Kitchen cabinetry #2: Finishing a countertop (2" slab of Iroko)

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Blog entry by Jake posted 12-11-2013 07:31 AM 1333 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Stumped on a double-blind corner, out of ideas Part 2 of Kitchen cabinetry series Part 3: Thank you MacB! »

Hello again

Firstly, thank you again to all of the people who replied in the first entry, you guys helped to expand my view of this project. Especially big thanks to MacB who is an unexpected gift from above, he is helping me design my new kitchen. And when I say help I mean that he is designing something for me out of the kindness of his heart and all I have to do for now is to stay out of the way.. That is so unreal and unexpected, the community here in LJ is absolutely amazing.

Now while the design is on the way, I have some time to think about the next step, which for me is the countertop. Today after work I will be bringing home a 2” slab of Iroko(also called Afrcan Teak; Poor man’s Teak; Iroko Mahogany) rough dimensions are 32” by 13 feet, but I will probably use about 9 feet for the countertop.

So I have read about it and as I understand it is very durable, the oil content is quite high, so the top doesn’t need a lot of treatment. But I still need to plane it and sand it and for that I read that due to it’s toughness you need quality sharp tools and patience. I am tinkerign with the idea of using a hand plane and sand paper instead of powertools, because handplaning gives me more control than anything else and as far as I saw in the lumberyard, the material was not terribly warped.

So I am trying to achieve a silk smooth feel on the top, maybe some gloss or even high gloss, not sure about that yet. Anyone here worked with Iroko and got any good tips for me? How far should I sand it up to, 1500 sounds enough? Should I oil between some sanding to make sure no grains come up after I apply my finish coat of lineseed oil and beeswax?

Also, the slab features awesome sapwood on both sides of the board (see pics below), I feel that the white lines would make great contrast in the top. How is sapwood for these kind of applications, is it durable enough to leave on the outside edge, should I butt it against the backdrop, or should I leave it out altogether?

Is there any other tips about making counter tops from such large slabs? Should I make any vertical or horizontal cuts in the bottom side to eliminate the threat of warping, or should I be fine without them?

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

6 comments so far

View Keith Glass's profile

Keith Glass

8 posts in 1292 days

#1 posted 12-11-2013 07:57 AM

I think no significant need to cut (verti or hori).
The wood is looking good and thick enough.

-- Keith Glass

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 2753 days

#2 posted 12-11-2013 02:48 PM

Great looking slab, it must weigh a ton.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Jake's profile


850 posts in 1049 days

#3 posted 12-11-2013 07:40 PM

Yeah, it is quite heavy, but I had it cut to 8.8 feet so I could fit it in my van.

It is home now, waiting to be planed and sanded for the perfect finish, I can’t wait to start on that, just need my bigger plane, which should arrive tomorrow. In the mean time I can hand plane it with smaller planes, which will be awesome!

I am so excited to have it here in my workshop, unfortunately no time to work on it today, so I can have time in my shop tomorrow. I will keep this blog updated with pics and then you guys can give me your suggestions. The carbon deposits make it a bit harder to work on, but on the positive side the slab does not seem to have a lot of cupping, at max probably only like 1/4” on either side.

By the way, I had a test of my character today at the lumber yard. I had no need for lumber, but with such huge amounts of beautiful slabs and a big van to fit them in I was tested in my resolve. Obviously I failed miserably and bought a 1” x 8” x 15 feet of padouk and 1” x 8” x 10 feet of white oak… I rationalized it with “my need for contrasting hardwood” nevermind the fact I already have a 1”x7”x10 feet of black walnut and like 40+40 feet of the same dimensions alder and aspen.. Helloy, my name is Jake and I am a wood hoarder.

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

View Jake's profile


850 posts in 1049 days

#4 posted 12-12-2013 05:12 AM

The boss was checking out the new tabletop, and luckily for me I passedand was given the green light to move on.

I checked the cupping of the board and currently it is almost nonexistant, the max I could get from the highest to lowest point was 1/5”. And it seems that it sands pretty easily, so i won’t even take my planer to it yet. I will sand it to like 360 with my orbital sander, and take it upstairs and see what it does while I build the cbainetry. (my workshop is a bit higher moisture content and like 20 degrees colder than our house, so it would make sense to see if it acts in any way before I do the final planing and sanding?

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

View Jake's profile


850 posts in 1049 days

#5 posted 12-12-2013 07:31 PM

I got down to business of sanding my new tabletop today. It was a big learning experience. I got to tell you, working with Iroko is a whole lot different. Even though it sands and planes quite easily the saw dust is crazy. It makes you couch like it’s nobody’s business. I had to run to the shop and get a decent mask before I even cosidered sanding more than 1 minute.

It was unlike any other experience, you just kept coughing and coughing and coughing and I have no allergies what so ever. I probably coughed every 5 seconds or so, but my friend who stopped by and my neibourgh could not stop coughing. So if you intend to work on Iroko try to do it outside and with a decent mask. If you are like me and got to do it without a good vent then get a decent mask and work in portions.

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

View Jake's profile


850 posts in 1049 days

#6 posted 12-12-2013 07:38 PM

I did like the result I got intially though, sanded with my 125mm random orbital sander with 80 to get rid of the saw blade marks, that took the most time, then I went over with a 120 grit running with the grain. Then I stopped for the day, cause getting this sanding done took like 3,5 hours.

By the way, the planes you see I recieved just today! An unexpected privilege and a gift from my grandad. These planes are from the 1920s, made by my great-grandad who was an one of a kind carpenter, then the planes were given to my grandad, and they skipped a generation, because my uncle is a metal guy.

And now I have these 2, soon to be 100 year old hand-made planes. In addition to the discussions here on LJ I plan to do a lot of youtube-ing on how to sharpen them and how to use them properly. I want to give these to my son or my grandson at some point, so I have to take good care of them.

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

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