On The Chopping Block

In lue of a Font Friday post or a Weekend Guide, I’m sharing a piece I’ve been working on every morning for the past week. I don’t recommend using power tools earlier than 7am due to sleepiness levels, but sometimes it’s the best way to start the day!

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To start this project, I began with lots of different types of scrap wood. Always save your scarp wood, as cutting boards don’t require much wood and it’s a great way to save the scrap from ending up in a landfill. After planning the wood, cutting down and cleaning it up a bit I was able to play with the color/grain variations and create the design I wanted. For this project I wanted it to look like controlled-randomness. With the dark and light pieces mixed among each other.

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After a lot of very speedy gluing (it dries so fast!) I clamped the wood (in a level way) and then wiped the access glue. Because this will be used for food preparation, I used a special waterproof glue meant to withstand the food and washing of it after. You don’t want gaps where bacteria can get trapped and make you sick over time.

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After the glue dries (allow several hours) it’s ready to be planned and sanded down to perfection. It’s starting to look like a board now!

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This was my first time routering the edge of wood. I’ll admit, I was so sure I was going to ruin it, so I practiced a lot on some scrap wood. Thankfully burn marks and errors can be pretty easily sanded away afterword.

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Here it is above, with a smooth edge and sanded to perfection. No more burn marks, just gorgeous wood. Once the dust is wiped/blown away, it’s time for oil!

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Look at the difference the oil makes! The goal with the oil is to get the wood fully saturated, because if it’s full of oil it won’t absorb any food bacteria. It really brings out the colors of the piece too and it’s super fun to apply. You can see from the reflection above, I put a lot of oil on which is good. Keep reapplying the oil every 2 hours until it’s no longer absorbing the oil (because it’s reached its saturation point), wipe away the excess oil and you’re done!

Kitchen Storage Unit

A friend recently came to me and said, “Help, we need more counter space and storage in our kitchen” (I’m paraphrasing, as he is far more eloquent). As you probably know, I love any chance to build and use my miter saw.

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The first step is drawing out plans and elevations. To get a sense of materials, assembly and all of our options. Since I’m a cheap-o and cost is an important factor in the design, I like to generate my materials list as I go and also divided into sections. This way I can easily say “If I want and extra shelf, it’ll cost me an extra $30” or “designing the table top this way is $10, but this other cooler way is only $5 more”. I take this list when I go to the hardware store and helps me effectively get all the lumber. This list also helps me generate a cut list. I cut list is as it sounds, a list of all the pieces of wood I need to make the table. If you follow your (accurate) cut list, you can cut the pieces and then assemble.

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How much wood do you think it takes to make a table? Answer: a lot of wood. See above. It’s good to get an extra piece of each size of wood because you never know what issues might come up. These were each only a dollar or two, and having the extra pieces is really helpful and gives you more options while you’re building.

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Once materials were purchased, I began by assembling the butcher-block style table top using nails and glue and then clamping it together. Since I knew this would be a slow process with drying time, I started with this first and then took time between gluing to work on measuring and cutting the other pieces.

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Eventually, after lots of measuring, cutting, and screwing down wood, I got to take stock of all the pieces above. Since I knew I’d be transporting this in my car, I had to take that into account while planing my dimensions and assembly. I figured I could lay these elements flat in my car and then assemble them on-site at my friends house, but I wanted to make it so I had to do the least amount of work at his house.

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The next step is sanding and staining all the elements. Above is the base of the table top. You can see how dark the stain is against the raw wood. While staining I find it best to lay it on thick, wait a few minutes and then wipe away to desired results. It’s also best to do this not in direct sunlight. You don’t want the stain to dry while you’re waiting for it to seep into the wood, since it’s staining and not painting the wood. Once it’s full stained and wiped down, then it’s good to put it in the sun to speed up drying time.

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Look at what a difference the dark stain makes. It became so elegant looking. After more sanding, it was time for the clear coat to protect against moisture (which will keep the table from rotting if it gets wet). I used a luster finish of a clear coat polyurethane. I had used this on other projects and it makes the wood look so finished and smooth.

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Doesn’t it look so nice? I did two coats of the polyurethane to really protect it. It also helps soften the rough spots and fill in gaps. I did this with the two shelves, 4 legs and base frame of the table top.

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Now back to the table top itself. I let the butcher block style top stay clamped for the week while I waited for the next weekend to finish the project. Once the top felt solid, it was time for heavy duty sanding. The more sanding the better, as it will smooth and even out the wood. Mine wasn’t perfectly level, but I think that’s part of it’s charm. It’s also going in the kitchen of an apartment for three guys so the rougher and more manlier, the better.

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The next step is to stain! Like a typical butcher block, they wanted to go with a lighter stain than the rest of the table to make it stand out. Once it was stained and sanded again I did the same two coats of the luster polyurethane and let it dry. Install time!! I drove the elements to my friends house for assembly. It was tricky doing it in their house, but with their help we made it work. I find a good trick is to only screw it in loosely until you feel everything’s at a 90 degree angle and at the right height. Then go back and add more screws and tighten the original screws. It’s very hard making things level and perfect, so take your time with this.

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Isn’t it pretty? I’m really happy with how it came out.

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Here it is “dressed” as we say in show business.

If you are interested in a table like this, or you want to commission me for a custom original piece, contact me! I love this type of project and look forward to more. I’m actually working on my blog shop, where you can place orders and even purchase art you’ve seen made here on the blog 🙂 I can’t wait to share it with you!