Butcher Block Counter top
I have been asked to build a Butcher Block counter top for an Island. I will be using Hard maple, and the dimensions are 36” x 88”. I plan to make it 1 ¾ “ think and use the edge grain up. Do you have any hints or tips on building this. <!—-><!—-><!—->
That is a monster top. Will you glue up a couple strips at a time or try something more ambitious?
What I was thinking about was doing it in 12" sections. That way I can run each section through the planner. Then glue up each section.
"What I was thinking about was doing it in 12" sections. That way I can run each section through the planner. Then glue up each section."
This works well. I like to use biscuits to keep everything aligned for glue-up. I know many have little or no use for biscuits, but those slats slip all over creation unless they are mechanically aligned during glueing & clamping. Use waterproof glue -- poly or TB-III. Finish with an oil countertop/salad bowl finish that will be renewed periodically as needed.
Mike HennessyPittsburgh, PA
Glue up as wide as you can. Just edge glue and align as well as possible when you are gluing the sections up. TBIII is good or epoxy is even better, just messier. You can plane the sections after you glue them. Then biscuit or spline the sections together so you get good alignment. Then you will have to take the belt sander to the entire top to get it good and flat. That is unless you have a wide belt sander.You don't need any kind of biscuit or spline except to align the pieces. Think of bowling alleys which are basically butcher block Maple. The stave are just edge glued with no spline.
Not a bad idea, as you're going to get some unevenness regardless of how carefully you do it, even with cauls. I'd also do two strips to begin with to get a good idea of how much glue to apply. I always tend to over estimate the amount of glue, so I test a small glue up to get a feel for the volume needs, otherwise I end up with a glue drip mess. Keep in mind, with that length of run, you don't need glue contact on every square inch. That thing'll survive a nuclear war.
We once tried to do a top about that size in our shop only it was about 3 inches thick and alternating cherry and maple we used 16/4 stock and it was a real chalenge keeping the thing from blowing apart- the differential in the thick stock drying kept cracking the first run before the last was finshed. Get some long stock and edge glue it together. then take slices off the end of that and glue them together. The polyurathane glue is the best thing to use i think b/c there is more grab than epoxy and it cures faster (Not to mention filling the inevitable gap. the one i did was sanwiched between sheets of melamine with TONS of cauls and clamps to get good pressure distibution. FIND someone with wide belt sander- its worth the cost - and be sure to chamfer the trailing eadge before you try and surface plane it or you will have some serious chipout to repair. The one our shop made was messy and a PITA. a little forethought goes a long way here- don't take any shortcuts and make sure your equipment is calibrated and has fresh edges- it will save you A LOT of sanding/scraping in the end.
You'll have to get the other 98 cents elswhere...
I'd recommend polyurethane glue instead of any PVA glue. Longer open time, stronger, and waterproof. The only thing is you ust have tight joints; polyurethane does not do well as a gap filling glue. The foam will fill the gap, but there will be no strength in the joint.
Why end grain up? now you have do deal with expansion in both horizontal dimensions.
He said edge grain, not end grain.
Thanks, I read too fast.
Though what really is "edge" grain? You can have a narrow edge to a board, but the grain on it is the same as the face, for random sawing orientations. A flat sawn board would have quartersawn "edge" grain, but a quartersawn board would have flatsawn "edge" grain. For a riftsawn board, face and edge are the same.
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All true, I beleive in this case it just means narrow edge up.
Thanks for all your comments! The info on the glue will be very helpful since I had not given the type of glue much thought. <!----><!----><!---->
To answer some of the questions, first the idea of putting the edge grain up was because the maple I have is flat sawn and want to get the grain running as vertical as possible. I have read on other threads that this is the must stable way to orient the grain. <!----><!---->
Also the idea behind gluing up 12 “ sections and then running them through the planner was just to clean the glue lines, thought it would be easer to scrape a couple of glue line instead of many. <!----><!---->
Again thanks for all your comments, will post late and let you all know how it came out. <!----><!---->
I built a similar one last year. Same width, but not quite so long. I used epoxy for the long open time. I clamped large pieces perpendicular to the strips to keep things in line. Where boards were stubborn, I used a clamp that bridged the two to get them to line up. The boards and clamps I used for alignment were removed before the glue dried. I used Bessy clamps to clamp the width. In my effort to get everything clamped up, I ended up with a couple of starved joints which later failed. My alignment efforts worked pretty well and I was able to level the surface with a belt sander, a straight edge and some perseverance. In the end, I think that gluing up something 36" wide prevents the ability to get even clamping pressure. I would go with your idea of gluing it up in 12" sections, but I wouldn't bother with the trip to the planer. You'll still need to level the two joints that result from making it in three sections.
I built such a butcher top for an island in my kitchen. It is 32"x60"x3.5", end grain, without any plate joining or other fasteners. Just good old Titebond III. I used a jig with a melamine faced piece of MDF from Home Depot that was 1/2 the size of my butcher block for the base. I set up some rails on the MDF at 90 degrees to line up the pieces of maple and started gluing up two rows at a time using Bessey clamps and a caul on the side and one on the top. Glue up was like stacking ice cubes with all the pieces slicked up with glue but eventually you get into a routine. I offset the joints between the maple parts on every two rows so I wouldn't have any straight glue lines. Suggestion, use waxed paper between the cauls and your hard wood to prevent sticking. I glued up the two halves of my butcher block seperately and then glued the two halves together. I then leveled the whole thing with a power planer, hand plane and finally a scraper and orbital sander. For decoration, I put a 4" Hickory trim around the whole thing. It took a quart of mineral oil to get the top ready for use, but it's beautiful and there haven't been any problems with cracking.
If you're building this for someone else, then you might want to think of outsourcing. A quick Google search revealed a number of manufacturers making this type of counter. Since it appears to be a labor-intensive activity, the commercial guys, with specialized equipment can probably knock these out more cheaply.
For example, at http://www.butcherblockco.com/maple-end-grain-2-25thick.html
I saw a 2.5 inch thick counter 60" x 25 for $865. I could easily see you having 40 hours in this, including the finish. That's $20 per hour not including materials and wear and tear on the machines, blades and cutters.
I am going through the same make versus buy decision.
If your intent is to have the experience of building a top like this, you will receive a lot of good advice here. If your intent is to make a profit and to supply a good product, consider purchasing one from Grizzly or Bally. For instance, you can buy a 96"X 36"X 1 3/4" thick top from Grizzly for $499.95 plus $69 shipping. I have bought a couple from them and they are excellent. They are prefinished, so you would nedd to do a little finishing after cutting the end off to meet your 88" dimension.
This is for a customer who already has the hard maple. It was from a tree that came from there family farm and insist on having it made into a counter top along with a full set of cabinets. I told them that it would be much cheaper to buy it from Grizzle or other companies. But they insist that they want it made from this Lumber. I guess in this case the cost does not matter.
What they don't know wont hurt them (Just kidding) I found it for like $250 plus $70 shipping it seems...Drewhttp://www.grizzly.com/products/g9916
Dividing the top into sections will give you more time during glue up. Use buiscuits, or other alignment/reinforcement devices will help. Try to rent some time on a wide belt sander, if you don't have one; or plane, scrape and belt sand it by hand if you're feeling vigorous.
I built the 2 3/4-in-thick, maple top for the 5-ft-square island in the photo in three sections: one on either side of the cooktop and one in the middle. Then I assembled them on the job site. I used two rows of Lamello biscuits on each 3 to 4-inch wide piece, clamped the Titebond II glued sections, then ran each through a wide belt sander. I had only a small amount of scraping & sanding to do on site, after glueing and clamping the sections together, to level the two joints.
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