DIY Butcher Block Countertop




Introduction: DIY Butcher Block Countertop

About: Making (and breaking) projects in my shop every 2 weeks (or so)

I had friend ask me to build a 6x3 ft butcher block countertop out of soft maple. It was one beast of a project and I had a ton of trial/error along the way. But in the end, it turned out great!




Step 1: Prepare the Stock

I bought 2in thick boards of soft maple from my local hardwood supplier. I started to get all of my stock ready by first cutting them to a rough length on the miter saw.

Then I jointing one edge on my 6 in jointer before beginning the process of cutting it into strips.

Step 2: Cutting the Wood Into Strips

Once I had a square edge to reference off of I cut the boards into 2 in strips. Some of my wood was warped so I needed to keep flipping the board over to keep a safe cut on the table saw.

Then I used my miter sled on the table saw to cut the strips into random lengths.

Step 3: Plane for Consistent Thickness

All of the strips were taken through the planer to reach the same thickness before glue up.

Step 4: Glue Up in Sections

Since my planer is only 12in wide I built the table top in 3 sections so that they could be taken back through the planer to catch any inconsistencies that might have happened during glue up.

I used long bar clamps with a thin piece of plywood underneath to build the countertop on top off. Then using a paint roller I applied glue to all of the surfaces before flipping and clamping everything together.

Step 5: Glue the Three Sections Together

Once all three sections had been glued and ran through the planer I used the same process as before (just a lot bigger!). I also used a few pine strips across the top that were clamped down to keep the boards from bowing.

Step 6: Evening Out the Table Top.

Despite my best effort I still wound up needing to do a good bit of work to even out the table top. I started with a belt sander and moved to a hand plane to get a good consistent surface across the entire width and length.

Then to prepare the top for stain I sanded the entire surface started at 60 grit and then moving to 120, 150 and finally 220.

Step 7: Cutting the Top to Length

I left the ends of the table top long throughout the build. I came back with a circular saw with a long straight edge clamped to the surface to cut off the ends.

Step 8: Round Over the Edges

All the edges were rounded over with a 1/2 round over bit on the router.

Step 9: Staining the Top

I know, I know. Why would you stand hardwood!

This was to match my friends' kitchen but still be able to use soft maple for the construction. This was actually the hardest part of the process as maple can be really blotchy.

I went through several different rounds of trial/error and there is an entire video covering the process above.

What I landed on was this:

Step 1: Pre-stain conditioner.

Step 2: General Finish Gel Stain

Step 3: General Fisish Arm-R-Seal top coat.

I found that the gel stain especially helped to even out the color since it is a good bit thicker than normal stain so it doesn't absorb into the wood as quickly.

The final top coat took 4 thin layers before I got a great smooth shiny finish.

Step 10: And That's It!

Once everything was dry I packed it up and delivered it to my friend's house. The top was attached with screws and washers. I left room in the holes to allow for wood expansion throughout the seasons.


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    Tip 3 years ago

    A butcher block shows end grain to the cutting surface.
    This is just a laminated bench top.
    You could have used the full width timber, less waste and time.


    Reply 3 years ago

    I know the hardcore woodworking world classifies end grain as the “real” butcher block but most places just define butcher block as hardwood pieces laminated together. In regards to the cut up pieces and not full length lumber it was the look the client was going for.


    3 years ago

    A good instructable for a countertop - well presented and informative, thanks.
    It's not a butcher block and presenting it as such is a bit foolish.


    3 years ago

    As odd as it sounds, running through the grits several times makes for a much more uniform surface. 80,150, 220, 400, 600. second pass 150, etc. 3rd pass 220, 400, 600. The finer grit sanding reduces the woods' ability to absorb stain or slows it down. for pre-stain I use linseed oil cut heavily with mineral spirits, like 8 to 1. If not heavily cut it will stop the stain almost completely.
    A really big help is keeping the sander flat & keep it moving. In some shots you were digging holes with the random orbit. Hand on top of the sander, not gripped around it keeps it nice & flat.
    Very nice piece in the end. Thanks for sharing.


    3 years ago

    I'm guessing your friend does not plan on cutting food on this counter because urathane is not food safe. And it will get cuts in it that will probably start to chip away over time. Why not finish with a good beeswax and food grade mineral oil combo? Tho I also wonder about staining a surface that will be used for cutting...Otherwise I like your video, especially where you talk about mistakes and how you remedy them.


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice! I was thinking of doing this for my kitchen remodel earlier, and after watching your video I definitely want to go this route. Thanks for the video, and most appreciate the background music being low enough to hear you speak. The video was informative, easy to follow and convinced me to go ahead with my plans.