Building A Kitchen Island Part 2: Working With Hand Tools

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For me, building a kitchen island with wood grown and milled into lumber on my farm is a labor of love. It’s also slower than if I bought all the materials and didn’t take the time to appreciate the process itself. In the Part 1, I reported on using my drill press to rough out the mortises for the front and back frames. I decided to switch to hand tools for cutting the mortises for the framing members that connect the front and back and that will support the drawers. I still used the table saw to form the tenons. I was surprised at how easy it was to square and plumb the assembled frame. My thoughts are now aimed at completing the drawer slide framing, building drawers and then milling more lumber for the sides, back and cabinet doors.

I used a level concrete floor to plum and square the kitchen island’s mortised and glued frame. In this shot I have not yet removed excess glue — yes, I used “Gorilla glue”  just like last time and it expands a bit as it cures and pushes out of the seams.

Chopping mortises is much easier if you remove as much material as you can with a boring tool of some sort. The ships auger chucked into an old fashioned brace makes for easy boring. Take care to keep the bit plumb and you’ll have an easy time cleaning the excess material out with a pair of heavy-duty mortising chisels and mallet.

Since I only have a few bar clamps long enough to span more than 24 inches, I just use binder straps where practical. With two bar clamps and two straps, a little tapping, wracking, and setting a 100-pound plank on top of the frame it was amazingly easy to get it all plumb and squared up. It’ll be a few weekends before I get back to this project, but at this point I’m very motivated to finish it. Stay tuned.

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