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Build a Poplar Kitchen Workstation Table
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Butler kitchen workstation table This workstation, made of yellow poplar and butcher's block is a small and handy addition to any kitchen.

Regular readers are well aware of my interest in food preparation and cooking. I should explain that this project was designed and built for what, on the drawing board, I labeled “Butler’s Pantry.”

“Butler” is a figment of my imagination, and “Pantry,” in the strict sense, is an equal stretch. Nevertheless, a workstation of this sort, if space allows, is most useful. Therefore, in the spirit of its indeterminate location, you can be equally indeterminate in following my design and dimensions.

For the kitchen workstation diagrams and materials list in PDF format, click here.

This little kitchen workstation is easy to build, but rich in details that make it easy to look at as well. Start off by making the glued-up table top, frequently and incorrectly called a butcher block, laminated from native hardwoods of any thickness. (Butcher blocks are made with the end grain as the work surface.) In this case, because the edges of flatsawn material show as quartersawn when they are glued up this way, it is a nice opportunity to put to use all that material that you kept because it was too good to burn or throw away. Even short pieces can be bonded in, like bricks in a wall.

Glue the five center pieces first. Once cured, add two pieces to each side. I used Titebond® III rolled lightly onto each surface. Continue to build outward in this fashion to create the top blank. Machine and/or hand plane the top to its dimension. Finish with salad bowl oil.

Building the Legs

Clamping together workstation legs Clamp the glued leg pieces together in an L shape, preferably to the workbench, leaving a slight overhang if necessary to trim off any milling issues.

The next process to undertake is constructing the poplar legs.

Checking workstation table leg squareness Once the glue cures, plane the outer faces square to each other and clean up any milling marks and inconsistencies.

To get started, here’s the order of march: First plane the stock to thickness but saw it wider than its finished dimension. Follow up by planing one edge square on the narrow pieces.

Drilling out waste in workstation leg socket When you're cutting away the socket, use a 3/4" Forstner bit to eliminate most of the waste.

Now you will glue and clamp the two pieces, the narrow and the wide, together to form one piece for each leg. Go ahead and plane the outer faces square to one another.

Cutting waste from leg sockets with chisel Cut out the rest of the waste in your sockets with chisels, various widths as necessary.

With that done, step to your table saw and cut the two arms of the “L” to the exact same width.

Measuring out cut sockets on workstation Once you have the excess cut out of the sockets, measure them out to ensure that they are perfectly accurate.

Before you shape the rail sockets, all that is left is to square one end of each leg and then cut it to length.

Test fitting workstation rails With the sockets cut and measured out, test fit the rails before you get ready to join them.

On the top of the legs, you’ll need to form a socket to accept the top rail. I used a Forstner bit in my drill press to remove most of the waste, and completed the shape with a variety of chisels.

Making the Leg and Rail Joints

Assembling rails for workstation base Clamp the shoulders of the top rails tight and then place the bottom rail for a square assembly.

The ends of the top rails are machined to fit the sockets you chopped into the legs. The distance between shoulders of the simple joint are cut to the length of the bottom rail.

Drilling pilot holes for the workstation lag screws Drill the pilot holes for your lag screws, the author holds the drill upside down to make aligning the bit with the leg easier.

Each top rail is held in place with 2" #8 screws. Before you move on, set up fences on a drill press to position the 5/16" diameter clearance holes in the legs for the lag screws that will hold the bottom rails.

Continue Shaping the Parts

Saddle for kitchen workstation table Cut the workstation parts to length and use a nail gun to assemble them, make your saddle about 1/16" wider than the rail.

The legs are shaped with a chamfer all around except for the top edge, which links visually with the collar. The bottom rails have the same raised detail, formed on the table saw, on both sides. The “panels” will be emphasized with color by painting them.

Assembling the Work Station

Strong lag screw joint in kitchen workstation With the parts in place, tighten your lag screws until the washer begins to sink into the wood, making the joint very strong.

Assemble a pair of legs with the top rail screwed in place. Next, lag-screw the bottom rail in place. Once you have two subassemblies of this kind, join them with the top rails screwed in place, then add the bottom rails.

Kitchen workstation frame assembly Clamp the saddles to the legs, holding the shoulders tight with a bar clamp, with the edge of the rail touching the saddle on each side.

When attaching the top rails, there is no dovetail effect on the top joint that would pull the shoulders tight, so take the trouble to clamp across the rail. Place a bottom rail between the legs to help align the top joint.

You’ll have to devise a way of holding the bottom rails so they can be correctly positioned and clamped while the pilot holes for the lag screws are drilled and the screws inserted. The solution is a pair of “saddles”: you’ll need a left and a right version. When making these jigs, the top bar of the saddle remains across the gap until the three plywood pieces that form the U-shape are secured in place. Then you can simply cut the top bar scrap away.

Making the Collar

Adding collar subassembly to kitchen workstation Glue and nail the plywood gussets into the rabbets to form the collar joints, a key to holding the table's top and frame together.

There is just one component left to build. The collar holds the table top above the terminus of the legs while presenting interesting shapes and shadows under the natural wood top. Cut parts to length, miter the inside corners, and cut the rebates (rabbets to you Yanks) for the plywood gussets.

The collar is held in place by 2" #8 screws run up through the top rails. The top is held in place by 5/16" x 2" lag screws in oversize clearance holes fastened up through the gusset.

Finishing Up with Paint

You could oil, wax or paint the finished frame. I used a waterbased gloss — the same colors used in the “Butler’s Pantry.” To paint the panels on the bottom rail, brush from the middle out to get a clean corner. All the parts were painted separately prior to assembly.

posted on February 1, 2008 by Ian Kirby
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