Very large cutting board/counter top

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Forum topic by TelescopeMaker posted 03-29-2017 02:01 PM 973 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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98 posts in 3936 days

03-29-2017 02:01 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I have never made a glued up panel this big. Is this insane?

A friend wants me to make her a top for an old piece of cabinet furniture she has. It is to be 24” x 48”. on one end it will have six 6” X 6” x 5/8” tiles she has, recessed into the top so that they are raised somewhat. This means that only one side will be used.

My idea is simple. Maple, with one 1/2” black walnut accent piece about 6” from the far side. The board will rest on top of the cabinet and be registered there with four dowels into holes that are already there on the cabinet top.

At first, I thought that 1” thick would be enough, but after reading some posts here, I am worried about excessive warping. I know I will have some though.

This will not be a butcher block. I intend to use the maple quarter sawn so that the expansion is in the vertical direction. And of course it is too wide to put through a planer, so I will have to do it in two parts and make a final glue and then plane by hand and sand, as needed.

How proud of the top should I make the tiles? I was thinking 1/8”, but I maybe 1/4” would be better?

How thick should I make the top? Should I assume that I need to use biscuits? Is Titebond III okay or should I used Gorilla Glue or something else? For finish, I was thinking of mineral oil and then bees wax.

I have to assume that the cabinet it will rest on is not exactly the flattest thing in the world, and that support will need to be provided no matter how thick it is. I was thinking of a 10” grid of adjustment screws/feet. Is that too much?

-- Telescope Maker, Woodworker, Brewer, Gizmologist, Gardner, Lawn Mower

9 replies so far

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98 posts in 3936 days

#1 posted 03-29-2017 02:15 PM

This may give a better idea. The cabinet is in the middle of a room – an open kitchen arrangement.

-- Telescope Maker, Woodworker, Brewer, Gizmologist, Gardner, Lawn Mower

View LittleShaver's profile


706 posts in 1535 days

#2 posted 03-29-2017 05:42 PM

Hope you have a mess of clamps.
Biscuits, dowels, splines, or nothing. They all work. I’m inherently lazy and cheap so I would use nothing.
My preference would be to use TB III although there is another thread on cutting boards that likes GG. Either works but TB III will not stain your fingers.
1” does seem thin for a counter top. I’d go at least 1 1/2 or 1 3/4. Check the rest of the countertops in the room and use that as a guide.
I don’t see any need for an internal support grid if you up the thickness.
Using the dowels for attaching the top sounds like something will crack. Even with your proposed grain orientation, the top and the bottom will move at different rates. One will give. Consider using figure 8 clips.

The depth of the recess is really an aesthetic call (I leave those to my wife). My concern with it is that it will become a moisture/mold trap. With the drip groove, you are obviously considering wet stuff on the top. It will get into the recess too and be a long term problem. Your friend will have to be religious about drying the recess or risk having a petri dish on the island.

I like the look you’re going after but the recess would scare me.

-- Sawdust Maker

View Kirk650's profile


680 posts in 1664 days

#3 posted 03-29-2017 07:40 PM

I made a workbench top that’s similar to what you want to do. Mine is (I think) 24”x60”x2.5”, and I also have the Walnut accents, though they are on the outer edges. The main wood was spalted Ash. Glue was TB 2 or 3, I forget.

Because of the amount of glue and the time it took to apply it, I cut the strips to a width of about 2.75 and then face glued them in sections of 4 inches width. I used biscuits for alignment, more for the sake of rapid accurate glueup than any additional strength. I also used cauls and winding sticks during the sectional glueups. Once the sections were all done, i ran them through my planer and made sure they were all dimensioned properly. Then I glued the 4 inch wide sections to make 12 inch wide sections (biscuits and cauls again) and ran them through the planer. Once the two 12 inch wide sections were done to my satisfaction, I did the final glueup (biscuits and cauls). When dry, I used a scraper on squeezeout and then a hand plane to finish up the final top surface. Ten years of hard use later, and it still looks good.

One might wonder why I used spalted Ash. A buddy with a small sawmill had an Ash log and donated it to my project and even milled it into planks for me. It had been sitting for a few years, and it had spalted, though we didn’t know it till we milled it. I had to wait a year for it to dry, but the wait was worth it.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1836 days

#4 posted 03-29-2017 09:38 PM


I agree with Dan Hulbert’s comments.

Beyond his comments, if the cabinet on which the countertop will set will cause the countertop to rock, installing some strips of maple may work better than spending a lot of time trying to get leveling screws in the same plane. The leveling strips could be ¾” x 1” to 1-1/2” wide maple whose face is screwed into the inside upper cabinet rails so that the top of the strips are all in the same plane. I would think that very little of the leveling strips would be seen and where the strips are seen, they will blend in with the underside of the countertop. The fasteners that hold the countertop down while allowing for wood movement could be attached to the leveling strips.

Titebond III has worked very well for me on an outdoor red oak fence. After several years all the glued joints remain solid with no mechanical fasteners.

From what I gather, the standard thickness of a kitchen countertop, at least as seen from the edge is 1-1/4”. For a wooden top with a recess, opting for a top thicker than 1” may make cutting the recess to the appropriate depth less stressful.

I cannot say whether mineral oil with a top coat of bees wax is a good way to go. Perhaps someone else knows. If not, it may be a good idea to make a maple sample board and finish it as you plan. If all goes well, it could be taken one step further and placed into service in the kitchen. That could reveal how well it holds up and whether re-application of the mineral oil/beeswax over the old beeswax as part of the countertop regular maintenance schedule is a problem.

A lot of time will be spent on this project trying to incorporate the tile into the countertop. While it may sound like a nice accent, it may not perform as originally envisioned. Perhaps there could be found some other way to accent the kitchen with the tile that avoids in-setting it into the countertop. For example, the tile could be installed on a stable backer and trimmed with some maple or walnut, given rubber feet, and just set on top of the countertop.

In addition to the amount of additional time, as Dan Hulbert mentioned moisture around and under the tile could be a never ending problem. Not only could the recess be a harbor for micro orgasms, standing moisture in the recess can enter the wood causing typical moisture driven wood movement focused at one end of the countertop.

The provision for the tiles to be removable for cleaning suggests either the tiles are loosely laid in the inset or glued to a backer board. If the tiles are individually and loosely laid in the inset, the tiles may rock unless the back of the tiles is dead flat. At some point, with use or as a result of the frequent removal of the tiles, one or more tiles could end up broken. Depending on the nature of the tiles, a replacement tile may not fit into the space left by the broken tile.

The tiles could be glued to a backer board. But that would make the insert fairly heavy and thus difficult to remove. I could also envision the corner of the back being dropped onto the countertop causing a dent. I suppose that the backer material could ½” marine grade plywood, but I would fear that that the plywood might start to cup or twist. Hardie board tile backer could be used, but this insert would be extremely heavy.

But if you cannot talk her out of the insert, gluing the tile to a backer that fits into the recess with some slop for wood movement and cantilevering the tile beyond the backer would create a tile lip that would set on the countertop surface. The tile cantilevered lip could then receive a thin piece of rubber to act as a gasket. This could keep most of the liquids from running into the recess. But this would put the surface of the tiles quite a bit higher than you are now thinking.

View SawduztJunky's profile


71 posts in 2074 days

#5 posted 04-05-2017 01:52 PM

-- I don't think I'm ever more "aware" than I am right after I hit my thumb with a hammer. Questions about solid surface? Just ask.

View ChefHDAN's profile


1780 posts in 3765 days

#6 posted 04-05-2017 03:25 PM

^^^^ That’s a sexy waterfall joint!!! VERY NICE!!!

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View SawduztJunky's profile


71 posts in 2074 days

#7 posted 04-05-2017 03:29 PM

Thank you, sir!

-- I don't think I'm ever more "aware" than I am right after I hit my thumb with a hammer. Questions about solid surface? Just ask.

View ChefHDAN's profile


1780 posts in 3765 days

#8 posted 04-05-2017 03:54 PM

You’re on the right track, IMO, glue up in manageable sections, TBIII is great GG is a PITA to work with and is unnecessary. As for securing to the counter-top, I’d go with 100% silicone at several points on the counter-top. 1.5” to 2” is ideal for a BB top, the accent strip will be very nice.

That’s the wood worker in me,,,, Now the Chef in me is really unsure of why the tile insert is desired. I could see a slab of marble or granite for pastry & chocolate work, but not tiles. Perhaps a spot to put hot pans, is the only thing I can think of…

What is the end users intention for the counter-top, will they prep food on it and use knives on the board? Knife cuts on the long grain will eventually require a re sanding of the top. From my experience with two large butcher block tables, I would generally use one section of the table more than others and a 2’ square part of the table forced me to resurface the entire top. I made a large end-grain board and that’s what I do all of my cutting on except for meats which I do on a polypropylene board that fits in my dishwasher

The NSF reversed their decision on wood cutting boards because of wood’s ability to absorb moisture and therefore eliminate the ability for pathogens/bacteria to propagate. So there is not a HUGE sanitation issue with putting in the recess, but just the little triangle spot I put in my large board becomes a big pain in the ass to scrub, I wish I had left it a single level with just the slight 3/16” groove around the perimeter. For a food contact finish mineral oil is all that is necessary, but there are several people that go a step further with the beeswax application. Me, I scrub my board with a scotch-brite pad after use so the extra work to apply any wax finish after the oil would be wasted. What I like is the Boo’s Mystery Oil that’s fairly cheap to get on amazon and I apply it generally about every two weeks, it does have some beeswax in it and for me it leaves a better surface than just the mineral oil.

I like the advice above to perhaps make a trivet base for the tiles and not create the recess, and perhaps also provide a large cutting board to go with the top so there will be no need to actually cut on the counter top…., but at the end of the day of course… The Customer Is Always Right, (but occasionally uninformed and stupid).

Good Luck

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View dalepage's profile


387 posts in 1756 days

#9 posted 04-06-2017 03:18 PM

Telescope maker:

Make a router sled to level the top which you say is too wide for your planer.

I did this on an end grain hickory cutting board prep table. Works great. I’ve also leveled an old butcher block (the real thing) by making a belt sander sled. After the routher, the sanding sled kept me from digging furrows with the belt sander. After that, I used a finer grit on a ROS to finish it.

Photo shows glued-up hickory top be ing flattened. It was about 18 inches wide and my planer is only 15 inches.

-- Dale

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