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Edge grain counter top

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Forum topic by ATLwoodworker posted 11-10-2014 09:49 PM 1014 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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ATLwoodworker

2 posts in 756 days


11-10-2014 09:49 PM

Topic tags/keywords: edge-grain panels glue ups tabletop

I just joined Lumberjocks after having read posts for a few years. I’ve been a hobby woodworker for the past 15 years and spent a year working for a cabinetmaker. I’ve got a decent shop in my basement.

I’m renovating my house and am looking to build a edge-grain counter top that’s 27”x51”x1 3/4” to go on a 24×48” island in the kitchen. I don’t see this as a cutting surface, but rather a counter top. I am thinking of doing either full-length boards or I might work some shorter boards into the piece for an artistic touch (Maybe a pixilated Frank Lloyd Wright motif?)

I have a nice piece of bubinga that’s 1 1/4” thick that I can use. I also have some 3/4” black walnut boards I can use. I was planning on the bulk of the top would be 1” hardwood, maybe hard maple, beech, cherry, hickory, or other hard woods that might be on sale at the lumberyard.

I’ve glued up tabletops before, but always face-grain. I’m concerned that these 25+ edge-grain pieces will be difficult to keep flat.

My questions are:
1) When gluing this up, should I glue up the entire top at once or in 2 or 3 sections?
2) Should I cut the pieces 3/4” long and trimming up after gluing? (versus cutting to length and worrying about alignment while gluing)
3) If trimming after gluing, what’s the best way to do that to get the smoothest end-grain cuts? I don’t a panel-cutting jig for my tablesaw—it might be time to make one.
4) What finish should I use? Seems like a mineral oil finish is the best or a min oil/beeswax finish
5) Should I use oil or oil/wax on all the underside as well? Is that necessary?

Thank you,
Brad


11 replies so far

View MT_Stringer's profile

MT_Stringer

2853 posts in 2694 days


#1 posted 11-10-2014 10:02 PM

My vote would be glue up several sections. If needed, you might try to run them through the planer to get em smooth, or use a drum sander if you have one.

Then glue the sections together.
Definitely cut your pieces longer than needed, trim to final width and length last.

I made a table top from hard maple similar to yours. I made the final cuts (length and width) with a track saw and a Freud 48 tooth blade. I taped the work piece with painters tape on both sides before marking and making the final cuts. It turned out nice.

Hope this helps. There will probably be others chipping in their advice and sharing their experience. Good luck.
Mike

Finished top attached to frame.

Cut to final dimensions.

Final glue up.

Ready to trim.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

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ATLwoodworker

2 posts in 756 days


#2 posted 11-10-2014 10:17 PM

Thanks, Mike. That’s helpful. I like your panel-flattening system. How did you keep those jig boards from sticking to the panel?

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MT_Stringer

2853 posts in 2694 days


#3 posted 11-11-2014 12:10 AM

I used paste wax. Nothing stuck where it shouldn’t have.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View woodworkEER's profile

woodworkEER

17 posts in 2834 days


#4 posted 03-01-2016 07:16 PM

Boy, that is one fancy dust collector in the background. =)

-- Earth First; We'll log other planets later.

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MT_Stringer

2853 posts in 2694 days


#5 posted 03-01-2016 11:13 PM



Boy, that is one fancy dust collector in the background. =)

- woodworkEER

It works! :-)

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View JBrow's profile

JBrow

818 posts in 383 days


#6 posted 03-02-2016 05:52 AM

ATLwoodworker,

By end grain center island top, I assume the ends of the lumber will ultimately show as the work surface of top. If so, it is a real nice look. While I have not built an end grain surface, my understanding is that a series of boards cut to some manageable length are glued face to face. The glue-up is flushed up and then the panel is sliced in lengths a little longer than the finished thickness. These slices are then glued edge to edge so that the end grain is exposed along the top and bottom surface of the panel. After the top is glued up with end grain exposed, then the top and bottom surfaces are flushed up. My comments are driven by this understanding.

1) When gluing this up, should I glue up the entire top at once or in 2 or 3 sections?
There are two glue-ups. The first being face to face would require the width of the glue-up to exceed the finished width of the top. If using boards that are ¾” thick, that is more than 36 boards – over 70 surfaces over which glue must be spread to get to 27”. Since the glue on the first piece will likely tack and begin to set before glue is applied to the last board, this glue-up is best done in stages.

After the first glue-ups are flushed up and sliced for the second glue up, the same problem arises. If the width of the boards in the first glue-up is 1-1/2” then for a top that is 57” long, there are more than 38 splices to glue up. Therefore this step should also probably be broken down into several glue-ups.

I assume you will use a water-resistant glue.

2) Should I cut the pieces 3/4” long and trimming up after gluing? (versus cutting to length and worrying about alignment while gluing)

Glue-ups are much easier and dimensions more accurate if trimmed to length after the glue has cured.

3) If trimming after gluing, what’s the best way to do that to get the smoothest end-grain cuts? I don’t a panel-cutting jig for my tablesaw—it might be time to make one.

I have a panel cutting jig built after seeing Norm Abram built one on an early New Yankee Workshop show. It is a 3/8” plywood base with a snug fitting wood runner that rides in the mitre slot. A front ¾” thick cleat square to the table saw fence completes the jig. If the plywood base and cleat are built long, these can be trimmed when the jig is first used.

A quality and sharp cross cutting blade is important. Supporting the workpiece from underneath reduces tear out. A freshly made jig like I described provides this zero clearance support. Appling standard masking tape (not painter’s tape) along the cut line before making the cut will further support the wood fibers and reduce tear out. The tape must be firmly affixed to and in full contact with the wood.

4) What finish should I use? Seems like a mineral oil finish is the best or a min oil/beeswax finish

Mineral oil and walnut oil are two food grade finishes I have seen used. These have to be reapplied. I am sure there are food safe waxes also available. Vegetable oil can rot so cooking oils should be avoided.

5) Should I use oil or oil/wax on all the underside as well? Is that necessary?
All exposed surfaces should be coated with the same finish with the same number of coats. If one surface of the top is uncoated by the finish applied elsewhere, moisture will enter and leave the wood in the unprotected area at a greater rate, causing wood movement, that could include cupping and warping. Moisture driven wood movement is an unrestrainable force. Dried wood wedges in the cracks of stone and then wetted will split the stone. Therefore no amount of screws will keep the wood from moving.

Also, all exposed surfaces should be sanded to the same grit, again to equalize the rate at which moisture enters and leaves the wood.

In the case of the kitchen top, where the surface finish will be reapplied, I am not quite sure how to approach finishing the underside of the top. I would probably opt for an oil finish like Danish oil.

View rwe2156's profile

rwe2156

2193 posts in 944 days


#7 posted 03-02-2016 01:00 PM

Brad,
Welcome it sounds like a neat project with lots of room for artistic design.

Soundsl like you are basically making a giant end grain cutting board. What MT is talking about is your standard glue up and the process for what your doing is slightly different. I would double check your machines so every single cut is precisely 90 degrees. Then make sure you’ve got a good blade and some good clamps (you’ll need a bunch of them).

I suggest watch some videos and get a handle on the process. IIRC it is a two step process as Jbrow described. There is one guy on you tube (MTMWOOD) who does some remarkable cutting boards. You would get some good ideas from him about designs.

You will also need to consider the process of flattening after the glue up. No matter how careflully you do it, some flattening will be necessary. Paying a commercial shop with a wide belt sander is one option. Another is make a flattening jig employing a router (once again, there are videos on this, e.g. Wood Whisperer). I wouldn’t relish the thought of hand planing it ….... ;-)

Hope this helps.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Tony1212's profile

Tony1212

111 posts in 1198 days


#8 posted 03-02-2016 08:01 PM

I read the OP as saying EDGE grain, not END grain.

I’m a newbie myself and have never undertaken anything close to what you are doing – yet – but I’ll add my 2 cents because this is the internet.

1) You don’t mention if you have a planer or drum sander available, but if you do, go with gluing up in sections small enough to fit in your machine. That way you can let the machine make sure everything is flat. Then when you glue up the sections, you only have to worry about flushing up a couple/few seams.

Also, use cauls. Mike is using them in his 4th pic to keep the tops and bottoms flush.

DISCLAIMER: If it is an end grain top, do not put them through a planer. A drum sander will work, though

2) Cut long and trim to size after glue is dry. Even if you have to use the gnarliest saw blade and 220 grit sandpaper to dress the ends, it will be much easier than trying to get the ends of those boards lined up flush with each other with a bunch of wet glue acting like grease.

3) The best way to trim? Probably a Festool track saw. Don’t have one and don’t want to spend a bajillion dollars on one? A circular saw with a high tooth count combination blade should get you most of the way there. Then either a hand plane or sand paper to make it pretty.

4) Finishes for counters and table tops have always been a big debate. Most every finish you can buy is food safe after it fully cures. But every finish has it’s pluses and minuses. Do your research and decide which works best for your situation.

Film finishes are great for stain protection and are fairly low maintenance, but can crack or buckle with wood movement and are harder to refinish. Oil finishes are kinda the opposite. (WAY over-simplified. Do the research)

5) No matter what finish you use, the wood is going to move with temperature and humidity. If you leave the underside bare, it will absorb way more moisture than the top and the whole thing will cup. Keep it balanced so everything moves the same amount.

You will also need to address this movement when deciding how you are going to attach it to the cabinets. Gluing and screwing won’t work here.

-- Tony, SW Chicago Suburbs

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rwe2156

2193 posts in 944 days


#9 posted 03-02-2016 09:06 PM



I read the OP as saying EDGE grain, not END grain.

Right you are I misread that.

If he does it in sections and planes each section flat it will be similar to making a workbench with the boards on end.

Perhaps the OP will clarify.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View conifur's profile

conifur

955 posts in 615 days


#10 posted 03-02-2016 10:02 PM

I did not see the word end in his post, and if you read where he sez he will be gluing up 25 pieces, it sure would seem as the title sez “Edge Grain”.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View JBrow's profile

JBrow

818 posts in 383 days


#11 posted 03-04-2016 04:39 AM

ATLwoodworker – and others,

Apologies. I guess I should repeat the 3rd grade. Indeed, ATLwoodworker is making an edge grain center island top.

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