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How To Make A Kitchen Island

author-gravatar bruceaulrich Oct 02, 2017

I was commissioned to build a mobile kitchen island. This was a pretty complex build, for what I'm used to. Take a look at the video of how I did it:

My neighbor wanted a very unique gift for his wife for Christmas, so a few months before, he came to me with ideas about a rolling kitchen island. He had already sketched out the general look of what he wanted, so I asked a few more questions to make sure we were on the same page with casters, the top, number of drawers, paint color and a few more details. 

He had a few requirements that had to be met:

  • painted the same color as his existing cabinets
  • hardwood top so they could use it as a cutting board for food prep
  • large casters so it could be wheeled outside to grill (they grill out back a lot)
  • plenty of storage
  • same height as their counters


Table saw -

Miter saw -

Nail gun -

Air compressor -

Hand plane -

Thickness planer -

Jointer -

Drill & driver -

Mini paint roller -

Spackling -

Random orbit sander -

Double locking casters -



3/4" plywood

Paint of your choice

Wood glue


Thanks for taking the time to check out this project! Take a look at the steps outlined below and if you build one, I'd love to see it...tag me on Instagram @Brudaddy! I'd also love to know what you think, so leave me a comment with any questions you might have. 

I got started by unpackaging all of the galvanized pipe. I used 1/2" pipe for the handle/towel holder that would go on the side. I'm not sure why I started on this first, since it would be one of the last things to go on the piece. I think it is just nice to get started on something easy with a big project. That's what I've found anyway. It helps me want to keep going into it. 

I wiped down the pipes with acetone to remove anything sticky or any residue left. Then, I assembled the pipes into their final configuration. I could have just used black iron pipes, but I used the galvanized ones for a reason. The hardware the client wanted to use was a weathered nickel, so it had some silver and black elements. They didn't originally want to go with these, but I suggested them to stand out just a bit from all of their current hardware. The style matched their current hardware exactly, but this would make it an accent piece. 

I didn't try to glue any of these pipes or secure them to each other in any way. They were secure enough just threading them tightly. 

I sprayed some black spray paint on the handle once it was done. Yes, I know you can buy black iron pipe, but I wanted the silver of the galvanization to show through just a little bit. The drawer pulls the client requested were "hammered nickel" finish, which were mostly black, with a little silver showing through like they had been beat up. 

I took some 8/4 (that is pronounced "eight quarter" and just means it is 2" thick) walnut and some 4/4 hard maple to use for the top. The walnut was rough material, so it had to be milled up. It was slightly wider than what my 6" jointer could handle, so I had to figure out a different way. I just ran the face of the walnut boards across the jointer head like I would normally, but this left a slight lip on one side. I took it to my bench and used a No.4 hand plane to remove that little lip. Then, I sent it through the thickness planer a few times with the newly flattened side facing down. This gave me 2 perfectly flat and parallel (probably the most important) faces. 

Then, I took them to my table saw to rip out the strips I would use to make the top of this kitchen island. I have found with my table saw at least, it has a hard time ripping straight through 2" hardwood. what I have found that works is to put the blade about half of the height of the material, run it through, and then raise the blade so that it cuts all of the way through, and finish the cut. That keeps the saw from getting bogged down, and if there was any stress in the wood, it tends to pinch the blade less making it a much safer operation. 

I ripped strips off the thickness I wanted the top to be, which ended up being about 1 1/4". 

Then, I laid everything out to see how I wanted it to look. I started marking, with a piece of chalk, where I wanted to put my dowels. I was going to use dowel joinery to attach the strips together and add some strength. After drilling the first couple of holes, I used some dowel centers in those holes to mark the location of the holes on the adjacent strip. I only had two in this size, so I just had to move them a lot. I did this by hand, because I didn't have a drill press at the time. 

And that's when it happened...everything went wrong. 

I could not get the dowels to line up enough for the boards to come together in a seamless way. How frustrating! After all of that work, drilling out the holes and then cutting all of the dowel pieces and rounding the edges! Argh!

So, I ended up just calling an audible and scrapping the idea of the dowels. I just glued it up as if it were a large cutting board. It will have enough support all around the base for it not to be a problem, but I just don't like that I couldn't get the dowels to line up. Oh well, these kinds of things happen during projects and you have to just be able to roll with it. 

Next I glued up all of the strips.     

Right out of the clamps, I used a scraper to get off some of the excess glue. 

A small crack developed after I glued it all together, so I mixed up some 2 part epoxy and filled the crack. 

Then, I sanded everything up to 120 grit. I knew they were going to use this as a food prep station, so I needed to raise the grain. When I do this, I typically sand with 80, then 120, raise the grain by spraying some water on the board and wiping off excess, and then sanding to 220 once it has dried. This keeps the board/top really smooth, no matter if they use some water to wash it. 

Before I trimmed up the top, I added some blue tape on the under side of the piece. This really does a lot to help tearout, if you have problems with it. I typically don't with this crosscut sled, but it was not cooperating for me that day. 

I trimmed the top to the final dimensions with my crosscut sled on the table saw. 

Then, I added a 1/8" roundover at the router. Just enough to break the edge a little bit. 

Next, I added my maker's mark to the underside of the top. 

Then, it was time for oil. I used 100% pure tung oil on this piece, and I really like what it does to walnut. It takes a bit longer to cure or soak in than mineral oil, but it gives a very rich look. 

I just poured it on and let it sit for about 15 minutes before wiping off any excess. I did this twice. 

Next, I turned my attention to the cabinet. 

Before I started assembling the cabinet, I checked with my neighbor (client) to see if he was sure he wanted 4 drawers in the cabinet. You see, it was only 32" tall, and having 4 drawers would make them really shallow. I'm glad I asked, because he decided he wanted the drawers to be a little deeper. Therefore, we nixed one of the drawers, ending up with just 3. I didn't have enough plywood to make these corrections out of what was left originally, so I had to go pick up another sheet of plywood. 

I assembled the cabinet using wood glue and brad nails. Then, I came back and added some countersunk screws. This cabinet will be painted, remember, so it didn't matter much what type of joinery was used. For the front face, I used pocket holes to create one single piece. Then, I just secured that to the rest of the cabinet sides. 

I used some spackling to patch any of the nail holes and imperfections with the plywood. 

For the corners of the cabinet, I was going to be using some pine that was stained with a light gray, driftwood stain. It gave it a nice look. 

I painted the drawer fronts and the rest of the cabinet with a small paint roller and a while paint, the color of which the client chose. 

I forgot to add a groove around the inside of the sides so that I could use some table top fasteners, so I borrowed my neighbor's Festool Domino. We used that to put a few small grooves at certain points all around the inside of the cabinet. This worked quite well. 

I pre-drilled some holes that the table top fasteners would use to secure the top. 

For the drawers, I used 3/4" plywood for the bottoms, so I didn't have to buy any more material. Here, I am spraying the inside of the drawers with a couple of coats of clear, satin lacquer.

The cabinet was wider than the drawer openings, so I had to put some runners for the drawer slides to secure to. This was kind of a pain, but with the use of some spacer blocks and patience, I was able to get them in. 

Then, I secured the drawer slides to the runners I had previously installed. These were full extension drawer slides. 

I found some heavy duty 4" casters that I liked and that were gray, a color that went with the piece. I got two of them that were double locking and two of them that were just simple casters. 

Then, I secured the corner pieces to the cabinet with brad nails. I was sure to carefully place these nails, since I would not go back and patch the holes. 

Then, I added the hardware to the drawers. 

Also, the iron pipe handle to the side of the cabinet. 

I really like the way the finished cabinet turned out!


Great work, Bruce! I love the look of the island with the walnut top and painted base. Nice touch on the pull/handle too!

Thanks for sharing

Thanks, Sean! Appreciate you letting me share it here!

@Sean  said:

Great work, Bruce! I love the look of the island with the walnut top and painted base. Nice touch on the pull/handle too!

Thanks for sharing

Fantastic work! I love the style. Awesome choice of hardware, too.

I really liked the video work too, I've subscribed!

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