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.
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.