Wood counters add natural warmth and beauty to kitchen space. Select a grain profile and finish that highlight the wood and complement the way you live and cook.
Wood Segments Make Up Block A wood countertop or butcher block top is not one solid block of wood but wood segments that are glued together and planed smooth. How the wood segments are arranged and which grain of the wood is visible helps determine the top's look and strength. The grain types are referred to as:
Face grain, which uses the surface width of the board.
Edge grain, which uses strips placed on edge.
End grain, which uses blocks of wood arranged so that their ends point up revealing the growth rings.
Tight-grained, hard maple has long been a traditional favorite for countertop wood. Rich-grained red oak has also become popular. Butcher block fabricators like DeVos Custom Woodworking in Dripping Springs, Texas, use several woods for their countertops including Brazilian cherry and mesquite, which are even harder than maple and have beautiful color and tone. African mahogany, with colors ranging from deep maroon to light tan, and zebra wood--the color of hard maple with black and brown stripes—are not only unusual but certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as sustainable woods for commercial harvesting.
Stock and Custom Wood Countertops Stock countertop blanks are typically 1½ inches thick and 25 inches deep, and come in lengths that increase by one-foot increments to 12 feet long. Custom fabricators, like Block Tops in Anaheim, Calif., can create countertops as shallow as 1¾-inch thick in lengths and widths that are only limited by access, according to Vice President Nate Kolenski. Fabricators create a variety of edges and backsplashes and can provide such options as removable stainless-steel grids to serve as built-in hot plates.
Wood Countertop Finishes Wood oxidizes over time and some woods, like cherry and teak, change their color a bit more than others as they age. Wood also gains and loses moisture, depending on its environment. To save wood from drying out and to enhance its natural beauty, a finish is required. The right finish can depends on countertop use, personal preference, and options offered by the product manufacturer.
Countertop manufacturers often offer a special blended finish that they find gives greater beauty, a nicer look, and a higher level of protection than a natural oil finish. Most, however, offer customers the option of selecting the finish they desire. A good countertop finish should retain the moisture of the wood and keep food residue and surface moisture out.