A kitchen island can make a very nice upgrade to your home, adding both utility and value. If you have the room for it, an island like the one I’ve built here can even improve the efficiency of your cooking workflow, not to mention adding a cozy place for two people to sit and enjoy a meal. This plan has many “kitchen virtues” built into its design. Tons of roll-out storage in the lower compartment, utensil storage in the upper drawers, a spacious food preparation area on the butcher block countertop and an eating area on the raised counter section. In addition to the practical elements, it is also very stylish, with solid cherry arched raised panels featured on the doors and walls of the cabinet and highly detailed turned and routed legs at the corners. “Whoa,” you might be thinking, “I don’t know how to make legs like that and I am not even that comfortable making raised panel doors, much less ones with arched panels and matching rails.” Well, here is some good news: you don’t actually need to know how to do any of that to proceed with this project … and here is why.
Before You Get Started
Before you get started on putting the piece together, you’ll need these pre-built parts.
Side Panels (4) 3/4″ x 13-1⁄2″ x 31-1⁄4″
Back Panels (3) 3/4″ x 14″ x 31-1⁄4″
Doors (2) 3/4″ x 18-3⁄4″ x 24-3⁄4″
Drawer Faces (2) 3/4″ x 6″ x 18-3⁄4″
Drawer Slides (3 sets) #35601
Door Knobs (2) #34389
Drawer Pulls (2) #34348
35mm Cherry Plugs (3 sets) #38119
Cherry Legs (4) #43524
Door Hinges (2 sets) #33370
Butcher Block Tops (2) #25541
A Builder’s Challenge
Not long ago, Woodworker’s Journal publisher Larry Stoiaken challenged me to come up with a kitchen island design that was practical and very stylish but one that even a novice woodworker could build. At first I thought it was one of those pie-in-the-sky ideas a publisher will float out there from time to time, with little to come of it later. (In my experience, our publisher has a tendency to imagine projects in his mind’s-eye that woodworkers find just about impossible to pull off in an actual shop.) But then I had a talk with editor-in-chief Rob Johnstone and we started to see some real possibilities. After his experience last issue completing a cabinet “makeover,” Rob realized how many ways there are for woodworkers to go when it comes to completing a home project. These days you can buy a lot of items “custom-made to order” — like decorative legs, drawer faces and that sort of thing, and this approach to woodworking really got us thinking. If a person has the skill to build a simple melamine box, perhaps we could dress up the outside of it with pre-made components and come up with a fancy island that almost anyone could put together. I was almost embarrassed at how easily the project design came together … but I let Larry sweat for a few days before I gave him the sketch and the ideas. (Just like Scotty on Star Trek, let everyone think you can work wonders by making a task seem much harder than it actually is … )
Now I am not going to try to fool you: this is a much more expensive way to build a cabinet than starting from raw wood and building every component yourself, but the advantages to this method are obvious. And, it is also a lot less expensive way to acquire a cabinet than hiring your local cabinetmaker. After much discussion, the approach we settled on was to purchase as many items as possible — if you have the skills, you can substitute labor for any one of those items, be it the butcher block top, the panels, the drawer fronts or even the turned legs. What I’ll describe is an approach that even a raw novice can undertake. Where you go with the project is completely up to you!
Starting Right at the Top
I purchased two butcher block tops to make the top and counter (pieces 1 and 2) and used all of the material up. One piece was ripped to form the counter and its leftover was glued to the other piece to form the top. Since this material comes with a slight roundover on its edges, you’ll need to trim the full piece a bit before gluing it to the cutoff. That way the roundover won’t show up in the middle of your glue-up. To avoid extra sanding, be very accurate as you align the pieces when you clamp them together.
Once you remove the top from the clamps, chuck a 1/4″ roundover bit in your router to go around the entire top and counter (both the tops and bottoms) to ensure that this detail is consistent on both pieces. Now sand the top and counter through the grits and set them aside so you can turn your attention to the pieces that will complete the top subassembly.