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Monday, January 31, 2011

Kitchen Counter Extension & Shelf

In our kitchen, the end of the counter to the left of the sink ends with a conspicuous open space where, presumably, the designer expected a small table for a family to eat in the kitchen. The open space is situated in front of a window which gathers morning light. My household, however, is very happy indeed with the dining table I made last summer (despite its shortcomings), and that table is the exclusive location for table-centric dining, be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Thus the empty space in our kitchen was awkwardly useless, normally holding our trash bins and perhaps some junk. It was a generally null and useless space, crying out for, most logically, a bit more countertop. Having worked my way this far down the list of needed home improvements, I set out to fill the void. I wanted:
  • A counter extension to hold the items which previously competed with dirty dishes to the left of my sink
  • A lower shelf to hold the microwave in a permanent location
  • A lower shelf which also fit the small appliances in my kitchen
  • Made out of wood, and simple in design
The small appliances I wanted to store on the lower shelf were all no taller than twelve inches; the microwave was a bit under twelve inches; so I decided the inner shelf height should be a bit more than thirteen inches.

I designed the piece based on the parts available from my hardware store:
  • Two preconstructed pine boards, 23 1/4" x 47 1/2" ($24.94 each)
  • Four table legs, 28" ($8.15 each)
  • Four more table legs, 15 1/4" ($4.66 each)
  • Twelve table leg mounting brackets ($2.17 each)
  • Four extra table-leg hanger screws ($.98 per pair)
  • Finishing stain, polyurethane, or similar product ($14.53)
The table legs are table legs because they come with hanger screws installed in one end. If lengths of wood were used, eight additional hanger screws would be needed.

Construction was mostly straightforward, and I will describe it the way it should be one, instead of the way I actually did it, which was slightly different:
  • Cut the table legs to the exactly sizes desired. Especially be sure to be precise with the legs in between the two boards, because it will not be easy to further shorten them after the unit is constructed. The bottom legs, however, can be cut again at the end of construction.
  • Drill into the bottoms of the four inside legs and install hanger screws in the ends, so that those legs have hanger screws on each end. For this, I bought a cap screw which fit the table-leg end of the hanger screws; once the cap screw was on as far as it would go, I could use it to drive the other end of the screw into the wood with a socket wrench. Be aware that this is a one-way installation: once the hanger screw is screwed into the table leg, the only way to remove it is with vice grips, which will destroy the screw.
  • Attach four mounting brackets to the four corners of one side of one board. That side will become the top of the bottom shelf, or the bottom of the top shelf. Obviously, pre-drilling the screw holes will make installation easier.
  • Screw the four short legs into the installed brackets.
  • Screw mounting brackets onto the other ends of the short legs. Because the legs have to screw into the brackets clockwise on each end, the second set of brackets have to be on the legs before the brackets are attached to the other shelf.
  • Be careful to twist the legs so that they are square to the shelves, or in whatever final arrangement. Once the legs are attached to both shelves, they cannot be moved without removing the brackets. Make sure the legs are screwed in as tight as you will ever want them.
  • After pre-drilling screw holes, attach the brackets to the second board.
  • Attach the last four brackets to the four corners of the bottom side of the bottom shelf.
  • Screw the last four legs into the last four brackets.
  • Shorten bottom legs if needed.
  • Finish with a water-sealing product.
  • Perhaps put felt under the table legs.
The end product was even better than I had designed it to be, because the space beneath the lower shelf turned out serendipitously to be exactly high enough for my kitchen trash and recycling bins. Also, I was happy that I didn't make any major mistakes during construction.

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