Thursday, February 16, 2012

Butcher Block Countertops Made Out of Reclaimed Wood

My butcher block countertops may be my favorite thing in my kitchen.  When we remodeled our kitchen last year, I told my husband that my ONE requirement was that I wanted butcher block countertops.

The only problem?  The affordable butcher block (Ikea) was 5 hours away and butcher block offered online was back-ordered up to 6 weeks.  That was when my husband asked, "Why don't I just make them?"

Lucky for me, my father-in-law had literally a pile of 100-year-old oak wood from an old chicken house.  He also had the power tools needed to build the countertops. Although power tools are needed, the process is quite simple:

1.  Find your wood.  Good, straight boards without nails that have at least a quarter inch that can be planed down would be your ideal choice.  
2.  Plane boards to your desired thickness with a planer.  
3.  Cut slats to desired widths.
4.  Place all boards in a jig that keeps it square.
5.  Glue each slat with Tight Bond wood glue.
6.  Clamp pieces together.
7.  Place weight (at least 200 lbs) on top of countertop to keep boards from pushing up.
8.  Wait at least a few days for glue to cure.
9.  Attach backsplash.
10.  Sand to desired smoothness and to sand out any glue that has pushed out through the seams.
11.  Install!

Here is a picture of the butcher block being built.  

When my husband brought the countertops home to be installed, I was blown away by how beautiful they were.  I love all the little "imperfections" in the reclaimed wood, like the worm holes and nail holes.  To me, that's just another piece of history in our home.  

 The countertops are 1.5" thick.  See the old knot in the wood? 

There is also a backsplash.  I had not originally thought we would have one, but I love the additional warm wood in the white kitchen.  Do you see the nail holes at the top of the backsplash?

 I was worried that butcher block would be hard to maintain.  While I wasn't planning on using the surface for cutting, what if I damaged the surface?  How would it hold up with water?  I have been so pleased.  If you do have an imperfection, you simply sand the surface and reseal, but in the year I've had these (and I cook every day), I have not once had to sand out an imperfection.  While I am careful not to leave pools of water on the counter tops, they see dribbles of water, grease and other food ingredients every day.  

What product did I use to seal them?  I read about many different products and saw some wonderful reviews, but in the end I decided to use what my father-in-law recommended.  It's Behlen Salad Bowl Finish.  You can purchase it online; it is affordable and you will find it lasts a long time.  The instructions are provided on the product, but basically we sanded down the surface to a smooth finish and then applied a thin coat of the product with a lint-free white cloth.  We applied 3 coats initially, allowing the product to dry completely in between.  Every 4-6 months, I empty the countertops and reapply a coat. Once fully cured, salad bowl finish is completely food safe and non-toxic. It contains only FDA approved ingredients. 

To clean the countertops, I typically use a mild dish soap with water and then dry with a cloth.  I also keep a spray bottle with white vinegar and water handy and use this combination often to disinfect the surface.  

Now that I have had the countertops for a year and realize how durable they are, I am not nearly as cautious as I was in the beginning, but I do try to keep the surface as dry as possible.  

If you are researching countertops, I cannot recommend butcher block enough!  It is sturdy, easily maintained, natural, and even has anti-bacterial properties. The definition of "reclaimed" is to bring into or return to a suitable condition for use.  I love that something beautiful was made out of an old pile of barn wood - something to be made for many more years of use.




  1. Your counter tops are beautiful! I really like the contrast between the white cabinets, white walls and the wood.

    1. Thank you, Suzan! I also love the contrast of white and wood. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I absolutely LOVE this. Good job. And a great idea for a bathroom even?

    1. Thanks! I had never thought of using butcher block in a bathroom, but it would be beautiful.

  3. This is really pretty. I love white kitchens with wood counters. Nice work, thanks for the inspiration. Found you over at MMS

  4. Kudos to your husband for an outstanding job. That counter looks awesome.

    1. Thanks, Nelda, he will be happy to hear that. :-)

  5. much much much better!!!!!!! I love wood in the kitchen!!!
    María from Spain

  6. I agree, I love the countertops. The fact they they were reclaimed from something of the past adds to the beauty! Thanks for posting gives me inspiration!

  7. LOVE The richness of the countertops and the loving care in which you went to make them. I'm hoping to convince my hubby to do something similar for our downstairs wet bar that really doesn't get wet and is really small enough for even me to tackle. Might even get him to break out the router to round the edges off. A girl can dream (smile).


  8. I am in love with your counter tops! I would love to do this in our kitchen. Thanks for sharing. Have a lovely week! Deborah

  9. I love these!! We just did butcherblock countertops too, and my husband built them out of doors. Like you, I love the warmth the wood brings the kitchen. We did the salad bowl finish as well!

    Beautiful job!!

    Lou Cinda

  10. Wonderful tutorial and great looking counter top. I see many folks making butcher block islands and cabinets and they all say the same thing "I won't be cutting on it" I don't get it..I worked at a B&B and they did use theirs and it looked fabulous even after 13 years!

  11. I've been wanting butcher block to replace my ugly green laminate countertops, but how does it hold up around the sink where there is often moisture and drips? I may be good at keeping it dry but that doesn't mean my fifteen year old son will be!

    1. Hi Amber,

      I was also worried about the countertops near the sink area, but they have held up great. I think the most important thing is to ensure your wood is properly sealed. It's amazing how the sealer will prevent water from soaking in. Although I do try to be cautious, there have been times a small puddle of water has been left and it has not affected the wood at all. Good luck!

  12. I really love the look of butcher block counter tops! You guys did a beautiful job! and having history of old barn wood makes it all the more special! We already have oak cabinets so we're thinking walnut stained darker would compliment the oak. I appreciate this post with your thoughts and process you went through. I will keep this post bookmarked so I can reference it when we go to redo our counters!

  13. those are lovely! and really make the kitchen. my husband and i are thinking of doing this. we have a butcher block island my father made for us years ago and we love it. that has seen some action (we cut on it everyday). ;)

  14. Very nice blog, thank for your sharing. get more inspiration about Indonesian furniture, please visit my web.

  15. Sistahhhh!
    I have built mine out of maple pieces I found at my reuse center, Community Forklift. They were evidently parts of handmade P-lams. I built a 24" countertop to the left of my stove, displaying all the grain and knots I could, then on the right of the stove, a 14' 10" one.

    I have yet to put a finish on mine, because I would like it darker than maple normally is, yet I'm afraid of the blotching and uneven staining I keep reading about.

    I plan to make a checkerboard cutting board out of the smaller scraps I have.

    I absolutely love my countertops and love the fact they're repurposed, discarded wood. And they beat the pants off the God-awful plywood I had for 4 years!

    You did a beautiful job.

  16. Hey! I was surprised in a good way as soon as I opened up this web page of your blog. What was the biggest reason at that moment when you to organize a website?

  17. Love your counters! So happy I found your blog at SNS! We have been thinking about using wood to make our counters, and just finished a cabinet out of 100-year-old wormy chestnut and a walnut tree, so I totally appreciate the beauty of your project. Just lovely!!

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  19. LOVE. My next kitchen will have butcher block (or marble) countertops. I don't care that they require more upkeep than granite.

  20. Hi there, we recently replace our island top with a butcher block and I've been just treating it with mineral oil. While the oil keeps it from drying out, it doesn't help much with the water stains. Please tell me, does the salad bowl finish give your counters a shiny appearance? It's hard to tell from your pix. I definitely do not want my island to look glossy or shiny. I appreciate any advice you can give! Thanks, Allison

    1. Hi Allison - No, the salad bowl finish does not give a glossy appearance. It very much just brings out the natural color of the wood. I kind of describe it giving an appearance of what the wood would look like if you took a dab of water and rubbed it into the wood. Not shiny, but a deeper color. I've also used Watco Butcher Block Oil and Tung Oil. All three work great and give a very natural appearance. I wrote a post recently all about butcher block countertops. You can read it here and it gives a little more info and updated photos: Hope that helps!

  21. Can you post pics of the jig? I make end grain cutting boards buts that's a much smaller scale and I'm curious as to how you keep the boards square on that scale. Any info would be great. Thanks.


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