Butcher block tables have been a popular choice for homeowners for years because of their beauty, practicality, and long lifespans. In fact, a well-made butcher block tabletop can become a piece of furniture that is passed down for generations.
While you can purchase pre-made butcher block tabletops at most home stores, they are easy to make and not beyond the skill set of the average DIYer. Here's how to build your own butcher block tabletop.
Step 1 – Choose Your Wood
Any kind of hard wood can be used to build a butcher block, but some woods make better butcher-block tabletops than others. Walnut, ash, and beech are all commonly used for tabletops, although properly dried beech is often difficult to obtain.
Many people think oak is a good choice as well based on its appearance, but the pores in the oak grain are large in comparison to the pores in maple, making an oak tabletop difficult to clean. Crumbs and food particles can get trapped in the pores.
The best wood to use, by far, is hard maple. This wood has a beautiful grain and appearance, is easy to get, and is easy to work with.
Step 2 – Build Your Tabletop
Decide on Size
First, decide how long and wide you want your finished tabletop to be. It's easiest to build your table using dimensional lumber such as 1x2s — just keep in mind that the actual dimensions of these pieces are 3/4 inches by 1 1/2 inches.
Glue the Boards
For the sturdiest table, orient your boards so that the 2-inch sides will be glued together. This will give you a table that is nominally 2-inches thick, as well as provide the largest gluing surfaces to hold the top together.
Before you start gluing the wood, dry-fit the pieces of wood to ensure they fit tightly together. If there are any gaps, sand the boards so that the sides fit.
Then, line up the pieces of wood and apply the glue out of the bottle using a wavy pattern before spreading it over the entire side to ensure total glue coverage. Be sure to use an FDA-approved, water-resistant wood glue; Tight Bond is a popular one.
Glue and clamp the top together in three or four sections, rather than try to glue the entire tabletop together at one time. After the sections have dried, finish assembling the top by gluing and clamping the sections using pipe clamps to achieve the necessary width.
Step 3 – Finish Your Tabletop
Sand the Tabletop
Lightly sand the finished tabletop to get rid of any glue that oozed onto the surface. You can choose from a range of finished edges for your table using a router and the appropriate bit, or simply round over the corners of the boards with sandpaper.
Seal and Protect the Surface
Seal and protect your tabletop surface by applying a food-safe, non-toxic oil, like mineral oil, to the surface. Apply an initial coat of oil, allow it to soak in for a few hours or overnight, and then apply a second coat. Let this second coat sit overnight and then wipe off any excess remaining on the surface.
Keep your butcher block tabletop looking new by cleaning and protecting its surface. You can apply a new coat of oil every month or so.