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    Build a Cutting Board. Build a Countertop. Build a Benchtop.





    more on woodworking safety

    Tools and Materials

    A Versatile Project

    Between edge and face-grain, not much differs as far as strength is concerned. The real advantages of edge-grain lies in minimal wood movement. It's also far easier to create a specific thickness. There are countless ways to create a surface, but when a top must endure abuse, few solutions compare to the timeless, solid wood, edge-grain butcher block. This sort of surface is simple to construct and can be used in a variety of ways. Cutting boards often employ this technique, as do kitchen countertops. Tired of that old laminate covering your island? Consider building an edge grain countertop. You can do it in a weekend and if properly maintained, it should last a lifetime.


    Preparing Stock

    Depending on the intended use of the surface, many options exist for an appropriate and cost-effective material. Whether you need softwood or hardwood, the least expensive option will normally be rough boards or construction lumber. For the purposes of this project, we'll go through the steps involved to prepare stock with an unplaned surface and no straight-ripped edges , also known as "truing a board."

     


    How to Make

    Truing a Boardclick to enlargeOnce you've flattened one face of your lumber using the jointer, you're ready to flatten the opposing side in the planer.

    Truing a Board: The first step is to reduce the boards to manageable lengths leaving a few extra inches in addition to the final size. At the same time, remember to work with safer lengths when using various machines. I find it safer to work with boards at least 16" long, as opposed to 8" when machine planing, for example. Most of the time the very next step is creating a perfectly flat face, usually with a jointer (the opposite face will be flattened using the planer). In this situation, both sides only need to be planed flat because in an upcoming step, clamping the narrow strips will take care of any twists or cupping. Make sure to plane with the grain, using lighter passes in order to avoid tear-out or dangerous conditions. Before ripping the laminate strips, create a straight edge on each board using either a jointer or a handplane. With longer stock, a table saw without a special setup is not a safe choice. If you don't have access to a jointer with a longer infeed table, a handplane is a great option. Using a known straight edge for reference, use a handplane to shave out a straight edge. After the boards receive an indexed edge, set your table saw fence to the desired table top thickness and rip away. For longer boards, I depend on roller stands for extra support. Layout and inspect the strips to determine if any have knots and other defects which can be the part of the underside.

    Truing a Boardclick to enlargeBoth jointers (bottom) and handplanes can be used to joint an exceptionally square edge.

    Plane With the Grain: Make sure to plane with the grain, using lighter passes in order to avoid tear-out or dangerous conditions. Before ripping the laminate strips, create a straight edge on each board using either a jointer or a handplane. With longer stock, a table saw without a special setup is not a safe choice. If you don't have access to a jointer with a longer infeed table, a handplane is a great option. Using a known straight edge for reference, use a handplane to shave out a straight edge.

    Truing a Boardclick to enlargeThe width of your rips at the tablesaw will determine the final thickness of your work surface.

    Rip the Boards: After the boards receive an indexed edge, set your table saw fence to the desired table top thickness and rip away. For longer boards, I depend on roller stands for extra support. Layout and inspect the strips to determine if any have knots and other defects which can be the part of the underside.

    Truing a Boardclick to enlargeThe width of your rips at the tablesaw will determine the final thickness of your work surface.

    Glue-Up: Setting up a gluing and/or assembly operation is often a process of forethought and preparation. What's important is to think through and prepare for aspects such as space needed, amount of clamps required, clamping sequence, and glue squeeze-out, to name a few. Cauls can effectively assist with flattening laminate layers during clamping, but for instructional purposes, I am approaching this project as rough as possible. the extra length comes in handy during this time. Focus on full coverage with glue and then begin clamping from the center out towards each end evenly with clamps top-side also, to equalize pressure.

    Truing a Boardclick to enlarge

    Clean Up: I've tried many methods for removing glue squeeze out after an overnight clamping, including card scrapers, paint scrapers, general chisels, and free hand plane irons and none work as well as my cheap spokeshave. While any scraper will remove smaller beads of glue, a spokeshave handles the the hardest glue lines and buildup quickly and cleanly. One bit of advice though, instead of grabbing the handles, put light pressure with your thumbs on both sides over the cap while grasping with the rest of the fingers naturally around the backside more towards the middle section. After a few minutes of this, I turn to the hand planes to begin the process of leveling the surface. This can be further reason to own a handplane, especially a jointer. Arguably, a jointer plane is the best learning hand plane for a beginner because it's the one plane that can perform all the basic wood shaving operations. Others may produce better results in part, but none have the versatility of a jointer. After hogging off the ridges and flattening the surfaces, Any power sander can finish the smoothing work, but for a larger top, I recommend using a local wide-belt sanding service. They will ensure dead-flat surfaces for little cost, especially after all the hard work was completed with hand planes.

    Truing a Boardclick to enlargeA simple circular saw with a straightedge clamped to the workpiece, suffices for final trimming.

    Trimming: The last requirement involves squarley trimming the top to the final dimensions. It's not uncommon for a large, numerous-lamination assembly to end up with a bowed edge even after following a careful clamping sequence. This is a good opportunity to implement a circular saw and edge guide setup. (ensure clearance and secure the top - caption) In order to achieve a square result, rip one side, set the guide on either end at exactly 90 degrees to the freshly ripped side, conduct the cross cut, and work around the remainder in the same manner. A little sanding to knock down the sharp edges completes this project and the top is ready to be placed in it's new work location. Beyond that, I recommend any appropriate finsh that can be applied regularly as needed, such as Danish or mineral oil.



    Troy_Bouffard

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    ROBERT MAYFIELD writes:

    I've built an oak countertop for the cabinets in my workshop.  What type of top coat finish would be best?  I will be staining with a natural finsih like clear Watco oil. 

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