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View Full Version : butcher block countertops - thoughts



Paul Pless
09-01-2009, 04:58 PM
Katherine and I are starting to think about reinstalling our kitchen cabinets and have turned our thoughts to countertops. Lately we've been thinking about butcher block and I kinda would like y'alls opinions. Everything from material options, construction considerations including thinkness, glues, face and backsplash, type of finish, maintenance, etc etc. I'd kinda like to go away from the prefabricated tops and start with raw lumber, unless that's something that an amatuer like myself is unlikely to pull off.

Thoughts from all are appreciated, but I'd especially like to hear from his leftedness, ledger, david g, girouardo, smalser, steven bauer, etc etc...

jack grebe
09-01-2009, 05:11 PM
Just from a health perspective, I would not go with wood.

MiddleAgesMan
09-01-2009, 05:14 PM
Put a solid butcherblock top on an island or a small isolated area, if you must, but an entire kitchen you will tire of--visually and maintenance wise--in short order.

Way back when I had my own cabinet business I purchased butcherblock tops for customers rather than attempt fabrication. Such things are best left for people or manufacturers with vast experience.

katey
09-01-2009, 05:22 PM
I have used butcher block countertops and I love them. We will have them in the new kitchen. I'm planning on ordering from Boos Blocks and fitting them myself unless someone on this thread talks me out of it.

Maintenance of an oil finish is no biggie... just let everything dry thoroughly (say, if you're out for the day) and wipe on a coat of tung oil (no metallic driers, please... available from Lee Valley) before you go to bed.

The only thing I've ever done that left a lasting mark (which could be sanded out and re-oiled) was leave a copper-clad pot on a wet area without enough oil on it (the dirty-dishes staging area)... a nice green stain.

Jack, a study a few years ago showed that an oiled maple butcher block actually harbored fewer bacteria in its knife cuts than a plastic cutting board.

Bruce Hooke
09-01-2009, 05:23 PM
It seems to me there is a certain degree of illogicality to a butcher block counter top. As I understand it, the butcher block style was developed essentially to provide a long-wearing cutting surface in a situation where there was lots of cutting of the same type of food going on. Used like this the butcher block holds up quite well but does show wear over time and would not, I'd think, be so good for cutting a wide range of foods since using it for, say, onions, might leave the apples you cut up afterward tasting not very good. So, you would be making the counter top following a design specifically developed for chopping on, but for a general use counter top you would not want to actually chop on the counter top both because it would leave the counter looking pretty ugly and because it would create issues with chopping certain foods that are good at picking up smells, or certain foods that are good at leaving behind smells.

On the other hand, as long as you understand that it would not really be a good idea to make a habit of chopping on the counter top, if you like the look of a butcher block counter I see no reason not to go with one.

The health issues would not really bother me. I feel like this is a case of the actual health risks being very overblown as long as you take reasonable care of the counter top. Lots of us use wood cutting boards on a very regular basis and seem to do just fine. If you are not actually chopping on your countertop then there should be even fewer health issues.

Bruce Hooke
09-01-2009, 05:25 PM
I personally like ceramic tile counter tops... they are easy to install on a 3/4 inch substrate, lots of colors and materials... and I put a bullnose edge in the appropriate wood, often maple, but I have done cherry and even ipe. You seal the grout.. and tile is easy to clean. I did my counter tops and back splash in the same tile as the floor. It has held up very well, and looks good.

Let me guess that you don't kneed bread on your counters. Tile would be horrible for kneading bread!

John of Phoenix
09-01-2009, 05:32 PM
I laid granite tiles with zero grout line. Man what a pain butting those tiles together was but even 12 years later it looks dazzling.

jack grebe
09-01-2009, 05:33 PM
Jack, a study a few years ago showed that an oiled maple butcher block actually harbored fewer bacteria in its knife cuts than a plastic cutting board.
Hmmmmmm, that is interesting:rolleyes:.

As a lifelong carpenter, in love with wood, I think I would still go with Granite :o

Glen Longino
09-01-2009, 05:38 PM
If you go with granite, be sure it's Texas Granite.
All other granite is inferior to Texas Granite!

brad9798
09-01-2009, 05:39 PM
Splurge on rock mable cabinets or something ... not wood countertops.

There are some absolutely stunning solid surface tops ... natural and not.

Don't get caught up in the butcher block romance ... They are a pain in the a$$.

Think of it this way ... imagine preparing on, cooking, cleaning up the nicely finished foredeck of a nice sized cruiser! The nicks and such just aren't worth it to me.

Too many other nice choices ...

George Roberts
09-01-2009, 05:44 PM
"The health issues would not really bother me."

Raw meat and other foods placed on the counter top means really good cleaning frequently.

oznabrag
09-01-2009, 05:56 PM
Hey Paul.

Ditto Bruce on the 'health issues'. The National Forest Service Forest Products Lab at the University of Wisconsin will back his statement.

Mr. Hooke is also quite correct that you should never use your counter surface as a cutting board.

Virtually every 'butcher block' counter I have ever seen was not 'butcher block'. A butcher's block has the end-grain pointing up so that the knife will not cut the grain, but split it, resulting in a much more durable surface. What is common in kitchens today is a laminated counter, and they look real nice.

If you want to make your own laminated counter, the first order of business will be to get yourself a good-quality jointer with a bed-length of AT LEAST 5-6 feet. Without a good jointer to flatten out the parts, there is no way in Hell(:p) you will be able to set clamps across all those laminations and have them draw up to closer than .005"(.005" is your basic tolerance for a successful glue joint with your typical PVA and modified PVA wood glues. I'm talkin' bout yer Titebond II here).

The second thing you'll need is a thickness planer capable of handling AT LEAST half the width of your proposed counter, but you're gonna be a lot happier with something that will plane the entire surface. This means a 30" planer, dude, 'cause they just don't make'em in the 25" size! I figure about 6,000 pounds of Oliver iron oughtta set you off in the right direction there.

Oh, and you are gonna want at least one standard butt-load of panel clamps. You'll be happier with two. ;)

If you wanna know the truth, I have become quite comfortable with a plastic-laminate counter top in my dotage. They're cheap, durable (20 yrs?) available in practically every conceivable pattern and/or color and, with a solid wood edging they look pretty damned good.

I can tell you how to get that edging down pat, if you'd like. I have never had one, single, solitary callback on that. Ever.

Bruce Hooke
09-01-2009, 06:06 PM
Interesting how much personal preference plays a role in counter tops. While I love the look of stone counter tops I don't like them in actual use. I don't like how you have to set stuff down on them quite softly to avoid it feeling like you are going to break anything breakable that you put on the counter.

Concrete counter tops also look pretty cool and are very functional but have the same issue as stone.

Bruce Hooke
09-01-2009, 06:07 PM
Hey Paul.

Ditto Bruce on the 'health issues'. The National Forest Service Forest Products Lab at the University of Wisconsin will back his statement.

I thought I heard somewhere the study that showed wood to actually carry less germs than plastic had been overturned, but this would not scare me away from using wood.

Paul Pless
09-01-2009, 06:11 PM
If you want to make your own laminated counter, the first order of business will be to get yourself a good-quality jointer with a bed-length of AT LEAST 5-6 feet. Without a good jointer to flatten out the parts, there is no way in Hell(:p) you will be able to set clamps across all those laminations and have them draw up to closer than .005"(.005" is your basic tolerance for a successful glue joint with your typical PVA and modified PVA wood glues. I'm talkin' bout yer Titebond II here).

The second thing you'll need is a thickness planer capable of handling AT LEAST half the width of your proposed counter, but you're gonna be a lot happier with something that will plane the entire surface. This means a 30" planer, dude, 'cause they just don't make'em in the 25" size! I figure about 6,000 pounds of Oliver iron oughtta set you off in the right direction there.Guess I'm screwed there... my jointer has an 84"bed, but my thicknesser is only 24":o. I do have a friend with a Powermatic 'wide belt' sander though...

Okay seriously, I don't know if I'm up for such a glue job...

B_B
09-01-2009, 06:11 PM
we have 2" thick white oak laminated counter on the island - about two years old now.
glad we didn't do the whole kitchen with it - harder to clean and has developed splits in two places (despite weekly oiling for the first four months, monthly after that) - the weather changes here are just too drastic I think.

With what I understand the humidity levels to be in summer in Michigan I would guess it's worse there.

A small area of wood, or real butcher block, would be good for baking or just for visual interest.

Good luck with your reno's.

B_B
09-01-2009, 06:13 PM
I thought I heard somewhere the study that showed wood to actually carry less germs than plastic had been overturned, but this would not scare me away from using wood.
I recall this also - has to do with wood drying out completely, killing germs, while cuts in plastic take much longer to fully dry? or some such?

Jim Ledger
09-01-2009, 06:14 PM
An all butcher block kitchen is too much.

A small island, or a separate section can look good and function well.

Don't put butcher block next to a range, the grease from frying will be harder to clean than on another counter material.

Don't cut directly on the top unless you want permanent knife scars in the counter.

I would never make a butcher block, FWIW. The lumber would cost more than the finished top.

Granite's nice, but the shine puts me off. Most of the high-end kitchens favor stone that has a flat finish, limestone, soapstone, marble, concrete, etc, but they're expensive and need sealing and constant maintainance. But, they look gooood.

Solid surface is taking a beating from the natural stone these days. Why get Corian when you can have the real thing for the same price.

Tile can make a nice backsplash, I think, but I'd not want a tile counter. YMMV.

I like a stainless steel undermount sink in a stone top.

Good luck with your house, you two.:D

David G
09-01-2009, 06:14 PM
Paul,

Have they scared you off yet?

For the most part, I agree with what's been said so far. It's hard, though, to offer good advice without more info about the whole project. I'm used to being the kitchen designer and often the project manager as well, and so having a firm grasp of all the details and nuances. But... let me set that aside and just play devil's advocate a tiny bit.

Your probably don't need me to tell you that wood countertops are warm, soft, and friendly. With the right wood, and some regular maintainance, they can age gracefully and with character. It's also quite easy to repair.


What are the other common options? Tile, stone, solid surface (Corian, et.al.), plastic laminate, resin, or resin/fiber composites, and metal (stainless, copper, zinc, etc.).

My personal favorites are p.lam, solid surface, and wood. I also like - for the right application - resin and metal. If I were your kitchen designer, I'd already know what sort of things you like, and why. But, as it is, I'll just shoot from the hip with my preferences and thoughts.

I like p.lam because it's durable, cost effective, and has a huge variety of colors and patterns. If you haven't seen what's available these days... it might be worth a look. Just don't let them lay it on a cheap substrate. But wood is far prettier, to my eye.

Solid surface, while more expensive, is a wonderful, extremely durable, easily repairable. It's impervious to moisture. But... it's plastic, and the patterns look artificial. For that reason I sorta prefer the solids. There are some "green" versions which are actually quite interesting looking, and share all the normal benefits. Wood, again, is far warmer and prettier, I think.

Resin is nifty stuff, and can be a good choice for the right situation, but wood is still prettier.

Metal is, like resin and wood, a bit more of a specialty surface - less commonly used. It is very durable, and can be very interesting (ss and zinc), and even lovely (copper). But here we begin to get into the territory that makes me not like tile and stone. It's harder and less forgiving than wood or solid surface.

Tile can be beautiful, but I really don't like it over the long haul for a countertop because it's so hard, unforgiving, and a pia to repair.

Stone is similar to tile. It's so hard and monolithic that it often makes the room echo. It also adds the undesirable (for me) character of being institutional. It's gorgeously showy. It always makes me think of courthouses and grand public buildings. That's not the type of kitchen I want to live and work in.

So - generally, I like the notion of having wood countertops. At least in part of the kitchen. There's nothing inherently wrong with mixing & matching. The one area I'd first switch to another material would be the sink & surrounding area. That's because of moisture issues that can arise from any leaks that occur. I have done a couple of kitchens with all wood countertops, but it's not common. Nor were they cheap. One was teak, one was Iroko. Both were large. One also had a built-in teak prep sink. That one also had a routed-in sloping, grooved drainboard area.

oznabrag
09-01-2009, 06:16 PM
I thought I heard somewhere the study that showed wood to actually carry less germs than plastic had been overturned, but this would not scare me away from using wood.

The way I understand it, the wood board is teeming with bacteria, but they inhabit the inner part of the wood, and do not live near the surface. A plastic board can be crawling with the critters within an hour of washing.

There are no plastic cutting boards in my kitchen, and never will be.

oznabrag
09-01-2009, 06:21 PM
...

I like p.lam because it's durable, cost effective, and has a huge variety of colors and patterns. If you haven't seen what's available these days... it might be worth a look. Just don't let them lay it on a cheap substrate. But wood is far prettier, to my eye.

...

All my P.lam goes on Medex exterior grade MDF. The stuff is waterproof.

Bruce Hooke
09-01-2009, 06:25 PM
I do have a friend with a Powermatic 'wide belt' sander though...

I'd guess that would be the ideal tool for surfacing a true butcher block counter top!

David G
09-01-2009, 06:27 PM
I have to comment also on the tool issues cited in #16. It's not really true that you have to be that level of precise to end up with a level top. It used to be true.

The more precise you can get, the better. But, with access to an abrasive planer (rent a few hours time from a big shop, or farm it out to them), it's not critical. You could build the blanks with your existing tools, I'd suspect (I don't know your skill level, or how the rest of the shop is set up),

Bruce Hooke
09-01-2009, 06:30 PM
It occurs to me that as a woodworker you have the option of using wide boards for your counter top. You have to account for movement just as you do with butcher block or laminated wood and you have all the other issues with a wood counter top, but to me, aesthetically, a counter made of wide planks (glued together) would be in a whole different realm from the typical laminated wood counter top. The ne plus ultra would be a single wide plank with a natural edge along the front, but that means finding a 25" wide board with a natural edge...not an easy task, and certainly not likely to be inexpensive!

oznabrag
09-01-2009, 06:35 PM
I have to comment also on the tool issues cited in #16. It's not really true that you have to be that level of precise to end up with a level top. It used to be true.

The more precise you can get, the better. But, with access to an abrasive planer (rent a few hours time from a big shop, or farm it out to them), it's not critical. You could build the blanks with your existing tools, I'd suspect (I don't know your skill level, or how the rest of the shop is set up),


Awright, awright! My tongue was in cheek! Still, producing such a counter is no casual project, like a stitch n glue sailboat or somethin'!

Paul Pless
09-01-2009, 06:41 PM
The ne plus ultra would be a single wide plank with a natural edge along the front, but that means finding a 25" wide board with a natural edge...not an easy task, and certainly not likely to be inexpensive!Steven and Mary have a gourgeous single wide plank mahogany counter in their kitchen. Its very cool!:cool:

MiddleAgesMan
09-01-2009, 06:42 PM
Real granite has advantages other than appearance. I sharpen my planer knives on mine 'cause it's the only thing I own I'm sure is dead flat and true. It's also great for cooling something real quick. My cooktop is in the granite island and I can safely set hot pots on it, for quicker cooling or simple convenience.

I do light cutting right on the Corian counters elsewhere but use an HDPE cutting board for serious work. It goes into the Bosch dishwasher which sterilizes everything left in for a full cycle. Germs in cuts will not survive the heat.

If you are really in love with wood set up a baking center with a height a couple inches lower than the rest of the kitchen and put a maple butcherblock top on it. I don't have a baking center but I do have multiple heights, 37 inches in most areas and 35 1/2 on about 30 percent of the kitchen. I'm tall so kneeding dough on a 35 1/2 inch surface is no problem. A couple inches less than that would be more comfortable for most women.

Paul Pless
09-01-2009, 06:46 PM
(I don't know your skill level, or how the rest of the shop is set up),I don't have a great reserve of 'fine' wood working skills. I do know a little bit about machine tool work though, I have very high quality tools, and I have time on my side (working as an amatuer) and when it comes to this kinda work, I'm patient and willing to take my time to get it right and I'm willing to spend some time and a little money on trial and error.

Captain Intrepid
09-01-2009, 06:51 PM
Personally I think the best way to do a kitchen is copper counters with a matching splashguard and a wood laminate island with a butcher's block inset into it. That'd be my choice. Wear and discolouration in such materials aren't to be run away from, but embraced. A kitchen should be warm and inviting and alive, not cold and austere like stone or clinical like stainless.

Bruce Taylor
09-01-2009, 06:54 PM
Concrete is fun. It used to be tough to install, but these days you can buy special preparations for pouring onsite.

I did one of my counters in copper. It's not the most practical surface, but it looks pretty nice w/ the cherry and bird's eye maple cabinets. It can be kept clean n' shiny, like a bartop, but I let ours mellow like an old penny.

Some of the limestones are stunning -- quite reminiscent of highly figured wood, in some cases.

skuthorp
09-01-2009, 07:01 PM
We have a rolling checkerboard end grain butcher block in re-cycled teak (No, I did not make it) Surfaces are laminate, cutting surfaces glass.
Some woods are naturally antibacterial.
The rolling block is very useful, laminate used on a cost/benifit basis.

Dan McCosh
09-01-2009, 07:02 PM
Our countertops are 12 ins. tiles--a ceramic that looks like slate. You can get these in almost any stone, or whatever. The appearance is great, the cost is low, and it is a relatively easy installation. Inlaying a butcher's block area for food preparation would be easy. I would look into this.

Bruce Taylor
09-01-2009, 07:05 PM
Wear and discolouration in such materials aren't to be run away from, but embraced. A kitchen should be warm and inviting and alive, not cold and austere like stone or clinical like stainless.

That's what I like about our copper counter. The surface changes constantly, depending on what's been splashed on it lately. :)

I used roofing copper, glued to a plywood substrate and trimmed with walnut. If I had it to do again I'd use a heavier gauge of copper (I've seen some nice thick sheets at the Metals Supermarket).

john l
09-01-2009, 07:18 PM
i built our kitchen cabinets over 20 years ago and purchased two butcher blocks to use as counter tops. we cook every night and until recently for 3 boys. granted we use smaller cutting boards for food prep, but our counter tops are still looking good. i did sand one 2'X2' area about 10 years ago when my son
left a buring candle on the counter and it melted down to the counter. still have a small memory tatooed there. in my case the maple countertops look quite nice against painted white wood cabinents and narrow board maple floors. at the time i think i paid about $350 for a piece of rock maple BB 25" x
9 feet and about $300 for one 8 feet. the sink cuttout tool some time even with a carbide 8.5" circular saw.

Bruce Hooke
09-01-2009, 07:23 PM
Steven and Mary have a gourgeous single wide plank mahogany counter in their kitchen. Its very cool!:cool:

That must be gorgeous!

spirit
09-01-2009, 07:34 PM
Pre-finished maple butcher block is great for islands and preparation areas because it looks good. We don't cut on it, and we generally keep it dry. I knead bread on it almost weekly. It's warm, natural, and a big part of our great room..

Wet and hot areas are a different story. I happen to like soapstone counters around the sink and stove, and they look really nice next to butcher block.

Ron Williamson
09-01-2009, 07:44 PM
Paul
FYI our 24" planer is 24 3/4".
We've done a few and what gave us trouble was the edge grain tearout from the planer on the final passes.A widebelt sander will deal with that problem.
The other issue we had was with the corners.
It's bloody difficult to get a good mitre of that length and if you butt it,it looks dumb and the joint moves.
Regarding bacteria,it's really been a non-issue,for us,but we don't cut meat on our wood boards.
R

George Roberts
09-01-2009, 07:51 PM
It occurs to me that as a woodworker you have the option of using wide boards for your counter top. You have to account for movement just as you do with butcher block or laminated wood and you have all the other issues with a wood counter top, but to me, aesthetically, a counter made of wide planks (glued together) would be in a whole different realm from the typical laminated wood counter top. The ne plus ultra would be a single wide plank with a natural edge along the front, but that means finding a 25" wide board with a natural edge...not an easy task, and certainly not likely to be inexpensive!

H. Mahogany and Bubanga are available in widths above 25". And at reasonable prices. (Lots of other nice wide boards in other woods are out there too.) A nice Waterfall Bubanga would make a lovely top, but not in a kitchen.

Jim Ledger
09-01-2009, 08:02 PM
It's out there all right, depending on your definition of "resonable prices".:D

http://i104.photobucket.com/albums/m193/searover1916/Ibecameacat104.jpg

StevenBauer
09-01-2009, 08:12 PM
I agree with a lot of the ideas put forth here. I like to have different materials - all the coutertops don't need to be the same. No wood near the sink or stove. We thought hard before deciding on our countertops. We used soapstone for the food prep area and around the sink. Solid sheets of soapstone are very pricey but soapstone tiles were pretty cheap. 12" x 12" x 1/2" soapstone tiles were about 12 bucks each. 12" of soapstone nosing was also $12. The nosing makes the counter look like it's 1 1/2" thick even though the tiles are only 1/2". I left an 1/8th" grout joint but instead of grout I used black grout sand and epoxy. I put the grout in proud and then just sanded it flush. So the finished couter is smooth. Soapstone is not porous like granite and marble but it's soft enough to work with carbide woodworking tools. If you keep it oiled with mineral oil it gets a jet black look. If you don't oil it it is a lighter gray and gets a nice patina with use.


The breakfast bar and the baking area are Honduras Mahogany. I lucked out at the hardwood store when I found the piece for the counters. I bought a single wide board that was 25" x 1 3/4" x 14' for $230. From that piece I got the curved breakfast bar top and the leftover piece was big enough for the baking area.

Here are the girls next to the offcut:

http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b7cc24b3127ccec29e847d791000000010O00AbNnLhizaOW IPbz4S/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D550/ry%3D400/


The start of the breakfast bar:

http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b7cc24b3127ccec29f15bd194c00000010O00AbNnLhizaOW IPbz4S/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D550/ry%3D400/


Gluing up the miter:

http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b7cc24b3127ccec29e32ebf8ed00000010O00AbNnLhizaOW IPbz4S/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D550/ry%3D400/

In place:

http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b7cc24b3127ccec29f2a9c59ea00000010O00AbNnLhizaOW IPbz4S/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D550/ry%3D400/

Soapstone tile glued down but not grouted yet:

http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b7cc24b3127ccec29f1ded191800000010O00AbNnLhizaOW IPbz4S/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D550/ry%3D400/

Here is the antique soapstone sink I found after cleaning the moss and lichen off it but before I made the new soap tray and cut off the backsplash:

http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b7cc24b3127ccec29fa305989f00000010O00AbNnLhizaOW IPbz4S/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D550/ry%3D400/

Paul Girouard
09-01-2009, 08:23 PM
It can be done , not the best material for a counter-top , wood that is , of any kind.

Dido don't cut on it , maybe let -in a 12x12 tile beside the stove , maybe one each side. For a hot pot landing pad.

Jatoba, I have no idea how it's holding up , no CALL BACK , so thats about all I know. I tried to talk this client out of wood , but she'd have none of that talk.

Wide belt sander was used to flat-in the top. What I did was pre- plane just a light tick , jointed all the stock. Let it sit for a week or so to adjust. Glued up 12" wide sections , Re-planed all that down to one constant size , glued the 12" sections together then wide belted the 25 1/2" wide tops to final thickness.

Applied EQUAL #'s of finish to each side, Maloof's Poly /Oil , installed the tops then added a few more coats over a few days.

The owners where advised as to the issues with wood tops.

http://i21.photobucket.com/albums/b299/PEG688/Nov520077.jpg


http://i21.photobucket.com/albums/b299/PEG688/Nov5200710.jpg

http://i21.photobucket.com/albums/b299/PEG688/Nov520079.jpg

http://i21.photobucket.com/albums/b299/PEG688/Nov520073.jpg

Big sink eh:eek: Make sure IF you get a sink like this you open the box and check the sink carefully , these folks did NOT and when I took the sink out it was dented in 3 places, they say they did take it out , but I've unpacked many a sink and NO one gets all the packing back in the box the same way as the factory.

I recommend just about any other type of surface other than all wood.

Noah
09-01-2009, 08:27 PM
I've had formica, which has always worn very well, and looks nice trimed out, wood, which I think is great, and stainless.

In our last kitchen I glued a sheet of stainless down to plywood for the counter next to the stove - that way you could pull out hot pans from the oven or off the stove and put them on the counter and not burn it. Very useful for cooking large meals.

I love "butcher block" (typically just wood strip) counters. Maple always seemed the best choice, but what ever you find might work as long as it has a nice tight grain (Cherry, Red Birch, Fir, etc) . When we re-do the kitchen in our current house I will put down all the bowling alley that I rescued one night. In our last house I found that for counters you don't cut on, 1-2 coats of Varnish held up just fine for many years. In our current house there is an island that has what appears to be maple flooring screwed down and plugged on top. We don't cut on it, but it looks pretty nice, and I'm sure it was easy to do.

I've never liked stone - too hard for my taste.

ccmanuals
09-01-2009, 08:44 PM
Paul, have you thought about using concrete counter tops. Becoming quite the rage. I currently have granite but if I had to do it all over concrete would be at the top of the list. Here is some info.

http://www.concretenetwork.com/concrete/countertops/

David G
09-01-2009, 09:37 PM
Paul, have you thought about using concrete counter tops. Becoming quite the rage. I currently have granite but if I had to do it all over concrete would be at the top of the list. Here is some info.

http://www.concretenetwork.com/concrete/countertops/

Concrete is one I didn't mention, but in my mind is similar to ceramic tile. It's really hard, and unforgiving. It's a pain to repair. It lends itself to a marvelous variety of very interesting looks. More arty than practical. With concrete, though, it's new enough that you get the added benefit of a higher than average chance that an inexperienced mechanic will botch the job. I've seen a couple of botched ones now, and they're Not Easy to redo. Really goofs up a job schedule... and endears you to the client.

Of course, you can always tackle it yourself. If you do your homework, think it through well, and are fastidious throughout... your odds are good of succeeding on a basic top. Unless you're planning to do several more... or remodeling is your hobby, and you just love learning new techniques... it's hard to justify the learning curve for one kitchen's countertops.

PatCox
09-01-2009, 10:07 PM
Wood countertops are pretty. If I was to have them, I would go to Ikea, they make a nice 5/4 maple or oak butcherblock, not true butcherblock, its not end grain, but they are pretty and cheap. And I would go with that because I would assume that I would be replacing the entire countertop every 3 years, because they are only pretty when new.

I have worked in professional kitchens, and my favorite surface is stainless steel.

I would not have granite or tile. Not for a kitchen you really work in. If you want a pretty ceremonial kitchen for looks, fine, but not for really working.

In the end, I like formica. Its cheap, clean and nice-looking, and extremely durable and utilitarian, that or stainless steel.

Its not the countertop, its what you prepare and serve on it.

That said, I would use the Ikea butcherblock and expect to replace it periodically, and at less than $200 for 8 foot lengths, thats OK.

Roger Cumming
09-01-2009, 11:23 PM
Laminated wood counters should not have sinks in them - the wood will soon turn black. But on islands without ranges it's ok. Dishes and glassware that are dropped on granite tops tend to break more than on wood or formica tops. The best maple tops are found on the internet made by people who know how to do it. They know how to crate them for shippng, too. Many of the internet sources all get their tops from the same fabricator in Illinois, I think.

David G
09-02-2009, 01:34 AM
Laminated wood counters should not have sinks in them - the wood will soon turn black. But on islands without ranges it's ok. Dishes and glassware that are dropped on granite tops tend to break more than on wood or formica tops. The best maple tops are found on the internet made by people who know how to do it. They know how to crate them for shippng, too. Many of the internet sources all get their tops from the same fabricator in Illinois, I think.

Well... there's a splash of truth in what you say about sinks in wood countertops. I'd say for most homeowners, you're correct. However, I've done a couple, and seen a few more. It can be done without ruining or uglifying the wood, but it has to be done right in the first place, then maintained correctly. I had occasion to see the teak tops I did after 6 years of large-family use, and they were still lovely. Not pristine.. but simply developing some character. And no moisture issues. It's not a project for your average do-it-youselfer, or an inexperienced general contractor. It's certainly not a choice to be taken lightly.

Mrleft8
09-02-2009, 07:42 AM
The FDA approves two materials for comercial cutting boards/countertops. Maple, and stainless steel. Maple has (as Katie stated) an enzyme which inhibits bacterial growth.
Maple "butcher block" countertops available from a multitude of sources is your best bet. It's less expensive by far than trying to make them yourself, and they arrive flat.
I don't have any issue with having them next to the stove, but I learned the hard way that having them next to the sink, or over the dishwasher is a bad idea. Stainless steel is cold and somehow impersonal. but it's easy to keep clean. I think if I were doing my countertops again, I'd look into copper, and Maple. Stone is impossible to keep from staining, and once it's stained, that's it.
Ceramic tile is too fragile (but makes a nice back splash), formica is OK but it gets pretty ratty looking after a while.

Iceboy
09-02-2009, 07:43 AM
Paul, I have maple countertops. I like them and they aren't too much of a pain to maintain. I got them here. http://www.mapleblock.com/
Not too pricey and close to you as well. Jim...

Iceboy
09-02-2009, 07:48 AM
I do have them next to the sink,stove and over the dishwasher. I have a Bosch DW and have had no problems with warping,staining etc in over 3 years. I have lightly sanded and refinished two spots where I cut and chop with Good Stuff once. I use my sink cut out next to the stove for placing hot items on. I just dressed up the edges a bit.

contented
09-02-2009, 08:46 AM
as a retired builder from deer isle, me. and a lifelong carpenter i chose factory maple countertops for everywhere but the sink area (i used a color core formica there with a maple front edge).

the ones near the stovetop always looked greasy and spotty and the island looked fine when scraped with a cabinet scraper and fresh mineral oil applied. (it was my understanding at the time that mineral oil would not turn rancid)

it did have a soft, warm, charming look but today i would use deer isle granite for everything except the breakfast bar (if there was one) as its all the wood warmth i would care for in the long run.

danneva
09-10-2010, 02:49 AM
It is said that butcher block countertops are an excellent choice for serious chefs, owners of period homes, and anyone who wants to add the natural warmth and beauty of wood to their kitchen. Butcher block countertops (http://kitchen-counter-tops.net/wood/butcher-block-kitchen-countertops.html) are made out of thick strips of hardwood glued together to form a solid surface. Maple is the most commonly-used material, but oak, cherry and walnut are popular choices as well. Almost any sort of wood can be made into butcher block. Generally speaking, however, the harder the species of wood the countertop is made out of, the better it will hold up. Unfinished or oil-finished butcher block countertops are perfect for cutting and chopping. The raw wood is rubbed with oil to lock in moisture and protect the wood, and any stains or scratches resulting from food prep can be removed quickly and easily with a sanding block. Sealed butcher block is easier to clean and maintain than the unsealed variety, but cannot be used for cutting. Knives could scratch the finish, leaving obvious marks that are not easily sanded away. Sealed butcher block countertops maintain a consistent color and appearance over time, and are generally resistant to water.



..credit to Google.

varadero
09-10-2010, 03:28 AM
Both in the marine and domestic market here in Europe bamboo is increasing in popularity. It is extremly hard wearing, green and renewable, inexpensive, and damn good looking. The butcher block availiable looks great.
http://www.teragren.com/products_countertops_butcher_block.html
http://www.totallybamboo.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_id=67
http://www.oriental-bamboo.co.za/products/eco-logic-bamboo-counter-tops-work-tops.html

JayInOz
09-10-2010, 05:38 AM
I like to have my knives scary sharp, and I absolutely hate cutting food on glass, metal, stone or concrete surfaces. If you have a "butchers block" surface that you can't cut on, what's it for? Where I live, butchers blocks are usually a three foot high block of a particular eucalypt species known as apple gum. Just a section of trunk from a big tree- three foot diameter or more. Plenty of woods are fine for cutting on with knives, but this one is excellent for using heavy cleavers- the wood separates and then closes up again, without removing little chips in your food. I kill all my own meat so the right gear is important. Years ago I had a farm near the town of Glenn Innes. The butcher shop there had been in the same family for three generations. The butchers block was enormous, and delivered to the shop on a wagon pulled by a bullock team (oxen). While I was living there, the current owner of the shop- grandson of the original butcher- decided to get the block dressed. After about seventy years of use it had worn down about ten inches in the middle. He expected the feller who did the job to use some high tech gear to level and resurface the block, and was most surprised when he climbed up on the block and proceeded to do a fine job using only an adze. JayInOz

purri
09-10-2010, 05:49 AM
Too bad I'm late but OZ turpentine and ironbark makes for durable workbench (butcherblock) tops. (BTW butchers use them)

Paul Pless
09-10-2010, 05:49 AM
Just to update you guys, Katherine bought a bunch of soapstone at a repo auction that had been intended for or used in a highschool biology classroom. I think we have two or three times what will be needed for the kitchen countertops.

Jim Ledger
09-10-2010, 06:19 AM
Be careful you don't spill a drop of wine or a spot of ketchup on that...just sayin'.

jonboy
09-10-2010, 06:53 AM
It has been touched on but needs emphasising... true butcher's blocks are end grain blocks maybe 50 x 50 mm and 150 or more deep, they are therefore everlasting.. no matter how deeply scored or scratched they become they can be re surfaced. well, for six inches anyway... When I was a snapper and saturday-jobbed in a butcher our main task was scraping the blocks clean and washing with boiling water and a bit of caustic... The blocks ended up with a deep saddle at the front and were rotated, as looks weren't important, and could be turned over too if necessary... I remember a complicated system of clamps underneath holding the individual blocks in the general main frame, which also meant single or more pieces could be replaced .... but all this pertains to professional use,and the idea of scrubbing and scraping and flooding to clean, is fine in the shop but not at home...Domestic butcher's blocks just aren't made that way and any strip wood or long grain construction is not the same thing at all... As to cost they are actually super cheap as it's all lumps of left over planks that can be used. I have a couple of chopping blocks made from end grain blocks about 2" deep.... one complete block was made from off-cut pieces of iroko 50 x 50, about a 1.5 metres long in total and sliced into 2" 50mm lengths, and glued and cramped to make a board about 6 blocks by 5... small enough to wash in the sink, even just fits in the dishwasher, and large enough as a general cutting and boning and filletting block.... serious chopping like hacking up bones and disposing of unpleasant neighbours I do outside on a tree stump with a hatchet. How much time do you have for clearing up be-splattered marrow and bits of meat from inside the kitchen.... even quartering a large fowl is a messy affair.....fine for a butcher's they're geared up for it.

I am lucky to have two professional chefs as mates and both would use wood over anything else but for the food police being insistent on that dreadful white plastic gear in their restaurants... what do they have at home? wood. it's like you need a good dentist? find out who your dentist goes to.

TomF
09-10-2010, 07:29 AM
I will add that they are made out of ROCK HARD MAPLE. There is only one species, and it is $5.50 a bd/ft where the tree grows native.All but one professional butcher block I've seen were hard rock maple, true. But the one exception was beech.

Jim Ledger
09-10-2010, 07:30 AM
It's just plain hard maple and we get it for $3.00/ bf, far from the forests of Pennsylvania.

PhaseLockedLoop
09-10-2010, 08:48 AM
I used butcher block tops for my three ammo loading benches. Dillon reloading machines on each bench, one set up for .45ACP, one for 38WC, and one for 9mm. Worked great, looked great. Not too relevant to the thread, however.

Fishbucket
09-10-2010, 09:05 AM
I used regular Maple t&g flooring leftovers from a job I did. with a mahg. inlay. Nailed to a 1 1/8 ply backer.

It's shrunk a little in 6 yrs. and I'm just to lazy to take it out in the shop for 2 hours and refinish it.

http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y293/theotherbigjoe/Pics025.jpg

http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y293/theotherbigjoe/Pics024.jpg

Paul Pless
09-10-2010, 09:14 AM
Be careful you don't spill a drop of wine or a spot of ketchup on that...just sayin'.what about beer spills???

jonboy
09-10-2010, 09:19 AM
In the UK it's old growth beech I would say without fail...not a lot of maple there. here I have some old eucalypt stashed, and the native oak family, olive, holm oak, holly will do too. even almond......The chef pals, incidentally, claim the natural antiseptic nature of wood is preferable to supposedly 'sterile ' plastic, but that's opinion not official, but think how often eucalptus derivatives, and turpentine from pines is used in medications...

Regards staining, if it's a natural no-finish just wash with various household stuff.... bleach for red wine, lemon juice for fruit stains, ammonia as in the average kitchen cleaner for coffee, bathroom anti-calc products, basically muriatic acid or HCl hydrochloric dilute... any volatile diluente like acetone or pure alcohol for blood and grease and oils and scrub and scrape and wash after. If it's a smart finished worktop, it ain't a butcher's block any way.

Paul Pless
09-10-2010, 09:23 AM
The chef pals, incidentally, claim the natural antiseptic nature of wood is preferable to supposedly 'sterile ' plastic, but that's opinion not official, Actually it is official, but it doesn't have anything to do with 'antiseptic' properties of the oils found in some woods.

Jim Ledger
09-10-2010, 09:32 AM
what about beer spills???

Wipe 'em up with some old sweatpants, so long as she's not in them.

Katherine
09-10-2010, 09:54 AM
I suppose that's better then using my cat.

Jim Ledger
09-10-2010, 10:27 AM
Not so scratchy...besides, a cat just smears the beer around. The best way to get beer up with a cat is to push its nose in the puddle until it starts to lick.

StevenBauer
09-10-2010, 03:49 PM
Just to update you guys, Katherine bought a bunch of soapstone at a repo auction that had been intended for or used in a highschool biology classroom. I think we have two or three times what will be needed for the kitchen countertops.

Awesome!


Be careful you don't spill a drop of wine or a spot of ketchup on that...just sayin'.

Are you talking about the soapstone, Jim? My understanding is that soapstone is not porous like granite or marble. It doesn't stain at all. And if you do get a scratch in it you you can just sand it out and re-oil it. There has certainly been lots of beer and ketchup spilled on our countertops, not to mention red wine, and they clean up perfectly with a green scotchbrite with a little dish soap on it.


Steven

Jim Ledger
09-10-2010, 04:29 PM
Steven, I never let facts get in the way when I poke someone in the ribs.

paladin
09-10-2010, 05:48 PM
I had a one hour session with a lady whose trying to sell me a individual home at the new retirement community and she was pushing the crap outta granite, zero maintenance countertops...she had this strange look on her face when I told her that If I decided to buy I would supply the countertops....I have 4 "planks" already made 36 inches by 60 inches of 2 inch rock maple....wuz gonna use them for work benches but I dunno like stone or similar under my kitchen knives..

and slightly off subject for Ms. Kitty.......are you sending out ads for cialis/viagra........someone may be using your e-mail list..........we kinda figgered you wuz trying to get someone to send a hint to Paul.....

StevenBauer
09-10-2010, 07:15 PM
Steven, I never let facts get in the way when I poke someone in the ribs.

:D:D

Dan McCosh
09-10-2010, 09:26 PM
FWIW, there were a lot of laminated maple slabs laying around at Public Lumber in Detroit last time I was there a couple of months ago.

Shang
09-10-2010, 10:20 PM
An all butcher block kitchen is too much...

Probably true, but a section of butcher block is nice.
I speak from experience.
If you decide to go this route saturate the butcher block surface with mineral oil for several days, and repeat this about every six months to a year. This minimizes shrinkage and bacterial infestation. From time to time treat the surface with chlorine bleach. Eventually the butcher block will have to be replaced because of wear, but probably not in your own lifetime.

For the rest of the counter top, go with what pleases you.
I selected red slate from Upstate New York. When I asked about durability the fellow in charge of the quarry said, "Well...if you drop a hammer on it... it will break the hammer." He's proved pretty close to right.

CK 17
09-11-2010, 09:26 PM
We just had butcher block installed on either side of our range. We put granite on the other side. So far the only issue has been with a basket of tomatoes. one or two on the bottom began to rot and they dripped onto the counter. It went unnoticed for a few days and as a result the grain began to rise up in that area. It has mostly gone back down but will never be the same again.

otherwise were happy with it

Canoeyawl
09-11-2010, 09:49 PM
Classic "butcher blocks" were all end grain maple, this is the most wear resistant and the easiest on your edge but also the most unsanitary.
I had probably a dozen of them after the rules were changed. About 18" by 42" and over a foot thick they were stacked up behind the shop, we used them for stove wood.
The pieces were maybe two by three inches, about 12 to 14 inches long with (machine cut) full-length dovetails, two to each side, no glue, just a "fit". They just kind of slid apart after a summer outside.
Stanley made a special low angle plane to smooth and flatten the top of an end grain butcher block.

(Stanley #64 w/serrated blade)
http://www.antique-used-tools.com/64pl_serratedblade.jpg

Ron Williamson
09-12-2010, 07:41 AM
..hence the name,Block Plane.

Paul
Will you have surplus soapstone?
R

Rigadog
09-13-2010, 07:07 AM
I like wood much better than granite. Granite and Marble remind me of tombstones and crypts, and the shiny finish looks fake. A honed finish looks nice though, and so I like soapstone. I once made concrete counters, and they can be very interesting.

I think the germ issue is bogus with wood counters, probably fomented by the stone cutters.

katey
09-13-2010, 10:16 AM
We finally installed our "butcher block" (laminated hard maple) countertops about a month ago. I'm building up the tung oil finish--got about five coats on it so far. Probably good enough for now--I'll add more in a couple of months or as needed.

I've had them before and they seem fine, even around a sink, if you keep them oiled. Per the directions, I sealed the sink cutouts with several coats of gloss poly before assembly. I've stained them (inadvertently) with carbon steel, copper, and raspberries. No biggie: the raspberries fade in a couple of weeks, and the others abrade off, either slowly with time, or quickly with sandpaper.

If I wanted dark surfaces instead of light, I'd choose soapstone or the engineered stuff that replaced it as lab benchtops. Good score, Katherine!

danneva
09-20-2010, 11:42 PM
Paul, I have maple countertops. I like them and they aren't too much of a pain to maintain. I got them here. http://www.mapleblock.com/
Not too pricey and close to you as well. Jim...

Maple is the standard wood for butcher block (http://kitchen-counter-tops.net/wood/different-varieties-of-wooden-countertops.html). It has been used for butcher block since the 1890s because it is so hard and dense making it perfect for food preparation. Walnut is a favorite these days for its color but it is hard to get clear heart on the top. You will get some small streaks of sap wood and the coloration will vary. Minor pin holes or tiny knots may also appear.