Grit Blogs > The Daily Commute

Building A Kitchen Island Part 3: Enclosing The Sides

By Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief

Tags: sawmill, woodworking, kitchen, farm,

GRIT Editor Hank Will at the wheel of his 1964 IH pickup.I finally managed to get back to the kitchen island project last weekend (see part 1 and part 2). This time, I focussed on framing in the drawer slides and enclosing the sides and installing the bottom shelf. As fate, or luck would have it, I ran out of suitable lumber for the sides so I took the opportunity to put a Hud-Son Homesteader HFE-21 sawmill to work. I cut another 9-foot long length off the long-dead pine that I felled last spring. That tree will have yielded all of the lumber needed for the island except the top and then some. Even though sheet goods might make more sense for the drawer bottoms and the cabinet doors, I am committed to building the entire kitchen island from lumber grown and milled right here on the farm. I know that's no great feat for folks living in New England, but here on the Kansas plains, dead trees of any kind tend to get bucked for firewood, dozed into holes and buried, or dozed into piles and burned.

 Hank's homemade kitchen island with bottom and sides installed.  

The kitchen island is finally taking shape. The pine planks and timbers will be painted or stained once we decide what the top will look like. We're leaning toward solid American black walnut at the moment, but that is subject to change.

Hank's kitchen island with drawer slide framing installed. 

This is only the third time in my life that I've built and installed drawers in cabinets. This time I am making old-fashioned wooden slides that I plan to lubricate with soap or hard tallow -- the slide framing is installed here. I broke down and used some carefully placed screws to help with the installation. As always, bore pilot holes for best results.

The Hud-Son homestead sawmill made short the work of sawing planks for siding the kitchen island. 

The Hud-Son bandsaw mill came in mighty handy for cutting additional planks from the well-seasoned pine log. One advantage to this mill over the Alaskan chainsaw mill is that it wastes much less wood. It's also faster, quieter and the little 6-horsepower Briggs engine didn't put me to sleep with both big barn doors open and the Kansas gale-force breeze blowing through. When not in use, it's easy to tuck the entire mill out of the way.

Hank's kitchen island with the bottom shelf and sides planked 

Planking the bottom was straightforward. I chose 0.75-inch rough boards, milled them smooth and nailed them to the frameworks. Rather than butting planks against one another, I cut half laps along their edges so they would overlap by about 0.75 inch. These ship-lap style joints will allow some expansion and contraction but prevent opening to daylight. For the sides (and back) I nailed 3/8-inch thick planks spaced about 3 inches apart. The joint cover-boards are about 4.5-inches wide with laps milled into both edges sufficient to overlap the planks by about 0.75 inch. I don't know what it's called, or even if you are "allowed" to use such crude joinery anymore, but that's how the back and sides were planked on a cool antique cabinet I saw at a flea market -- so I went with it.

Lap joint detail on Hank's kitchen island. 

Here you can sort of make out how the lapped board fills the space between the two wider planks.

Black Walnut timbers destined for the top of Hank's kitchen island. 

This is the main reason that I believe the kitchen island's top will be made of American black walnut (pardon my shadow). It felt good to get the bulk of the largest downed walnut converted into some nice lumber. I'm still  not certain that the kitchen island's top will be solid walnut, or exactly how I will join the heavy planks. Stay tuned to find out.

Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .

hank will_2
12/5/2011 2:29:28 PM

Hey Dave -- I do like those power tools, especially when it comes to cutting slabs of hardwood or hard pine. I am amazed by the tree resources at our place. The fencelines are over grown with American elms, osage orange, green ash, silver maple, red or scarlet oak, hickory, hackberry and some black walnut. We have lots more black walnut growing in a draw and in front of one pond dam. I miss the big river cottonwoods, but we do have a couple nice specimens. Cottonwood makes fine barn timbers and corral material. One of the largest and lovliest barns I know in central Nebraska is completely framed with huge cottonwood timbers. It's in Wheeler County as I recall. Mulberry is a relative to Osage Orange and makes pretty rot-resistant fence posts ... just saying :-)

nebraska dave
12/2/2011 8:13:14 PM

Hank, I knew you would resort to a tool with a manly engine on it sooner or later. Just kidding. Your project is coming together wonderfully well. I'm always surprised at the amount of trees you have on your place. Kansas doesn't really have a lot of trees in most places that I've seen. Nebraska is was void of trees when the pioneers came or so I've been told. The prairie grass was tall and it looked like an ocean waving in the wind. Almost all of the trees in Nebraska have been planted since then. Of course now they tend to seed themselves along river banks and fence lines. The main wild trees here are Mulberry and Cottonwood which in my humble opinion are both very close to noxious weeds. At least the Mulberry has usable fruit but I've yet to find a use for cottonwood fuzz. You are very fortunate to have good usable wood for projects. You are going to have a great looking and functional kitchen island when your done. Have a great wood shop day.