I am working on a butcher block style countertop / tabletop, and am wondering how best to glue the wood together. The countertop is unfinished maple hardwood floor, with the tongue / groove cut off, flipped on its side. So, the final result will be about 1 3/4" thick, mostly quarter sawn, 3/4" width strips. The final countertop will be 7' long and 20" wide, with the wood running lengthwise.
(To clarify: I am calling it a tabletop / countertop, as I am not quite sure what to call it. It will be installed on top of a half-height wall between the kitchen and hallway, and will be used as extra counter space, a serving area, and a 'breakfast bar'. For extra support it will have three steel beams on the underside, with grooves for screws to allow for a bit of expansion across grain. The ends will be finished with a breadboard end joint, although that is outside the scope of this question.)
For illustrative purposes, this is somewhat how the tabletop will look. Each strip is 3/4" wide:
I plan on the glued-up tabletop being longer than 7', and then trimming to length.
I will be using Titebond 3.
My question is how to do the glue-up in such a way as to eliminate any gaps where I glue the strips end-to-end in a given row. I am obviously going to be clamping width-wise (across the 20" side), but am not sure how to clamp each row length-wise (across the 7' side). I hope to do a handful of rows at a time (maybe 5 or so?), let them dry, then add more on.
Some possible answers I have come up with:
- Make a clamping block that includes some sort of padding (styrofoam?) underneath a solid board, so that you can clamp 5-ish rows at a time without applying pressure only to the longest one. My concern here is that I don't think styrofoam would provide enough pressure.
- Just push the rows together end-to-end while I am doing the side-to-side clamping, and rely on the side-to-side clamps to prevent any movement. I don't think that this will work, as glue-ups are always slippery.
- Use a strip of rubber innertube that I use for guitar body glue-ups and individually wrap it around each row. This is the most promising approach so far, IMHO - the rubber strip is very long, and should have no problems wrapping around the length of it 4 - 5 times. My concern here is that I won't have time to get it wrapped up before the glue has started to set. I suppose that starting with just a couple of rows to make sure I have time will be the answer there.
Thanks in advance for any suggestions!
Edit after completion
Thanks to all the responders, I did the glue-up and things are looking good. A few comments, in case it helps people in the future:
- 5 at a time was way too many. 3 was borderline too many; I found that 2 worked best.
- You need to plan your layout before gluing anything. I laid out all the pieces to ensure that the butt joints were not aligned or too close to each other.
- I tested my first few end joint cuts for 90 degree, and they were perfect. Unfortunately at some point after the first ones my miter saw must have gone out of square, and the later ones were slightly off. Nothing too big, but enough for a 1/16 - 1/32" gap in some places. Sigh. Wood filler has worked well for this though.
- As hard as I tried, I was unable to get the glue-up to be perfectly flat initially. Some of the boards were slightly higher / lower than the others (not too bad, the worst was less than 1/8", probably closer to 1/16"). This meant that I needed to plane more than I would have liked.
- On the topic of planing, I got the surfaces flat with a toothed hand plane. Only after it was flat did I use a belt sander to make it smooth. My limited belt sander skills would not allow for me to get the surface flat if I had just used the sander... maybe others are better with the sander, but for me the plane was the way to go. The toothed iron helped to avoid most of the tearout (laminations are very hard to plane due to the grain going every different direction).
- I did not end up using the steel bars - as commented by Martin, this this is already a beast. The breadboard ends will help to prevent warping over time, and from a strength POV I could jump on it without it moving at all.
Here's some pictures:
During glue-up (the laid out pieces are on the left, and the glued pieces are in the clamps on the right):
Here's a closer look at one of the ends before finishing (not great for looking at the glue-up quality, but decent enough if you zoom in):