Butcher Block Kitchen Table #1: The Plan

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Blog entry by Jimi_C posted 04-04-2010 06:01 AM 7525 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Butcher Block Kitchen Table series Part 2: Progress on the Legs »

It feels good finally to be getting back to wood working. During late December-February, my garage was just too damn cold to work in, despite having two space heaters going (the wife was too scared of propane-based heat sources, so those were nixed…). Then, in February, we decided to put our house on the market – so all free time started going to fixing things up and getting our house ready to sell. That’s all done with, so it’s time to get some wood working done.

Here is my first design, based loosely on a table here.

Pretty simple, but this will be my first attempt at a real furniture piece. I’ve been practicing hand cutting mortises, so hopefully this build will be pretty straight forward. I bought 40bf of poplar today (~12bf of which is 8/4 for the legs), which I also plan on using for the butcher-block style top. I don’t know how well poplar would stand up to abuse, but really this is more of a side-board for our kitchen than a cutting board, so I think it will be ok.

Any comments or critiques on the design are always welcome.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

8 comments so far

View Troy's profile


186 posts in 3092 days

#1 posted 04-04-2010 06:56 AM

Not sure if a poplar top will withstand normal cutting board use. The preferred wood for that is normally hard maple. I made one similar a couple years ago. Let me know if I can help in any way. Great project.

-- Troy Bouffard || Master Sergeant, US Army (Retired) ||

View Don's profile


517 posts in 3101 days

#2 posted 04-04-2010 08:14 AM

Poplar is definately not hard enough for a cutting board and it’s a bit porus. Stick with hard maple like Troy suggests. Even for just a work surface it’s too soft.

-- Don - I wood work if I could. Redmond WA.

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 3263 days

#3 posted 04-04-2010 03:36 PM

Yeah, I didn’t think poplar was that far down on the Janka scale, but it’s quite a bit softer than I thought (softer than doug fir and yellow pine…). I had debated getting some maple for the top, since I only have a small amount of soft/ambrosia maple left, but I’m wanting to do this on the cheap since I’m buying S3S material. I wasn’t wanting to use my jointer/planer while our house was on the market, cause I still don’t have proper dust collection and they make a pretty good mess.

Maybe I’ll try and find some pallets for free with some maple/oak in them…

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View CaptainSkully's profile


1601 posts in 3587 days

#4 posted 04-04-2010 04:02 PM

The only reason poplar is a hardwood is because it has leaves instead of needles. It’ll be fine for the structure. Nice design by the way. That’ll make a great addition to your kitchen. Hope all goes well with the house.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View freidasdad's profile


144 posts in 3016 days

#5 posted 04-05-2010 12:18 AM

here’s a thought————I’ve used poplar for cutting boards and they don’t hold up very well as already mentioned——we used the boards for awhile and then resurfaced them until we ran out of board——in your current situation you might do the same thing with the lumber you’ve already purchased——make the top thick enough to resurface a couple of times——don’t attach it permanently———and when you get back into the full swing of wood working you can make a permanent top out of hard maple

-- My goal in life is to be as good a person as my dog already thinks I am---author unknown

View PeteH's profile


5 posts in 2173 days

#6 posted 07-13-2012 07:57 PM

Well I can see this is quite an old thread, so I have a question about the project and how it has held up. I’m looking at doing a butchers block counter for a 6 foot long section of counter with an overhanging bar (at counter height). How did this top wear? Should I spend the extra money on the maple, or use the poplar I already have? I know everyone says I should, but I want to hear it from somebody who tried poplar for this purpose.


As a note, I’m doing this for appearance, not to have a 6’ x 3’ cutting board.

EDIT: So I may have jumped the gun on asking this. Although I don’t see a decision on the wood to use on the top, I do see maple and cherry later on in the blog. Does that mean you ditched the poplar idea?

-- Pete

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 3263 days

#7 posted 07-14-2012 12:13 PM

Yep, it was ditched. I was convinced by the fact that on the Janka scale, poplar is actually softer than pine. I don’t use it as a cutting board, but it does get a fair amount of traffic in our kitchen so something that soft would not have been good as a table top surface. The base is still poplar and has held up very well (amazing to see how much the shelf contracts into the breadboard ends during the winter – over 1/16th on each side), and the maple/cherry top is also doing very well. I have not noticed any dings in it despite my wife setting her purse on it just about every day.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View PeteH's profile


5 posts in 2173 days

#8 posted 07-14-2012 12:47 PM

Excellent. Thanks for the insight. I’ll probably go ahead and do maple. That table does look wonderful, by the way.

-- Pete

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