I like to leave butter out of the fridge so I've got soft butter for my toast, but my roommates keep putting the sticks back in the cold! So I thought I'd make a home for the butter to stay outside of the fridge. A butter dish!
All you'll need to make your own is about one and a half feet of 2x4 (I used scraps) and the ability to square it off and cut it up.
To square my 2x4 stock, I used a tablesaw, but you could also use a bandsaw, planer, or sandpaper and persistence. To make all of my cuts, I used a bandsaw, but a coping saw or scrollsaw, along with a pull or push saw would do too.
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Step 1: Butter Cover (Top) Pt. 1
A stick of butter is about 5" x 1.25" x 1.25". My squared off 2x4 is about 1.25" thick, so I need five blocks of this thickness to make up the dish's top: four for the hollow piece which fits the full stick of butter, and one block cut in half to use for the ends. I cut the blocks square at 2" wide by 2" high. The idea now is to cut a hollow into four of these blocks so that a stick of butter will easily sit inside them, and then glue them together.
There are a couple different ways to cut the hollow. I sketched a profile for the hollow on one of the blocks and cut it out, then used that piece to trace the profile onto the rest of the pieces. I made sure to orient the grain the same way for all of the blocks.
Once all the hollows and both end pieces are cut, it's a simple matter to glue 'em all together! Hey, this thing is starting to take shape!
Step 2: Butter Cover (Top) Pt. 2
Once the glue's dry, it's time to shape the top. The name of the game is patience and care. I knocked off the corners on the bandsaw, then went at it with 80grit sandpaper until I was happy with the form, aka, once it looked like the top of a butter dish. Be really sure to sand away all of the glue squeeze-out, or it'll show up when you apply your finish. When I was happy, I gave it a once over with some 120grit, and finished it off with 220.
Now on to the base!
Step 3: Base Pt.1
First thing is to cut the squared 2x4 down to about quarter inch thick along the face. Check out the pictures to see what I mean. I need two of these pieces: one will be the base, and the other, which I'll call the "fit" piece, will be cut to the inside profile of the bottom of the cover and glued to the base. The idea is for the cover to sit neatly over this piece so it won't slide around.
Now here's a little trick I picked up: I want to trace the inside profile of the cover onto the 2x4 which will become the fit piece, but of course I can't get a pencil in there. The solution? Put some paint or ink onto the bottom of the cover and make a print onto the fit piece material. Now I can cut out the inside profile using the print mark as a guide. And once the ink or paint has dried, it's a simple matter to sand it right off. EDIT: I got two suggestions in the comments for alternatives to marking with paint: using lipstick, and using chalk. Both of them would be much easier to remove than paint. Also from the comments, this technique is called "blind marking." Cool!
I hit the fit piece with 80grit sandpaper until it could slide into the dish top without much wiggle room. Then I did the 120-220grit progression to it, and once it was smooth and I was happy with it, it was time to glue the two base pieces together.
Step 4: Base Pt.2
In my design, I extended the base beyond the edges of the dish top. If you wanted your base to match the profile of the cover, or have some other design, go for it! I'll just chronicle my steps:
I traced the profile of the cover onto the base, then cut about a quarter inch outside of this line to make the rough shape. I continued to shape the base with 80grit sandpaper until I was satisfied.
My last step before glue-up was to hit the entire base and fit piece with 120 and then 220grit sandpaper, except for the bottom of the fit piece, which I roughed for gluing with 80grit.
I spread glue onto the bottom of the fit piece and placed it in the center of the base, using a ruler to make sure it was centered properly. The fit piece had a tendency to slide around as I tried to set the clamps, so I ended up placing two heavy jars on top to provide clamping force.
Hey check it out, that's a goshdarn butter dish right there!
Step 5: Finish
I finished the dish with Danish Oil, which is used to finish salad bowls, so I know it's food safe. Oil is also easy to apply and comes out looking pretty good. If you prefer a different type of finish, or are going for a different look, go for it! Painting or dying these things could be cool too- just make sure your final finish is food safe.
I went over the whole piece with 220grit sandpaper to prepare for the finish. Then, using a soft, lint free rag (per the instructions on the bottle) I worked the oil into every corner, trying to apply it as evenly and smoothly as possible. I waited about three hours between coats to sand and reapply the oil. You know your coat is dry when it's no longer tacky and sanding produces a fine powder. I gave the dish a light sanding with 320grit sandpaper between coats, and finished the final coat by buffing it with another clean rag.
Step 6: Final Thoughts and What I'd Do Differently Next Time
This took me a good Saturday to make, but now that I've figured it out, the next one should only take an afternoon.
There are a few things I would do differently- most significantly being to make the dish a little wider. I feel like I cut the inside hollow a little close to the sides of the stick of butter- although the fit base does a great job of keeping the cover away from the butter.
I'd also orient the grain of the 2x4's in the cover differently. I think it would have been better to have the end grain on the top of the dish, as opposed to the sides. As well as it being much stronger this way, I think it would also look a lot nicer to have the straighter grain on the sides with the end grain like a cool design displayed on the top.
Good luck with your projects, everyone! I'm gonna go make some toast.
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