Grit Blogs > The Daily Commute

Building A Kitchen Island Part 4: Creating Drawer Boxes

By Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief

Tags: kitchen island, woodworking, diy,

GRIT Editor Hank Will at the wheel of his 1964 IH pickup.(1)Just a quick update on my kitchen island project. Last weekend I built the drawer boxes and framed one of the doors before deciding it was just too cold and damp to linger out in the barn any longer. I thought about hooking up the portable propane forced air heater but opted to let the glue cure in the barn's small heated laundry room instead. If you remember, in the first part of this project, I milled some dead pine, re-sawed and planed it and then started constructing the island's frame. In the second installment, I completed most of the frame using hand tools and in the third installment, I framed the drawer slides and milled and planed additional lumber for the ends and back. My goal is to have this piece finished by Christmas -- I might not make it, but I will try.

Hank's Kitchen Island with drawer boxes built and inserted into the slides 

Here's the kitchen island with all three drawer boxes inserted  into the slides. I will make faces to cover the visible ends of the drawers once I build and fit the cabinet doors. I'm going to leave the slides as they are -- with a little sanding and waxing -- and see how it goes before considering installation of some nylon or teflon glides.

A completed drawer box for Hank's kitchen island. 

I built the drawer boxes using pine that I sawed from a dead tree. I planed the front, back and sides down to 1/2-inch thick. The bottom is right at 1/4-inch thick and it sits in a groove around the bottom of the front and sides. The back sets down on the bottom and I pinned it with a couple of small finishing nails.

Drawer box detail on Hank's kitchen island. 

I apologize for the location of the focal point in this photo -- or the focus point, more truthfully. My phone's camera isn't too sophisticated. However you can see that I joined the corners of the drawer boxes using interlocking dados and rebates. I made the cuts with the table saw and cleaned them out with a 1/4-inch chisel. It took a little dinking to get everything to fit nice and snug but once it did, the boxes pretty much squared up on their own. All the joints are glued with Gorilla wood glue. Molly the Border Terrier is my faithful woodworking companion. Here she is taking a break from tracking down rodents to look over my handiwork. You can also see that I have days of sanding ahead of me, but I find that to be fairly relaxing work.

Hank's homemade kitchen island with all three drawer boxes standing proud of the frame. 

It feels like this project is finally coming together. The drawer boxes actually slide easily and land square with the front, even with a 10-pound weight in them. I would have continued on to the cabinet doors, but the weather chased me in on Saturday. And on Sunday, I stayed indoors to write a chapter for the book Karen Keb and I are writing together. It's called Plowing With Pigs and is about all kinds of 21st-Century homestead solutions, including making stuff with materials you can get for free. Stay tuned for more information on the book and on this project.


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
12/9/2011 9:45:52 AM

Hey Eric, I sawed some American black walnut for the top. It looks like I'll use 5 pieces and breadboard the ends. I'm planning to finish it to 2.25 inches thick. So I will probably tongue and groove the thick walnut planks together. There's a photo of the rough stock at the end of the part 3 post ... there's a link above somewhere. Thanks for the kind words. Nebraska Dave -- Karen and I are writing a book together and it is really fun. Our goal is to encourage as many folks as we can to look forward with eager anticipation, re-invent the American dream and set out on a journey of discovery and joy by making the home/homestead into a production center, etc. etc. It's due to the publisher Sept. 1, 2012 so I suspect it'll have an early 2013 publication date. We're excited.

nebraska dave
12/8/2011 12:09:12 PM

Hank, your project is really starting to come together. Once you get it all finished it will be a family heirloom for sure. It's been fascinating to follow all the steps with pictures from the planks being sawed from the tree to joints and milling. The wood has a very interesting character and will be a special piece in the kitchen for sure. You and Karen writing a book, huh. Well, be sure and let me know when the first book signing will be. It sounds like a modern day version of the old Foxfire series. I leave you to your work my friend. Have a great Christmas season.

eric kolber
12/6/2011 12:17:11 PM

Hank, What a blessing you deciding to build a kitchen cabinet. We have been trying to find one and decided we would have to build or convert one to a mobile kitchen bar concept. I hate to get ahead of you but what are you going to use for the top? I am so thankful that you do these projects and tell us how you do it. Not being a crafty person I need all the instruction I can get. Thank you again, I can hardly wait to see the next installment. Eric

hank will_2
12/5/2011 2:24:21 PM

Thanks for the kind words and encouragement, Susy. I am really excited to finish the doors and then start work on the top. I am going to laminate up 3 or 4 heavy planks lengthwise and breadboard the ends for the top. I'm shooting for 2.25-inches thick so it will be heavy and strong. A good place to turn out dough or clamp the grainmill. The ends will be full of hand plane and chisel work, but once I peg them, there will be nary a chance for the planks to separate at their ends.

chiot's run
12/5/2011 12:01:28 PM

It's looking GREAT - fabulous job. So glad you're keeping us posted and I cannot wait to see the final product!