When a friend showed me his cherry countertops, I knew I wanted hardwood in my kitchen. Less busy-looking than butcher block and granite, the edge-joined planks suited the simple look we wanted. And the price was right, too.
We wanted the countertop to be thicker than 1 in., so we chose 5/4 stock. The lumberyard ripped one side of each board and planed the top and bottom for about $50, so my total cost with tax ended up being less than $700.
Hardwood boards vary between roughly 6 and 12 in. wide, so I drew up several possible layouts before I went to the lumberyard. Avoid boards that contain too much sapwood, are warped or have loose knots or knotholes. I bought about 30 percent extra to account for waste.
Lay out the boards and mark the location of each with masking tape and a marker. Cut the boards to width — using the ripped edge of each board as a guide — using a table saw or a circular saw and guide.
Arrange the planks and label them with tape (never write directly on the wood).
We used a mortising tool to join the boards; you could use a biscuit joiner or a doweling jig. Apply glue to the mortise holes and along both edges; then join the next board. Once you’ve reached the required width, clamp the planks together and wipe off squeeze-out with a damp rag.
A mortise and tenon joiner makes it easy to cut opposing mortises in edges.
Apply glue to tenons and insert them into mortises.
Push the first two planks together and add the next plank. When all planks for a section are assembled, clamp every 2 ft. with long clamps.
After the glue has cured, remove the clamps and cut each countertop section to size. For irregular shapes, mark the curve or angle and cut, leaving about 1/4 in. of waste. Make the final cut using a template and a router or jigsaw. Then use a router and a roundover bit to shape a profile around the edges.
With a palm sander, start sanding with 120-grit abrasive; then progress to 220- and 320-grit. Use long strokes and systematically move from one side to the other to keep the boards as flat as possible.
Because oil-base finishes darkened the walnut too much for our taste, we applied three coats of water-base Polycrylic from Minwax. The first coat raised the grain slightly, so we sanded with 320-grit abrasive between coats. When cured, the finish resists water and light scratches and lets the natural beauty of the wood shine through.