Any tips for making a large end grain butcher block island countertop-What's the biggest you've made

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Forum topic by AdamNKY posted 03-19-2014 06:19 PM 2553 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 950 days

03-19-2014 06:19 PM

I’m going to be soon making an end-grain butcher block countertop for my island out of Walnut. Here’s the thing that makes me nervous—it’s really big…as in 11.5’ x 4.5 feet, which means a lot of movement. I plan on making it about 3 inches thick and it will be supported by cabinets on the front side, then a 2×6 knee wall and about an 18” overhang (also supported) for eating. There will be a small round prepsink undermounted in the middle.

I’ll probably make it in at least 2 pieces less than 30’ in width so I can run them through the drum sander, then biscuit or domino and glue the final two pieces together after setting them on the cabinet I’ll use a food safe oil finish.

Have any of you ever made or seen an end grain counterop this size…have you witnessed any serious warping or splitting issues? Any tips on making a butcher block of this size. Am I just setting myself up for disappointment and problems down the road? What else would you suggest—perhaps edgegrain glue-up for most of the island and then a few end grain 2’x3’ loose drop-ins flanking the prepsink? Please share your thoughts.

And if you have pictures of similar projects, please share…

8 replies so far

View Minorhero's profile


372 posts in 2024 days

#1 posted 03-19-2014 06:53 PM

Couple of things to consider. 1) why 3 inches thick? That is probably twice as thick as most countertops.

2) don’t make your pieces square, make them rectangular and then use a brick laying pattern for the glue up. That way you don’t have as many glue joints going all the way through the piece.

View AdamNKY's profile


6 posts in 950 days

#2 posted 03-19-2014 07:11 PM

Minorhero—I was thinking 2 1/2 to 3 inches thick because I thought the thickness would help prevent warping and give it more strenght along the glue joint. My thinking is that because the wood fibers are running vertically, a thin glueup would not have very much strength horizontally making it more prone to warping and splitting. Plus, most end grain counters I see fall into this thickness range and I’m guessing there is a reason. I have no proof of my answer…it’s all based on speculation…Plus, I like the look of a thick butcher block counter.

Also, I do plan to make them rectangular. I got a deal on 800 BF of 4/4 walnut to make my cabinets, and I’ll probably only need about 300 BF for that, so I plan on using the leftover walnut for my counter. I’ll probably mill down to about 3/4 thick and rip into 3 or 4 wide inch planks, edge glue, plane, crosscut, then do the second glue-up…I’ll likely stagger but it will be on the short end, offseting every 3/8” inch.

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6 posts in 950 days

#3 posted 03-20-2014 12:48 AM

Should I interpret the lack of responses as no one is dumb enough to try and do an end grain countertop with these dimensions?

View Sandra's profile


6933 posts in 1494 days

#4 posted 03-20-2014 01:39 AM

Heck, an end grain cutting board can cause frustration. You’re braver than I would be. Especially with the price of walnut.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View Kickback's profile


127 posts in 2054 days

#5 posted 03-21-2014 12:47 PM

Why end grain if it is going to be a counter? I have never been really convinced that using end grain was all that much more of an advantage. Plus it just adds much more additional work. If it were all Walnut and I was making a counter top that size I would go for one glue up and be done with it. The wood is going to be knife friendly already and you won’t have the bacteria issues you get with end grain. Just my $.02 for what it might be worth.

-- "I work so I can fish"!

View mahdee's profile


3457 posts in 1187 days

#6 posted 03-21-2014 01:31 PM

11’ x4’? Whachugonachop?


View Rob's profile


66 posts in 978 days

#7 posted 03-24-2014 10:27 AM

Just completed mine. Here’s the link: It’s L28” x W18.5 x T1.65”...While it is nowhere near the size of yours, it is still a monster. And there was A LOT of movement. It warped on me sveral times. I am def not a pro, but I can tell you what I learned from my own experience. My advice to you would be this;
Whatever dimensions you want the top to be, add an inch of thickness. I wouldn’t worry about the sides so much and whatever you already plan on for waste is prob sufficient, but I had to surface plane my board twice (with router jig), before it finally stopped moving on me and stayed flat. I planned to have 2.25” thickness (or around there) and wound up with 1.50”. I got lucky that I planned on it being so thick, as if I planned on only making it 1.5” Thick, I would have wound up with a .75” ridiculous looking cutting board. So again, I would plan big. And I would also not rush to finish it. Mine warped after about two days after the 2nd glue up. And it warped again about 2 days after the second run through router jig. If yours doesn’t warp, and you’re left with it too thick, you can always remove more. I know it would be wasteful, but it’s better than tearing your hair out like I did. Good luck!!

-- Rob, Middletown NJ

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66 posts in 978 days

#8 posted 03-24-2014 11:06 AM

To add, I think you will have great luck, making this size counter top in as many pieces as possible, without sacrificing the overall look. And what kind of drum sander do you have? I WISH I had one when I was building my board. It will def make your life easy, and you may be able to skip the “Router Surface Planing Jig” all together…. I am sitting here shaking my head, as it is killing me just even thinking about undertaking an end grain this large. No guts no glory? Why not. Again, good luck and please share when complete. You will be entering legend status in my head when you pull this off.

-- Rob, Middletown NJ

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