Introduction: Kitchen Island Cabinet From Reclaimed Wood

About: I have an unhealthy relationship with pallet wood. I make fast paced and entertaining build videos on my YouTube channel that are made for everyone, but with the ultimate goal to get the younger generations ex…

I used to have a dining table, I still do, but I used to too. Anyway, there are a lot of moving pieces on this kitchen island, most notable is the transforming countertop. What?! Yeah, you heard me right! The upper waterfall countertop rotates allowing it to be either a regular bar top where you can sit next to your BFF, or a dining table where you can sit across from your BFF. I have a small apartment with no dining room, so this was my solution to that. The cabinet and countertop are made out of reclaimed cherry columns, with a center "runner" on the countertop made from pallet wood. The doors are custom fabricated barn doors made from reclaimed welded angle iron and freehand carved pallet wood slats. I was going for a kind of modern/retro vibe with this one and after a year of designing and redesigning and ~300hrs of labor building the thing, I couldn't be happier.

Left: before, with the countertop in the standard collapsed bar position
Right: expanded, countertop in the "dining table" position

Part 1 (cabinet & drawers): You're looking at it!
Part 2 (wavy doors):
Part 3 (countertops):

Step 1: Materials & Tools

Notable Materials & Tools used on this build:

- Cherry 3x3 Columns
- 1/2" Plywood
- Wood Glue -
- Maple lumber
- Drawer Slides -
- Halcyon (Amber) Varnish -
- Table Top Fasteners -
- Mini Barn Door Hardware -
- Wood Sealer -
- Lust (Matte) Varnish -

- Bluetooth hearing protection -
- Respirator (use code "Jackman" for 5% off!) -
- Table Saw -
- Silicone Mat -
- Glue Roller Bottle -
- Pipe Clamps -
- Jointing Sled -
- Crosscut Sled -
- Thickness Plane -
- Drum Sander -
- Wood Ruler -
- Beadlock Pro Kit -
- Drill & Driver -
- Set Up Shims -
- Rubber Mallet -
- Parallel Clamps -
- Random Orbit Sander -
- Pocket Hole Jig -
- Router Table Box Joint Jig -
- Box Joint Cauls -
- Benchtop Belt Sander -
- HVLP Sprayer -
- Double square -

Step 2: Rough Milling

This project starts with some almost fresh lumber, it's almost too easy, I don't get why people enjoy this shortcut... I picked up some 3x3 rough sawn cherry columns at my local reclaimed store and rough cut them to length on my miter saw (a couple inches longer then the final cabinet pieces).

The structure of the cabinet that I designed is made up of 2x2 square pieces for the post part and some 2x3" pieces around the top, so I need to resaw the posts smaller. I do this on the table saw by cutting a little under halfway through and then finishing the cut on the bandsaw. The faces are then cleaned up by sending them through the thickness planer.

Step 3: Lamination

Now what about the thin off-cuts? You'd better believe I have a use for those. If you know me, you know I'm not shy about laminating pieces together, and that's exactly what I did. The off-cuts were the perfect size so that when I glued 3 of them together they made up another 2x2 piece of stock (so I did that 4 times).

I carefully remove the pieces from the clamps and then sort out and label each of the pieces for the frame of the cabinet.

Step 4: Finish Milling

Now that I got the wood lamination out of my system, the real milling can begin. This starts on the table saw by jointing the edge of each of the pieces. I don't have room in my humble shop for a jointer, so I just use the Rockler jointing jig instead. With a straight and square line established, I then run this board through the planer to bring it down to the final 2" finish thickness. Then I rinse and repeat the process for the other 2 faces.

The last dimension to dial in is the length, and we all know how critical that is... I use my table saw sled to square up one end and then cut all of the pieces to length, per my drawings, because I have my life together and plan things ahead (or at least I make it look that way).

Step 5: Mortise and Tenon Joints

Both the front and back frames are laid out on the bench and clamped in place temporarily. I'm using the BeadLock tenon system for this, so here I can mark out the location for the loose tenons at all of the joints.

Then it's just a matter of drilling out the holes for the tenons by simply clamping the jig in place, lining it up on the left hand side with the tick marks I just made. The left 2 holes are drilled first and then the whole guide block slides a half of a hole's width to the right where I can drill out the remainder of the hole.

This leaves me behind with a pocket that looks a little something like this which has a shape that matches up perfectly with the tenon stock that comes with the kit. There is also the option to insert a flat edge block to the jig to clean up the edges with a chisel and use a regular rectangular tenon, but as a lazy millennial I find that to be too much work since this right here is enough to get me that participation trophy.

Step 6: Dry Fit and Dado

This same process is done at all of the joints and a dry fit with the tenons in place confirms that everything fits and I am in fact as awesome as I think I am. This also allows me to scribe some lines around the perimeter of the spots where I need to cut grooves for panels and also grooves for where the countertop will eventually be fastened down to the cabinet.

And as promised, I cut grooves in the pieces as needed to hold in the plywood panels that I'll add later. I use a 1/4" bit in the router table and cut the grooves 1/4" in from the outside face of the rails.

Then for attaching the countertop, I'm going to use these tabletop hardware brackets. I cut the grooves with a single cut of my table saw on this test piece to check the fit. The brackets screw into the countertop and allow for it to move slightly throughout the seasons as it expands and contracts with the change in humidity.

Step 7: Panels & Assembly

The back side of the cabinet and one end will receive panels, which I do with 1/2" plywood. I cut smaller panels from a full sheet of birch plywood and then use my table saw to cut a relief cut in the face, followed by a cut in the edge to create a thinned edge on all of the panels.

After dry fitting the panels, I'm finally ready to assemble the frame. Glue, lots of glue, I'm never shy about glue. You can get a better look at the tenons here, but I apply glue to the tenons and to the faces of each joint, assemble, and clamp the front and rear frame together.

After taking the glue-ups out of the clamps, the inside faces are sanded smooth to remove the glue squeeze out and and inconsistencies. Next the 4 side pieces and 1 end panel can be assembled and glued together just like the main panels to make the cabinet carcass. A little bit of scraping and sanding and this thing is good to go.

Step 8: Drawer Box Joints

With the cabinet portion done, I need some drawers to put in it. I started by milling up some of the leftover plywood from the panels and glued some edge banding on the top edge to dress it up a little bit. Then after cutting it all down to size, I used my router table box joint jig to add 1/4" box joints at the corners. I also cut a dado out of the inside edge of each piece to hold the drawer bottom.

After all that work, put one of the drawers together and stepped back only to realize that I was focusing too hard on using some scrap material up instead of focusing on what would look the best (one of my many many flaws, but we don't have time for that). So, I scrapped those drawers and milled up some solid maple instead, which ended up being the perfect visual I was looking for.

Step 9: Drawer Assembly

Luckily I was able to save the drawer bottoms, so not everything was a loss. But I glued up the drawers a pair at a time using strap clamps and box joint calls to pull the box joints at the corners together.

As always, you want to leave the fingers a little long on the box joints, which conveniently is exactly what I did here. Once the glue dries, I'm able to sand them down smooth, scrape off the glue, and do a final sanding on the drawers to call them done. There are 6 of these shallow drawers (3 on each side) and one slightly deeper drawer for the center, more on that later, be patient!

Step 10: Drawer Slides

To attach the drawers, I mark out the cabinet in thirds and attach 2x3/4" cleats with pocket screws. These cleats are then used to hang the drawer slides on by first clamping them in place to align them and then screwing them in place permanently. I'm not sure why, but I feel like for some reason I never knew before this project that I could get black drawer slides, too many hits on the head maybe?

To attach the drawers, I use a 1/16" shim under them to lift them up off the cabinet and then attach them each with a few screws. The upper drawers are a little easier because I just hold them flush with the bottom of the drawer slide and cleat.

Step 11: Finish

The drawers are finished with a few spray coats of amber varnish. For the cabinet though, I want a more toned down finish while also pulling out the color, so I start by applying a couple coats of varnish sealer. The varnish sealer goes on super easy and seals the grain of the wood, but it also has this deep amber tint to it that really pulls out the beautiful color in cherry. Cherry ages quite dramatically too so I'm curious to see how this looks a few years down the road, not much you can do about it though because that's just how cherry is, it do be like that.

For the final finish I build up a few coats of matte varnish. This stuff goes on thicker then the sealer and you need to watch for drips, but it's amazing once it dies how much it changes the surface. It builds up a super hard surface but dulls down the shine completely so your piece of furniture goes from looking like a showroom car to looking like my forehead, assuming it's not sweaty. That's probably not selling you on the idea, but the dulled down finish really lets the cabinet speak for itself rather than screaming "hey look at me" just begging for your attention. Makes sense? No? Understandable.

Step 12: Barn Door Hardware and Attaching Butcher Block

The barn door hardware is installed on the front of the cabinet by simply predrilling and bolting it in at 3 locations.

Then the overhang is measured for the custom butcherblock countertop I made and, once even, is clamped in place temporarily while I use the tabletop fasteners to screw it in place permanently.

Step 13: Baskets & Barn Doors

The drawers and hardware can then be reinstalled (since I took them off before to apply the finish). I got some baskets to fit into the shallow drawers because I be hipster like that, plus I have a whole lot of produce to store. Don't you dare get me started about my produce!

And with that I can slide on the custom fabricated barn doors that I made and install the end cap hardware to keep them from rolling off the track and call this project complete!

Step 14: Glamour Shots

Woooooow Jackman, slow down! Custom fabricated barn doors?! Custom butcherblock countertop?! You're not going to tease me like that are you? I want to see how you poison people with pallet wood with this project! Don't you fear my friend, the story is just getting started. Chapter 2 is the barn door build, it was kind of it's own design concept (like the countertop), so I decided to break them out as a separate videos and tutorials.

Part 1 (cabinet & drawers): You're looking at it!
Part 2 (wavy doors):
Part 3 (countertops):


Thirsty for more? You can also find me in other places on the interwebs!

My Website: Essentially my entire life

YouTube: Me, in moving picture form

Instagram: Preview my projects as they progress #nofilter

Twitter: Riveting thoughts, in very small doses


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