Butcher Blocks

I had a bunch of stips left over from putting in floors this summer, what better way to use them up than to turn them into butcher blocks!

I’m still waiting for all my pictures to end up in the same place, so I haven’t written about the floors yet, they were a combination of rustic and wormy maple.  I thought I had tons of wood…yet ran out ;0) and ended up finishing a few boards in the hall with hickory.  Thus the butcher blocks are made of a combination of rustic maple, wormy maple and hickory.

Since I was also making a bench top out of these strips, I decided to cut everything to a length of 16″, ending up with stacks and stacks of sticks that looked like this.

Stacks of sticks cut to length and evened up


After everything was cut to length, I sorted them into rough thicknesses and straightened them on the table saw so I had two parallel sides to glue together.

Then let the gluing and clamping begin!!  Since these will theoretically be washed, you need to use waterproof glue such as Titebond III.  I use pipe clamps because that’s what I have..even though I sometimes dream of something different…


Strips laid out for glue-up

Glue Up

Since this is a butcher block, you need to use a waterproof glue such as Titebond III.

I lay out three pipe clamps on my Saw Horses and set my stick on it. Before gluing, I put one aside that will not have glue on it.  Otherwise you end up gluing the clamp and having to remove the glue from that side ;0)   Before I get out my bottle of glue, I turn them all glue edge up, then put a swipe of glue down each one.  You want to work quickly at this point so your glue does not film before you get it together.


Swipe of glue

Then I use a J roller to spread the glue out.   J rollers aren’t actually for glue….but I have one, so I use them.  You could also use a small foam roller or your finger.


Glue spread on sticks


Now is the time to quickly get them lined up so your glues doesn’t start forming a skin.  I add back in my extra at this point and quickly turn them all on their sides and start lining up my clamps.

If you’ve never glued anything together, I’ll let you in on a secret:  glue makes wood slippery and your pieces are going to want to slide all over the place.  It is a good idea to have a rubber mallet or other double faced soft mallet on hand to beat them into submission.


Clamped set of sticks

Once your bottom clamps are close to where you want them, add more clamps to the top.  This helps even out your clamping pressure and helps prevent bowing.   These clamps are spaces about every 3″.  For a larger project every 6″ is the general rule.

This is where I wish I had a huge stash of K-body clamps  like those made by Bessey or Jorgensen.  But since I do not, I will make do with my good old fashioned bar clamps…which if you aren’t careful will leave black streaks on your project.


Once the glue has dried you need to flatten your sections again. I start by scraping glue with my Kunz glue scraper.  My husband commented on the deadliness of this tool when he first saw it.  And yes, if you come into my shop uninvited this would be the first thing I would reach for ;0).  Anywho…it does and excellent job of scraping glue.  And if you get to the glue after about 2 hours before it has completely hardened, more of it will scrape off.  You still need to let it dry overnight before moving on to the next step

There are a couple of different options for flattening at this point.  You could run it a planer, use a hand plane.  Both of these options run the risk of chipping your plane’s blade or irons, so since I have one, I set up my Woodmaster for drum sanding.

Then you pass your sections through very slowly getting it down to smooth.  Once smooth has been achieved you can move on to the next step.

Cutting into sections


Using a straight-line jig to square edges

I pulled out my trusty Straight-Line Jig to get a square edge on one side of my sections. Once all of them had a straight edge I set my fence at 2″ and proceeded to cut off sections using a Push Stick .   You can see my pile growing on the right.

Glue Up….Again

You can spend as much or as little time here arranging your strips in a pattern you like, turning, shuffling so not they same ones aren’t next to each other.  Once you’re satisfied, don’t rush around the side and bump the clamps with your leg and spill them all on the floor.  Not that a thing like that would ever happen to me.


Strips arranged for glue up


Stips laid out on clamps

I have my pipe clamps set up on the Saw Horses and an extra piece set aside so I don’t glue my project to my clamps.  On this one it is especially important to move quickly, since they are thicker and require more glue.  I think next time I have a batch of butcher blocks to glue together I will use a small foam/cloth roller and a tray to speed the process up.  As my shop professor told me, there is no such thing as too much glue.  You can definantly have too little, or clamp too tightly and starve your joints of all that glue you just spread on, but there is no such thing as too much glue.  It just makes a bitter mess the more you use ;0)


Glued Pieces waiting to be rolled out


Clamps tightened

You know you have enough glue…just barely enough in this case…if you see glue beads forming on every joint.  You don’t necessarily want it dripping from each one, but having a bead form is a good indication your joint will hold.


Glue beads forming underneath

Now it’s starting to look like something!  Once that has dried, scrape it again and though the sander we go.  And back through the sander, again, and again until everything is flat.

Squaring Edges

For some reason, I chose not to take a picture of me using the Straight-Line Jig to square my edges.  In any case, once my top and bottom were flattened I used it to square my edges on the table saw.

Rounding the Edges

Since I was going to use a round over bit in my Table Router I pushed the fence back and just used the bearing on the bit as a guide.  I rounded every edge, including the corner.

Now do a final hand sanding to remove the lines left by the drum sander.


Sanding the butcher block

I’ll admit I got a little impatient with this process and might have quit before they were all gone.  Keeping in mind that someone would use this to chop their veggies on.

Applying Tung Oil

I used Half & Half tung oil from the Real Milk Paint Company.  It uses a citrus solvent and is safe for contact with food.  A butcher block like this will soak in tons and tons of oil.  I used a chip brush and just kept brushing it on and on until it wouldn’t absorb any more.  Then flipped it over and did the same on the reverse.


Addin Tung Oil

Tung oil takes 30 days to fully cure, but is dry to the touch in just a few hours.  Wipe up any seeping oil with a rag as you see it.

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