One of the great things about custom woodworking is you can design a piece to fit perfectly in the space available. In this case we designed a kitchen cart to fit in a small breakfast nook. The final measurements were 48 inches long, 12 inches wide, and 32 inches high from the floor to the top shelf. This design is very scalable, though, and the dimensions could easily be modified to fit your space. In addition, we went with three shelves here, but two or four would work just as well.
The metal handrails on the side beg a bit of discussion. You could easily make a handhold out of wood, or buy a simple handle from a hardware store to go on the side. In this case, we collaborated with Black Oak Forge in Juneau, Wisconsin which crafted the side rails to meet our specifications. One of the benefits of this type of rail was that I could raise it up and down to get the client’s feedback on the height then screw it into the frame. Another benefit was we could specify the exact width and height to meet our needs. Another is that I’d say it’s much more esthetically pleasing then a hardware store handle. Lastly, it was fun to work with another small business owner on a project like this.
As far as the wood, you could make a quite nice cart with pine or oak from Home Depot, Lowes, or Menards (our local Wisconsin chain), but we wanted something a little unique and went with hard maple from Kettle Moraine Hardwoods. They have great selection and the staff was very helpful. If you’re looking for some advice before hitting the wood dealer, check out the post How to Buy Lumber: A Trip to the Hardwood Dealer.
Here are a few thoughts to consider in your piece:
The Top. The top is 1″ thick which sets it apart from your usual store-bought furniture which tends to be 3/4″ think. Also, I joined two 6″ boards to achieve the 12″ width since flawless 12″ wide boards are difficult to find (and expensive).
The Aprons. We designed this with somewhat thick aprons (the horizontal supports under the shelves), due to the length of the piece. A 4 foot long shelf could easily sag in the middle, but with these 3/4″ thick aprons that run 2″ wide, there is plenty of support.
The Legs. We chose 2″ thick legs so that we could drill long tenons from the aprons into the legs. Lastly, the bottom shelf is attached to the legs with very thick tenons.
The Edges. We couldn’t very well leave the sharp edges as they were so I gave each edge five strokes with a piece of sandpaper at varying angles to give them a nice smooth edge. I had debated routing with a 1/4″ roundover bit as I’ve done a several other pieces, but was inspired by some of the craftsmen I had seen recently in Door County (Wisconsin) who used a more subtle edge. We may try this approach more in the future.
The Casters. Be sure the casters are set far enough out to the edge of the piece so that the brakes can easily be engage with a toe. Also, we added a 3/4″ pad underneath each caster so the screws that attach the casters had enough wood to “grab.” The casters at the local hardware store will do the trick, but we went upscale and ordered this model from Woodcraft online.
The Finish. The client was adamant about a matte finish in order to minimize the dusting required, and given that a matte finish is uncommon for an oil finish we tried Minwax Polycrylic water-based matte finish, which was quite easy to apply and dried quickly (2 hours between coats). Three coats did the trick.
If you have any questions, feel free to fire away at the “comments” link on this page.
To see our daily shenanigans in the wood shop, check out our Instagram posts here.