Introduction: Scrap Wood Mud Kitchen
I have been wanting to make a mud kitchen for my son for a while as I really hoped he would enjoy it. He is always "helping out" in the kitchen and has a great imagination. When the parks around my neighborhood got closed because of the pandemic, I decided that now was the time. I made this from scrap wood I had lying around in my garage combined with a commercial steam pan and an old faucet. If you watch the video above you can even see the smile on my son's face when I revealed the surprise I had been working on.
Below are links to tools and materials I used in this article. It is either the exact tool/supply or something very close.
Materials and Consumables:
- Scrap wood (below is the list of wood that I used, but you can replace it with whatever works for you)
- One - 4x4x96" western red cedar
- One - 1x5x96" tongue and grove eastern white cedar
- Seven - 2x10x36" construction lumber
- One - 1x6x36" pine
- Scrap walnut and cherry
- Steam basket (to be used as a sink)
- Old faucet
- Old kitchen utensils
- various screws, including deck screws and pocket hole screws.
Note: The links in this article are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Step 1: Planning
As I mentioned earlier, this project was made with only scrap wood that I had in my garage. At the time that I made this, none of the hardware stores around my place were open. I took an inventory of my scrap wood in the garage and went to the computer to make a design. As you can see in the booklet I had also brainstormed some ideas on what I wanted to include in the design, but some things were cut (like the towel bar). I used Sketchup to make this, but other software could be used. I then took the measurements from the design and listed them as a cut list into my trusty notebook.
I have included the Sketchup file that has all of the dimensions. You can see in the picture of the notebook that I made some changes as I built the mud kitchen (the old measurements that have been crossed out). If you want to make one yourself, feel free to either follow along with the article or the Sketchup file. Either way you can make changes that make sense based on the wood you have.
Step 2: Making the Frame
I had some wood that was already milled to 3/4" so I used that to make the outer frame. It was approximately 3" wide and that worked perfect for my design.
I first cut the wood into three pieces. 2 side panels that were 15 3/4" long and the front piece that was 33" long.
I then used my pocket hole jig to drill out the recesses for the pocket hole screws. These will be on the inside of the frame so I am not worried about covering them up.
To screw it together I used some corner clamps. I found that these helped me to keep things aligned and it made sure that I didn't get things out of square. I also added some titebond III glue to the joint. The glue is advertised as waterproof, so I hope it will stand up to the elements.
Step 3: Cut and Attach Legs to Base
I used a 4x4 cedar fence post to make the legs. I cut 4 of them to 18" long using my table saw.
I then pulled out the pocket hole jig again and used it to drill holes in the legs to attach them to the frame. Each one of the legs got 4 pocket holes. On the front corners the pocket holes were on adjacent sides and on the back corners I put the pocket holes on opposite sides.
I did not add glue to these joints. I reasoned that the cross-grain stresses would be too much for the glue and could lead to failure of the joint. But, you can add glue if you think that I over-thought this step!
Step 4: Cutting Bottom Shelves
The bottom shelves (and much of the other bits of this project) were made from bits of a 2x10 I salvaged from my friends renovation project. They had been cut to around 36" (as they had been used as temporary stair treads during construction).
To make them usable there are a few steps I took. First I used my jointer to take the rounded edge off and to make that side flat. Then I used my table saw to cut the boards to width. I made two boards (front and back) that were 5 3/4" and one board (center) that was 3 7/8".
I then used my miter saw to cut all the boards to 33".
The front and back boards needed a notch cut out of them to accommodate the 4x4 legs. I placed one of the 4x4 legs on the boards and traced it out. I then went over to the band saw and cut out the notches. If you don't have a band saw this could easily be done with either a jigsaw or even a handsaw.
Step 5: Rounding Over and Attaching Bottom Shelves
Since the first step in making the shelves was to take off the round overs, it's now time to put them back on! I used my router table with a 1/4" round over bit. When I have multiple boards making up a shelf I like to add a round over as it helps when pushing items onto the shelf as the item is much less likely to get snagged between boards.
To attach the front and back shelves I used pocket hole screws. Similar process as before, drill and screw it together, while using clamps to hold the board in place (a third arm would also be helpful, but until we evolve, I will stick with clamps). By attaching the shelves directly to the legs it really helped to stabilize the base. Again, I didn't use glue on these joints.
I attached the shelves a few inches above the ground. There wasn't much of a thought to how high, I just knew that I didn't want it to be on the ground.
To attach the middle piece of the shelf I needed to add a small bit of wood to act as a support. I cut a piece to 15 3/4" x 3" x 3/4" and screwed it into place using 1 1/2" deck screws. This allowed me to clamp the last board in place and also attach it with deck screws.
Step 6: Preparing Material for the Top
As I have mentioned before, a lot of this build is made from some old 2x10s that had been cut to 36". In order to glue them together and get a nice flat top I had to square all the sides.
I first used the jointer to flatten one edge of the boards. I then took all the boards over to the table saw and cut them to 3 1/2". I made them this size because my jointer is very small (only 4") and I wanted to use my jointer to flatten the face of the boards.
The last step was to send the boards through my thickness planer. In order to confirm if the boards had been completely flattened I used a pencil to draw lines across the face. As you can see in picture 7, sometimes the boards would come out the other side of the planer with the marks still on them. When that happened it meant that I needed to lower the planer height and send all the boards through it again.
In the end I made all the boards to approximately 1" thick.
Step 7: Gluing Up the Top
Gluing up the top was pretty straight forward. I again used titebond III as it is rated waterproof and I knew this project was going to be in contact with water a lot.
I put all the boards into my sash clamps. All but one was lined up so the edge was upright. I spread glue across the edges of the boards, laid the boards down and then clamped them all together. I added cauls to help keep things aligned. The cauls I used were small bits of hardwood with packing tape on them so the glue wouldn't stick to them. They help to make sure that the boards don't shift up/down from each other while the glue is drying.
After the glue dried I used a chisel to remove most of the harden glue that had squeezed out. Then I used my random orbital sander to remove the rest.
Step 8: Cutting the Top to Final Dimensions
I used my clamping straight edge combined with the circular saw to cut the table to width. If you don't have a clamping straight edge, anything straight (i.e. a level) can be used.
I then took the top to the table saw and cut it to width.
The final dimensions are 34"x17".
Step 9: Cutting Out for the Sink
To mark the cut out for the sink I placed the steam basket on the board and traced around it. I then used my combination square to set the dept of the inset on the steam basket. I transferred this measurement to the inside of the lines I had just drawn of the steam basket. I made two marks on each side and then connected the marks using a straight edge.
To make the rounded corners I searched around my shop for something that matched the curvature of the steam basket. My glue bottle ended up being about perfect so I used that for tracing out the rounded corners.
I then drilled a hole in the board big enough for my jigsaw blade. I then used the jigsaw to cut out the shape.
I will admit that on the first go it didn't quite fit in perfectly. I had wandered off the line a bit and had to go back and cut more out. So don't worry if your sink doesn't fit on the first go, you can always go back and cut more out.
Step 10: Cutting Out for the Faucet
I made a paper template of facet I was going to use, and then transferred the design onto the top. I first drilled out the holes for the screws using a 3/16" drill bit. I then used a 1" forstner bit to make the rounded ends. Finally I used my jigsaw to connect the two holes.
The size of these holes will really depend on your faucet, so make sure to measure and make a template based on what you have available.
Step 11: Adding and Round Over Attaching the Top
Again using my router table and a 1/4" round over bit, I added a round over to all the edges of the top.
To attach the top to the base I used little L brackets. I first screwed them to the base. Make sure you don't put one where the sink goes (or else you will have to move it, like I did).
I lined up the top just by feel of my fingers (as pictured) but if you are the type that needs things to be perfect, you can measure both sides and get it aligned that way.
I then attached the top using 1" wood screws.
Step 12: Cutting the Backsplash
The backsplash was made from a single tongue and groove white cedar board that was 96" long. I cut the board to three pieces that were 31 1/2" long.
On one of the boards I cut the tongue off. This will be the one used for the top.
Overall the three boards stacked together came to 15"
Step 13: Making the Backsplash and Top Shelf Support
To make the backsplash/top shelf support, I first milled up some more of the 2x10 material. This time I made the pieces 15" x 3 1/4 x 1 1/2".
I added a rebate (also known as a rabbit, depending on what part of the world you are in) that would hold the backsplash. I first set my table saw to the height of the backsplash material (white cedar tongue and groove). It was 3/4". I then set my table saw fence at 3/4" and ran the support boards through. I then lined up the blade with the cut line and locked the fence in place. I ran the boards through and this created the cut-out/rebate.
Make sure when you are cutting a rebate on the table saw, that the lose piece being cut out is on the outside of the blade. If it is between the fence and the blade it can bind up and kick back.
Step 14: Assembling the Backsplash
To keep the tongue and groove pieces together I used clamps. I then placed the panel on top of the supports. I had first tried to use my nail gun to attach the boards, but it didn't hold well enough for my liking, so instead I added screws. I used a clamp to hold the support in place, then pre-drilled some pilot holes and added 1 1/2" deck screws.
Step 15: Attaching the Top Shelf - Part A: Drilling for Dowels
At this point in the build I had run out of scrap 2x10s and I had to find another board to make the top shelf. Luckily I had an old bit of pine that was about the right size. I again milled it up using my jointer, table saw and thickness planer. (not pictured as it is the same steps as before) the final dimension of the top shelf was 34" x 5" x 3/4.
To attach the backsplash and top shelf I opted to use dowels. I chose to use this method as I didn't want to see the any screws. I used my milescraft doweling jig, it comes with everything you need to attach wood together with dowels.
I first drill 4 holes in the top of the backsplash supports. In the holes I placed dowel centers (the shiny things with a point in the middle). I then lightly placed the top shelf on the backsplash. Once I got it into the position I wanted, I pushed down on the shelf. This left little indentations on board showing where to drill. I then lined up the drill using the brad point drill bit supplied in the kit and drilled holes in the top shelf.
Step 16: Attaching the Top Shelf - Part A: the Glue Up
To glue the top shelf to the I first added glue into the holes and then on the dowels themselves. I then put the dowels into the hole and ran glue along the top of the backsplash. I placed the shelf on top of the backsplash and clamped it all together.
Step 17: Attaching the Backsplash to the Base
Using the same techniques from the past two steps, I drilled dowels and attached the backsplash to the base. I then clamped it up and left it to dry overnight.
Step 18: Making and Attaching the Stove Top Elements
The first bit of embellishment I wanted to add to this kitchen were stove top elements. I used a 5" sanding disk and the lid of a mason jar to mark out circles on some scrap cherry wood. I used my band saw to cut out the circles, but a jigsaw could also be used. When cutting out circles (or other shapes for that matter) I find it easiest to cut a bit off the line and then use my disc sander to sand down to the line. Using the sander you have a little bit more control.
I then used my router table again to add a 1/4" round over on all of the pieces and then glued them in place. I tried to space them out evenly, but it's a kid's toy so I wasn't too particular about the spacing. I used an old brake rotor as weight, but really anything heavy could be used.
Step 19: Making and Installing the Knobs
The stove top elements wouldn't be functional without knobs to control them, so I decided that I needed to make these too. I used some 5/4 walnut I had leftover from another project. I used a 1 1/2" hole saw to cut out four cylinders in the wood. Tip: don't go all the way through with the hole saw, instead after going over halfway, turn your piece of wood over and drill the remainder of the way from the backside. This will eliminate most of the tear out.
I then cleaned up the cylinders on the disc sander.
On each of the knobs, I drew a line down the center of the cylinder about 1/2" down from the top. Then I drew parallel lines on top leaving about 3/4" between them. I used my band saw to cut out the waste material and I was left with a knob shaped object. Note: I used a pair of vice grip pliers to hold the knobs when cutting them on the band saw as I felt like my fingers might get a bit to close to the blade.
Finally I added a countersink to the knobs and screwed them on using 2" deck screws.
Step 20: Adding Finish
One of my favourite parts of a project is getting to see the colours pop when you add finish to the wood. In this project I used watco teak oil. It is specifically formulated for outdoor use. I really like this finish as it is very simple to apply. Wipe it on, wait 15 minutes and then wipe off any excess. Repeat as many times as desired.
Step 21: Final Touches
For the final touches I put in the steam basket and faucet and then added 5 hooks along the backsplash area to hold kitchen utensils.
Step 22: The Reveal
The best part of this project was surprising my son with the kitchen set! If you watch the video you can see the reveal, and my son's big smile near the end of the video.
This was a really fun project to make for my son and he uses it almost every day. He makes us dandelion soup, grass and cedar stew, and other rock and plant based meals. One day he will figure out how to make mud pies and that will be a blast too!
I hope you enjoyed this project as much as I did. If you want to see more from me, feel free to follow me on other social media
If you are inspired by this project to make your own mud kitchen please share it here. I love seeing other people's completed projects. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to ask in the comments below.
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