Do-It-Yourself Butcher-Block Kitchen Countertop

Swap dated laminate for a classic butcher-block countertop. Unlike stone or solid surface, butcher block can be fabricated in a basement or garage workshop, making it the perfect DIY project to totally transform your kitchen on a budget.

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Materials Needed:

  • butcher block in desired wood
  • tape measure
  • pencil
  • combo square
  • circular saw
  • clamps (at least 6 bar clamps and two 3' pipe clamps)
  • small pieces of scrap wood for clamping
  • straight-edged pieces of 3/4"-thick wood with one perfectly straight side to use as a "fence"
  • sawhorses and/or workbench
  • router (optional)
  • flush trim router bits, shank and end-side bearing (optional)
  • large Roman ogee bit (optional)
  • small roundover bit (optional)
  • pocket-hole jig (optional)
  • 2 1/2" pocket-hole screws
  • 1 1/4" wood screws
  • drill bit for pocket-hole screws
  • drill
  • drill bits or Forstner bits sized to fit faucet pipes (optional)
  • jigsaw
  • 1/4" MDF approximately 2' x 3'
  • wood filler
  • clean cotton cloths
  • mineral spirits
  • orbital, palm or belt sander
  • sandpaper (150, 180, 220, 320 grits)
  • desired wood finish
  • 4" natural bristle brush
  • respirator mask, protective eyewear and earplugs
  • latex gloves
  • wood shims

Measure and Cut Butcher Block

Measure sections of kitchen countertop using a tape measure. Make note of measurements and transfer them to butcher block. Mark cut line with a pencil (Image 1). When cutting each section of butcher block, place the boards on sawhorses or between two work surfaces. Clamp straight edge along cut line, allowing for width of circular saw blade and saw guard (Image 2). A clamping straight edge can be purchased or made with a scrap piece of straight-sided wood and clamps. Cut along line with circular saw (Image 3). When cutting a lot of similarly sized pieces, label them to avoid confusion (Image 4). Tip: For irregularly shaped sections of counter, current counters can be removed and used as a template.

Rout Edges (Optional)

Countertop edges may be left straight or routed for a high-end, custom look and softened corners. To rout the front edge, clamp a straight board along the countertop's front side, allowing enough width to accommodate router plate (Image 1). Use a combo square to make sure board is evenly clamped. Never clamp directly to counter, because it might dent the wood. Always use a small scrap piece of wood to protect the surface. Make a pass with the router equipped with a large Roman ogee bit to remove some of the wood. Reposition the straight edge and clamps another 1/4" back. Make a second pass with the router equipped with the same bit. After second pass, remove straight edge and clamps. On the final pass, the bearing of this bit will ride along the countertop's bottom edge, so a straight edge is not needed (Image 2).

Making an L-Shaped Peninsula or an Island

When positioning two pieces of countertop together to make an L-shape, simply cut the two pieces to size. Butt them together as they will be when installed then clamp both pieces down to work surface to hold them tightly in place (Image 1). If there is a gap, it may be necessary to trim one or both pieces with the circular saw and straight edge to achieve a straight line and a nice, tight fit. Once clamped together, rout the (optional) decorative edge as directed above. This will involve working on one side at a time and moving the clamps and straight edge. Since most islands and/or peninsulas are larger than standard counter depth, it will be necessary to connect two widths together. Cut excess off width and length of pieces that will be joined together, leaving a few inches of excess width to trim to make joining sides completely straight. Butt counter pieces together the way they will be joined to see if there are any gaps; if there are gaps, use a straight edge and circular saw to make both sides completely straight. Once trimmed, fit pieces together again. If they are flush, take the smallest width of counter and clamp upright in pocket hole jig. Drill downward into underside of counter that will be joined to other piece (Image 2). Put two screw holes about every 8-10 inches. Flip both pieces of countertop over, wrong-side up, and clamp tightly together with two pipe clamps. Insert 2-1/2" screws into pocket holes (Image 3). Rout exposed edges of island/peninsula, if desired.

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