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  • Wooden Countertops

    Hi, I've been a 'lurker' on the forum for a while now, and have found everyone's information on all types of topics extremely useful and informative. Now that I'm done kissing up , I'm looking for some advice on kitchen countertops.

    I really like the look of wooden countertops- particularly a dark color, like a walnut or mahogany. What I'd like to know is if anyone has made their own using walnut, maple, etc., what you'd recommend for a species and wood selection (use 6/4 or 8/4 boards, or glue them up butcher-block style), and recommendations on finishing (dark staining maple- is this possible?, and what about a food-grade finish?)

    Finally, what about maintenance and durability? How do they hold up?

    I'm debating taking the plunge of doing it myself vs. buying, but I need to convince the wife that it's cheaper if I do it (not to mention alot more fun!!)

    Thanks for your help everyone!
    -Chris

  • #2
    Re: Wooden Countertops

    Hi Chris! Welcome to the forums. This is a very good question. Personally, my only memory of wood counter tops was at my Grandmother's place. They've all been replaced now (my Sister had to have granite!), but they held up for many many years. As memory serves, they became very dark. I'm guessing it was from constant upkeep with the finish and repeated waxing. I'm pretty sure they were either cherry or walnut, and probably walnut. It was what Granddad had in abundance, so I imagine that's what he used. There will be movement, so account for that by holding your backsplash out enough to account for 1/4" at least. A thicker backsplash will work, so you can attach it to the wall and not the countertop. Let the countertop move under the backsplash. This means that a really flexible caulk will need to be used between the backsplash and the counter.

    There's a myriad of little problems when you start into real wood countertops. I think using thinner pieces glued up is a good look, personally. That should also mean less possibility for warp and cracks. Use a good waterproof glue like Titebond II. Then you get into the problems of finish and food safety. It's at that point that I give up and go looking for a laminate! If you have the guts to go through with it, I wish you luck. I also hope you have a good camera and will post pictures for us!
    I put it all back together better than before. There\'s lots of leftover parts.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Wooden Countertops

      Thanks VASandy for your help.

      I'm going to have to do some thinking about how to tackle this, what I'm leaning towards if I made one up is to use 1x2 walnut glued up, like a butcher block, so the edges show up on the tops. I know this could get pricey, so the other thing I'm going to try is to grab a sample of beechwood butcherblock from my local IKEA, and see how that looks stained. Then I can apply a finish to it to see how it looks, and if it works and isn't too blotchy (especially on the end grain), I might throw some paste wax or some food-grade wax/finish on there, see how it looks and maybe use that as the solution. My father-in-law has the counters from IKEA, but left them unfinished, and they have held up extremely well for 4 years or so, and I know they have taken a beating, so that could be a good sign.

      Thanks again for your help!

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Wooden Countertops

        End grain does NOT take stain well at all. It will come out thin and blotchy. Unfinished is an interesting idea. Although I'd worry about food particles getting caught in the end grain and rotting. As long as you're really a stickler for clean and use bleach, you'd be ok I guess. That's where a light wood is a plus. Bleach would do weird things to a dark wood. A good heavy layer of poly would suffice and be safe enough, I think. I don't know how poly reacts to acids like fruit juices (tomatoes and lemons and limes especially). Also, heat would melt the poly pretty quick, so you'd want to be extra careful about even hot pizza boxes.
        I put it all back together better than before. There\'s lots of leftover parts.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Wooden Countertops

          VAS--I think he was saying he would use 1x2 material and glue the 1 1/2 sides together and have the edges show on top--not the end grain. He will have to correct me if I am wrong. Cris, I have installed numerous wood countertops and I have a few suggestions. 1. VAS is right--there will be movement. I used some Al. angle that I fastened in the cabinets, just under the counter. I cut elongated slots in them for screws, which allowed the wood to move without splitting apart at a glue joint or in the wood itself. I would fasten the bak edge of the top solid and let the movement be toward the front. No worries about an elastic caulk joint. 2. I always used cooking oil for a finish--applied hot and the excess wiped off. Needs to be redone every 3 or 4 years (depending on usage) but it is a simple, fast job. HTH
          Jim

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Wooden Countertops

            Originally posted by CCusson View Post
            Hi, I've been a 'lurker' on the forum for a while now, and have found everyone's information on all types of topics extremely useful and informative. Now that I'm done kissing up , I'm looking for some advice on kitchen countertops.

            I really like the look of wooden countertops- particularly a dark color, like a walnut or mahogany. What I'd like to know is if anyone has made their own using walnut, maple, etc., what you'd recommend for a species and wood selection (use 6/4 or 8/4 boards, or glue them up butcher-block style), and recommendations on finishing (dark staining maple- is this possible?, and what about a food-grade finish?)

            Finally, what about maintenance and durability? How do they hold up?

            I'm debating taking the plunge of doing it myself vs. buying, but I need to convince the wife that it's cheaper if I do it (not to mention alot more fun!!)

            Thanks for your help everyone!
            -Chris

            Hey, Welcome to the forum. I just received the Sept issue of This Old House magazine and there's an article on wood countertops. They have a web site thisoldhouse.com not sure if the article is on the web site but I bet you can purchase this issue from there.

            Enjoy...
            If at first you don't succeed, try reading the owners manual.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Wooden Countertops

              Originally posted by Pipestone Kid View Post
              VAS--I think he was saying he would use 1x2 material and glue the 1 1/2 sides together and have the edges show on top--not the end grain. He will have to correct me if I am wrong. Cris, I have installed numerous wood countertops and I have a few suggestions. 1. VAS is right--there will be movement. I used some Al. angle that I fastened in the cabinets, just under the counter. I cut elongated slots in them for screws, which allowed the wood to move without splitting apart at a glue joint or in the wood itself. I would fasten the bak edge of the top solid and let the movement be toward the front. No worries about an elastic caulk joint. 2. I always used cooking oil for a finish--applied hot and the excess wiped off. Needs to be redone every 3 or 4 years (depending on usage) but it is a simple, fast job. HTH
              Jim
              Good solutions! I had no idea that cooking oil could be a finish. Thanks for the tip. Using AL angle is a great idea. I don't know why I was thinking allow the movement to the back....I can be full of dumb ideas sometimes! Thanks, Pipestone.
              I put it all back together better than before. There\'s lots of leftover parts.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Wooden Countertops

                Mahogany end grain would be rather soft and porous. Cooking oil is not usually recommended as a finish because it can go rancid, although walnut oil is sometimes used on cutting and serving boards.
                Joe Spear

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Wooden Countertops

                  Mineral oil, or mineral oil heated in a double boiler with added parrafin mixed in and dissolved in it will give a soft waxed finish look, not go rancid, and will not dull cutting utensils. It will do nothing to protect against hot items off the stove, tho, and both being naptha cousins, can be flammable with enough heat.
                  As for walnut oils, etc, some people are allergic to nuts, and it could trigger a reaction if food is placed directly on the counter top. More people are allergic to walnut than peanuts.

                  Go
                  Practicing at practical wood working

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Wooden Countertops

                    Originally posted by Gofor View Post
                    Mineral oil, or mineral oil heated in a double boiler with added parrafin mixed in and dissolved in it will give a soft waxed finish look, not go rancid, and will not dull cutting utensils. It will do nothing to protect against hot items off the stove, tho, and both being naptha cousins, can be flammable with enough heat.
                    As for walnut oils, etc, some people are allergic to nuts, and it could trigger a reaction if food is placed directly on the counter top. More people are allergic to walnut than peanuts.

                    Go
                    Ah...I was waiting for someone to suggest Mineral Oil. I have made a countertop from glued-up 1 1/2 x 1" maple and I used Mineral Oil with great success. I had done some research and it seemed to be the most recommended oil. As others have already said, vegetable oils can (will) go rancid and nut oils can trigger allergic responses.

                    I no longer live in the house so I don't know how it held up but I used it for 10 years and it held up nicely. Initially it seemed to soak up gallons of oil (apply it liberally). I reapplied mineral oil a few times per year. I didn't fasten it to the cabinets because it was so heavy it was doubtful that it would ever move.

                    Note - be sure to oil all surfaces to prevent it from warping.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Wooden Countertops

                      Chris,

                      I'm in the middle of the exact same countertop situation. We just remodeled a kitchen and my wife wants an island we built to have wooden countertops. She prefers a "table top" look as opposed to butcher block and also wants something dark. I'm leaning towards black walnut which is available at a local sawmill for $4.50/bf (is that a decent price anybody?). I plan on glueing together boards as if I were making a tabletop, using breadboard ends (a couple of recent articles in both Popular Woodworking and Wood magazines on how to do this properly) and then using some hardware I found at Rockler designed for attaching tabletops (allows for seasonal expansion). I think we are going to use something like tung oil to finish (she found a variety of food-safe finishes - I'll post links if I can find them). My problem is in the mitered section (island is "L" shaped) and how this will hold up to seasonal changes? Any ideas? Please let us know what you decide to do.

                      Tim

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Wooden Countertops

                        Originally posted by timfromohio View Post
                        My problem is in the mitered section (island is "L" shaped) and how this will hold up to seasonal changes? Any ideas? Please let us know what you decide to do.

                        Tim
                        Hey Tim. To join at a miter, as long as it's end grain-end grain on the 45, you won't have problems with movement. Just attach both pieces to the countertop with the figure 8's or what have you. The figure 8's go just along the 2 ends (where the width of the boards is attached), but not along the length of the boards, I think? I'm not sure about that, since you may want to fasten the mitered sides together to let them expand and contract together. You can use the long bolt fasteners that'll tie the two pieces together. The kind I'm thinking of are the ones that you route a groove for, and there's two pieces on either end that go into a deeper recess. Then when you tighten the nut, it draws them together. A couple of those will hold the mitered pieces together for a very tight joint (add some glue in there and you're set). The figure 8's along the width of the sections will hold it to the cabinets and allow for movement. I'm just not sure how the figure 8's would work along the length where your movement is back and forth.

                        I'm sure someone else here will do a better job of explaining this! And probably have a better idea, to boot.
                        I put it all back together better than before. There\'s lots of leftover parts.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Wooden Countertops

                          Chris,

                          This may not be what you are looking for but over 4 years ago I built my couner tops using 2X6 Southern Yellow Pine and two part pour on Bar Epoxy. Here is a link to our web album with pictures of the kitchen remodel and the countertops.

                          http://picasaweb.google.com/chuckinpc/Kitchen

                          It has held up very well and we like the look of the pine. The epoxy was poured in place so it was a mess dripping off the edges. I had lots of plastic down so cleanup was easy. I used a grinder to remove the drips from the bottom of the counter top edges with a shop vac held close and that went well too. The only issue I had is where I joined the L-shaped section and had a little cracking there but no big deal. If it ever get's scratched up to bad I'll just sand that section and pour a little more epoxy as it blends right in. It is very easy to keep clean and a little spray wax keeps it looking good.

                          Just another idea for you.

                          Chuck

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Wooden Countertops

                            Charles,

                            Could you post or email me some pics of your countertop (unable to access bulk pic storage)?

                            Thanks,

                            Tim

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Wooden Countertops

                              Sure Tim. I uploaded a few to this site so I'll try to add them to this.

                              Aftter almost 5 years they have held up very well.








                              There are a couple more pics in my album on this site also.

                              I use this product from US Composites. http://www.uscomposites.com/kk121.html

                              Hope this helps.

                              Chuck

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