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Requesting Advise on Large Butcherblock countertop

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Forum topic by PPK posted 06-29-2020 06:23 PM 910 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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PPK

1767 posts in 1614 days


06-29-2020 06:23 PM

Hi fellows,

I’m building a large butcherblock countertop out of hickory. It’ll be 4’ wide by 7’ long, and 2 1/4” thick. The grain will run the long dimension. The beast gets set on top of a 3’ x 7’ island cabinet.

My concerns right out of the chute:

-Cupping. I am thinking of letting in some pieces of angle iron on the bottom side, and securing with slotted holes to prevent this.

-Twisting. Not sure how to prevent this. My cabinets are not cheesy, and if I screw down the coutertop well, I doubt that I’ll run into twisting… but 2.25” of hickory is a formidable force to deal with…

-How to fasten to the cabinet. A row of screws somewhere near the middle, and then a row on either side that is in slotted holes? I know that I can’t just drive in screws 3’ apart and expect that the countertop isn’t going to grow and shrink seasonally…

-Flattening. I’m planning to glue up 4 chunks, about 12” wide each, run then thru the planer, and then do the final glue up of the 4 pcs. with biscuits to align them really well so I have to do minimal joint leveling.

Any thoughts on my project? Advise before I screw it all up?!?

-- Pete


24 replies so far

View Murdock's profile

Murdock

151 posts in 3289 days


#1 posted 06-29-2020 07:38 PM

A few years ago I lived in a house with two islands, one that was similar in size to yours but trapezoid shape, the other that was aprox 3’ x 4’ and mobile.

My tops were a bit thinner than yours, but in the time I lived in that house after installing (about 3 years) I had no noticeable cupping or twisting. I did finish both the top and the bottom to prevent moisture differences as much as possible.

For the smaller one, I added some bracing to the cabinet to strengthen it, that bracing had a grove that would accept z-clip fasteners.

For the larger island, due to how it was built (more of a “E” shaped half wall than a cabinet. I ended up screwing down a piece of 1/2” Baltic birch to the island that was a smaller than the top, then screwing the top to that from the underside. I had built in a pocket in the bottom of the counter top to hide the edges of the ply. Screwed through the ply from the bottom, solid in the front and slotted holes in the back.

For flattening my method was exactly what you suggest, although I did a poor job gluing the 12” chunks together and ended up doing a lot of sanding.

Good luck on your project, we loved our butcher block tops

-- "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." - Albert Einstein

View James E McIntyre's profile

James E McIntyre

832 posts in 2097 days


#2 posted 06-29-2020 08:42 PM

From what I have studied:

Make sure your wood is dry and the moisture content is at an exceptable level.

When you assemble the strips of hickory alternate the crowns if you can see them, up and down before you glue up, and run them through your planer.

Alternate the growth rings.

Let glue dry for about a week before finishing to make sure the moisture from the glue is dry through the thickness of the wood.

Finish all side of the counter with at least 3 coats of an appropriate finish.

Place spacers or washers under the top to allow air to flow under the counter.
Moisture build up will cause the wood to swell.

-- James E McIntyre

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PPK

1767 posts in 1614 days


#3 posted 06-30-2020 12:34 PM

Thanks Murdock and James. I’m certainly planning to apply the same finish to all sides of the countertop. Good idea with the washers to give a small air gap. Good call on waiting for the glue to dry out also. I wonder if a week is enough? I do have a moisture meter, I’ll take some checks to see how things are coming along when I do it.

-- Pete

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James E McIntyre

832 posts in 2097 days


#4 posted 06-30-2020 05:43 PM

I was wondering the same about the glue especially if you use biscuits.
I learned from a butcher block installer about putting washers on the screws during installation.

I’m sure you butcher block will look beautiful.
It’s s big one.

-- James E McIntyre

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PPK

1767 posts in 1614 days


#5 posted 06-30-2020 05:48 PM

Thanks. I’m kind of excited to dig into it and get started. I’ll post pictures probably on the furniture makers forum, and for sure as a project when it’s all done. If I’m figuring right, it’s about 100 BF of lumber, weighing in somewhere around 275 lbs!

-- Pete

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James E McIntyre

832 posts in 2097 days


#6 posted 07-01-2020 09:56 PM

I hope you have help lifting it. What’s your plan for finishing that huge counter?

I hope you show you building steps and progress. Should make a go story.

-- James E McIntyre

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PPK

1767 posts in 1614 days


#7 posted 07-16-2020 01:01 PM

Well… I took receipt of my lumber, 110 BF of 4/4 hickory. Cut it all up into strips and laid them out.
I made a “mistake” in that I got 7-8’ “random lengths”, some of which turned out to be shorter then I needed for a 7’-2” length coutertop. So, I’ve only got about 32” of my 48” wide of countertop! Oh well. The lumber isn’t wasted, I’m going to use all that shorter stuff for the other cabinet work in the same job…

It’s kind of amazing how much lumber gets wasted. If I do the math, 2.25” x 48” x 86” = 64.5 BF.

Otherwise, it’s looking pretty good!

-- Pete

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

5655 posts in 2192 days


#8 posted 07-16-2020 02:48 PM

My assumption on why a long grain butcher block is made that way is because it simulates (approximates) a quarter sawn panel to minimize warpage. By ripping flat sawn boards into strips and turning them sideways, the growth rings mostly run up and down similar to how QS boards do so there is much less chance that they will cup or twist once glued into a panel. Also, by ripping into strips most of the internal stress that has built up during drying is released and will show within a couple of days so you can deal with it or discard them. I would cull any pieces that include the center of the tree (AKA pith) but otherwise; I doubt that there is much chance of warping.

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

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PPK

1767 posts in 1614 days


#9 posted 07-16-2020 03:09 PM

Hey, good point, Lazyman, about the grain orientation being like QS, and therefore less movement. I have also been being pretty selective on what pieces I include. I procured some angle iron that I cut slotted holes in, and I’m going to let it into the bottom of the countertop. I’m feeling pretty confident about this method. Time will tell!

-- Pete

View CaptainKlutz's profile

CaptainKlutz

3352 posts in 2299 days


#10 posted 07-16-2020 04:30 PM

I made a “mistake” in that I got 7-8 “random lengths”, some of which turned out to be shorter then I needed for a 7 -2” length coutertop.
- PPK

No mistake. The beauty of making a laminated top is can use short boards!

Can easily butt joint a couple of boards to make a strip. Just keep the joints tight as you clamp, and stagger the joints to avoid symmetry. If you keep the segmented strips towards the back edge of the countertop, no one will notice or care about your magnanimous efficiency in using wood.

If you go online and look close at pictures of commercially produced counter tops, you will can see multiple boards in every strip!

Best Luck.

-- 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 CWWoodworking's profile

CWWoodworking

871 posts in 984 days


#11 posted 07-16-2020 04:34 PM

I have a 1” x 25×96 hickory top. It was a pain making, but has behaved fine. I just used flat sawn lumber And z clips to hold down. Using strips like you have should be pretty stable.

I also have a poplar cutting board made in the same manner as yours. It just floats as a lid and have had no issues in 15 years.

View 23tony's profile

23tony

42 posts in 974 days


#12 posted 07-16-2020 04:49 PM

I’m planning to eventually make a large cutting board countertop when I remodel my kitchen. For future reference, would you guys mind expounding on what you mean by “simulates quarter sawn” and “alternate growth rings”? From what I’m reading, it looks like you mean to turn them 90 degrees? (so one vertical grain, one horizontal?)

View PPK's profile

PPK

1767 posts in 1614 days


#13 posted 07-16-2020 04:55 PM

23Tony, this is what is meant for growth rings. Picture is worth lots of words, right?

Concerning quarter sawn, just google an image and it will show you how the grain is oriented. Compare that to the little sketch I drew and I think I you’ll see the resemblance.

-- Pete

View shampeon's profile

shampeon

2154 posts in 2988 days


#14 posted 07-16-2020 05:23 PM

In my experience, you don’t need to alternate growth rings for stability of a laminated top. A board oriented like No X isn’t going to cup. It’s aesthetically more pleasing, though, if the ends are visible.

In practice, I’d orient the boards (in order of preference)
  1. to keep any knots and imperfections on the bottom
  2. to keep the top grain direction consistent for planing
  3. for aesthetics

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View 23tony's profile

23tony

42 posts in 974 days


#15 posted 07-16-2020 05:27 PM

Thank you! That’s what I thought at first, then I kept reading and got confused :)

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