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I have a customer who is asking me to make butcher block for her bar island.
She thinks it is 4' x 6'. My plan is to make this in four sections
then glue up those for sections for the complete top.
Purpleheart and hard maple, end grain.
It is going to sit on a 3/4" ply base, and be edge trimmed.
There are cabinets under the base.

I made a couple sketch up patterns to give her ideas on a creating her own pattern-

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My question is- What is the minimum thickness I can make this in end grain ?
We want to keep the weight down as much as possible.
What obstacles am I facing making this GIANT cutting board ?
Does anyone know how to estimate the weight of the finished top ?

Any ideas would be appreciated,

Lisa
 

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As to weight. Find the weight of the wood species that you are going to use. I used to use 4lbs per sq. ft as a rough estimate. so for your 4 X 6 at 24 sq ft id guess 100 lbs. as a beginning estimate. That's for a top that is 1" thick.

From the web Weight: Hard maple:42-45 lbs./cuft. Soft: 35 lbs/cuft.

A cubc foot is 12 sq. Ft at 1" thick

You would need to estimate the ply also. It's usually made with a wood species that is not as heavy say popular.

Here is a website that has many species and their weight.
 

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Lisa, i have made end grain boards as thin as 1/2 inch with out any issues. seeings how this is going to be glues to ply i would shoot for this thickness. i think any thinner and you would have glue up issues or possibly warping with the wood getting wet form the glue up
 

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I would stray away from this. remember the wood needs to expand and contract. You're looking at a big 4×6 board here. If you glue it to plywood it will blow up. The same goes for if you trim it. That's why if you see the old french butcher blocks and things they have big metal brackets attaching everything. to hold it all together but it all cracks eventually. most companies won't deal in blocks this big for the same reason. you can't attach it and it will probably still warp and crack.
 

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This is going to be so cool!

How do you think your customer will treat this top? If they are going to be using it as a cutting board, you should allow for several refinish processes - including sanding down. This could also apply if you are expecting this to be around for a long time.

A large end grain piece will definitely move a lot with expansion/contraction. I would consider mounting methods that allow for the top to move on its plywood support. You really do not want to create something this fantastic and then have cracks show up. Maybe screws with oversized holes and large washers. You could lock it down in the center - maybe a 8 to 12 inch zone that is screwed directly to the plywood support.

If the end grain top needs to float on the plywood base, then the top needs to be structural do a large degree.

Given these three observations, I would go no thinner than 1 1/2 inches and would not think 3 or 4 inches to be overkill. Professional butcher blocks tables can be much thicker - but they get beat on!

A final thought is that as the top gets thicker, the counter will get taller. Depending on your customer, this could be a good thing. If the structure under the counter is also new, its height can be adjsuted as you determine the final thickness of the top.

I am looking forward to seeing what you create!
 

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Teenagewoodworker brings up a good point (we were typing at the same time). It could crack on its own. Here is another thought. You could make 4 2'x3' boards and lock them down in the center of the 4×6 assembly. This would create slip joints. You could even use a sliding dado style feature along the slip joint. Slotted holes along the slip line should ensure a tight fit.

There are several examples of 2×3 cutting boards. That should be a safe size.
 

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A client I did work for had a large bureau with top made of 4"x 4" ingrain material with a lovely marquitry border. The pieces were 1/4" thick and every square had checked and curled up ever so slightly at their edges. The top looked like an old abused piece.

He said it was brand new he bought it made that way, called it a NewTique instead of antique.

Your patterns look cool. This should be a fun and unique looking top. But I might try to stay 1/2" plus in the thickness. At worst if it curls or checks you can call it a newtique maybe thry'll like it.

Just a side note be very careful the substrate. If the plywood is of poor manufacture the upper veneer could delaminate due to the glues curing that are used to adhere them together.
 

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JAGWAH brings up a good point on the plywood. be carefull with that too as most of it is not made to be used in an environment were it will be wet. if there is water on the board and it is not sealed it could go right down through. Also do to one side what you do to the other. In this case if you attach it you are locking off one side of the ply and not the other. which could cause the ply to warp due to moisture imbalance and it will crack the board.
 

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I just calculated the weight of a maple slab I cut for making my lathe mount. It was about all I wanted to lift and handle, so I guessed the weight at a bit over 100 pounds. That web sites figures make it 120.5. I can't weight until it drys, it will be down to 70.75 :))

It doesn't give a weight for purple heart, but using the maple figure, the cutting board top would be 110 pounds at 1 1/2 thick.

I agree that gluing the whole thing down would be a disaster. Maybe secure it from the bottom in the middle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Wow, so many things to consider.
Dennis- You are right about not gluing to a border or to the ply.
My plan is to use the ply just for support, no adhesive.
Border it with purpleheart flat grain using silicone between
the board and the frame to allow for expansion and contraction.
The frame will be glued to itself on the miters. Or no frame.
This should prevent any liquid spill issues. I will seal the ply. I think this would work ?
Karson- Thank you for the weights and measures. That helps give me a better idea.
JAGWAH- Sorry, I don't think she would appreciate NewTique….LOL
Steve- You are really excited about this ! No way on the bar top coat.
I don't think I could pull that off in one pour,
and I am sure she doesn't want to pay all that money. It's expensive.
Planning on the usual Howard's Butcher Block Conditioner
and a buffed out coat of beeswax with carnuba wax for hardness.

I am thinking no less than an inch in thickness, no more than 1 1/2". Based on the feedback.
I guess that means 1 1/4" thick ? Eddy I am leery about going 1/2" thin.
I have made small pieces in endgrain thinner than 1/2",
but it just doesn't seem warp proof on a piece this size.
With 30 bf of lumber I don't want to take a chance.
I think this will be more of a countertop than a cutting station.
With the build not glued to the bottom it can also be removed to be worked on if needed.
Just cut the silicone.

Thanks for all the great input, I am open to more if you have it.
I hope she decides to go forward with this project,

Lisa
 

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that was one I don´t wuold consider
think of you have different kind of wood
with different movement , it cuold very esay
crack and woble all over in a short time
I know you are a woodworker , but if it was me
I realy wuold consider to make it out of tiles instead
sorry I can´t help you othervice

but I will look forward to see and hear if you come up with a solution for this

Dennis
 

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Hi Lisa… I have made large boards in edgrain but they have been 3 inches thick.. I have one that is unfinished and it has not moved at all in nearly 12 months.. I did make on just ove 1 inch and it warped chronicly.. admittedly that was in my earlier period..
Love the designs and as for being able to surface the whole board… wait for your Torque to arrive…
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Okay Larry, that's 72 board feet, and approx 285 lbs or 130 kg.
Would you think 2" thick would keep it from warping?
I was thinking if I did it in four parts I could run it through
my drum sander…..forgot the Torque is on it's way !! : )
I shall buy a surfacing bit…

Lisa
 
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