Introduction: Pallet Wood Butcherblock Countertop That Pivots! (bar Top ➔ Dining Table)

About: I have an unhealthy relationship with pallet wood. I make fast paced and entertaining build videos on my YouTube channel that are made for everyone, but with the ultimate goal to get the younger generations ex…

Countertop built up from sections of reclaimed cherry and custom made pallet wood butcher block. Pallet wood butcher block is something I've been wanting to do for a while now, and it proved to be equally as painfully difficult as I expected. Through some custom fabricated hardware and some wheels, I was able to get the countertop to pivot and actually give me a dining table like surface in my tiny apartment kitchen. Alright? So let's dig into that a little more.

Part 1 (cabinet & drawers):
Part 2 (wavy doors):
Part 3 (countertops): You're looking at it!

Step 1: Materials & Tools

Notable Materials & Tools used on this build:

- Reclaimed cherry 3x3 lumber
- Wood glue -
- Pallets
- Biscuits -
- Traditional epoxy resin -
- Syringe -
- Casters -
- Steel channel -
- Bullet hinge -
- Wood sealer varnish primer -
- Lust (matte) varnish -
- Table top fasteners -
- Bottle opener -


- Bluetooth hearing protection -
- Respirator (use code "Jackman" for 5% off!) -
- Thickness planer -
- Table saw -
- Biscuit slot cutter router bit -
- Silicone mat -
- Glue roller bottle -
- Metal detector -
- Cross cut sled -
- F-style bar clamps -
- Pipe clamps -
- Glue scraper -
- Random orbit sander -
- Rubber mallet -
- Oscillating saw -
- Belt sander -
- Circular saw -
- Drill & driver -
- Plunge router -
- Wood ruler -
- Mig welder -
- Step drill bit -

Step 2: Rough Milling

This starts out with the same cherry columns from the reclaimed store that I used for the main cabinet part of the build. The countertop is made up of 2 "L" shaped waterfall style piece, so I start by cutting them to rough length with the miter saw and then send the pieces through the planer to smooth up the top and bottom surface and bring them down to exactly 3".

These columns are then split in half on my table saw by ripping them down the middle, giving me roughly 2 different 1-1/2" thick pieces, which is the perfect thickness for a countertop.

I want the countertop to be made up of 1.5"x1.5" square pieces though, so once after I clean up the remaining rough sawn faces using the thickness planer, I rip the pieces down the middle again.

Step 3: First Lamination

The "L" shaped countertop is going to be made up of 2 pieces connected at the corners with box joints. But instead of cutting out box joints the normal way like I did for the drawers, I'm going to do what I call "cheater box joints" instead. I do this by bumping in every other piece by 1.625" (to give some room for error) and then gluing it up this way. The other side of the countertop is done in the opposite way so that they can be combined together later. I first do a dry layout in the clamps and then clamp it together and mark out where the biscuit locations are.

I've fallen out of love with the biscuit jointer and replaced it instead with a biscuit slot cutting bit in the router table. It essentially does the same thing, but instead you plunge the piece into the router bit to cut the slot. Because of the larger surface of the table, I find this to be more stable then a regular hand-held biscuit jointer.

So with the biscuit slots cut, this part of the countertop can be laminated together. The biscuits are inserted into the slots to reinforce the joint slightly, but mostly they just align the pieces during the glue-up. This was critical for me here because I wanted the pieces to stay as flush as possible to save as much material as possible. There are 4 total sections that I need to do this for (because of the nesting waterfall countertops) so I repeat the process with those. They're all slightly different lengths, but the process is all the same. 4 of them also luckily ends up being about the limit of my clamp supply.

Step 4: Preparing the Pallet Wood

Now I move onto the other half of the countertop, which will be, say it with me now, P A L L E T S pallets! Yeah, yeah, I know this is all what you come here for, you can always count on me to deliver. Moving along though, I picked up some really nice looking pallets with a bunch of different hardwood species in them. I disassemble them by simply cutting all the slats along the runners and tossing the runners along with their nasty rusted in spiral screws that deserve to die. For this project though, I just need short pieces of pallet wood anyway, so this one is a win for me.

Even though I cut all of the nails out of the slats at the attachment point to the runners, I'm still careful to run each of the pieces over with a metal detector to check for any little bits of metal that want to destroy my tools. I always fine some hidden nail heads and staples, which was definitely the case here, so it's always good to check.

Step 5: Cleaning Up the Pallet Slats

All of the slats are then sent through the thickness planer until each face of them is brought down flat and smooth. Some of the slats still have a bit of a warp, but that's fine in this case because that will disappear when I clamp all of these together later.

Once the slats pop out of the planer clean, I stack them up and keep them organized. Each section of slats is the same thickness and I need to keep track of that for this project, so I put dividers between each panel to keep the person behind me from stealing my groceries... what?

Step 6: Cutting the Slats to Size

Each slat is then sent through the table saw, first to square up one edge. The slats are short enough too, so that they ride on the fence the whole time and this creates a straight edge at the same time.

Next, the same ripping operation happens again for each slat, but this time I put that cleaned up edge against the fence and rip the slats down to 1.5" wide. Lucky for me, pallet slats are typically a little over 3" wide, which meant that I was able to get 2 pieces out of each slat. Or maybe I planned it that way, I'll never tell... But each pile of slats is run through the table saw like this and then organized back in their stacks of the same thiccness. ;)

Last milling operation for these pieces is to cut them down to length. Since I'm making a butcherblock out of them, I can go all willy-nilly and square up the ends and then cut them down to random length. Is 3" good? Yep! Is 12" good? You'd better believe it! How about 6"? That's perfect too! There's a lesson in there somewhere folks.

Step 7: Layout

Now I can start by doing a dry layout of the countertop. I conveniently have an actual maple butcherblock countertop laying around the shop, so I use that as a flat reference surface. Using a butcherblock to make a butcherblock? Genius! I also clamp down a straight edge on 2 sides to use as a reference surface. I do a dry layout to figure out where the piece need to go to stagger the seams and also to make the countertop the right length. Each layer is a random thickness chosen from the stacks, but every piece in each layer is the same thickness, which is why I've been keeping them organized this whole time.

Step 8: Lamination

Once I get a countertop that's 12" wide and at the length that I need, I can then do the glue-up! Now this one was a beast, overwhelming even for me. Now the process went like this --- panic and apply glue as fast as possible and then throw some clamps on and hope for the best. For real though, I pushed my countertop pieces away from the fence and then applied glue 4 layers at a time with a glue roller (adding glue to the butt joints by hand. After do a couple of these sets, I push in on the ends to make sure that the butt joints are tight. Then once every piece has glue on it, I add another straight edge to the other side and remove the clamps from the ones on the tabletop. This allows for me to clamp these straight edges and then lift the whole countertop up and get clamps underneath. Then I squeeze the crap out of it and leave it for 4 years to dry (otherwise known as overnight).

Step 9: Cleaning Up the Glue-ups

It took a whole lot of glue and a whole lot of clamps, but once dry I'm able to scrap off most of the squeeze out from the surface (I try not to let the glue dry all the way before doing this). One end of the countertop is pretty even already, but the other end is a mess, so I square that up on the table saw before proceeding too.

Then the next step is to simply clean up the 4 butcherblock glue-ups by sending them through the planer. I flip them back and forth smoothing out the surface until they are all cleaned up and no more glue is visible. Because I used the flat reference surface to glue these up, they were already remarkably flat and I ended up with almost 1.5" still even after this.

Step 10: Cutting the Lamination Down Again

Then after all of that labor, the beautiful countertops are ripped down into 1.5" strips. Yes, I know I'm a monster, but this was a necessary evil. I wanted this corner joints of this countertop to be the same as the cherry, so I needed to cut these into strips for the "cheater box joints" just like the cherry pieces. I glued everything together just to save on material, because ripping these to width was more efficient then figuring out what random width pieces added up to 1.5" wide.

I use the same process to glue this countertop together by cutting biscuit slots and then adding glue and clamping it together. The key part really is just to have a straight line on the end for all of the recessed pieces so that I'll have a tight joint when clamp it together with the other side of the "L".

Step 11: Cleaning Up the Laminations

After taking all 8 countertop pieces out of the clamps, I clean up the glue squeeze-out by scrapping the surface and also using a chisel to clean up any glue that squeezed out the ends where I'll have the corner joint later.

I then trim the panels down to rough length by cutting the end off on the table saw. This helps to clean up the panels, but also to take any confusion away for which end is the box joints and which is just extra. Then after that I clean up the panels by sending them through the thickness planer until they are perfectly smooth on each side.

Step 12: Final Lamination

The pallet wood portions of the countertop are particularly stunning after this step. I got some of the normal species like oak, ash, elm, and beech in there, but then I got some quebracho, super dark poplar, and a few other visually interesting species in the mix.

Continuing my love of gluing smaller pieces of wood into larger pieces, the final panel lamination is done the same way as the earlier ones with biscuits and glue. Now I have 4 giant panel finally from all those tiny pieces of wood.

Step 13: Epoxy Fill

After cleaning up the glue squeeze-out with a chisel and giving the surface a rough sanding, the Jackman Army pulls out the big guns and gets out the epoxy. The countertops have a few voids left behind after all that laminating so I'm going to fill all of those with a 2-part epoxy (mostly just nail and knot holes on the pallet wood side of the countertop).

After mixing the epoxy thoroughly, I use an epoxy syringe to fill any gap that I can find on the 4 countertop panels. I then let this sit overnight to cure.

Once cured, I sand the epoxy down flush with the surface. I've found that the best way to do this is by running over it quickly with the random orbit sander, this heats up the epoxy and softens it so that you can take the bulk of it off with a sharp chisel. Then I come behind with the sander again and smooth it out.

Step 14: Joining the Giant Box Joints

Now's the time to join the countertop sections into 2 L's. This takes some wood glue and a lot of persuasion. The box joints are perfectly tight so I use a rubber mallet to bring the 2 panels together. Once I get them most of the way there, I use a few pipe clamps to pull them tight. I do the same to the other countertop and leave it for a few hours to dry.

Like a said, a few pipe clamps to hold the countertops together... I'm also sure to measure a 3-4-5 triangle on the top edge of the countertop to make sure it's square and I pull it together with a strap clamp tightly until the diagonal measures 5' (meaning that the corner is square).

Step 15: Cleaning Up the Countertops

After taking it out of the clamps, the fingers of the box joints are a little long, so I knock them down using my oscillating saw first and then my belt sander followed by my random orbit sander to smooth everything out.

Now I'm able to measure from the inside edge of the countertop and mark out the final length of both legs of the countertop. I clamp on a straight edge and then cut the ends with a circular saw.

Step 16: Adding Wheels

The key part of this countertop is the pivoting feature, which is achieved with some hardware I fabricated and also with some embedded wheels in the upper countertop. The wheels are taken from a couple of casters and I use the size of those to scribe out holes in the bottom leg. I drill out the bulk of the hole with a few holes with the forstner bit in my drill and then clean up the pocket with a chisel.

The inside hole is drilled out and countersunk for a screw head and then the outside is drilled and tapped to accept the other end of the screw.

The wheels is installed as the screw is inserted through the countertop, through the screw, and fastened in place for the wheel to pivot around.

Step 17: Recessing Channel

Next, and most important, is the pivot point hardware. The backbone of this is some 2x1/2" steel channel that I cut down to size to be about an inch shorter then the countertop is wide. I trace it out in location so that I can recess it into the bottom of the countertop. The pivot point was determined in SketchUp very specifically so that the joint between the pallet wood and cherry would line up when the countertop pivots out to 90 degrees. Seems like a detail no one will ever notice, but we've gone this deep into this ridiculous project, so why stop now!

The pocket for the steel channel is cut out with a palm router on a plunge base using a 1/4" straight end mill router bit. At first I use a straight edge to define the deeper portions of the pocket and then I freehand carve away the rest of the material. The slots are about 1/8" wider then they have to be just to give me a little wiggle room when I install the countertop later. No one will ever know that it's not a tight fit unless you tell them. I won't tell if you don't.

Step 18: Modifying the Bullet Hinge

The pivoting mechanism is based on this, a bullet hinge. These are usually used for steel gates where the flange on them is welded in place to the fence/gate. For my purposes though, I want a round barrel, so I grind this flange off on the disk sander.

I keep grinding it down until the flange is gone and bring it down to 7/8" in diameter.

Step 19: Fabricating the Pivot Hardware

The hole location is marked out in the metal and drill out with a step bit. I can then locate the hole in the bottom of the upper countertop and drill out to allow for the hinge to extend into the countertop.

I install the bullet hinge into the upper part of the countertop to check the alignment with the lower countertop. After checking the location approximately 7,385 times, I drill a hole at the pivot location all the way through the lower countertop.

After flipping the countertop over, I can then carve out the same recess for the channel in the lower countertop. I also install the channel in place and mark out the hole from underneath and drill this out with a step bit as well. This will allow for the bullet hinge to go all the way through the channel for a more solid weld.

Step 20: Welding the Hardware & Final Countertop Details

The bottom half of the bullet hinge is squared in both directions and then tacked in place to the piece of steel channel. I then install the top half of the bullet hinge in place along with the upper countertop and tack that in place to it's channel after getting everything lined up. After that, the channels are both removed and I finish the welds away from the countertops.

Last step is to prepare the countertops for finish. I sand the top and bottom surface of both of them up to 200 grit and also do a small 1/8" round-over on all the edges to soften them. Then I take a clean rag with some paint thinner and use that to clean off all the dust from the surface (paint thinner dries super quick and doesn't raise the grain).

Step 21: Applying Finish

Then it's finally time for finish! I've been waiting for this moment for all my life, or at least it feels that way. It starts with a couple coats of my trusty varnish sealer which does a killer job of pulling out the color of the pallet wood butcherblock (drum solo!)

Then after that is all cured, I top it with 5 coats of the same TotalBoat matte Lust varnish that I used on the cabinet. I make sure to build it up since this is a high wear surface and I want for it to last a long time. The varnish goes on shiny, but as you see later it dulls as it drys and becomes this perfect dull sheen that you want on a countertop.

Step 22: Boom

And then, just a reminder that you'll never be as cool as me.

Step 23: Installing the Lower Countertop

Now it's time to put the puzzle all together. The bottom part of the bullet hinge and channel are installed under the lower countertop before it's installed. The channel is screwed into place at a few locations along the length of it.

With the lower pivot hardware in place, the tabletop brackets can be installed under the countertop to hold it in place on the cabinet.

Step 24: Installing the Upper Counter

Before installing the upper counter, I last minute decided to add in a bottle opener under the lip of it. I'm calling it now, this is one of those things that seems like an awesome idea and I'll use it a few times to show off, but since it's hidden from sight I'll give it maybe 2 months until I completely forget about it and am searching through the drawer for a bottle opener.

The top half of the pivot hardware is now installed before I bring in the upper counter from the shop. The bullet hinge is a little loose, which works ok in it's normal application, but I want it to be perfectly tight so that there isn't any wobble at all in the countertop. To fill in the space, I use an aluminum can shim and stuff it on around that, which turned out to work perfectly!

The upper countertop can then be lifted up and slid into place on top of the metal channel. I add a clear rubber bumper on the far end to hold it 1/8" off the lower countertop to keep them from smashing together. Then it's just a matter of aligning the countertop left to right and I clamp it in place while I drive screws in to lock the metal channel in place. (note that the holes in the steel are drilled slightly oversized to allow for wood movement through the seasons) And that's officially a wrap on this bad boy, thanks for sticking it out!! After over a year of designing and redesigning this piece and hundreds of hours of build time, the feeling of completing it is 2nd only to that feeling when the gas pump stops right on an even dollar amount.

Step 25: Glamour Shots

As always, for the full experience, you need to check out the build video on YouTube (linked in the first photo) and have I got a deal for you on this one! It's actually 3 videos in 1 for the 3 different parts of the build since it was such an extensive project. Enjoy!

Part 1 (cabinet & drawers):
Part 2 (wavy doors):
Part 3 (countertops): You're looking at it!


Thirsty for more? You can also find me in other places on the interwebs!

My Website: Essentially my entire life

YouTube: Me, in moving picture form

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Twitter: Riveting thoughts, in very small doses


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