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Turn a stock cabinet and a spare weekend into a customized kitchen island with added storage and a handy workspace.
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Although we designed this project around a specific cabinet, you can use the same materials and assembly steps to create an island from larger or smaller unfinished cabinets. Alter the size and shape of the countertop to fit your needs. Before starting, watch this video to learn how to laminate like a pro.
To turn a cabinet into an island, you'll first add side and back panels. Measure the height of the cabinet sides and from the back of the face frame to the back of the cabinet. Then cut the side panels to size and cut the notches for the front toe kick (Kitchen Cabinet Island Project Diagram)
Spread wood glue on the side of the cabinet and press a cabinet side in place. Use 5/8" finish nails driven below the wood surface to hold the side panel in place while the glue dries. Repeat for the other side.
Measure the height and width of the cabinet back with the side panels in place, and cut the back panel to size. Then glue and nail it in place. Fill the nail holes, let dry, and finish-sand the sides and back.
Cut corner moulding to the height of the back and sand smooth. Glue and nail the corner moulding in place, fill the nail holes, and let dry. Finish-sand where needed and wipe clean.
Unscrew the doors from the hinges and the drawer fronts from the drawer boxes. Finish-sand each, wipe clean, and set aside. Prime the exterior faces and frame of the cabinet, the drawer fronts, and the fronts and backs of the doors. Let dry, then apply two coats of paint.
Measure the width and depth of the cabinet at the top, add 1" to each dimension, and cut the top to size from 3/4" MDF. Then cut MDF strips 3/4" wide and long enough to fit around the sides of the top. Glue and nail the strips on the underside of the top around the edges, let dry, and sand smooth.
Using a table saw or circular saw, cut the front, back, and side edge strips of laminate 1-3/4" wide (1/4" oversize) and about 1/4" longer than the MDF edges.
Working on one edge at a time, apply contact cement to the back of the laminate and the MDF edge. Let stand according to the product instructions while the surfaces become tacky. Without letting them touch, center the laminate over the MDF edge and gently lower it in place. Use the J-roller to create a solid bond between the surfaces with no air bubbles. Repeat for the opposite edge.
Using a laminate trimmer or router with a laminate-trimming bit, remove the excess laminate. Repeat for the two remaining opposite edges.
Measure front to back and side to side, and saw the top laminate 1/4" oversize in both directions. Apply contact adhesive to the MDF top and the underside of the laminate and let stand until tacky. Lay a row of 1/2" wood dowels about 10" apart on the MDF and rest the laminate on the dowels while you line it up to overhang each edge.
When you have the top laminate in position, gently remove a middle dowel and allow the laminate to touch the adhesive on the MDF. Continue removing dowels from the center to one edge, pressing the laminate in position as you go. Repeat in the opposite direction and use the J-roller to bond the laminate to the MDF.
Using a laminate trimmer or router, trim the laminate flush with the edges. (Take special care to keep the router base from tilting so that it gouges the laminate edges.) To soften any rough spots or sharp edges, wrap a scrap wood block with 220-grit sandpaper and lightly sand the laminate edges. (Hold the block at an angle to avoid scratching the face of the laminate.)
Using the countertop mounting holes built into the cabinet, screw the top, centered, in place (If you plan to install a sink and faucet in your island, like the one shown, it's easier to mount both before screwing the top to the cabinet). Reinstall the cabinet doors and screw the drawer fronts back on the boxes. Add hardware and accessories as needed.