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End grain butcher block counter-top

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Forum topic by 616jason616 posted 02-20-2020 03:40 PM 425 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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616jason616

19 posts in 52 days


02-20-2020 03:40 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question tip butcher block counter top cutting board joining

I am getting ready to build a butcher block end grain counter-top to replace our old Formica top. This is an L shaped counter-top that is about 75” x 66” x 24”. I am going to use Hickory. I’ve never built an end grain block this size and am concerned that I may run into unforeseen issues. Has anyone built something similar, and if so did you run into any problems like shifting or movement after the final glue up? Is there anything special I should keep in mind while building this? Any guidance or tips would be great. Thanks.

-- Jason


18 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

5684 posts in 3032 days


#1 posted 02-20-2020 03:45 PM

How are going to level the top after the glue up? It is going to weigh a lot depending on how thick you make it.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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616jason616

19 posts in 52 days


#2 posted 02-20-2020 03:48 PM

I plan to build it in 5 pieces, so I can run them through the planer and jointer before joining them all together.

-- Jason

View PBWilson1970's profile

PBWilson1970

64 posts in 74 days


#3 posted 02-20-2020 03:55 PM

Some people run their completed end grain boards through a planer but can get some major blow out on the back edge. I’d glue a strip of sacrificial wood to the back edge and take light passes. End grain is hard stuff to cut. Good luck.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning.

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616jason616

19 posts in 52 days


#4 posted 02-20-2020 03:57 PM



Some people run their completed end grain boards through a planer but can get some major blow out on the back edge. I d glue a strip of sacrificial wood to the back edge and take light passes. End grain is hard stuff to cut. Good luck.

- PBWilson1970

I learned my lesson on this with my first attempt to plane end grain. LOL

-- Jason

View Rich's profile

Rich

5367 posts in 1270 days


#5 posted 02-20-2020 04:55 PM

Your plan sounds like a recipe for disaster. It might look good on paper to do it in strips and do a final glue up, but in practice you will find many roadblocks. One is simply getting that final glue up even enough that you can sand it flat. Even if you get it close, trying to do the final flattening with a handheld sander you’re going to struggle to get the surface flat enough for a countertop. A countertop is something you want dead flat and level, otherwise it will be a pain to work on. Not only will things not sit flat, any flaw in the surface will be amplified when you stand something up on it. Imagine having guests, and everyone’s glass is leaning a different direction.

Another is the planing of end grain. Aside from the fact that it’s a sketchy move, planing end grain hickory is going to dull your knives in nothing flat. Before I bought my drum sander I used to cheat and run end grain mesquite through my DW735 which had the regular steel blades at the time. It literally dulled the knives in maybe a couple of dozen passes. Those many passes were necessary because of the shallow cut that operation requires. I upgraded to a shelix head, which helped immensely, but still it was a challenge.

OK, enough negativity. There are some ways to go. The first is to find a shop with a wide belt sander or drum sander and pay them to flatten your piece. You can glue it up to its full width, let them sand it, and get a flawless surface.

Better yet, assuming you’re a serious woodworker, now would be a perfect time to build a router sled. You can find plans online and it’s really an easy thing to put together and use. With it, you will be able to work on the fully glued up piece and get it dead flat safely. A sled is also something you’ll find useful on many future projects where you need to flatten something that’s too wide for your planer.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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616jason616

19 posts in 52 days


#6 posted 02-20-2020 05:02 PM



Your plan sounds like a recipe for disaster. It might look good on paper to do it in strips and do a final glue up, but in practice you will find many roadblocks. One is simply getting that final glue up even enough that you can sand it flat. Even if you get it close, trying to do the final flattening with a handheld sander you re going to struggle to get the surface flat enough for a countertop. A countertop is something you want dead flat and level, otherwise it will be a pain to work on. Not only will things not sit flat, any flaw in the surface will be amplified when you stand something up on it. Imagine having guests, and everyone s glass is leaning a different direction.

Another is the planing of end grain. Aside from the fact that it s a sketchy move, planing end grain hickory is going to dull your knives in nothing flat. Before I bought my drum sander I used to cheat and run end grain mesquite through my DW735 which had the regular steel blades at the time. It literally dulled the knives in maybe a couple of dozen passes. Those many passes were necessary because of the shallow cut that operation requires. I upgraded to a shelix head, which helped immensely, but still it was a challenge.

OK, enough negativity. There are some ways to go. The first is to find a shop with a wide belt sander or drum sander and pay them to flatten your piece. You can glue it up to its full width, let them sand it, and get a flawless surface.

Better yet, assuming you re a serious woodworker, now would be a perfect time to build a router sled. You can find plans online and it s really an easy thing to put together and use. With it, you will be able to work on the fully glued up piece and get it dead flat safely. A sled is also something you ll find useful on many future projects where you need to flatten something that s too wide for your planer.

- Rich

This is exactly the type of information I am looking for. I would’ve thought that if the pieces were jointed that the final glue up would’ve been cake, but things often go easy in your head.
A router sled is a great idea. I think that I will definitely go that route. Thanks a ton Rich.

-- Jason

View sras's profile

sras

5341 posts in 3810 days


#7 posted 02-20-2020 05:07 PM

A second vote for a router sled. The shape of your counter top will require creative setup of the rails – or a really really wide rail spacing.

What I see as a possible rail set up is allow one rail to pass over the top of one leg of the “L”. Level first leg then reconfigure the rails to have a rail pass over the second leg. There are likely other methods but this is one I can describe :)

When setting up your rails take lots of time to make sure the rails are parallel to each other – use winding sticks.

A top that wide will have movement. You can lock it down in the middle somewhere (probably at the back corner of the “L”) and then allow the rest to float.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

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616jason616

19 posts in 52 days


#8 posted 02-20-2020 05:16 PM



A second vote for a router sled. The shape of your counter top will require creative setup of the rails – or a really really wide rail spacing.

What I see as a possible rail set up is allow one rail to pass over the top of one leg of the “L”. Level first leg then reconfigure the rails to have a rail pass over the second leg. There are likely other methods but this is one I can describe :)

When setting up your rails take lots of time to make sure the rails are parallel to each other – use winding sticks.

A top that wide will have movement. You can lock it down in the middle somewhere (probably at the back corner of the “L”) and then allow the rest to float.

- sras

Would using a router sled work if I did it in two chunks instead of having to design something for the entire L shaped piece? Or would this just require another pass after I joined them together?

-- Jason

View Rich's profile

Rich

5367 posts in 1270 days


#9 posted 02-20-2020 05:35 PM


Would using a router sled work if I did it in two chunks instead of having to design something for the entire L shaped piece? Or would this just require another pass after I joined them together?

- 616jason616

I would consider making the two portions of the L separately and joining them mechanically on the cabinet, or whatever this countertop will rest on. Something like a zip bolt would allow you to fabricate the pieces individually and then align the surfaces perfectly when you install them.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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616jason616

19 posts in 52 days


#10 posted 02-20-2020 05:45 PM


Would using a router sled work if I did it in two chunks instead of having to design something for the entire L shaped piece? Or would this just require another pass after I joined them together?

- 616jason616

I would consider making the two portions of the L separately and joining them mechanically on the cabinet, or whatever this countertop will rest on. Something like a zip bolt would allow you to fabricate the pieces individually and then align the surfaces perfectly when you install them.

- Rich

That sounds much easier then trying to build a set of rails that could do the whole thing. I think I have my plans now. Thanks a lot all.

-- Jason

View PBWilson1970's profile

PBWilson1970

64 posts in 74 days


#11 posted 02-20-2020 09:31 PM

If there is a local shop with a long stroke sander, that might be another way to go without leaving you knee deep in router shavings!

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning.

View CWWoodworking's profile

CWWoodworking

668 posts in 859 days


#12 posted 02-20-2020 10:21 PM

This is the perfect time to invest in a good drum sander.

One of the best machines I bought.

View CaptainKlutz's profile

CaptainKlutz

2701 posts in 2175 days


#13 posted 02-20-2020 11:14 PM

Don’t forget about normal wood movement due environmental humidity changes in your top attachment system.
End grain panel will have the grain with most movement running both front to back and end to end. The ‘L’ shape of your design creates the largest attachment challenge. Mounting a normal side grain butcher block top is much easier.

Over years have learned typical 24” deep SOLID WOOD countertops need to allow for roughly 1/4” of total front to back movement. End to end shrinkage can usually be ignored, but with end grain top this is no longer true. As example: assuming a meager 2% wood moisture change, a 60 inch long panel will experience 1/2” of movement. Shrinkulator can give you better numbers based on design.

Most installers choose to have front edge as fixed reference, and float/slot the rear mounting holes to allow for movement; as typical counter has over lapping back splash to hide the changes in gap. It can be hard to hide 1/2-3/4” of movement on long direction? Additionally most designers will recommend only using end grain tops as a single floating surface in island, due the challenges with movement on long panels.

It can be done. One solution is to fabricate a metal cross bracket on top of cabinets, that has second metal plate as sliding attachment point, and the 2nd piece has slots for front to back movement. Expensive off the shelf solution is to use a pair of dishwasher support brackets as cross pieces, and hunk of slotted flat bar as the cross piece mounted to top.

Without proper attachment system, will be tough to keep top flat during seasonal changes.

Hope this helps.
Cheers!

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View Rich's profile

Rich

5367 posts in 1270 days


#14 posted 02-21-2020 12:06 AM


Don t forget about normal wood movement due environmental humidity changes in your top attachment system.
End grain panel will have the grain with most movement running both front to back and end to end. The L shape of your design creates the largest attachment challenge. Mounting a normal side grain butcher block top is much easier.

- CaptainKlutz

Simply consider the radial versus tangential shrinkage for the wood species—in this case, hickory. I seriously doubt that with a random orientation of the wood that a significant difference would occur. The T/R is around 1 to 1.8 anyway, so even if you oriented all of the pieces for one leg one way and the other for the other leg, the difference in movement would be minor.

Put it this way, if what you said was true, then no end grain block could exist without breaking apart. The fact that this is L shaped is immaterial.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View CaptainKlutz's profile

CaptainKlutz

2701 posts in 2175 days


#15 posted 02-21-2020 12:35 AM


Don t forget about normal wood movement due environmental humidity changes in your top attachment system.
End grain panel will have the grain with most movement running both front to back and end to end. The L shape of your design creates the largest attachment challenge. Mounting a normal side grain butcher block top is much easier.

- CaptainKlutz

Put it this way, if what you said was true, then no end grain block could exist without breaking apart. The fact that this is L shaped is immaterial.

- Rich

You can assume what ever you want. :-)

Personally witnessed 6’ long end grain butcher block fixed on one end gain undulations in top using ‘normal’ 1/4” slot mounting holes due seasonal changes. It eventually ripped apart the end panel on the last base cabinet due improper allowance for wood movement. Made a horrible exploding/cracking noise when the side of cabinet ruptured outward over 1/2”. Was just glad it was my kitchen, and not one I built for others.

Bottom line:
End grain counter tops require different mounting design than long grain butcher block counter top.

Sorry rich, Have to agree to disagree on this one. BTDTGTTS, have you?

As always with any forum, YMMV

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

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