Butcher block countertops can be a companion to stone countertops or be used throughout a room. They are pretty much standard in appearance, but the wood from fruit or nut-bearing trees is highly recommended in making them because these woods are less porous than other types. Maple is one of the most recommended woods for this style of countertop. A homemade butcher block countertop is a fairly easy project to put together once the unsurfaced wood has all been run through a planer and is in uniform dimensions.
Measurements and Wood
Begin by measuring the dimensions of the countertops. The measurements will need to be about a quarter-inch larger so that the finished countertops are secure. Remember a trim piece will be added to create a lip on the finished countertop.
The wood choice is important because it should not be too porous or produce any odors that can affect the taste of the foods prepared on it. Maple, oak, cherry and walnut can all work well for building a butcher block countertop. Have the lumber cut a bit longer than the required dimensions and have it run through a planer so that every piece is as identical as possible. The width of the wood strips can vary depending on the style desired, though generally the strips are not larger than two or three inches wide and one to two inches high.
Set up a work station that is large enough to hold at least one slab at a time. The easiest solution for this would be to set up two sawhorses side by side at the top and bottom of each slab. For simplicity sake, the construction directions will be for one slab 5 feet long and 1-1/2 feet wide made of 5-foot x 3-inch x 1-inch lumber. Use a waterproof wood glue that is deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration when building the countertop, like Titebond II.
Do a dry run before using the glue by placing six pieces of the lumber next to each other to create a 1-q/2 foot wide by 1-inch thick surface. The ends of the lumber should be as straight as possible for this as well as when gluing the pieces together. Run a line of glue along the inside edge of the outer most piece of lumber. Place the next piece of lumber to the glued side and wipe any excess glue from the joined pieces. Put glue on the open edge of that piece then place the next piece. Repeat by gluing and placing three more strips of lumber. Do not put any glue on the outside of the last strip. Once the gluing is finished, place three or four bar clamps along the width to hold the strips securely in place while the glue dries for at least 24 hours.
Repeat this process a second time in order to make a standard 36-inch wide countertop. Once both 1-1/2-foot slabs have dried, glue and clamp them together until the glue dries. Once the entire slab is finished use a belt sander with a coarse grit sand paper to remove any excess glue and even out the glue lines. The slab can be run through a planer again to remove any dried glue, but the belt sander will work just as well. Fill in any gaps with wood glue or wood putty and sawdust so they are completely waterproof. Finish the slab by placing a 5-foot x 1-inch x 1-inch piece of pre-sanded trim with wood brads. Secure the trim by placing a wood brad about every six inches. Cover the heads with wood putty. A router can be used to create a beveled or curved edge on the lip.
Place a line of construction adhesive along the edges of the cabinetry, then place the butcher block slab on top of it. Allow it to cure for about 24 hours. Evenly sand the entire surface with 320 grit sandpaper and wipe with a dry cloth to remove all dust. Next apply linseed oil , mineral oil or a food safe finish like H. Behlen Salad Bowl Finish. If using linseed or mineral oil they will need to be reapplied every two months or whenever the surface becomes dry. The surface can be sanded down and re-oiled or refinished if it becomes scratched.