Introduction: How to Make a Wooden Countertop

Picture of How to Make a Wooden Countertop

Making a wooden countertop can really be a cool project, and so practical, no matter whether you need a counter for your kitchen, bathroom, dresser, or maybe built-in cabinet like I'm doing. I'm going to take you through the process I used of making this gorgeous looking maple counter and I started with rough sawn lumber. However if you start with dimensional lumber the process will be easier and faster.

Step 1: Preparing the Wood

First of all pick your wood. I had some beautiful rough sawn maple on hand so that's what I decided to use. However any hardwood such as walnut, mahogany, teak, oak or cherry for example would make a beautiful counter.

My rough sawn maple boards were about 4 inches thick, 10 inches wide and 6 ft tall. The first step in preparing the wood is planing to get a straight side to work off from, so here I'm making some marks with a pencil on the wood which will show me where the high spots are once I start working it.

I'm using a triple blade power planer for this job. This wood is full of knots and twists, which makes it very beautiful but also challenging to work with. It was quite bowed and needed a lot of passes to get it somewhat straight. I cut off the ends to get it to slightly more manageable pieces.

Step 2: Planing & Resawing

Picture of Planing & Resawing

After this I ran it through the planer a couple of times on the ends to get it straight.

Right before I ran it through the planer, I cut the wood in half on the table saw to reduce the size of the pieces and the wood had so much tension in it. Still, even at this smaller size the wood is quite big and heavy to work with, so I took my time.

Getting the boards relatively flat is really important, so after the planer I moved on to a hand plane.

I needed to resaw this wood, and I decided to use the table saw instead of the bandsaw, mainly because the pieces are so big and heavy and I just felt safer with the additional support of the table saw table. Since a table saw can only cut so high, I made a cut on one side, and then turned the wood around and cut the other side. The table saw still had a hard time cutting through this wood. I had to take multiple passes each time I resawed so it took a long time to cut everything to this point.

Step 3: Jointing the Wood

Picture of Jointing the Wood

Here you can see the wood cut up. You can see the middle section here which is where the blade met. And here are all four boards. Everything is a little uneven at this point, however I'll work on that to get it even.

Now, if you have a jointer at this point, call yourself lucky. I built a holder for my planer, which basically turns it into a jointer. The planer is held in place well and it does a really nice job of flattening out the wood. Of course jointers you buy are much longer and provide additional support which helps to make sure the boards turn out flat. This DIY version with the planer doesn't produce quite as straight a board, however it still does a great job flattening out the wood, and makes for a very nice addition to the shop, it's been extremely useful so far.

When all the wood was satisfactory, it's a matter of joining them all together.

Step 4: Preparing & Drilling

Picture of Preparing & Drilling

I start with arranging how I want the boards, then marking which side should be up, and also seeing where the ends need to be jointed further. For this I'm using a hand plane to make all the finishing touches. So, planing, checking, planing and so forth.

Once the pieces are all flat, I mark out five marks across for where the dowels will go.

I'm going to use a dowel jig to help line up the boards so everything connects in a straight way.

Using a dowel jig makes a huge difference when it comes to lining everything up right, and really takes the annoyance out of working with long boards.

And then it's just a matter of drilling like 30 holes in this case to get all the dowels to line up properly.

Step 5: Dowels & Clamping

Picture of Dowels & Clamping

Once all the holes were drilled I got my glue and my clamps ready, put down some glue along the joints, put in the dowels and start clamping everything together.

Also clamping down some boards at the top to keep the wood from bowing.

And then it's a matter of adding more clamps and letting the glue dry.

Step 6: Sanding & Routing

Picture of Sanding & Routing

Once the glue was dry I started the thorough process of sanding. First I started out with the belt sander to remove a lot of material, then later I moved on to the random orbital sander with a finer grit. This counter required a lot of sanding. First to all the pieces to the same level, and then to remove any scratches. This maple was pretty hard wood, and it took a lot of sanding to remove the fine marks and scratches.

There were a couple of small cracks in the wood, so I decided to fill it with epoxy. Then once this dry it's easy enough to sand smooth.

Then I cut off the back corners of the counter with a jig saw to make it fit in between the window trim on each side.

Now I wanted a smooth round feel on the edges, so I used a round-over bit on the router to create that nice profile.

Step 7: Finishing

Picture of Finishing

And after additional sanding, I was finally ready to do some finishing. Now, I had ordered both cherry dye and stain, and I had done some tests on this board, which is always a good idea. So here you can see a couple of variations of different strength dye, and then including stain here on the darker end. After these tests I actually decided, to simply go with the dye, because I think that looked really awesome on the maple. What's awesome with both dye and stain is that you can play with the proportions, and add more mineral spirits in the case of oil based stain, or more water to your dye solution. I ended up using a slightly diluted version of the dye. And I put on two coats.

It's funny with dye, you might think it looks a touch blotchy at first as it's drying, but I've found that once you had a top coat, that goes away.

Once the dye had dried, I put on a washcoat of polyurethane on both the top and the bottom of the counter to seal everything in.

Now, I'm planning on putting on several more coats of polyurethane to create a nice protective finish. This instructable (and video) is part of a series of five which is all about building a built-in cabinet bookcase. This part was about the countertop and the next part in this series will be about building the drawers.

Step 8: ​Conclusion - Watch the Video

For a much better perspective on each step, make sure to watch the video on the process!

Comments

low10sws6 (author)2017-04-24

Linn, do you have a instructions on how you made your jointer jig for the hand held planner?

allpurposeme (author)2016-08-28

Beautiful work. I make counter and table tops as well, but being a poor man almost all of them are made of pine from ripped 2x lumber. I've had fantastic results with just glueing the edges and clamping, but sometimes I also use biscuits for additional strength. If I ran into that amount of maple I'd think I died and went to heaven..

DukeAdams (author)2016-04-28

Take care fastening a wood top down the cabinets. If not given some allowance for the natural swelling and shrinking of such a wide piece of wood, it will buckle up with the tension. A slot in fasteners mounted to the cabinet to allow screws with washers to slide would be helpful. Fasten the top tightly only at the wall if it's against a wall. It's amazing how much wood reacts to humidity changes and could ruin all the effort. And in this case, it was a tremendous amount of effort. Your work ethic is impressive. Nice job!

JohnC430 (author)2016-04-26

i have a piece of wood like that in my garage. 4" x 10" x 10 ft. I don't know if anybody is aware of how heavy it is. I had difficulty lifting just one side of it. very, very heavy and then to cut it and work it is amazingly difficult, and dangerous.

How did you manage to hold it while working it?

TheCoffeeDude (author)2015-12-24

I'm going to be using this ible to make wood inserts for metro shelving. Really useful ible.

r33tc0w (author)2015-09-21

This post couldnt have been more timely - We're at the finishing stages of our tops and my wife and I are at different ends of the spectrum. The wood is white oak - has a bunch of cool worm tunnels in it lots of grays, lots of dark brown streaks. Anyways, need some suggestions as to proper/adequate protection from stains, foods, oils, moisture, etc. I'm sold on using Waterlox, however my wife thinks it's makes the grain too dark. I'm desiring as permanent a finish as possible that preserves the color of the wood (cause its freakin beautiful, thanks dad-in-law!).

What products do I not want to use? Whats the best way to keep the grain muted, least amount of color change, sealed, and low maintenance?

antennas (author)r33tc0w2015-10-18

I would finish that beautiful wood with Danish oil. That would make it look wonderful. Use the natural finish.

r33tc0w (author)r33tc0w2015-09-21

Oh and it's not pictured but there's its twin is under the window at the sink (thus the sealer as high priority, in my eyes at least)

TJFOXSR (author)2015-09-29

awesome!! I'm even more jealous of your shop & tools!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lastly, A PRETTY WOMAN CAN BE WOODWORKER TOO

ALAS & FORSOOTH EVEN TJ

ihart (author)2015-09-28

Wow. Great job on this. Thanks for sharing!

pnosko (author)2015-09-17

When you're gluing long boards like that, shouldn't you check the ends to see which way the grain is going and make sure they alternate directions? I've heard that this helps resist warping.

clancy.moody (author)pnosko2015-09-19

It does, sounds like this wood was well seasoned and after all the planing and cutting it's less likely to warp significantly. Alternating the "curve" of the grain doesn't prevent warp it just averages the amount to keep the finished project kind of like this: ~~~ instead of like this: v sorry best picture I can draw with text. Also alternating the grain makes the ends look best, in my opinion.

pnosko (author)clancy.moody2015-09-19

I get it. I think the best way to prevent warping (assuming the wood has been properly kiln-dried) is to seal every surface evenly. Too often, the sides that are hidden from view are not sealed as well.

Navier-Stokes (author)2015-09-18

I'm super jealous of your work shop :) Counter looks lovely too!!

AikkuL (author)2015-09-18

That's really beautiful wooden desk. Nothing compares wooden furniture, imho. :)

Greetings from Helsinki, Finland

aesop73 (author)2015-09-18

Nice work! If I can ever get hold of the right wood, I'd love to do something like this.

jshultz5 (author)2015-09-17

you did a great job and I applaud you. a method that save a lot of time is using the kreg jig to attach the 4 boards. it'll save you hrs of sanding.. great job keep up the good work

JimTheSoundman (author)2015-09-17

Women who can use power tools and are accomplished woodworkers are the sexiest women on earth! Quite an amazing project, nicely done.

Zixc (author)2015-09-17

u r da best

FlorinJ (author)2015-09-17

Whenever I have to fill cracks, I do it slightly differently. I mix a bit of the varnish/dye/paint I intend to use with the finest saw dust I can collect (I just collect a handful and sieve it through a finer tea sieve) and some glue. Depending on what type of glue I use (usually white glue for indoor use) I use water or a solvent to thin it - saw dust with enough glue becomes whiteish when dry, instead of keeping much of the wood's color.

Why the paint in the mixture: once dried and sanded, this mixture, while being quite strong, is also a lot less porous than the wood itself (at least for the softwood I typically work with), so whatever finish you apply to the wood will catch on less strongly on the filled crack surface.

Anyway, IME this leads to a finish on crack fillings way closer to that of the surrounding wood than when using epoxy or other synthetic fillers.

Racersims (author)2015-09-17

I so wish I had the space to do this kind of builds, very nice job, have recently found you on you tube thank you for sharing you skills and talent,

CJStephens (author)2015-09-17

Great job! As always.

Alstructable (author)2015-09-16

Thanks for making such an encouraging video; you make craftsmanship so accessible! I love your cheerful narration too!

yugnats (author)2015-09-16

the timing for this could not be better! I was looking around for a countertop solution and I got an email from instructables this morning with your wonderful instructable in it- thank you so much for your hard work! really motivates us slackers haha

losingtoday (author)2015-09-16

great job

j0h4wk (author)2015-09-15

Hands down my favorite DIYer to follow on Instructables!

darbinorvar (author)j0h4wk2015-09-15

Thank you!

TvoAqui (author)2015-09-15

Great job, Thanks for sharing!

darbinorvar (author)TvoAqui2015-09-15

Thanks a lot!

kooth (author)2015-09-15

Very nice, and a lot of work! Great job as always!

darbinorvar (author)kooth2015-09-15

Thank you!

tomatoskins (author)2015-09-15

This is great! I'd love to see a write up on your planer to jointer jig!

About This Instructable

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Bio: Hi I'm Linn and on my Youtube Channel I have lots of great videos about building, construction and fun projects. You can also check ... More »
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