Butcher Block Wood

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Forum topic by dummiewithwood posted 12-29-2017 04:15 PM 1415 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 956 days

12-29-2017 04:15 PM

Topic tags/keywords: butcher block wood species tip trick

I recently demo’d a wall in my home separating my living room from kitchen. My thought behind it is to create a “breakfast nook” to be able to sit and watch tv from the kitchen. I am tossing around the idea of building a butcher block countertop for the opening and I don’t want to spend a fortune on wood. Does anyone see any issue with making this counter top out of 2×12 douglas fur (framing lumber) that I would rip down? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

18 replies so far

View JohnMcClure's profile


1042 posts in 1448 days

#1 posted 12-29-2017 04:26 PM

It can absolutely be done from doug fir. I made a set of butcherblock cornhole boards (sounds crazy, I know, but it was a special request) from construction lumber. Turned out great and would have made a great countertop or bartop. Link here, including pictures:
I used a 2-part epoxy I bought off Amazon. Thick, hard, beautiful finish. However, you could do several coats of polyurethane and be just fine with a lot less trouble.

However – this is the most important part, since you’re a dummy with wood – you MUST plane the 2x material before gluing up. I’d do it before even ripping. The idea is to get a perfectly smooth surface so the glue joints are tight. Then, once glued up, you need to plane the surface of that as well. So if you don’t have a planer, you’ll want to purchase a cheap (harbor freight 12”) one for the project. And if you don’t have a hand plane either, it would also come in handy.

Another note: When using a cheap planer, you will ruin the first and last 4” of every board that runs thru it. So cut your stock 12” longer than required, and don’t trim down the length until all planing is complete.

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

View OSU55's profile


2651 posts in 2797 days

#2 posted 12-29-2017 05:10 PM

Let construction grade wood from the bbs dry out for several weeks. Best to get a moisture meter and get it below 10%. Cut an inch off the end and check the center. Running boards through the planer end to end or offset them side by seide to prevent snipe – 1st and last board will snipe, always pass them through 1st and last.

View Dark_Lightning's profile


4147 posts in 3917 days

#3 posted 12-30-2017 03:21 AM

I’d make it from an MDF substrate covered with Formica. I built a counter top for my parents-in-law that way in 1984, and it’s still going strong. You’re going to spend so much time getting those 2X12 boards cut and milled into shape that it won’t be worth your trouble.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

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Monte Pittman

30562 posts in 3146 days

#4 posted 12-30-2017 03:33 AM

Your plan should work

Welcome to Lumberjocks

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Walker's profile


385 posts in 1280 days

#5 posted 12-30-2017 04:41 PM

is the butcher block just for aesthetics or will you actually be cutting on it? If you’re actually cutting on it then you want wood that is not very porous to resist food bacteria getting stuck in there, and tight grained to resist marring from knives. This is why maple and walnut are typically used. Fir is softer and more porous than these. Also end grain is best at resisting scratching. Edge grain is not as good and face grain is the worst for this.

If using for cutting on you’ll need to consider what finish to use also. There is much debate over this. Some sources say any finish is food safe once fully cured (mind you that could take weeks or months, especially this time of year). But look at the data sheets for things like lacquer and polyurethane, not things I’d want in my food. Also poly is like a layer of plastic coating which the knives will crack and scratch.

There are other products considered to be more food safe, labeled “cutting board oil” or “butcher block conditioner” which are usually some blend of mineral oil, carnuba or parafin wax. (Parafin wax is used in food, and can be found at the grocery store). Some oils like olive oil will go rancid and make the wood stink. There’s a company called “Tried and True” which makes a danish oil without adding all the dangerous chemicals you’ll find in the big name stuff. Other danish oils are not considered food safe.

One more note about the finish choice, eventually you’ll get scratches in the top and you may want to sand it down and refinish. Some finishes lend themselves better to this.

-- ~Walker

View dummiewithwood's profile


4 posts in 956 days

#6 posted 01-02-2018 09:31 PM

If I don’t own a planer and don’t want to spend $300+ on one would a power hand planer or belt sander work to flatten out the top? Would ripping the pieces on all 4 sides work better?

View TraylorPark's profile


213 posts in 2406 days

#7 posted 01-02-2018 10:13 PM

A power planer, or sander to a lesser degree, would work to mostly flatten the top. My main concern would be jointing the edges for a clean counter top. For that you will need a jointer, jointing hand plane, or make a jointer sled for the table saw. Any gaps from poor joints will be a disaster for liquid spills (I may have some experience with this from a table I built early on). If your table saw fence and blade are good you could use it to resaw the boards to the width and thickness after you have achieved 2 flat sides perpendicular to one another.

-- --Zach

View Knockonit's profile


685 posts in 1010 days

#8 posted 01-02-2018 10:15 PM

spend the 300 plus bucks on a premade butcher block top and be done with it.

IMO, a df counter in a house, hmmm, does or would it go with the design, motif of house.

as noted, maybe use laminate, some of the new laminate is absolutely awesome to look at, and very economical.

good luck, i just think doug fir will be an on going maintenance issue, no matter what you seal with, paint ect.

ri cj

-- Living the dream

View 01ntrain's profile


259 posts in 1878 days

#9 posted 01-02-2018 10:16 PM

Obviously, you don’t own a planer…..but do you own a jointer? If you have neither, you’re going to have a REALLY hard time getting construction-grade lumber flat. The old-school guys are going to recommend a shooting board(google it) and it would be a good way to get your boards somewhat flattened…..but, to me, it’s not worth the work involved.

You don’t list your location, but you can order butcher-block from most lumber yards, and if you live near a Menard’s, they stock it. It’s actually pretty inexpensive for what you get.

I get that this may be a project for learning, but you’re kind of up against a steep learning curve, especially if you don’t have the proper equipment. I could see this project quickly going south and end up with discouraging disappointment. Where’s the fun in that?

There is no shame in buying an already-made product and cutting it to size. There will still be lots of opportunities to learn by cutting, sanding, finish, etc.

View dummiewithwood's profile


4 posts in 956 days

#10 posted 01-03-2018 01:43 PM

I’m starting to take the hint that maybe this shouldn’t be my first attempt at a butcher block. I will probably try and build it but use it in the garage or somewhere that looks aren’t as important so not all is lost!

I have looked around at my local countertop suppliers and most of them want around $1000 for a butcher block counter top the size I am needing. If I were to buy one at Menard’s would I be able to Laminate them together? I need around 64”x57” and Menard’s doesn’t sell one quite wide enough.


Thank you all for your reply’s

View JohnMcClure's profile


1042 posts in 1448 days

#11 posted 01-03-2018 02:20 PM

57” seems remarkably wide! It would be hard to make butcher block that wide anyway without some pretty serious clamps (pipe clamps would be your best bet… need one every 10” so that’s 6 clamps, and 6 6-ft-long pipes… there’s another $100-150…)

Maybe if you got two pre-made pieces, you could use pocket-screws (Kreg jig $20) underneath to draw them together instead of clamps. You’d have to be very careful to keep the tops flush while screwing… maybe a hand plane or scraper to clean up the joint line afterward…

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

View dummiewithwood's profile


4 posts in 956 days

#12 posted 01-03-2018 02:32 PM

View Lazyman's profile


5671 posts in 2195 days

#13 posted 01-03-2018 02:46 PM

I would definitely practice this on something smaller first to so that you see what you are up against. Both the length and the width are going to be a stretch for a first attempt. Without a long bed jointer and a planer, it will be tough getting straight, tight joints and a flat top. You can learn to do it with hand tools or use some of the techniques mentioned above but it may take some trial and error to figure it out. You might also look for a biscuit jointer on Craigslist. This will help with the alignment during glue up and help minimize any planing you have to do afterwards. And start your collection of long clamps. I am not sure that 1 every 10” is enough for something this large.

BTW, never done it myself but I’ve heard that hand planing Doug fir can be problematic, especially for a beginner. So if you decide to go that route, you might want to try it before you go buy all of the lumber. Also, you will want to hand pick each of the boards you use to minimize warp and twist while picking boards with the straightest grain. I would also look for boards where the rings run in a quarter sawn fashion (across the 2” dimension of a 2×4 for example).

Welcome to Lumberjocks!

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View brtech's profile


1068 posts in 3730 days

#14 posted 01-03-2018 03:08 PM

I think you can do it.

First of all, you are using this for a breakfast nook, not a butcher table or even a kitchen countertop you use for cutting bread. So, I think fir is fine.

Modern glues are really good. You don’t need supersmooth surfaces. It would be good to have a lot of clamps, but you don’t really need them. Use all thread and a big wrench. Laminate all but show edges by drilling holes and using a big fender washer and a nut on a nice piece of all-thread every 10” of length. If you drill the holes accurately the top will be fairly flat. Then take out the all thread and glue the outside “show” piece on using the weight of the rest of the top to hold it together. I’d use a router sled to get the top smooth. A router is a great tool to own, you don’t need a huge one, and you can make the router sled yourself. There are decent bits for flattening available for $20-30.

View johnstoneb's profile


3147 posts in 2980 days

#15 posted 01-03-2018 03:30 PM

Go for it. If it fits your design. You will never learn how to do something if you don’t try it. Don’t let the nay sayer talk you out of it if you really want the look.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

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