Microwave ovens are a hot item: Everybody wants one, but nobody knows where to put it. And if your kitchen is anything like mine, counter space is more valuable than ocean front property.
We decided the best solution to this problem was to build a roll-around microwave cart that could fit into almost any kitchen, and at the same time, be useful as an all-around utility or serving cart.
That solved the problem of where to put the microwave. But where do you put the plates, bowls, cookbooks and all the other little gadgets that seem to accumulate around a microwave oven?
To ease these storage problems, we added two leaves on the ends of the cart (instead of putting them on the front) in order to keep bowls and dishes out of the way when the oven door is opened.
Then we added a fixed shelf on the bottom, and an adjustable shelf in the middle for stashing all the other little gadgets. But the nicest thing about the cart is that it's relatively inexpensive and easy to build. I went about building the cart in three stages: first the legs, then the shelf frames, and finally the top and shelves.
The legs (A) on the cart shown here are made of cherry wood — each leg is IV2" square and 28" long. To get this size legs, you can cut them from 8/4 stock (1W thick) and rip them to size. Or, they can be made by laminating two layers of 4/4 stock thick) and then trimming them down to 1V2" square.
Whichever method is used, the first step is to cut four legs to size. Then a total of three mortises are laid out on what will be the two inside faces of each leg, see Fig. 1.
Two of these mortises (at the very top and bottom of each leg) are for the shelf support frames. They're both positioned slightly off-center — Vie" from the inside corner of the leg — to allow a little extra overhang for the top and bottom shelves.
After I marked the position of these two mortises, I arranged the legs in their final position and marked the proper face for the third mortise — for the side stretcher near the bottom shelf. (Arranging the legs in their final position, as shown in Fig. 3, helps clear up some of the confusion as to which face is which.)
This third mortise is also slightly off-center, but this time it's positioned 7/ie" from the outside corner of the leg. (This position is necessary so the side stretchers are far enough apart to get the bottom
shelf in place.)
Once everything is laid out, go ahead and cut the mortises. I used a drill press and a brad-point spur bit to drill out most of the waste for the mortises. Then I cleaned up the cheeks of each mortise with a chisel. (See Woodsmith No. 8 for more information on cutting a mortise and tenon joint.)
holes for adjustable shelf. The middle shelf will be attached to the cart with adjustable shelf support brackets that are mounted in W holes. I went ahead and drilled a series of four holes (2" apart) on each leg.
holes for casters. Finally, I drilled a hole in the bottom of each leg for 2" Shep-hard casters (No. 9308). I bought these casters at a local hardware store. The same type (or something very similar) should be available at any good hardware store or lumber yard.
After the legs are completed, the next step is to cut the two side stretchers (B) that fit in the "middle" mortises. These stretchers help hold the cart together, but their main purpose is to prevent stuff from sliding off the bottom shelf.
First, I cut the two stretchers (B) to final size — 2W wide by 18V4" long. (This length measurement includes the l"-long tenons on each end.) Then the tenons are cut to fit the mortises in the legs. The finished shoulder to shoulder length of these stretchers should be I6V2", see Fig. 2.
HOLES FOR ADJUSTABLE SHELF
HOLES FOR ADJUSTABLE SHELF
THE SHELF FRAMES
ROUND ALL EDGES WITH V* CORNER-ROUND
SHADED AREAS INDICATE SCREW HOLES
NOTCH TWO OF THE PIECES
NOTCH TWO OF THE PIECES
Vi COUNTERBORE y
Next, 1 started in on the shelf support frames. Each of these frames consists of two long stretchers (C) and two short stretchers (D), as shown in Fig. 2. - Normally, all four of these stretchers would be attached directly to the legs of the cart. But I had to change things around a bit on this cart. The two long stretchers are mortised into the legs of the cart in the normal way. But the short stretchers are mortised into the long stretchers to allow room between the legs for the fold-down leaves, see Fig. 3.
Since this arrangement actually creates a frame, I cut and assembled the stretchers as two separate frames, and then attached them to the legs.
the long stretchers. The long stretchers (C) on the front and back of the cart are the easiest. First they're cut to width and length, and then tenons are cut to mate with the mortises on the legs, see Fig. 2. The shoulder to shoulder measurement of these stretchers should be 24".
mortises. Once the tenons have been cut, the next step is to cut the mortises for
Vi COUNTERBORE y
the short stretchers. I should mention here that the mortises we're showing in Fig. 2 are not really proper.
A twin mortise and tenon joint should be used here (see Woodsmith No. 12). But to simplify construction, I used a single mortise, and then added a corner glue block. This glue block adds two gluing surfaces and creates a fairly strong joint (even though it's not technically correct).
short stretchers. Next comes the short stretchers (D) for the frames. These stretchers should be "cut to fit" so they're compatible with the side stretchers (B). In order to determine the final length of the short stretchers, I dry assembled the legs, the side stretchers, and the long stretchers. Then I took the shoulder to shoulder length of the side stretcher (B), added the amount of off-set of the long stretcher on both ends (see detail in Fig. 3), and finally added on the length of the tenons.
Now the short stretchers (D) can be cut to length and the tenons can be cut to mate with the mortises in the long stretchers.
notch for leaf supports. At this point you have all the basic pieces for the two shelf support frames. However, the top frame needs one more thing. The short stretchers on this top frame are notched for the leaf support system. Simply cut a Wit" deep, 1%" wide notch at the center of the short stretcher. Note: the depth of this notch ('^i«") should match the thickness of the wood used for the leaf support arm (E).
counterbore. Before final assembly of the cart, 1 did two more things. First, I counterbored pilot holes in the shelf frames for the screws that will hold the top and bottom shelves in place, see detail in Fig. 2.
For the counterbore, I used a Vz" bit, drilling to a depth of 1W. (Since the stretcher is 2W wide, this depth leaves enough space for the shank of a Wz" screw.) Next the pilot holes are drilled. These holes must be drilled oversized to allow for expansion and contraction of the top. (As the top moves with seasonal changes in humidity, the screws can "bend" in the oversized holes. I used a V*" bit to drill these pilot holes.)
rounding over. The last step to complete the basic cart is to round over all four edges, as well as the top and bottom cor-
2 x 3 BUTT HINGE - _
MORTISE ONE-HALF KNUCKLE BELOW SURFACE
E LEAF SUPPORT
ROUND OVER EDGES
V« FINGER HOLE
ROUND OVER EDGES
ners of the legs; all four edges of the side stretchers; and the bottom outside edges (the edge that will show on the outside of the cart) of all eight pieces for the shelf support frames. I did all of this with a V* corner-round bit on a router table.
ASSEMBLY. Before assembling the cart, I finished sanded all pieces. (It's a lot easier to do it now than after assembly.) Then to assemble the cart, I glued-up the shelf support frames (making sure they were flat and square as they were clamped together). Then I glued these assembled frames and the side stretchers into the legs. This completes the basic cart.
THE WORKING SURFACES
Now that the cart is complete, all you need are the three work surfaces — the top and leaves, and the two shelves. I made all three of these surfaces by gluing up strips of 4/4 stock (^ic" thick) to give them a butcher block appearance.
Note: I did not use dowels or splines when gluing-up these three "planks." Just a straight edge-to-edge gluing and clamping provides enough strength.
the shelves. The bottom shelf (F) and the adjustable shelf (G) are the easiest — just cut 24 strips lVs" wide, 26,/2" long. (This length allows a little wraste at the ends of these planks. They're trimmed to final length later.)
Glue 12 of these strips together to form the bottom shelf, and the remaining 12 strips to form the adjustable shelf. Then set them aside to dry overnight.
the top and leaves. To form the top and the two leaves (H), cut 12 more strips 1%" wide, but this time 50V/ long. Then edge glue these 12 strips to form one long plank. Once again this rough length is more than is needed.
In effect, you're gluing up all three pieces (top and two leaves) at the same time so there will be a continuous grain pattern across the entire surface when the leaves are up.
After the glue has dried (overnight) on all three planks, plane them flat on both sides (see page 20 for more information on planing large surfaces).
trim to size. Next, the bottom shelf and the adjustable shelf can be trimmed to final width aW). To cut them to final length (25y2"), I used the panel cutting jig shown in Woodsmith No. 22.
The plank for the top and two leaves is also trimmed to 19Yz" wide, but then it's cut into three pieces. First cut a 25V2" section out of the middle of the plank, see Fig. 4.
Next, cut the two 12"-long leaves from the two "waste" pieces that remain. These leaves are trimmed down to a width of 16Va" (which is Va" less than the distance betwreen the legs of the cart). When doing this, I trimmed an equal amount off both edges so the joint lines would still match those on the middle section after the leaves are attached.
corner notches. Figure 5 shows how the corners of the top, bottom, and adjustable shelves are notched so that they wrap around the legs. Each of these notches are marked out Vlarger than needed to allow for seasonal expansion. Then I cut them out by hand (with a back saw).
the hinges. After all three pieces are cut to size, the leaves are attached to the middle section with standard 2"x3" butt hinges (two per leaf).
Turn the top and the two leaves upside down and line up the edges of the leaf with the notches. After marking the position of the four hinge mortises, I chopped them> k out rather deep so the pins would be partially recessed below the surface, see Fig. 6. Go ahead and mount the hinges to make sure they fit properly. But then remove them until after the finish is applied.
Next, the outer two corners of the leaves are cut to IW radius, see detail in Fig. 4. And finally, the edges of the top, the leaves, the bottom shelf, and the adjustable shelf are all rounded over with the V* comer-round bit. (Once again, I used the router table to do this.)
Note: Do not round over the edges where the hinge mortises are. These edges are left square so there is only a small gap between the top and the leaves when the leaves are in the "down" position.
THE LEAF SUPPORT SYSTEM
The support system for the leaves is a simple system of sliding support arms (E). The key to this whole thing is that the depth of the notch in the top stretcher (D) must be exactly the same as the thickness of the arms (E). You need a good tight fit here so the leaves don't sag when they're raised to the "up" position.
After the arms are cut to size (see Fig. 7), a W-wide stopped groove is cut down the middle of the arm. (1 drilled a W hole at both ends, and then used a V* straight router bit on the router table to cut this groove.) Then I drilled a Y*" diameter hole at one end of each arm to serve as a finger hold. The edge of this hole is rounded over with a W corner-round bit.
mounting the arms. The support arms are mounted to the underside of the top with two V*" x 1W lag bolts. The position of these bolts (see Fig. 8) is such that they act as a stop to limit how far the support arms can be pulled out. Also, they help keep the arms moving in a straight line. (For now, just drill the pilot holes for the lag bolts. They're not screwed in until later.)
To prevent the two arms from colliding as they're pushed in, I mounted a V*" dowel pin at the center of the top, see Fig. 8.
Before final assembly of the cart, I applied two coats of Defthane (polyurethane) to the cart, and to the top, the leaves, and the two shelves.
After the finish was dry, I mounted the hinges to the top and two leaves. Then I attached this assembly to the top frame. To get it properly aligned, clamp the top (with the leaves attached) to the frame so the leaves are centered between the legs.
Then drill pilot holes in the top, using the counterbored holes in the stretchers as guides. Finally, the top can be screwed to the frame with #8 x IV2" wood screws. Next, attach the bottom shelf to the bottom frame using the same procedure.
And finally, the leaf support arms can now be secured underneath the top with the lag bolts and W washers. Then the adjustable shelf is installed with L-shaped shelf support pins.
The last (and most critical) step is to put the microwave on the cart, wheel it next to the T.V., heat up a double cheese pizza with anchovies and sauerkraut, and sit back and watch the Monday Night football game.
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