Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Little Rolling Cart That Could

From time to time...(read: all the time), I come home with stuff I've either gone searching for or that I've stumbled upon in my travels. Much of it is snagged from trash piles on the roadside and comes home looking like it - broken, dirty and less than impressive. Pretty soon I have piles in and around my house that don't look that much different than the piles from which I picked the stuff.

For a clean living conservative girl, I live a bit of a "trashy life".

But then, it's easy to pick - as easy as driving down the street on a Thursday morning or on the way to work on Monday. (Sadly, my car broke down in the middle of rush hour traffic yesterday evening, at one of the busiest intersections around. While I lived to tell the tale (and it is a pretty good one), my car didn't fare so well. Me, I am currently homebound and watching out the window as the area pickers and metal guys drive down my street with trucks bulging with fresh junk as they search for more Thursday morning discards. [Heart pang] [Sigh] I had such junk plans of my own for last evening and this morning.) Oh, well, it may be all for the best. I have plenty of previous finds to keep my hands busy, and I should get to caring for those before I add anything else to my stash. While picking is easy, the remaking of a pick requires a bit more effort.

Getting around to making something of the pieces I find, and being intentional about repairing, sanding and getting creative with the painting of the furniture pieces is the other side of the junking coin. Perhaps you wonder if I ever see that opposite side of that coin or even know what it looks like. Believe it or not, from time to time I do.

So, just so you don't think I merely amass stuff and never get around to turning it into anything useful, I thought I'd show you what became of the drawerless broken kitchen island I found back in October...

You can read about the sweet find HERE, if you're interested in the tale of that junk adventure.

Now, I told my friend Kathryn, whom I also happen to work for, about this great score. Our office is at her house where she has a kitchen with a nice empty space in the middle, big enough for such a useful island. I was lamenting the fact I had no room for this sweet rolling cart, and wondering to what purpose I would put it aside from stripping it for the hardware and casters. I asked if she ever considered such a piece for her kitchen. She said she'd like it; she had to have it, in fact. That was good because I wanted to see it have a useful life, and since I'm at her house so much, I would get to enjoy it too. Woot, woot! Besides, there would be other casters I would glean from finds yet to come, I was sure of it (and it turns out, I was correct. You can see my Junk Warrior post for another caster story if you are so inclined.)

The Making of a Drawer

Trouble is, even though I went back to the pile from whence this cart came and found the butcherblock top for it and sanded off all the thick and terrible ugly, poorly done paint/stain on it, it didn't have a drawer. I had never made a drawer before, but I figured, how hard could it be? Since I often "think I can", I devised my own less than impressive plan for making one which included gathering together all sorts of bits and pieces of wood I've hauled home from trash piles, other old drawers I've collected but am not using, and sundry nails and screws also gleaned from wherever they could be found. It would all sort of come together, right?

So after cleaning and sanding and reattaching the top, I hauled the cabinet to Kathryn's house where it sat a while. We are nothing if not procrastinators, due to indecision and busyness. She ended up finally painting it with some paint she had on hand in the garage (be careful what you buy and put in the garage. It will often be what gets used for all odd projects to come when you don't want to make a new decision or go to the store and buy something.)

The time had come; I had to get to work on the drawer. The rolling cart was sitting in her kitchen without a drawer and without towel bars. It was on display now in full view of all who pass that way. Still, it took me a while. After all, I don't live there. I could only work on it now and again between lulls in the real work we do, and using the odd parts I had salvaged during various junk adventures. All this done with a selection of hand saws we found in her garage and at her next door neighbor's house, none of which were terribly suited to this job. All this to say, you CAN do it even if you don't have a well-stocked shop of all the proper and newfangled gadgets and gizmos.

The drawer front was made with a perfect piece of wood from a trash pile. It was already exactly the right thickness and width. Sweet! It merely needed to be cut to the correct length and sanded down. A thin piece of wood from another drawer bottom was cut to size, as best I could. It was slightly skewed, but we were not about obsession over perfection on this. It would suffice. This was to be a junk drawer. A place to store things rarely used. I had other salvaged wood to use for the drawer sides, and had even started preparing the pieces for assembly, but Kathryn went to the store and bought two new pieces not knowing, so I changed tactics and just cut those, screwed them together and attached the front piece. The thin bottom piece was nailed to that frame with nails I scoured from Kathryn's workbench stashes from years gone by.

Now all of this was done with a level of math and measuring skills common to me, which is to say, in an unorthodox manner. I had to measure repeatedly and take into account the thickness of the wood and hope my mathaphobic brain would not go into a complete tizzy at the strain. I had considerations placed upon me by the configuration of the inner part of the cabinet. The previous drawer was held in place by pieces of wood on either side, so I also had to use some salvaged strips of wood of an appropriate thickness as accompanying guides, with exact and careful placement so as to meet the wood inside and allow for ease of sliding. This took some tweaking and some time as I stopped work often to overcome the agony of the figuring, and the fear of doing it wrong and possibly ruining everything. Alas, I did not give up and the job was completed.

I can provide you no tutorial because this was truly on the fly and my original plan changed partway through.

(sorry about the odd photo angle)
I also crafted a shelf (because the previous one was missing when I found the cart). The one I made was cut from another old drawer bottom. Three of the pegs for the shelf were still there, so Kathryn just had to find one more and waa laa, she now has a shelf.

Kathryn also went and purchased and hung this paper towel dispenser. You can see there are two holes in the butcher block. That's because when new, this island cart had a drop leaf that could be extended for extra work space. The piece for that was not there when I found the cart. That end of the butcher block has not been prettied up yet.

Here you can see a bit of the front of the drawer. I had this handle in my stash from my own kitchen cabinets; one I never used. Kathryn attached that.

So "The Little Rolling Cart That Could" has found a home at my friend's house and has a fresh new life this side of the trash heap. It serves as cutting board, work area, etc. and it rolls and locks! It's also set to receive another treatment soon, perhaps a towel bar on the other side for hanging dish towels. It still has potential for upgrades and will likely get them a little at a time. This was a combined effort and we were pleased with the result.

And there you have The Little Rolling Cart That Could.

You'll find the little guy at:

Ivy and Elephants

Cowgirl Up @ Cedar Hill Ranch

mop it up mondays

Metamorphosis Monday @ Between Naps on the Porch

Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special

Furniture Feature Fridays

Feathered Nest Friday @ French Country Cottage

Be Inspired @ Common Ground
Transformation Thursday @ Shabby Creek Cottage


  1. Liz I love this! My kitchen is small and I could sure use something that rolls out of the way! Keeping my eye out for a cool find to transform! Awesome job!

  2. Impressive! I've often wondered how hard it would be to make a drawer...and you have inspired me to try it! This looks great.

  3. This is a great piece for a small area to have the extra wokspace. It turned out lovely.


  4. Because I'm of the nosy kind, I can't help but notice an extensive tea collection in what is that a tool box in the back ground? And I must say, nice job capturing the steam off the tea.


  5. You have taken this "trash to treasure" to a whole new level,PERFECT!
    ~Jo @ LoblollyLane

  6. well done! looks great...even better than when it came of of the factory!

  7. The little Quirky Crafter/woodworker that could!
    This turned out great. I like the choice of paper towel holder...complements the hardware on the drawer,too. :) Pat

  8. Amazing. what you do with 'trash' is just so cool!

  9. So cute, and I bet she loves the extra storage! Sending get well wishes to your car. Maybe it's time for that truck... then you could REALLY bring stuff home on trash day!

  10. I'm impressed!! I call a junk find finished when I put it in the car "as is" and deliver it to one of my daughters. Never would I have attempted to create a drawer. A shelf, yes, but a drawer, no way!

  11. Liz,
    OMG!!!This is so great. Wow you go girl. That cart and drawer came out so nice. I bet your friend and boss loves this sweet little treasure. Have a great Friday.

  12. Wow, it turned out so beautiful! And sturdy! I am very impressed, in my mind making a drawer is one of the most difficult tasks. And I love the paper roll arm :)

  13. First, I love the story - well told. Second, the photography is great. As Bliss said above, you captured the steam of the tea. Third, another successful rescue of a street urchin.

  14. Oh yeah! It looks custom made! I probably would have just stuck a basket in there and called it good enough:-) What a talent you have!!

  15. That's amazing, rescued it and found it a home, too.
    Drawer making-I think I'll leave it to experts like you. I haven't ventured into construction yet, but one day...
    Have a great weekend!

  16. Wow! That looks great! Love the addition of the paper towel dispenser.

  17. You turned that cart into an amazing piece! wow, and you built a drawer... you're such a crafty gal Liz!

  18. What a great tutorial. I am certainly going to share this with my husband.

    Small House / Big Sky Donna / White Oak Studio Designs / SW Michigan
    Hand-Painted Vintage Furniture Transformations
    Facebook: (for portfolio of chalk painted work)

  19. "For a clean living conservative girl, I live a bit of a "trashy life".
    I love it love it love it...that is THE BEST INTRODUCTION TO ANY READER meeting up with you and your blog content for the first time..SOOOOOOOOOOO PERFECT.



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