Kitchen island build

Al Librero  |  November 04, 2020  |  Blogs / Life / Woodworking  |  0 Comments

I had initially thought about doing one of those build videos which I have watched non-stop for several months now. Then I realized that there isn’t much of a point to it. It takes a whole lot of time and focus away from what really matters to me, at this stage: learning and avoiding as many screw-ups as I possibly can. However, I was able to take a few pictures along the way and I think those will give me enough help in trying to recollect the entire experience here.

As I have alluded to, I took inspiration from a lot of builders and DIY’ers from YouTube. For this particular project, I wanted to be a bit more realistic and went for a relatively simple design. This was among the walkthroughs which I opted to study… intently:

However, I wasn’t keen on having two lower levels. One was enough, just to help keep the base solid. Somehow, I doubt even that will get used. Instead, I wanted to have two drawers just below the tabletop, for some storage that’ll be protected from dust. I’ve never made drawers before, which made this arguably the most intimidating part of the build. I also wanted the island to be mobile, much like what’s seen here:

While we have a fair amount of open floor space, I wanted the ability for it to be moved around at our convenience. This implied two things. First, I’ll need to add a fairly large set of casters, which will add to the height of the island. The size of the island will also be influenced by the need for mobility. After doing a bit of thinking and measuring of the house’s kitchen countertop, I figured that the build will be 35 inches high with a top that’s about 2 feet by 4 feet… or something close. Then I drew up an awesome and easy to understand plan along with a bill of materials on my favorite little notepad :-D:

Without the tools that can make it easy for me to joint and mill wood, I made it a bit easier for myself and bought two stair steps and hoped they’d be straight enough to be glued together with no issue. Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the case, so I had to shave off a bit from both pieces. Even then, the joint was not perfect. But it sufficed. The rest of the island was build using pine 2″x4″ planks and plywood. The plan I drew up required 3/4″ plywood, but I ended up using a 1/2″ sheet instead.

Along with jointing the stair steps, the first task was to glue up some of the 2″x4″ planks for the legs. In hindsight, it probably was not absolutely necessary, but I really wanted this to be sturdy. Hopefully, it’s more than enough to compensate for my shitty joinery skills (or lack thereof).

I put the frame together using pockethole screws and glue. I originally intended to glue or screw 2″x4″ or 1″x2″ planks for the lower level. But after deciding the frame will be painted, plywood made more sense and would give a cleaner look in the end.

I cut up more of that half-inch thick plywood for the drawers.

Making the drawer faces required a bit of thinking. I didn’t have a plank of the right size and buying more wood was out of the question at the time. So what I ended up doing was use this old 1″x4″ scrap of pine which was luckily long enough for two faces. Then I glued some edging on the top and bottom of the what would be faces, like so.

I like working with solid wood partly because of the look of the grain. That is why I default to using stains and transparent/translucent finishes. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling it with the frame. I thought the wood I used had for too many imperfections. And since the joinery wasn’t all that good either, solid color paint made more sense. Black was of course, an early candidate, but it wouldn’t match the look of my house’s kitchen and dining area. So, I opted for a medium to a matte dark gray finish. While a bit surprising at the same time, it was a relief that the wife agreed. I even got her and my boy to help paint.

After waiting for the enamel paint to dry (which is quite a while), I installed the casters, which pretty much completed the frame/base, as seen here:

The table top and the drawer faces were obviously going to receive a different treatment. A clear finish was non-negotiable. But I did go back and forth as to whether or not to apply a stain. Eventually, I decided not to, thinking the clear finish can add enough tint on its own. I applied a clear flat lacquer finish. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take pics while spraying as I was too busy worrying about how to control the gun. I hadn’t sprayed with my air compressor in more than a decade. And having no full control of it’s pressure, it wasn’t a graceful process. I was just relieved I got through with it and made a mental note to just get a cheap dedicated HVLP sprayer since I’ve become a fan of lacquer again. The flat lacquer hardly had any tint to it. But still being nitrocellulose based, I suspect it won’t be too long before it starts yellowing to give a bit of an aged look since this will be placed by the stove.

The last task I needed to do was to put the remaining parts together. Doing the drawers was headache-free. The faces aligned just fine and I didn’t screw up when I drilled the holes for the handles. The top, however, was a different story. Centering it proved more challenging than I thought. This was also were my attempt to cut costs came back to bite me in the ass. Using the cheap sliders instead of the ball-bearing variety meant that the drawers can’t be installed or removed with the top attached. I only realized that after I attached the top the first time (with significant difficulty, if I might add). The tight spacing also led to the drawers not sliding properly as the inside was getting snagged by the brackets used to fasten the top. I had really hoped that the most frustrating stage would not come near the end…

After some negotiating, the whole thing finally came together adequately. I won’t deny that looking at it continues to bring a feeling of satisfaction. I was ready to move it to the garage and use it as my work table just in case the wife doesn’t want to use it. But like our son, as seen here, she seems to approve. Nearly two weeks in and it hasn’t moved from the kitchen.

Again, this isn’t a real tutorial. It’s more of me sharing my experiences and relating the difficulties and mistakes I had to deal with. But I hope that you, having endured the entirety of this blog post, still found something useful if you intend to build your own table. If not, maybe you could still post comments or questions below. I’ll try to respond to the best of my abilities.

Thanks for reading!

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