidSurface.com online and, since he lived in Tucson, was able to come to the office to browse through samples of solid surface material. After narrowing down the solid surface color options that would fall in line with his vision, he finally decided on “Cat Eye” from the STUDIO Collection®, a brand of Aristech Surfaces®. The STUDIO Collection® is a premier design line, offering luxurious translucent solid surface colors that make stunning statements in architectural and design applications. The STUDIO Collection® works especially well for backlighting applications.
Jerry had thoroughly researched what it would take for the project. He discovered Light Tape®, a company that had a product that would enable him to backlight the solid surface. He decided to splurge on transformers. He then enlisted the help of his good friend and man of many talents, Jim Glinski.
Woodworking Skills Applied to Solid Surface Countertops
Jim had been making cabinets for 45 years. He began woodworking in high school and loved it. He was comfortable making countertops from wood or laminate. He had played around with Corian® in the 1980’s, but back then found it just as efficient to farm it out.
Jim was also a musician and at that time decided to move to San Francisco. He wandered into a woodworking shop and became the craftsman there while his partner was the salesman. He absolutely loved it and couldn’t believe he was getting paid to do it! Self-employed since 19, he wanted to do things that he would enjoy and get paid for—making it easy to love his work. He also knew he would utilize these skills for a long time and even started a business, Cabinetry Plus.
A Man of Many Talents
Running his own business allowed Jim to entertain other endeavors as well. He acquired his own audio/video recording studio and also published the book, “Above Tucson: Then & Now.” A then-to-now book of aerial photographs of downtown Tucson from the 1930’s through 1990’s, showing how the town has changed throughout the decades.
Jim was fortunate enough that he could pick and choose the jobs that were most enjoyable. He fabricated small tops for tables out of Corian®, along with coffee tables and dresser tops. He hadn’t yet tackled a large solid surface countertop until Jerry approached him with the kitchen remodel project.
Overcoming Project Challenges
This special project was definitely going to be a challenge. It was his first entire kitchen countertop remodel project and his first time working with the incredible Light Tape® product. According to Jim, adopting the right attitude of learning and taking your time is key. It also helped tremendously to be able to apply his woodworking skills, and knowledge of the tools to be used, to working with the solid surface material.
The project would require a lot of careful planning to precisely coordinate the placement of the Light Tape® with the underside of the countertop. The plan was to have one seam and use the remnant pieces of Cat Eye that were available to minimize cost. Jim found the “Resources” online at SolidSurface.com to be extensive and especially helpful when it came to determining that he already had the tools necessary for the project from his past woodworking background. Another challenge was that the walls were not flush due to the age of the home. Using the remnant pieces of various sizes, he was able to solve that challenge.
First, Jim cut pieces of the Cat Eye solid surface to play with in order to confirm he could actually do it. Then, he created a planning template out of plywood so he could more easily see how everything would fit, and also interrelate with the stove. Taking into consideration the specified dimensions and trim, he had to be able to balance the electrical charge evenly throughout the countertop, while also leaving a 1.5” border around the countertop edge and along the back wall that was not illuminated. Everything had to be uniform and the seaming had to be perfect. Once again, Jim relied on the resources and education provided on the SolidSurface.com website. He found plenty of tips and examples–virtually everything he needed to do the job well was there.
The Finished Product
The finished countertop turned out beautifully! The pictures really don’t do it justice. In retrospect, Jim felt everything had come together very nicely and he had done everything right. The kitchen countertop is stunning and catches light in a different way. Light reflecting on it versus light coming through it presents a whole different dimension and vision.
Jerry was completely blown away! The kitchen is part of a great room and he was worried that while watching football, for instance, the light would reflect off the TV. When they turned it on, there was no glare on the TV, and Jerry was ecstatic. Maybe there’s a market for this?
Typically this type of application is only found in corporate, commercial or very high-end settings. Jerry was quite pleased that Jim was able to create his vision for this type of application from a DIY standpoint, and be able to do it in an affordable way. For Jim, it was a rewarding experience to see the countertop light up the house in a cool way and showcase his work. Lighting is most definitely an art, and he would be willing to do more of this creative carpentry. It makes a home personalized and unique.
We, at SolidSurface.com, are very proud of our customers and their creative projects. We would like to thank Jerry and Jim for sharing their experience with us, and hope it inspires others to tackle new solid surface projects.
Watch the Glowing Counters video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YefQZS-Rjg4&feature=youtu.be