Introduction: 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
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
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
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
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
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
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!