‘Roubo’ Kitchen Island

For PW blog

Click on the image and it will get large enough to actually read the dimensions. Unless, like me, you’ve mislaid your reading glasses.

I’ve finally decided on a design for a kitchen island that will hold a mid-sized microwave and cookbooks, and serve as a table with room for stool storage underneath. The design parameters are quite rigid due to window, door and vent locations…plus the dimensions of microwaves of useful size. (If you wish to read more about the specs, and see my design progression – plus pictures of 1.75 of my cats, visit me at my personal blog.)

So…it turns out, my final (I think) kitchen island design looks one heckuva lot like my little Roubo bench, with it’s through-tenon and sliding-dovetail leg-to-top joints, thick top, and sturdy legs and stretchers (the legs and stretchers will likely get deep chamfers, with perhaps a lamb’s tongue treatment at either end…but I didn’t draw that in here – it’s Sunday).

The stretchers, which get 2″ tenons at both ends (to be drawbored, natch), are offset to provide support for two shelves, which are simply a series of slats atop cleats attached at the inside top corners of the stretchers.

The top is composed of a series of 3″x3″ beams, with one 4-1/2″-wide one at center, so as to symmetrically reach my desired overall width.

I haven’t yet decided on the wood. The kitchen cabinets are white with beech countertops, and I’m thinking a contrast might be nice. But a contrast might also be expensive. We shall see. If you want to learn more about the construction, you can pretty much just follow the 18th-century Roubo workbench build in Christopher Schwarz’s “The Workbench Design Book,” making adjustments, of course, for timber sizes and stretcher locations.

Here’s my cutlist (which auto-correct always wants to change to “cultist”…which is, I suppose, apropos regarding Roubo benches), in thickness x width x length, in inches:

Top:
(6) 3 x 3 x 52
(1) 3x 4-1/2 x 52
Legs:
(4) 3 x 3 x 36
Upper stretchers:
(2) 2 x 2 x 26 (2″ TBE)
Lower stretchers:
(2) 2 x 2 x 22-1/2 (2″ TBE)
Upper cleats:
(2) 1 x 1 x 22
Upper slats:
(5) 3/4 x 3 x 18-1/2
Lower cleats:
(2) 1 x 1 x 16-1/2
Lower slats:
(5) 3/4 x 3 x 24

— Megan Fitzpatrick

p.s. Yes, I am painfully aware of the irony in my building what is for all intents and purposes a 36″-high workbench.

17 thoughts on “‘Roubo’ Kitchen Island

  1. swingingsteel

    Hi Megan,

    Nice simple design. I did something similar. I love the idea of pushing the (rarely used) microwave to the periphery of the kitchen. I find that when I entertain the cart makes a great serving area too for appetizers. I prefer wheels on mine just for mobility. keep up the good work!!
    joseph

  2. kerry doyle

    Because sometimes it’s necessary to work wood while waiting for potatoes to boil. Besides, if the design doesn’t quite work for the microwave, a small work bench can be used somewhere else.

  3. TitoMoLe

    Hi Megan… this Island looks pretty good. What kinf of wood do you recomend to use in a kitchen, since is going to be in contact with water and food? And what kid of finish…

    1. Megan Fitzpatrick Post author

      I’ve seen countertops in woods of all types, from beech (what mine are) to maple, to oak, to cherry to walnut…The key, I think, is to wipe up spills quickly so they don’t have a chance to penetrate. According to Bob Flexner, any finish is food safe once it’s completely dry, and the key to protecting wood is to not let the finish get damaged in any way that will allow water (liquid) to get through it. With kitchen counters, that’s pretty much impossible (unless you don’t use them – in which case, what’s the point!). So, I’ve elected to following the age-old regimen (well, it’s at least as old as my grandmother) of treating it w/mineral oil every day for a week, then once a week for a month, then once a month for a year. Then doing the same again after a light sanding (assuming I’m still there to do that). I’ve considering a warm mix of mineral oil and beeswax…but I’ve not yet gone there.

      I don’t know what wood I’m going to use for the island; I’m waiting for something appropriate and affordable to show up on Craigslist.

  4. kaytrim

    You know that makes almost a perfect sharpening bench. Maybe a few inches shorter and push the legs out towards the ends. Overall though this is a perfect design for the application you have for it.

    — work from your heart and your spirit will live forever

  5. Dave in Ohio

    How do you plan to power the microwave? Extension cords running across the kitchen floor can cause issues, particularly if you are not relatively graceful. A permanent installation would require a GFCI outlet in the island, itself. As a furniture piece, you might be well served to install a floor receptacle in the area that you intend to place the workbench, err, island.

    Dave

  6. toms

    I’m thinking a vise would be really handy for squeezing limes for margaritas. Seriously, I like the design. It’s a nice looking table that will serve you well. Nice job.

  7. amvolk

    What is a kitchen island but a chef’s workbench? Very applicable. (Although, perhaps it needs to be made end-grain up to make a proper butcher block for carving the brisket.)

  8. Sleeping Gnome

    I’ve always loved the island in John Cusack’s kitchen in the movie Must Love Dogs. Any woodworker would be proud to have it in his shop. It looks to be made of reclaimed 6x6s.

    1. Megan Fitzpatrick Post author

      Sigh. Now I’m going to have to watch that film. Note that there are already two hours of my life wasted on the Diane Lane movie where she cuts dovetails in driftwood or some such thing. That was the only section worth watching (then again, I’m not a chic flick kinda woman).

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