Building a Birch Kitchen Island

John and Jimmy DiResta build a custom kitchen island with a birch countertop and a slide-out butcher block. They add a custom base with storage bins, a recessed bowl and a steel pot rack.

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Materials and Tools:

two cherry 3-3/4x35-1/4" english country style double-square legs
two beech 73-1/4x25-5/8" butcher blocks
three 4x8sheets of 3/4" birch plywood
three 4x8 sheets of 1/2" birch plywood
21 feet of 1-inch diameter hollow steel piping (not threaded)
30 feet 1/2-inch square steel rods
1 foot of 1-inch angle iron
4 industrial wheels with metal plates
1 18-inch diameter stainless steel mixing bowl
four to six 3/4-inch 8x8 oak planks
one can of black, high-heat spray paint
one gallon of polyurethanetable saw
chop saw
band saw
metal cutting saw
wood glue
nail gun/nails
drill/screws/set screws
stand-up sander
hammers for shaping metal
arc welder/gloves/welder’s mask
measuring tape



1. Cut three sheets of 4x8, 3/4-inch birch plywood using a table saw into 73-inch by 64-inch width for breaking it up into the cubby exterior. The cubby interior is 30-inches high and there will be a 4-inch open compartment at the top to accept the sliding butcher block.


2. Cross-cut the birch plywood using a chop saw into 18 cubby holes that are 10x8x12-inches, and follow the measurements appropriately as above. Attach using wood glue and a nail gun.

3. Cut a 73-1/4 inch by 25-5/8 inch beech butcher block into an 11-inch width and 3-foot length to act as a sliding cutting board within the top compartment. It will add 20 inches of counter space.


4. Using a jigsaw, cut more of the plywood into a 3x3-inch L-shape to sit at the end of the top to accept the butcher block. Two L-shapes will go respectively on the very sides of the top compartment. Using plywood, cut out two 3-1/2x5-inch blocks to act as stoppers for the sliding butcher block. Glue and nail them into place right behind the rails against either side, leaving a 1/2-inch gap between the top of the stopper and the top of the island.

5. With a table saw, cut some 3/4-inch oak planks into 1/4-inch strips to fit, as edges of the cubby holes. Glue and nail them into place.

6. Using a jigsaw, cut a circle in the final 73-1/4 by 25-5/8 inch beech butcher block that is about 1/2-inch less than the diameter of the stainless steel measuring bowl, and is 9 inches from one side of the top. Use the router to carve a 1/2-inch lip within the hole to accept the bowl. Sanding is required.

7. To create the cover for the hole, rub a pencil on a piece of paper across the hole to get an accurate diameter. Use that paper circle as a template to trace to butcher block. Cut out the circle, and use a stand-up sander to fit. For a tighter fit, router a 1/2-inch lip into the circle so it fits snugly in the inner hole.

8. Cut two cherry 3-3/4 by 35-1/4 inch English country legs with double-square ends to fit between 3/4-inch below the bottom of the island and the very top of the island using a chop saw.

9. To create leg supports, use a chop saw and table saw to cut oak planks that are 4-1/2 inches wide and 23-inches long. They will stick out from the bottom on either end of the island. Pre-drill supports and set screws in preparation for the legs. Screw the legs into the supports.

10. Cut braces from plywood that are about 4x4-inches under the butcher block to accept screws for countertop. Drill into the sides rather than straight through.


11. Screw in the legs, clamping them on the supports to keep them in place, and then screw in the countertop from the sides. Pre-drill and screw in wheels. Flip the island on its side to make this easier.

12. Using a table saw, begin cutting the birch plywood into three 4 by 8-foot, 1/2-inch planks to make 18 bins that are 6-inches high, 10-inches wide and 13-inches long. The sides should be set at an angle, glued and nailed, and sanding is recommended. A curved 1-inch indentation can be worked into two of the sides to act as handles using a band saw.


13. To create the pill-shaped pot rack at the very top, use a metal cutting saw, a torch, hammers and an anvil to cut and shape two 80-inch pieces of 1/2-inch square steel rods into curved halves. At their meeting point, arc weld 1-inch steel piping; cut to 30 to 35 inches for each support pipe. To attach the pipes to the island, use a 4-inch piece of angle iron to act as a screw plate. Weld one to each pipe.

14. Using leftover 1/2-inch square steel, cut out 24 hooks for the rack. Each vertical steel piece hanging from the top contains two hooks, one on each side. Weld them appropriately.


15. Paint the pot rack using black, high-heat spray paint. When dry, attach to the island using the screw plates.


16. Apply polyurethane to the bottom portion of the island, the legs and the drawers for a finish.

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