This DIY industrial kitchen island has it all! A maple butcher block top, stained shou sugi ban shelves that pull out, a drawer for baking sheets, and casters to easily move around!
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One of these days I might have a project that starts differently, but once again this one started with breaking down material. But this time is different, because it’s steel. I took my first trip to my local steel yard and was surprised how much more affordable steel is there compared to box store prices.
Steel is a commodity so the prices are always changing and can vary a lot by region, but here's what I paid per 1/8" thick 20' stick:
2" Angle Iron - $20
1.5" Angle Iron - $15
1" Angle Iron - $10
1" Flat Bar - $6.15
4'x8' Expanded Metal (1/2" #16) - $45
If you’ve been around, you know I’m not a big fan of angle grinders but I’ve been hooked on these new steel cutting blades for circular saws. So, I rigged up this little jig to make it super easy to make straight cuts on all this steel with my circular saw. I’ve got a quick video on my instagram showing how I made it if you’re interested.
But, I was short sighted. I forgot that a lot of these pieces actually need to be mitered. I could’ve made a new jig or modified mine, but instead I decided to just get over my angle grinder hesitation. I also learned from my last project and made sure to remove the mill scale from where I’ll be welding. Later I’ll talk more about what I learned about angle grinder discs.
Last autumn I picked up this Lincoln Electric 210 MP during a sale and I’m glad I did, as a novice welder this has made the set up process super easy. I just choose the right options, and I know what those are based on what I’m using, hook up the cables the way it says, and the machine is ready to go. But if one of these automatic style machines isn’t an option for you, there’s a simple table that’ll give you a start point for settings. I welded nearly this entire project on the default setting it gave me for my material.
And now the fun stuff, to start welding. I verified each corner was square before tack welding it. As a rule of thumb, welding on concrete is a bad idea, but I don’t have a proper welding table so the floor was my best option for laying out something this large to get it tacked together, and just a few tacks aren’t going to put enough heat into the concrete to cause an issue.
Once it was tacked together, I moved the assembly up to my improvised welding table and finished welding each seam. Before this project, my trigger time with MIG welding could be counted in minutes, but I was actually to get what I think are some pretty good welds. I contribute that to some coaching from friends and having a good machine. Welding may seem like an intimidating subject, but it’s really not. The only thing to really be wary of is how addicting it is. No joke, during this project I actually had dreams about welding. I still spent more time grinding my welds than welding though, so that was disappointing, but yeah.
The top and bottom frames are identical for this, so I used some magnets to hold the second frame in position identical to the first so they’d be the same, and tacked it together. Then I separated the two and finished welding the seams. I was fortunate in that while I was doing this project we had some really nice weather and I was able to keep the door open and use a fan to keep the air changing. Welding fumes are pretty nasty, so having a fume extractor or good ventilation are a must.
With the frames done I added the four corners, which are 2” angle, the rest of this is 1.5” angle. They were welding onto the outside of the frames. I used a 12” speed square to get them aligned while I put tacks on the corners, and then welded the seams. Then I did it 3 more times.
To add the other frame to the uprights, I cut some spacers from plywood for each corner, this will make sure in the end I have a pretty square cube shape. I used some f-clamps to hold the uprights tight to the frame as I tacked them in place. For the frame to upright connection, I only welded the hidden seams. I had cut the uprights a bit long, so once everything was welded I came back and grinded it smooth.
Now I start working on the end that’ll have the shelves. First in the bottom shelf. I mark a piece of angle in place and then cut it to length. I want it to sit flush with the bottom frame though, so I remove the bottom side of the angle iron from each end, when I start to weld it in place you’ll see how that makes sense. I'll repeat these steps a lot during this build, cut a piece, mark where it goes, grind the mill scale from where it’ll be welded area, clamp a spacer block into place, clamp the piece to be welded, tack the piece into place, remove the clamps and wood so it doesn’t catch on fire, weld the seams, and then grind the welds.
The top shelf will be made from 1” angle. I made this kind of like the frames. I marked the pieces in place, and used magnets to align the top shelf with the bottom shelf. That made getting the dimension for the short pieces easy, and made sure that when I tacked it together the top shelf would be the same as the bottom. Once it was tacked up I welded the seams. Now that basic frame of the island is together, I’m able to use it as an improvised welding table.
Then time to clean, you’ll notice my flap disc isn’t really working well anymore to remove the mill scale, I’ll talk about that later.
And now for the spacer, clamping, welding sequence. I’m using the magnets to hold the top shelf in place, but it is important to note that these magnets can’t be trusted to be square, but they work great at holding things in place, so I use a different square to make sure my pieces are square before welding.
I’m marking out some 1.5” angle to be uprights for the back of the shelves. These will get notched to fit over the top and bottom frame and not interfere with the weld. But, I want to talk about the new disc in my angle grinder. Normal cut off wheels are what I don’t like about grinders, they seem flimsy, they can explode, and they get smaller as they wear so your depth of cut is ever decreasing. So when I ran out I opted to get a diamond cutting disc, it’s not near as fragile as the typical ones and is supposed to last a lot longer. They cost about 10x as much, but the lifespan is supposed to offset that. I don’t know about that yet, but I am a lot more comfortable using this one and it seems to cut a lot faster too.
Once they were notched out properly I could drop these right into place. The uprights register against the shelves, so I don’t need any spacer blocks. So I just clamp them snug, zip some tack welds into place and then weld the seams. Again, on all of these uprights I’m not welding the outside seam where the upright overlaps the frames, which is just for aesthetic reasons.
I check the notches for the uprights on the other end to make sure the piece has enough clearance to get into place. These will frame out the other end where the drawer will be, though sliding basket may be a better description. The spacers are sized to set these in the same distance as the other side so the piece looks balanced. I’m thinking about doing a sort of “woodworkers intro to welding video,” so if that’s something you’d like please let me know below.
The bottom of the drawer basket thing is all 1” angle. The magnets are holding it in place, but I used a different square to make sure it’s actually square before taking it together. I don’t want to catch my plywood on fire, so once it’s tacked I move over to the frame to finish welding it together and grind my welds down. With the base done, I start adding the uprights. These go on top of the base, instead of overlapping it.
After I welded the uprights as upright as I could, I added the top rail to the basket. This is just 1” bar stock. And putting it together is more of the same, magnets help hold things together as I tack and then weld it together. One thing to note is I measured these pieces to match the gap at the bottom of the basket, not the top. That way if my uprights aren’t perfectly square, hopefully these pieces will help pull them closer to position.
The middle section is going to have some pull out shelves, so now I’m adding some brackets that the drawer slides can be mounted to. I use spacer blocks and install some close to the bottom and some upper level ones.
Then I start adding the drawer slides. This is one of the times I waved from the default settings. These slides are much thinner metal so I dropped the voltage to the bottom of the green area on the welder to reduce the amount of heat, and I do the same to the wire feed speed because I want relatively small tacks. These will just be tack welded, any more than that I fear will distort the slides.
I do the same thing for the slides for the end basket, except I just hold them in place to tack them.
I add drill some holes through the top to screw the butcher block down. I used a center punch to keep my bit from wandering, drilled a pilot hole, and then used a step bit to open it up. The holes need to be a bit over sized to let the wood move through the seasons.
The last thing to get welded on are the casters. These are just some lockable casters I picked up from amazon.
Earlier after I told you about the quick strip discs, I removed the mill scale from everything. So the only paint prep left was to wipe everything down with alcohol. I just used some rattle black satin paint.
The frame will get boxed in with expanded metal. This stuff cut really easy with my cut off wheel, and I just used an old piece of foam board to keep it off the ground.
Welding over paint is no good, so before I can add the expanded I sand off spots where I can tack weld it to the frame. I want the expanded metal to stay natural though, so I painted before adding it.
All that’s left is the woodwork for the shelves and butcher top. First I mill everything flat. It’s just making the wood flat and square. The shelves are just construction grade pine, but they’re not wide enough for my shelves so I glue them together into panels.
To give the shelves some flair I’m trying a technique that my buddy Jonny Builds is great at, stained shou sugi ban. I won’t get into the purpose and details because I’ll probably do a separate video on that. I’m just doing it for aesthetics. But basically you burn the wood, then brush and sand it, and add stain. I opted for red for a pop of color to give some interest to this piece.
After the stain cures, I screw the shelves into the drawer slides. And then everything gets a couple coats of clear enamel.
The top is solid hard maple laminated together, this is the second and last glue up to get the full width. After the glue dries, I trim the ends square and cut it to length, then off camera I sand it down before rubbing in several coats of butcher block conditioner, which is a blend of mineral oil and waxes. Then off camera I run screws though the holes in the top of the frame into the top.