How To's - How to Make a Butcher Block Countertop
How to Make a Butcher Block Countertop
The butcher block countertop gives kitchens and baths a classic look. They’re also durable, making them functional and long-lasting. As an added benefit, you can make a butcher block countertop as a DIY project, and for a reasonable price, too.
Making a butcher block countertop isn’t complicated, but you will need time, specific tools and space – after all, you are building a countertop. This step-by-step guide to how to make a butcher block countertop will walk you through how to build it and offer alternatives that could simplify some of the steps.
Tools and Materials Needed to Make a Butcher Block Countertop
The tools you need to make a butcher block countertop can vary depending on the degree of detail you want to add. Flat edges require less work and tools than a traditional bullnose countertop (the rounded top edge). The tools and materials list provided here is for a basic countertop (square edges).
- Tape measure
- 4-6 bar clamps
- At least two 3’ pipe clamps
- Circular saw
- Table saw (optional)
- Sawhorses or large work bench
- Belt sander
- Putty knife
You’ll need plenty of wood boards to build your butcher block countertop. Hard maple is the common material, but you can really use any hardwood or softwood. Choosing No. 1 Common grade wood is a good way to keep the costs down.
Ideally, choose the wood yourself, to get the straightest, flattest pieces possible. With that said, you’re going to have to sand, and possibly even plane, the surfaces of the wood. Other materials you’ll need include:
- Glue, specifically FDA-approved Titebond II or III
- Wood filler
- Wood finish (stain and sealer)
How to Build Your Own Butcher Block Countertop
Once you’ve got the tools and material assembled, it’s time to get to work. Here’s what to do.
Step 1: Cut the Wood Strips
With your circular saw or table saw, cut strips of wood to the thickness desired, adding ¼ inch to the width to account for finishing work to remove unevenness in the wood. Clamp a straight piece of scrap wood along the cutting line to keep the cut straight.
Step 2: Set the Layout
On your work bench or even on a floor, create an outline – masking or painter’s tape works great – of the counter.
Next, you’ll lay out the boards. Start at the right or left side and build toward the other. The boards should be flush on the end you start at. Fit the pieces together, clamping to hold them in place as you move from right to left (or vice versa).
A couple of notes to keep in mind:
- Don’t try to fit boards so they’re flush at the opposite end; you’ll cut that end flush after all the boards are glued together.
- Ideally, joints should overlap by 3” or more.
- If you have any non-standard shapes, you can use your current countertop as a template. Non-standard shapes will be cut after the wood boards are glued together.
Step 3: Glue
For this step, you’ll use the bar clamps to hold the wood together as you glue. The glue you use should be an FDA-approved waterproof or water-resistant glue meant for use in cutting boards or countertops.
You’ll also need to move consistently and quickly during this step to ensure the glue doesn’t set before you’re done gluing a section.
To prevent damage to the edge of the countertop, use some unused boards that are longer than the countertop to provide equal pressure along the surface when clamping.
Apply glue to the boards just as you had them laid out. Clamp together as you go. Once all the boards are glued, check the clamps for tightness. Wipe away excess glue.
Let it set for 24 – 48 hours.
Step 4: Plane, Sand and Smooth the Surface(s)
The surface of the butcher block countertop needs to be smooth and level, so it’s time to finish the surface. You’ll sand and smooth both the top and bottom sides.
It’s best to start by sanding with your belt sander. Begin with coarse sandpaper, moving to finer paper as you go. Sanding first removes glue and glue lines.
If the wood pieces were consistent, the sanding may be enough to bring the countertop smooth and level. You may, however, find it needs a little more work to make it so. You can plane it or use a sanding drum for this. You’d still want to sand first, so the dried glue doesn’t damage the planer or sanding drum.
It’s possible local woodworking shops may be willing to run it through their planer for you. This would make this step much easier. You may also be able to rent tools for this step, too, which could make financial sense if you’re building several sections of countertop.
Step 5: Cut to Fit Templates
At this point, you’ve built your butcher block countertop. Now it’s time to cut the pieces for your kitchen or bath.
- With a circular saw, cut off uneven ends of straight edges.
- For countertops with rounded sides, trace the shape needed. Cut the rounded edge with a jigsaw. If the jigsaw struggles with the glue or hardwood (it can happen), use the circular saw, making several cuts to achieve a rounded edge.
- Once cut, sand with a belt sander until smooth.
Step 6: Finishing the Butcher Block Counter Surface
Apply wood filler to the entire surface. Push using a putty knife into the small cracks on the surface of the wood.
Finally, apply a finish stain. For kitchen countertops, it’s best to use a stain rated food-safe and non-toxic, like those used for a “salad bowl finish.” You might also choose to use a food-safe oil like mineral or hemp oils.
Follow the directions for application. After it dries, you’ll sand again with a fine sandpaper and re-apply. After the final coat, you’ll gently scrub the surface with steel wool, mesh pad or recommended material.
Once it cures, you’re ready to install your new butcher block countertop!