Butcher's block utility cart

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Project by Bertha posted 04-23-2017 10:09 PM 1707 views 1 time favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I inherited a butcher’s block from the sous chef at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans to thank me for bailing him out of jail. It was on wooden legs and a few years after I received it, it split, falling to the ground with a teeth rattling sound. I wanted to strengthen it, build an undercarriage with storage, and put it on wheels. I used solid cherry but took a radical departure using drawer assist glides and European self closing hinges.

I found some kind of lousy boards from my 4/4 cherry stash and milled them up. I want the upper block to overhang the cabinet, so if anything oozes down the side of it, it won’t end up in my drawer.

I milled the stuff down to 3/4” and started choosing the grain.

I hate hardware. I mean, I hate it to point where I had to read the directions and make notes. I guess I can see how people like it if they’re building veneered plywood cabinets. It goes in easily and is very adjustable for reveal. I almost abandoned it in anger and tacked in some drawer guides.

I handplaned all the surfaces after glue-up.

I dovetailed the carcass using a Western saw. I originally planned to hide the dovetails with a simple cove molding but I changed my mind at some point.

I routed the horizontal divider with a router and guide. I don’t know why that Colt is lying there; I used a real router DT at 13.

Didn’t cut the sliding DTs by hand. Felt weird. No mystery with the fit, however.

Now here it gets a little weird. I need to make an offset for this god awful slide.

I don’t particularly like applied drawer fronts, so I want an inset door. I debated about this but decided to challenge myself with cutting the DTs into a 1/2 inch rebate.

OK, so it wasn’t easy for me; and they’re not pretty.

I wanted some more practice with my Western saw, so I 1/2-blinded the rears, too.

I made rail/stile doors using a Shaker set. I put the chamfer on the show side but left mill marks where I could.

I installed the hinges with one of those template thingies on the drill press. I also used bullet catches and I have to tell you, those self close hinges give a delightful click when the bullet engages. I put a door stop at the top anyway so it looks like I dialed it in perfectly when I show off the closing magic.

Put on some 3” casters with the rollerblade-type wheels. I got the locking kind so I had to watch where I mounted them so I could reach the pedal. If I had used molding, this would have been more difficult.

I turned my attention to stabilizing the block. I cut mortises spanning the boards that looked like they had failing joints and cut a strip of metal to stabilize them. I had to keep the bottom unobstructed so I could mount it on the chest. I think I ended up doing 10 of them.

I didn’t want the thing to split like a blooming onion, so I decided to inlay bowties. And I just think they’re cool. I’m not terribly good at them but I learned that if you have 3 routers set up, it makes it a lot easier. I used the Bosch template guide and upcut bit. I used a few different woods, including wormy chestnut. Glued them in, then planed them flush.

Crap, I forgot about the knobs. I turned some knobs out of black mesquite. Good god is that stuff hard. I sharpened more than I turned.

OK, so the finish was pretty simple. I got some button shellac from and made up a 1.5 lb. cut. I padded it on followed by a few knockdown passes with 400 grit. I then wipecoated x 3 with polyurethane. I don’t like polyurethane but it’ll be in the kitchen, so.

I did a weird thing with the back. I made a panel to imitate the front and screwed it in with 4 screws. No rebate. My thinking was that I’ll probably end up adding another drawer/shelf of some sort and it would be easy to pop the back off. Maybe I’ll spill something in it, etc. The block overhang hides any end-grain.

Big ass cabinet.

Fingal’s Cave. Thanks for looking!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

11 comments so far

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

26281 posts in 4219 days

#1 posted 04-24-2017 01:14 AM

That is a beautiful base you made for the huge block!! Some very fine woodworking techniques were use in making it!! Nice job on to be very proud of!!!!!!!
Cheers, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Marcial's profile


208 posts in 1659 days

#2 posted 04-24-2017 03:07 AM

That’s a lot of dovetails. How much does that butcher block weigh? How you wound up with that block sound like a story worthy of elaborating- privacy and propriety allowing.

View Brit's profile


8329 posts in 3956 days

#3 posted 04-24-2017 06:35 AM

Good skills Al and a great story too. Looks like you had a few interesting challenges to overcome along the way, but I really like the way it turned out. Just be sure not to show that sous chef or he’ll want it back :o)

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View recycle1943's profile


5480 posts in 2735 days

#4 posted 04-24-2017 02:06 PM

Oh my gosh – way too many dovetails for me, especially hand cut.

Beautiful project and great write up, not sure which is better – writing talent or woodworking talent, OK woodworking wins !

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View AnthonyReed's profile


10173 posts in 3553 days

#5 posted 04-24-2017 02:14 PM

The path of its acquisition is excellent.

-- ~Tony

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3980 days

#6 posted 04-24-2017 06:39 PM

Bertha, this is a beautiful piece and your craftsmanship is outstanding. Thanks for the great presentation.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View ShaneA's profile


7085 posts in 3711 days

#7 posted 04-24-2017 08:08 PM

I am not quite sure the top is thick enough, lol.

Great write up, and pics. That should last 3 lifetimes.

View Bertha's profile


13615 posts in 3806 days

#8 posted 04-25-2017 10:14 PM

Shane, I’m considering gluing an identical one on top for a solid 24 inches deep. Maybe put a 1/2 inch thick steel plate between them. I’ve already packed the bottom with gravel.

Kidding, but Marcial, it’s got to weigh over 300 total. I’d guess the block itself is around 250. My genius mind refused to take the top off and move it into the house in two pieces. I testosteroned through it with a commercial dolly but was sore for a day or so.

Thanks to all who took a look.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View mafe's profile


13202 posts in 4202 days

#9 posted 04-25-2017 11:10 PM

Wonderful new home for that block.
What a cave!
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View madts's profile


1957 posts in 3453 days

#10 posted 04-25-2017 11:37 PM

Great thing of wood. But what keeps it rolling? The casters have to be made from Criptonite.


-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View dbray45's profile


3413 posts in 3890 days

#11 posted 06-28-2017 01:34 PM

Al – Really nice work as always. For a nice add-on you may want to put in a couple of pull-out drawers on the inside, it is not like it will tip over.

One of the main problems with the big blocks is that they get wet and are in hot and humid kitchens so the outside layer and top swell, splitting them apart. You also want to make sure air can get under the block to help wick moisture out.

Another way to deal with the moisture, what I do, is melt about a half a pound or more of bees wax (go to your local bee keeper and ask for capping wax) and using a heat gun, heat the wood and wax and fill the pores. You cannot do this to thin boards because the heat can fail the glue for up to 1/2” depending upon the wood and grain and how hot you get it – and you want it fairly hot to the touch. After the bees wax, using about an ounce of food grade mineral oil from the drug store, melt that in as well until it stops sucking it into the grain. This will help keep the block from swelling from moisture and keeps it microbial safe from anything.

Great job.

Capping wax may be unfiltered – if it is not, either filter it through a coffee strainer or wipe off the particulates. Capping wax (and please confirm this) is not from the hive (honey wise) but I do not know if it is safe for infants of 1 year or less. I would error on the side of caution for cutting food on it for little ones.

-- David in Palm Bay, FL

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