Building a walnut end-grain kitchen island butcher block top, any advice?

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Forum topic by thedudeabides posted 10-20-2009 01:41 PM 3484 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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75 posts in 3167 days

10-20-2009 01:41 PM

I’ve got the base completed and am now ready to construct the top. The island is 92” x 42” and I’m looking to build a 3 inch thick end-grain top. I’ve got planers, jointers and ample woodworking experience, but this presents a few special problems that I’m looking for advice on. The cost of the hardwood is such that I can’t “learn as I go” on this one.

My plan is to use a substrate like plywood, stacking three 3/4” sheets together to get a 2.25” base, and then glue the 3/4” walnut end-grain to it, and then glue the full 3” thick walnut end pieces around the edges.

I’ve found very little on the web in the way of advice for something like this, and as a long-time reader I felt it was time to come out of the shadows, create an account and throw my project at the mercy of the lumberjocks.

Some concerns are the seasonal expansion issues and bowing of a top this large. I’ve also found some people suggesting to insert long metal rods to keep things square and true.

As this will be in my kitchen I am more forgiving to a project that comes out less than professional if it takes a turn for the worse, but obviously I’d like to get it right the first time. I’ve seen tops this large built before, and Grothouse Lumber just did that monster nine foot long end grain teak island for This Old House, with a 3 1/4 inch thick top and a super double roman ogee profile.

Any advice you can give me will be much appreciated.

4 replies so far

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13607 posts in 3367 days

#1 posted 10-20-2009 01:57 PM

maybe glue up your top as planking ,
and surface them as wide as your planer ,
then crosscut and flip the pieces .
you will be working with larger parts that are tighter to start .
if you start with the edging ,
you will have some place to clamp to ,
then stager your joints each row .

hope this helps .

welcome to LJ’s .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

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75 posts in 3167 days

#2 posted 10-20-2009 02:08 PM

That’s the plan so far, to get 2 inch square planks glued up and crosscut to 3/4” thickness then create a 12” wide end-grain that I can feed through the planer. Then I was planning on gluing up all the 12” wide pieces to form the overall top.

But….despite the fact that I’ve built end-grain butcher blocks before, the shear size of this project has me concerned. The weight isn’t an issue since the walnut is only about 1/3rd the weight of the same size granite top, it’s the expansion issues, choosing the proper substrate, and clamping nuances that have me up late at night. Do I glue the finished countertop to the base or just lag bolt it on? Do I leave a few dry fits to combat expansion/contraction? Do I use a plywood substrate? Too many questions on this one : (

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75 posts in 3167 days

#3 posted 10-20-2009 03:09 PM

Rob, what are you sealing them with?

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75 posts in 3167 days

#4 posted 10-20-2009 03:19 PM

wow, you’re sealing the top with thinned epoxy as well? This is something I haven’t heard of. Judging by the caliber of the work in your profile I’m willing to give it a try. Any advice on the optimal application of such a sealing technique?

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