Do you ever find that there just isn’t enough space for all the things in your kitchen? This was a welcome addition to our kitchen for just that reason. I have to admit it wasn’t all my design, the idea was on an episode of Ask This Old House not too long ago. However, I did take it to another level by making the butcher block top rather than buy one all assembled.
Let’s start with the construction of the butcher block. It was something I had never done before so it was a bit of a challenge. The first thing I learned was that it takes a lot of wood to make a butcher block this size. It all starts with a few large pieces of rough cut oak. I just happened to have some laying around.
It is a real talent to look at a rough cut board and find the usable pieces of it with just your trusty tape measure and your wit. I’m still learning but it is getting easier with every project. After careful consideration, it still takes a lot of time on the table saw and mitre saw to get the pieces cut and ready to run through the planer.
At this point I have the pieces cut to width (+ or – about 1/16″) but they are all of varying length. And the thickness of each is marked as they come out of the planer so when the time comes they can be matched to form each layer of the butcher block.
The next chore is to put the pieces together to form the block. It’s like putting a puzzle together without all the pieces being designed to fit together exactly. It took a while, but I made the best use out of the pieces I had and got it laid out in the proper order.
There’s no glue on anything yet, I just have them clamped together so none of the pieces warp or twist overnight. No time to glue anything today. It’s important to glue and clamp as soon as you can after they are planed.
The next day when I got to gluing, I had to work with parts of the complete block that would fit through my planer. The planer is only 13″ and the top will be just over 27″. That means 3 parts, not just 2, which makes for a bit more planning, but really it wasn’t too hard to work with these pieces.
I won’t go into the whole gluing process, let’s just say that a project like this is not for somebody that hasn’t had some experience working with wood glue and clamps. It takes a lot of quick application of glue, lining up of pieces, then clamping tightly to get the three sections of the top made.
Then each piece is surfaced by running the three pieces through the planer after the glue is completely dry, being very careful to have each piece cut to the same thickness when the final cut is done on each side of each piece.
Being careful not to try to take too much off on each pass, and keeping all three pieces in order while working with them. Two finished pieces, and finally all three.
Final assembly of the three pieces is a very precise process so the seams where the three major pieces are joined look the same as every other joint of the butcher block. It will no longer fit through the planer so those joints have to be smooth enough so that they can be finished with a belt sander by hand.
I didn’t have enough long clamps so I improvised by connecting a few shorter ones together. It looks quite the mess, but it really worked very well.
Now it’s time to make some very precise cuts to end up with a nice butcher block that is “in square” when it’s done. Lots of measuring and marking so it comes out right. Ideally it would get cut on a table saw, but the one I have doesn’t have a large enough table to do it safely. So a good circular saw and alignment guide had to do the job.
Finally a carefully routed edge to finish it all off.
A couple coats of stain and then three coats of polyurethane should keep it looking good for a few years. We decided to finish it this way because we are not going to use it as a cutting board. If you want to use it as a cutting board you will have to finish it with a few coats of mineral oil and then coat it from time to time with more mineral oil.
Now for the cabinet. I cheated by not making the cabinets myself, using a couple wall cabinets that are close to matching our kitchen. Wall cabinets you ask? Yes, wall cabinets, not base cabinets. If you use base cabinets and install wheels so it can roll around, it would be too tall. Using wall cabinets allows the installation of wheels and have it come out the same height as the counters in your kitchen. This is two 30″ x 12″ wall cabinets, upside down for now. Note the back of each cabinet has been cut so there is a level surface across the bottom.
A piece of 3/4″ plywood cut to fit will support the base of this island and allow for a good solid way to mount the wheels.
The wheels I used are 3″ polyurethane wheels that lock in both directions. I used swivel wheels on all four corners. Marked then drilled and fastened with carriage bolts so the heads of the bolts can be drawn down level with the plywood. Then the plywood base is secured to the cabinets with screws down from the cabinets. This holds the cabinets together at the base also.
Now on wheels, it’s time to get the top ready for the butcher block top. Filler strips of 3/4″ plywood are added so you have a level surface to mount the top. I glued them in place and secured the two cabinets together with screws before installing the top. Large clamps hold them together while I work on the assembly. I used shims between the two cabinets at the top as I screwed them together.
Now the top gets located onto the top of the cabinets with an even overhang side to side but with a one inch off set on the longer edge. This is to make room for a towel bar on one end of the island. Like the base, the top is secured with screws up from the cabinet, through the plywood spacer blocks. This makes for a solid connection.
The doors and shelves are installed and it’s beginning to look like a kitchen island.
Not being able to find a towel bar I liked for a reasonable amount of money (I guess I’m cheap) I made one out of some scraps of oak I had and a dowel I found laying around the wood shop from a previous project. A couple stainless machine screws installed with washers and lock nuts hold the towel bar in place. I also covered the cabinet seams with a fancy piece of trim to make it look a bit nicer.
A very useful addition to our kitchen. It serves as some extra storage and counter space as well as being a serving cart or extra table space for the holidays. With the wheels we chose it rolls easily anywhere it is needed.