The Actual Countertop Post

Alright, so, I told you my thought process and plan of action regarding the countertops in the precursor to this post.

I explained most of it there, but pictures always help. Right?

This was back in the winter, remember? I taped down some paper in the classroom and started laying out my wood.

paper wood strips

Then I just glued it all together.

glue glue2

I used weights to hold down any warped pieces, and clamped everything tightly together. Be careful not to clamp so tightly that you cause bowing. I have one area where my counter is not perfectly flat and I’m thinking it’s probably my own fault. It turned out fine, especially for my first try at this, but I think I may have clamped too tightly there. If you’re going to attempt this (I’m looking at you, Brandy), make sure that your wood stays absolutely flat on your working surface when it’s clamped.

weights clamps

Simple as that. Told you you could do it.

Just kidding. That was the easy part. It wasn’t exactly ready for use at that point. It needed to be sanded. A lot. And then some more. And then again after that.

needs sanding

I used a belt sander to quickly tear away any spots that were higher than others. I’m sure if you have a planer or fancy wood-working tools, there’s a better, faster way. But I just sanded until I thought I might die.

saw dust

And it was freezing cold for some of the days! I had on a coat and two hoods and gloves and a scarf over my entire face except my eyes. No pics of that, though, because the hubs was inside being all warm and toasty. He did come out and snap some shots once the sun came out the next week.


I had four different sections of countertop to build and sand, so it took several days spread over a few weekends.

The buffet top, the drop-zone counter, and the counter that houses the sink are all just rectangles. I left a rough open area for where the sink would go, and then the hubs went in later and cut that out perfectly.

rough opeining sink template

The top for the “island” that’s really a peninsula was a tiny bit more difficult, but still not rocket science. I just had to measure a couple times to make sure I had my numbers correct for the little nook that is beside the wall ovens. And then I made sure to add enough overhang for bar stools. I left an opening for a drop-in stove top. (You could just cut it all out later, but I wanted to use as little wood as possible.)

for stove stove opening

That also needed to be sanded for hours and hours and hours. I got a splinter in my eye that rubbed all around scratching my eyeball. Because I’m stupid, I never wear safety goggles. It’s always a joke about whether I’ll lose an eye or a toe first. It’s not gonna be funny when I actually do lose an eye. Lesson learned. Maybe. But YOU should always wear goggles (and shoes).


Once everything was all sanded and smooth, it looked like this.

pretty wood

Pretty, huh? I love all the varying woods, but I wanted to stain it rather than leaving it natural. There was just too much contrast with the different woods, and that would have been highlighted if it was only sealed and not stained. I used Dark Walnut and Jacobean until I found a mix that I liked. I let it penetrate longer on the harder woods, but wiped it off immediately on the softer areas so it would tone down the variance a bit.

Last time we did butcher block counters, I just sealed them with the can of stuff that they sell at IKEA. I’m pretty sure it’s a tung oil product, but not positive. (That’s holding up nicely in a rent house, btw.)

Since we were using wood for the sink counter this time, I knew I needed to do some research on sealers/oil/wax. I kept reading about Waterlox. It’s not available very many places. I did find some on Amazon and, man, it is not cheap. Like, way not cheap.

I paid over $40 for a quart. Did you read that correctly? ONE QUART was FORTY DOLLARS! But, it seemed to be an absolute necessity if I wanted to put a sink in a wood countertop. And I saved all that money by building these dang things myself. So there’s that.

waterlox tung oil

I used several (four? six?) coats on the counter that has the sink, and it is so smooth. Like, almost not-sure-if-it’s-wood-or-plastic smooth. I only used tung oil followed by one coat of Waterlox (so the sheen would match) on the other counters and they definitely don’t feel as smooth. But I also probably sanded them less because I was half blind and my fingers were numb and snot was dripping from my nose and my shoulders and back were killing me.

They don’t look noticeably different, but if you touch them you can feel the difference. I used my entire quart of Waterlox, but someday I may add another coat or two to the other counters.

I should also mention that I lightly sanded in between coats, beginning with fine grit (300?) and going to super fine (650? 1050?). I forget the exact grit numbers, but it was the finest I’ve ever used. Pretty much like rubbing it down with a piece of cardboard.

Oh, we did a dry fit BEFORE I sealed the counters (didn’t want to waste even a drop of Waterlox). So here’s what it looked like stained, but not sealed.

square end dry fit

And then here it is wet with sealer.


See how the sealer made it a bit more red? I had read about how it may add a bit of warmth. If you were applying this to a natural maple or something like that, I imagine that it would yellow it just like a polyurethane might. If you know anything about color correction (hello 25 years of hair coloring), you might know to start a bit cooler with your stain to offset the warmth. Maybe a very light gray stain? Weathered Gray perhaps? Mine was dark enough that it wasn’t a problem, but I might cry if I had a gorgeous natural maple counter that looked like yellow pine after I sealed it. It’s probably a good idea to do some test areas.

Here’s a look at the “nook” that makes this a peninsula rather than a true island. See how it’s connected there? The back of that wall is our entryway. (If you’re a faithful reader and very observant, you might notice that I flipped our couches and “formal”/craft table. More on that in a later post.)


The counter color isn’t really that dark. The lighting hasn’t been installed yet (maybe this holiday weekend?), and we just have one florescent light that we left up when we tore out the drop-down ceiling.

The color is actually more like this…

actual color

I’m over my self-inflicted 1000-word limit, so I’ll show you finished pics and tell you about the installation, sink, faucet, stove, and bar in a future post(s).

Have a great long weekend, you guys!



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