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I'm planning to build a countertop for the kitchen out of glued 1 x 1 pieces of pine. I have glued the pieces together and it looks good, but after working with it for a while, I have realized that it is softer than I initially thought, so I was wondering if there is any treatment for the surface to make it stronger? It feels like if there is a heavy object falling on it, will make a "beautiful" dent in it. I can see videos with people filling gaps with epoxy and that epoxy looks strong, but is epoxy an alternative for this? Can it be applied to the surface only? What other solutions would you recommend for this?

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  • Make sure you visit the other Q&A on the subject of kitchen countertops, as your answer might be there.
    – jdv
    May 19 '20 at 1:27
  • You are facing multiple issues. Boards for kitchen countertops are normally selected for their hardness as a priority. Pine is one of the softness wood and a poor choice for any type of work surface. Treating softer woods to make them hard raise these issue. Any chemical or surface treatment must be food safe, Breaks in the surface would lead to contamination. May 19 '20 at 1:51
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    @FreeMan if you are in North America, most dimension lumber was made of fir. But it was old-growth fir and tough as nails. Splintered easily and gave you slivers all day long, but tough. It was also rough cut/planed to nominal and then dried, so it is probably larger in width and thickness than modern dimension lumber, so you have to go through more material. But white oak was also plentiful. I like to say my house is made with load bearing trim -- the "finish" nails going into the "trim" are massive.
    – jdv
    May 19 '20 at 15:55
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    Wow, thank you guys for your comments and discussions. I was afraid that I made a mistake doing this, but I guess I will just carry on and not freak out about it. I really love the texture especially because of the knots. It’s beautiful like this, with this pattern, and I wouldn’t have chosen oak because it is expensive and the one that I found is too smooth and boring. The other option was poplar, which I also didn’t like. May 19 '20 at 16:28
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    @CuriousPaul, yeah the price difference between oak and other woods can be significant! And while oak IS a classic for worktops it does have a major drawback in that it can stain badly from any iron salts in water. As for poplar, probably fine but boring as hell! And pine can be fine for heavily used surfaces. As I've referred to many times I have a pine chopping board that is well over 30 years old and still going strong, and it was not babied in any way. I regularly scrub it with a pot scourer to clean and it was used many times as a trivet for hot pans and casseroles straight from the oven.
    – Graphus
    May 20 '20 at 21:29
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The comments have a lot of good discussion about wood choice, but to directly answer your question, yes. You can use epoxy to make a surface harder. However, you need to be careful about your choice of epoxy.

Normal hardware store epoxy is designed for repair work, i.e. bonding two parts together. To do this effectively it needs to be quite thick. This will prevent it from "soaking into" the surface you're treating. Instead, you should use a "penetrating epoxy sealer". This type of epoxy is much thinner and will "penetrate" deeper into the wood you're treating.

Epoxy (along with most wood glues and finishes) is generally food safe once it has fully cured.

I would recommend doing a test on a scrap to see how the epoxy will effect your finishing.

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  • Just know that, as it wears, it will slough off epoxy into your food. Not necessarily harmful, but plastics are not something I want more of in my diet.
    – jdv
    May 19 '20 at 22:36

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