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Kitchen Island Trim For A Rustic Island Project

In this article I’m going to show you (with pictures) how to build, finish, and attach your kitchen island trim. For the sake of this post, that includes the face frame, trim work on the sides, and the base.

kitchen island trim

For the trim and face frame I used white oak, stained with Minwax’s English Chestnut. The base is made from pine 2x4s, painted black, and set back 3″ for a toe kick. Follow along to see how it’s done.

The Base

The base I made for this project is simply 2x4s from the lumber yard for the perimeter, and strips of leftover 3/4″ plywood as cross braces.

Lay the island over and custom fit and secure each piece individually to the island using pocket hole joinery.

Inset the base 3″ for a toe kick in the front. The sides and back should be flush with the cabinets’ edges.

Then secure each piece together so the base is a solid single structure.

diagram of cabinet base for a kitchen island

Remove the entire structure from the island and spray paint it with a flat black enamel paint.

The flat black makes it disappear for the most part, and the enamel is very tough so it won’t get damaged after years of being kicked.

Once the paint dries, glue and pocket screw it back on to the island before flipping it upright again. Now you’re ready to build and attach the face frame and trim.

Kitchen Island Trim – The Face Frame

The face frame is the part of the kitchen island trim that covers the edges of the plywood and provides for simple hardware mounting. Aside from being functional, the face frame is also largely part of the overall style.

Just to clarify, a face frame is made of rails and stiles. The rails are the horizonal pieces, and the stiles are the verticals.

(It’s easy to remember if you think of a ‘rail’ as the hand ‘rail’ of a deck – it’s horizontal)

For this project, I’ll be using some old, rustic-looking oak boards for the entire face frame, the trim work, and the drawer fronts. If you like the distressed, rustic look, you may want to check out this article on finding and working with reclaimed wood.

First cut some 1-1/2″ strips from a 2×4 to glue under the front bottom edge, this will provide for some good surface area for gluing the bottom rail of the face frame

cutting support strips on table saw for lower trim molding
glue and clamp strips to kitchen island
strips glued on to cabinet for kitchen island trim

The remainder of the face frame is secured with pocket screws, the holes for which are located in the side cabinets. This way, when the sliding doors are in the normal position, the pocket holes will not be seen.

The top rail of the face frame is secured with pocket screws from the front upper cleats, which span the width of each cabinet.


kitchen island before face frame


kitchen island trim - face frame dry fit

The Process:

Take measurements and cut the pieces of the frame. The center stiles will be just wide enough to cover the edges of the plywood.

The outer stiles will cover the plywood and hang off by 3/4″, to cover the edge of the trim that will go on that side.

The top rail is 2″ wide and should be mounted flush at the top of the cabinets.

The middle rails are there to separate the drawers from the lower part of the cabinets, and to support the steel bar for the barn door hardware.

The top edge of the lower rail will be flush with the top face of the bottom of each cabinet.

Each mating end (rail or stile) gets 2 pocket holes (on the back) and is secured with glue and 1-1/4″ pocket screws.

pocket holes and glue to build the face frame
securing pocket screws in face frame
kitchen island face frame completed, view from the back

To help line up the middle rails, cut some identical strips of wood to use as spacers:

cutting alignment strips of wood using a stop block on a table saw sled
middle rails out of alignment
middle rails in line using strips of wood for kitchen island trim molding

Then mark their locations, glue and screw in place.

NOTE – At this point, I suggest applying any stain you want on the face frame and letting it dry before attaching.

Attaching The Face Frame:

Using some support boards and shims, get the face frame in place and lined up how you want it. This is a dry fit, like a practice run for the final glue up.

stained face frame dry fit to cabinet

NOTE – During the dry run, go ahead and sink all the pocket screws and pull it in tight. This way the glue up and final screwing will go much quicker.

Then remove the frame, apply glue to the edges of the plywood and the lower rail support board, and clamp back in place.

Now insert all pocket screws to pull the face frame in tight.

Then clamp the bottom rail to the boards you glued to the cabinet earlier. Remember, the bottom rail is not screwed on, so it’s the only piece that requires clamping until the glue dries.

face frame glued and screwed to cabinet
lower rail clamped to cabinet

Kitchen Island Trim Work

Next you can do the trim on the sides that will cover the plywood edges and separate the cabinets from the black base.

Cut each piece and stain before attaching.

To join, glue and clamp the trim pieces in place (one at a time), and using a finish nailer, secure it to the cabinet. These holes can be left as is or filled with putty. Either way, touch up with your wood stain at the end.

face frame completed and attached
first trim piece clamped, glued, and nailed in place
second trim piece attached
kitchen island trim work completed

As you can see there are some spots I’ll need to touch up with some stain, like the edges and nail holes.

Do this on both sides of the cabinet and next we’ll move on to building the barn doors.

That wraps up this post on my kitchen island trim. Be sure to sign up below to stay updated on progress posts for projects like these, plus you’ll get woodworking tips and advice for beginners and small-shop-woodworking.

  1. How to Build Base Cabinets For A Kitchen Island
  2. How to Build Shelves For A Kitchen Island
  3. How to Build Dovetail Drawers
  4. Kitchen Island Trim For A Rustic Island (you are here)
  5. How to Build Cabinet Doors

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About The Author
Adam has been woodworking for the last 10 years. He considers himself a 'Small Shop Woodworker' and practices his hobby in his garage. With the lack of time, space, and proper tools, he always finds ways to get great results without over-complicating or over-thinking the process. Various shop jigs, table saw sleds, and tricks of the trade have served him well. God has blessed him with a beautiful family, as well as a passion for teaching others about woodworking. You can read more about Adam here.

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