How to Make a Butcher Block Table

Make a Butcher Block Table
Make a Butcher Block Table (Image: http://www.goodwoodfurniture.com)

Building your own butcher block table is a fun project for anyone with basic carpentry skills and the right tools. You will have a number of options available to you in the design and construction. This article will give you the steps to follow. Building your own butcher block table could be the summer or family project you've been looking for!

Things You'll Need

  • Wood
  • Basic carpentry skills
  • FDA approved water resistant wood glue
  • Mineral oil or olive oil
  • Clamps
  • Sand paper
  • Table saw

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Choose the butcher block table you want when you are finished. Will it be on wheels or fixed legs? How big will the table be? What height will the table be? Will you use an old table frame and attach a new butcher block top, or will you construct a new base from a table base kit? The thickness should be at least 1.5". Keep all of this in mind when progressing through the steps.

Choose the type of wood for your butcher block table if you intend to build the block yourself. You need a durable, non-porous wood. The most common variety used in butcher blocks is hard maple. Walnut, ash and beech have also been used. Porous varieties like oak should be avoided. Consider where you will obtain the wood, and if you are able to cut the wood yourself. You can purchase a pre-made butcher block to attach to a base of your choice if you'd like. Once the wood is chosen, purchase enough to make your table. Buy a few extra just in case.

Decide how you will layout the wood pieces. Using the end grain, which is the ends of the wood, is the traditional butcher block pattern. This is what you see in the picture above. Using side grain, which is the side of the board, is an easier way to construct a butcher block, and lessens the chance of a joint splitting as there will be far fewer glued joints. Using the face grain, the side you would traditionally see on a coffee table, is not used for butcher block construction.

Cut the wood to your desired size for the table. Leave the pieces a little long. You will be cutting them down a bit further in a later step. Lightly sand the side of the boards that will be glued together. If you have a planer, plane the wood as well. This helps ensure a perfectly flat joint.

Glue the pieces together. Make three or four small blocks of wood first and allow them to dry. It will be easier to glue the small blocks together as a full butcher block this way. Make the pieces as flush as possible. Use only FDA approved wood glue that is also water resistant, such as Titebond II Premium Wood Glue. Spread the glue around the face of the board. Use clamps for a tight fit.

Chip away any glue residue once dry. Using a table saw, cut the ends to an even edge. Sand the top and the bottom of the block. Use progressively higher grit on the top layer for a smooth surface. If you have a router, you can make a decorative edging to the butcher block at this stage.

Using a non-toxic, food safe oil such as mineral oil or olive oil, oil the butcher block. Let the oil soak in. Lightly sand once dry and oil again. Allow to set overnight and wipe off excess oil.

Attach to a base. You have a few different options here. You can buy a base such as a rolling cart, or a leg base kit. Those are available at hardware stores and online merchants. You could use a base from an old table. Yard sales are a great way to get old furniture! You could build your base as well. Try using custom spindles! In any case, ensure the base is solid enough for use as a butcher block. The height is just as important.

Tips & Warnings

  • Oil your butcher block once per month for regular maintenance.
  • Porous wood like oak can allow bacteria to grow and is difficult to clean.
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