Once we started building our kitchen cabinets we needed to figure out what we were going to use for countertops. This was the kitchen when we bought the house:
The thought of putting new countertops in our kitchen was simultaneously exciting and overwhelming. We didn't particularly want to use laminate (not that there's anything wrong with that :-) but we didn't really have the money to do much more. We contemplated doing our own concrete countertops but were concerned about cracking and our inexperience in that area. We also considered ordering soapstone slabs from here.
I loved the soapstone option and I think it would have been beautiful. However, it was still a little pricey for us and I was afraid we would make a mistake and ruin it.
Luckily, before we made a decision, one of our friends at church told us that his dad had gone to an auction and bought out the old stock from a cabinet company that was transitioning to flooring. His dad had a lot of scrap pieces of walnut, cherry, and oak and needed to get rid of some of it. We decided to check it out and found this wonderful goldmine of walnut:
For those of you who know about woodworking, you know how expensive walnut can be. Luckily for us our friend's dad only wanted thirty dollars for this truck full.
We took the wood to Lee's shop and started working. Lee ran the boards through the table saw to make them the same width. Dave ran them through the jointer to get the faces square.
This photo is of me squaring the ends of the wood and is incredibly misleading as I did about 1% of the work while Dave and Lee did the rest.
Fortunately, with all three of us working, we were able to set up an assembly line and work through all the wood pretty fast.
We laid out our pattern and used a biscuit joiner to make the slots for the biscuits. Biscuits are wood discs that you use to join two pieces of wood. When you cut slots in each piece, fill them with glue, and add the biscuit, the biscuit swells up and gives you a strong joint. Here's a good diagram.
After gluing the pieces we put on clamps and let them dry for several weeks (would have been several days but the cold weather kept us from gluing). The final step before taking them home was to run them through the planer.
Lee drove the pieces down in his truck and Dave scribed then cut them to make them fit up to the wall nicely.
He used a router to give them a nice decorative edge.
We debated over how to finish the wood: whether to simply oil the counters which would allow them to be used as a cutting board but involve more upkeep or seal them. In the end we decided to seal them with Behlen's salad bowl finish.
With wood counters you can't set hot pans on the counter or let water stand on it for a long time but they were about as functional as laminate and way more beautiful. At the total price of about $300 (less than $10/sqft) I'd say our project was a success!