DIY Wood Plank Countertops

oldcounter

UPDATE: If you want to see how these countertops fared and were eventually upgraded with another cheap DIY solution, head on over here…)

As we have established many times over by now, my kitchen was full of a lot of nightmarish problems that added up to everything being pretty much terrible and disgusting. One of the things that was actually OK, though, were the old countertops. I’m sure they were original to the rest of our 1950s kitchen, and they’d actually held up pretty well over time——fairly scratched up and pitted in a few places, but overall there wasn’t anything terribly wrong with them. I even kind of like the off-white/gold-flecked formica thing in the right space, but they just really didn’t fit with the overall design plan of the room. Even though it goes against most of my instincts to start getting rid of things that are more or less functional, this was just one of those situations where it made sense.

I thought briefly of doing this super cool faux-concrete treatment to the existing counters, which seems relatively easy and looks great, but I felt really strongly that the countertops should be wood. I love the section of butcher block I have in my apartment kitchen, and given that the rest of the room is mainly black and white, I worried that the concrete would end up making things feel too cold and flat——the kitchen really needs some wood color and texture to bring it to life and inject some warmth.

I really wanted butcher block counters, but even at IKEA (which seems to be the cheapest option around, after much researching), the countertops alone would have run me about $320, not to mention the cost of transporting them here. The closest IKEA is a little over an hour away, and I have a tiny car, so it would have required a car rental…and a headache…and tears…and all of a sudden butcher block felt a little out of range. I know I keep repeating this, but we hope to totally redo this kitchen *for real* sometime down the line, so I didn’t really want to invest that much time and money in fancy countertops that——more likely than not——won’t get reused in a future renovation. So I wanted cheap, fast wood counters that wouldn’t be too precious but would get the job done.

countertopwood

I decided to check out the offerings at the local lumber yard, and found 2″ x 12″ x 12′ and 2″ x 6″ x 12′ fir framing lumber, priced at $19.01 and $8.05 per piece, respectively. Since I needed two pieces of 2″ x 12″ x 12′ and one piece of 2″ x 6″ x 12″, that’s $46.07 for new countertops! I decided to buy an extra piece of each, just in case I messed something up, and have it all delivered for an extra 20 clams.

Because lumber is weird, 2″ thick lumber is actually 1.5″ thick (which is standard for countertops), 12″ is a little less than 12″, and I needed my counters to be 25″ deep, so I needed to bond three boards together to achieve the right dimensions.

Now. Admittedly, these countertops are not fancy. They look very homespun and a little…rustic, which I actually kind of like. If I really knew what I was doing and had the right tools and supplies, I would have ripped the edges of the boards on my table saw (which I don’t have) and joined my pieces of lumber with a biscuit joiner (which I don’t have) and planed down my boards with a planer (which I don’t have) and I would have had nicer countertops. At least I think that’s what I would have done? Like I said. Not fancy.

Instead, what I did have is my handy little Kreg Jig! I bought this thing for a freelance project a while back, and it does a fabulous job of joining pieces of wood easily by helping you drill nice little pocket holes. The joint ends up being really strong and pretty hassle-free and easy to do. I bought a cheaper pocket hole drilling guide thing before I got the Kreg, and I have to say that the Kreg is really worth the extra cost at about $100, if you’re going to use it.

drilling

Here’s how it works! Basically you put the wood in, set the height adjustment, and drill your holes. I forgot that the bond is much stronger if you drill two holes instead of one at each screw placement, so I did that for the second countertop (which I stupidly did not photograph). I eyeballed where the screws should be, placing one about every 8 inches.

holes

They sell special clamps for keeping the wood level with itself (if you just try to screw it, the piece you’re screwing into tends to lift up about an 1/8″) but I just used the very pro method of having my friend Nora stand on the joint to keep it level while I screwed. I like to pre-place all my screws in the holes beforehand, since it’s easy to lose track of which holes have screws in them, and they’re almost impossible to see after they’re sunk in the pocket holes.

nora-sanding

I used my circular saw to cut the depth down after everything was joined together, and then we started in on the sanding! Framing lumber tends to be VERY rough, so the sanding was definitely the worst part of this whole thing. Nora and I just switched on and off when our arms began to feel like Jell-O, and it probably took about an hour (maybe more) for each countertop. We started with 60 grit sandpaper and just worked our way up the ranks, finishing with 220 grit. The lumber went from being super rough and a little ugly to suuuuuupppper smooth and soft and gorgeous.

sanded

After the sanding, this is about what we were left with. The bigger knots aren’t going anywhere, but the other parts felt like silk. So lux.

If I were going to do this all over again, I probably would have tried to have the adjoining edges at least ripped on a table saw about 1/4″, since the edges of the framing lumber aren’t very crisp. With perfect flat edges, the joints probably could have been tighter and more seamless, but I don’t really mind. I actually made a smaller section of countertop for my friend Anna after I made my own and attempted to do this with a circular saw and a rigid metal cutting guide, and that worked pretty well. Not perfect, but perfection is overrated!

countertop

I’m not entirely sure what to seal the countertops with in the long-term, but for now I put a generous coating of mineral oil on them to give them some water resistance and bring out the natural color of the fir. I love the way the wood looks with all of the knots and imperfections, and the tone of the wood is so pretty. I think they’ll look nice over time as they get dings and scratches, too——I like when things like this look well-used and have some character. The wood is too soft to double as a cutting board, but we’ll have a section of butcher block directly next to the stove and normal cutting boards available for all of our chopping desires, so I’m not worried about it.

If we had a bigger budget, we probably would have just sprung for actual butcher block, but for about $80 for all the materials and delivery (since I also had to buy the proper screws and a buttload of sandpaper), I feel pretty good about these counters! We’ve been using them for a couple of weeks now, and they’re doing exactly what they need to do, and that’s good enough for me!

beforeandprogress

Imagine with me for a moment that there are cabinet doors and drawers and new hardware and a different floor and pretty things on the counters and no hanging wires or weird exposed plumbing in that second picture. Also that I hadn’t left that little yellow sponge on the floor.

Can you see it? I can see it.


133 Comments

  1. You promised us dogs and we got a yellow sponge.

    (The kitchen is looking great though!)

  2. Interesting idea for the countertops…seems weird, but it really does work. Kind of surprised to say that I’m a fan.
    Also…
    Cute little sponge. Maybe he should be the house mascot. Lord Spongington.

  3. The kitchen is looking great!
    I can’t find the yellow sponge though.

  4. blown away as always. how do you not have your own show yet?

  5. I can totally see it.

  6. Every time I see the long view of the kitchen I am shocked at how high the ceilings are (sooooooo awesooooome). What are they? 15 ft ceilings?

    And kudos to you for keeping it real and not photoshopping out the sponge. :P

  7. Great (and thrifty!) work on the new countertops!

    I must admit though that I have a soft spot for those fab retro gold-flecked ones too – did you keep them? They might be handy to re-use as a little workstation in the garage or laundry maybe…?

  8. I just found your site last week and I am never as happy as when I see a new post from you in my reader. Every single time I read your writing I laugh out loud, and it’s much appreciated. Keep up the no-bullshit attitude and the posting and the renovations, please. Also: LINUS!

  9. The counters look great. If you plan on doing anything like this again, it might be worth it to pick up a random orbit sander. They’ll remove material in a hurry. The palm sanders are better for finishing work, but they’re underpowered for taking off a lot of stock like you had to do here. Could come in handy for future projects. It would certainly save a lot of time. You’d end up with quite the collection of sanders, though.

    • I concur with the random-orbit sander suggestion! They are magical things.

    • Thanks! I’ll keep that in mind for sure. I probably would have gone for it if I had realized how much sanding would be involved, but I kind of had no idea what I was getting into!

  10. I just found you a few weeks ago too (from the *whispering*boring* YHL blog) and loving it! This is DIY at it’s best, these countertops are a great idea! And really do warm up the kitchen. Did you consider a poly seal, perhaps a marine type? Pretty sure HD carries something like that. (and yeah, I can see the sponge, but that’s what I like, you’re not toooo perfect…)

  11. It’s looking sooooooooo goooooooood!!!! Thank you times a million for making that piece for me. You are the best. xo

  12. Hey Daniel! Looks awesome. It looks like you opted for flush countertops. Was that a conscious design choice or just how the materials worked out? (Or maybe just the angle of the photo!)

    I’ve been really into the way flush countertops look, but when I recently installed a new countertop, I let my contractor, my parents, and basically just about anyone who volunteered an opinion, get into my head and convince me I’d be crazy not to have at least a 1/2″ overhang. In retrospect, I guess I do appreciate that it seems to keep food stains off the drawer fronts below…but I can’t help wondering what it would have looked like flush.

    Curious to hear what your internal dialogue was on this one. (Although I am totally willing to acknowledge that maybe not everyone keeps themselves up at night thinking about how the absence of a 1/2″ of material might impact their life.)

    • Oh, I think it’s just the photo! They aren’t flush…I just made them regular old countertop dimensions! 1/2″ (or so) overhang!

    • It depends on what type of cabinet doors youhave. If the doors are full face and the countertop is flush with the cabinet doors it will look great and have a boxy flat industrial look. However if the cabinet doors extent further than the countertop it will look incomplete. Basically it will look like your countertop is too small.

  13. again, love it. you’re awesome.

  14. You are seriously brilliant. Just. Brilliant.

    I love this look. I’m not redoing any kitchens anytime soon, but seriously. . . this is amazing. I’m putting it into the bag of ideas. My bag of ideas (which is a list of blog posts with ideas that I actually want to use) has 5 articles from you, one from Anna, and several from this awesome lady in Helsinki (who has an apartment in helsinki and a ridiculously tiny vacation home out in the archipeligo somewhere. Anyway. . . LOVE IT.

    PS. Your genius kind of freaks me out.

  15. Clever! That looks super nice for a DIY job on bench tops. I also kind of like the old formica, too.

    Planes ARE useful toys, even the little hand planes.

  16. You are a wizard. Everything is coming along so well!

  17. Genius! Perfect solution for your needs. We used waterlox to seal our wood front door, and I’ve heard of others using it on butcher block.

    • Yeah, I was thinking about Waterlox! I sort of got scared away by the price, but looks like I can buy smaller sizes online that aren’t too expensive. My hardware store only had gallons for $100!

      • You could also try watco danish oil. Should cost less than waterlox.

        If you apply it with the wetsand method (instead of using a rag, apply it with 400 or 600 grit wetsand paper in several coats), you get a beautiful silky finish. The theory is that you are building up a slurry of wood and finish that fills in the little holes and gaps in the grain leaving you with a nice finish. Easier to apply than the waterlox since you can’t possibly screw it up…mistakes just mean another pass at wetsanding. Not going to get you a glossy finish or be quite as durable as the waterlox, but it has the advantage of being much easier to touch up (either rub some more on with a rag, or wetsand a bit more if its a big spot).

        Normally pine doesn’t stain well, but I used a black walnut danish oil on some ikea pine shelving and it looks pretty great (if you want to recolor it). My only concern with both products would be the presence of mineral oil. Sounds like waterlox needs at least 30 days after the mineral oil before its safe to apply.

      • Here are some videos on the wetsanding technique on a cutting board.
        http://wooditis.blogspot.com/2008/05/watco-danish-oil-come-oil-and-laugh.html

        I think this is probably a little overboard for countertops (as opposed to artisanal cutting boards), so you could definitely do a faster application over a larger surface. Just make sure you have some cut up old t-shirts to wipe it dry.

      • Thanks! I think I’m going to use Watco Butcherblock oil, which is a mix of tung oil and solvents, but this is good to keep in mind for future products! The wetsanding technique sounds beaaaauuuutiful.

  18. this is all really just crying out to be a tv show
    I want to sit and watch it all happen from my sofa
    :)

    Brilliant as usual. I look forward to every post
    Thanks for all your hard work putting the blog together.

  19. I’ve been refinishing a really dinged up campaign dresser and I know that feel about the endless sanding. It’s so worth it when you get it to that silky smooth point, and it the end result looks so much better when you put in all the leg work. Can’t wait to see what you do next!

  20. Daniel , I love your blog! I think you should look into saladbowl finish for the countertop . It’s made by General Finishes and it’s non toxic so its safe around food.

  21. little yellow floor sponges are all the rage right now, dont worry.

    PS- I just found your blog and I am in love! Can you come do my place next? I swear my countertop is only 4 ft long. wont take long! :)

  22. I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now, and I love it. My concern is the wood you’re using for your benches. Is it treated wood? It could be toxic. Treated wood has arsenic in it.

  23. Looks amazing! I’m currently fantasizing about the IKEA butcherblock countertops for our kitchen, but these look beautiful! How easy are they to keep clean, with the knots? You mentioned you had been using them for a few weeks?

    • So far, they’ve been fine! As I mentioned, we have cutting boards and a 2 foot section of butcherblock next to the stove, so these counters don’t get used for food prep, so that helps. We did have to tear out part of the kitchen ceiling and they got covered in some debris, but it was easy to just vacuum off the crevices and stuff and wipe them down.

      PERSONALLY, if you’re keeping your kitchen longterm and love butcher block, I’d say go for it! This solution really came about as a desire to save some money and because when we totally redo the kitchen, I’m guessing we’ll change the layout and wouldn’t be able to reuse our countertops. I completely love the functionality (and look!) of butcherblock, though, and it’s probably what we’ll use in the big overhaul someday.

  24. It doesn’t even look like the same kitchen! Good job!

  25. Looking really great for a stand in kitchen!

    The little yellow sponge was the first thing I noticed in that pic! LOL~

  26. oh lalalala, I think I’ll just whip up some countertops today. said no one ever. well, almost…you, sir, are a DIY visionary

  27. Do you attach them somehow or do they just sit on top? they look great!

    • I’m going to attach them with screws up through the cabinet frames from underneath, but I haven’t done it yet!

  28. The countertops look great!

  29. I, too, have a soft spot for that gold-flecked countertop. There was also Contact Paper in that pattern.

    (I also remember the Contact Paper that used to be in your kitchen; a neighbor and our dentist’s office had it.)

  30. Maybe seal with Minwax wipe on poly? I use it on kitchen tables and its great, very easy to apply. Not sure if it will go on over the mineral oil or not, though.

  31. “Buttload” is also a unit of measure at our house. Seriously though, that looks great!

  32. Linus! new countertops! what next ???

    so much fun to see a new post from you. and what a great record of your renovation!

    looking forward to more!

  33. Since no tv show yet… How about a youtube show? I bet a network would pick it up. Ad you already know… You are a genius!

    • YES!!! This is such a good idea! Normally I just lurk and read the comments but I have to agree with this comment, I would LOVE to see you guys doing your magical house renovation thing on YouTube..is it something you would consider doing?

      • Ha, thanks guys! I honestly don’t know…the logistics of trying to film and edit this stuff (which usually happens over long periods of time, in fits and spurts) seems really complicated, not to mention keeping my emotional breakdowns and dumpy outfits in check! I also really enjoy the writing aspect of blogging (most of the time, at least!), and I think I really wouldn’t enjoy watching myself over and over and over again and hearing my own voice and all that stuff. *MAYBE* if something came about where I wouldn’t have to deal with that side of things myself, I’d consider it!

      • Okay Daniel then someone has to volunteer to do the editing… I’m sure one of your readers would :o) You don’t even have to watch it :op OR what about a home repair jennicam thing…?

        PS I enjoy your writing too…

    • No, TV makeovers shows are great when they are full of disasters. Don’t invite that in to your house. I much prefer to read about your antics, and if you have a show it could take away from time spent writing! Boo

  34. Seriously, man, what are you on? I wanna have that, too! You just start – and keep on going and doing and going and doing. Demolishing, painting, sanding, tiling, countertopping. And apparently you don’t go totally fucking apeshit crazy and ruin everything by making some kind of stupid ass decision late at night to take a shortcut, but you keep organized and achieve actual presentable results. Do you even sleep? And you still manage to photograph while doing it, not only that, you even manage proper before and after pictures. like from the same angle and shit!

    That’s it. I bow to your spunk!

    Please tell me, you’re a robot from outer space on crack. That would make me feel so much better about myself!

    • Hahahaha! Well, all I can say is that I’m very obsessive and a little crazy and giving myself lots of time this summer to work on the house, so that helps. I feel like things are going wayyyyyyy slow, actually (I wanted the kitchen done and behind me like a month ago!) so I’m glad the blog doesn’t give that impression, I guess! :)

  35. who is this magical nora and why is she always at your house doing stuff?

    • I too am intrigued.

      • She’s my magical friend! Who is also a full-time graduate student and is on summer vacation right now and only has to work a couple days a week. She wanted to try new things and learn some stuff, so it worked out for everyone! She’s been extremely helpful and generous with her time, AND she keeps me fed and acting like a person when she’s here. She’s kind of the best.

  36. I completely understand not wanting to spend money on the first ‘making do’ phase of fixing up an interior. It’s hard to spend money when you know that sooner rather than later you’ll be demo’ing the space. What is so impressive about your approach to things (aside from your attention to detail) is your resourcefulness. Very impressive.
    The fir countertop looks good and what a great price point.

  37. Here’s a link from another blogger about making her wood countertops waterproof by raising the grain, sanding and oiling. It might be helpful to you. :) The part about the waterproofing is about two thirds of the way down.

    http://littleyellowdoor.wordpress.com/2012/09/06/counters-and-mortise-locks-and-dish-racks-and-coat-racks-and-porch-posts-and/

  38. Does Nora fancy a working vacation in the UK?!

  39. Yep I can see it. Love the look of what you are doing.

  40. it is probably too late, but to fill the gaps between planks you can mix sawdust, of which you apparently had plenty, with glue and fill the holes. Admittedly I have only done this when renovating floors, but I am sure it would work on counter tops too. You then continue sanding to get the final finish, but gap free.
    The kitchen really is looking great. I am itching to start work on renovating mine, but first my finances need to recover from the major electrical/plumbing work and new windows I have just bought!

  41. You are so awesomesauce! I can’t wait to see the big reveal

  42. YES! I have the same off white/gold fleck countertops in my entire bathroom-I cant wait to update it

  43. How much does this Nora person get paid per hour?

  44. LOVE IT!!!! I can totally see it!

  45. This looks awesome. I have been loving watching you make this house amazing, thanks for sharing! I have a wooden counter that was made out of boards and I think we used polyurethane to finish it off – it is so smooth and stain repellant.

  46. I would pay you in snacks to be Nora for a day/week/weekend. I want to learn these skillz. Let me be your apprentice! I can bring a puppy too.

    • Ha! You should talk to Nora about that!! It’s not all fun and games and DIY all the time…most of it is a lot of slooowwwww monotonous tedium (AND dealing with my whining!). Trust me, sanding countertops ceases to be fun after about 30 seconds!

  47. The kitchen is looking so great! I think you, Max, Nora and the dogs need to take a working vacation to the East Bay. I make the best snacks and my house needs you.

    Also, if you are going to do a show, it’s gotta have voice over like The Wonder Years. Because your writing is what makes this whole shebangalang worth it.

    • Ha! I’ll add it to the idea list for my TV debut. (item number 1 of 1.)

      • Also, the kid acting in the Wonder Years did not do the voiceover, it was Daniel Stern so you could have someone “do” your voice if you wished. However, I’m still hoping for a cartoon version with talking Linus and Mekko. :)

      • All this talk of a TV show is nice and everything, but don’t do it unless there is something huge in it for you, because I have heard people aren’t paid much for some shows, and I think with the blog you probably get to be more “Yourself.” I don’t want to see you go all HGTV and start putting granite countertops on everything, hehehe. Just my opinion as a blog reader/TV viewer/doesn’t know much else about it.

  48. Yes, a remodeling/decorating show, with voice overs by the inimitable, sui generis Daniel. Add to that doggie body language.

    Sponsors will love your brilliance/creativity.

    I see your name in lights.

    Love this blog.

  49. Daniel, do you have advice about buying wood for your various projects? How do you decide which kind to buy?

    • I don’t, really! I usually try to go to a real lumber yard, though, and stay away from the big box stores. The quality of the wood is generally better, sometimes the prices are lower, and the employees can give great advice. I guess my best advice is to seek advice! Ask questions, describe your project, and they can usually point you in the right direction.

      I usually just try to keep an open mind. I originally planned to use pine for this project, but the only option in these dimensions was fir, so fir it was! It was a happy accident, since I like the wood tone better than I think I would have liked the pine. Both are soft woods, so it didn’t really make a difference either way. A hard wood would be much better for a countertop, but I’m fine with it showing wear and tear for however long we end up using it.

  50. they look awesome–have you ever heard of marine varnish? it might be a good kitchen cover… keep up the fab work!

    • Yes! Thinking about using that, but I might just use a butcherblock finish or something. It doesn’t need to be SUPER heavy-duty, and I’m cheap!

      • I used marine varnish for a picnic table I refinished and it REEKED!!! For weeks. I felt woozy every time I went near it. I’m not sure whatever is in it is safe for food/countertop usage. Or for people trapped inside in summer heat.

      • Noooooooooooooooooooo! its super duper shiny, and is a pain to sand off. My parents made the horrible mistake of marine varnishing their This End Up furniture in the early 80s, and it took months of systematically sanding to get it off, and its still in the nooks and crannys. You can use marine varnish as a mirror, i tell ya.

      • Yeah, I’m not going to do that, don’t worry! I think I’m going to use a Watco product made specifically for butcherblock.

  51. Hey this is looking GREAT! Just came across your site the other day and I’m having fun reading back and seeing what you’re doing. We’re just finishing up our kitchen reno and also did wood counters (Maple butcherblock from Lumber Liquidators because this is our forever kitchen) and we used Waterlox. I bought it from Rockler where you can buy it by the quart: http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=31388
    In this blog post: http://www.candiedfabrics.com/2013/08/05/kitchen-reno-allllllmost-done/ the perimeter counters are finished with 4 coats of the original finish followed by 2 coats of the satin (we’re still building the island…so the island in the middle is old Ikea with the Ikea oil/wax blend they sell). THe downside of waterlox is that you have to wait a day between each coat – but I can tell you that I am majorly impressed with how water resistant it is…much more so than the island top we’ve had for years where we used the Ikea finish.

    Anyway, love your blog and am looking forward to what comes next! :-)

  52. The sponge! ha ha ah

  53. I’m seeing soapstone in your future remodel. You can work it yourself with wood tools.
    But you have to love imperfection and not worry too much about maintenance.

    When you have your own TV show maybe you can get more dogs too…..although Linus and Mekko are pretty divine.

    • I LOOOOVVVEEE soapstone! Maybe someday!

      • Ditto. Wanted it for my kitchen counters and everyone looked at me like I had two heads

      • People are nuts about kitchens, that’s all I can say! I really don’t understand the desire to have “indestructible” surfaces that require zero maintenance and are supposed to look the same by year 15 as they did on day 1. I tend to think things look better when they show a little use, generally, and I don’t feel like some infrequent maintenance is something to get worked up about. Treated right, materials like butcherblock and soapstone and marble will last basically forever, and they’ll always be in style.

  54. Love it. It’s amazing how good wood looks in the kitchen. My husband is a ,a href=”http://www.jacksoncontractingsite.com/services/roofing/”>roofing contractor and construction guy so I’m trying to convince him this would be a great idea for our kitchen.

  55. that is a great job considering you used minimal woodworking tools, that is why I usually farm out the woodwork thinking I need a planer ,sander, bisquit cutter etc etc etc

  56. AMAZING WORK! You are Awesome! Can’t wait to see the finished project! Wahoo!

  57. I can see it! Also, can I borrow your smarts and energy? Pretty please?

  58. Looks promising! I wish I could cover our rental kitchen counters with something that cheap and awesome. Looks a little beyond my DIY scope though… Looking forward to more pictures!

  59. I forget to read your blog for a couple of months having left off on sleepy desk drawer pull project and I come back and you have GONE ALL REAL ESTATE on me. I guess I’ve learned my lesson. Good luck and all the best, men.

  60. Those have got to be the most ingenious thrifty countertops ever! Very, very clever! And very pretty! BTW, I think you ought to leave a yellow sponge in every picture post during your remodel. It’ll be a little game for us….like “Where’s Waldo.”

  61. Damn! Wish I had seen this before buying my Ikea wood countertop! You are such a clever guy! I bet you’d make a killing if you offered home tours :)

  62. I would suggest you use a vegetable based oil (raw linseed oil) on your countertops. Take a look at the advice via the following link provided by a Danish company called Spekva. They produce the best solid timber countertops I have seen anywhere and they offer some very good advice for surface treatment and maintenance.

    http://www.spekva.com/Files/Billeder/PDF/PDF%20Vedligeholdelsesvejledninger/Maintenance%20of%20Solid%20wooden%20Worktops%202010.pdf

    Bear in mind if you choose to oil your worktops, that used cloths can self-ignite as pointed out in the above link (see FAQS) so don’t just scrunch them up and throw them in a cupboard or box. Burn used cloths or store in a glass jar with a tight lid!

  63. Your kitchen updates are so fun to see! I’m trying to buy a house near Boston (where prices are a bit different than the mid Hudson valley…) and seeing your process makes me really want to find one soon so I can get to work on my own renovations.

    Fine Woodworking magazine has a couple of articles about food safe finishes for wood. Here is one: http://www.finewoodworking.com/how-to/article/food-safe-finishes.aspx

    We currently have the ikea butcher block, and we use mineral oil. You have to re-oil them a LOT at the beginning, every three days for a month, but now we only oil them once every few months. Ikea has the cheapest mineral oil I have found, so next time you’re there, pick up a bottle (or two).

    I can’t wait to see more updates, and hear more about your trials and travails.

    • Thanks, Stephen! I have a little 2-foot section of IKEA butcherblock in my kitchen at the apartment, so I’m familiar with the frequent oiling! I also buy a bottle every time I’m there…it seems to come in handy for a lot of things.

      Good luck with the house hunt!

  64. Just FYI, in retro décor circles, gold-flecked formica is highly prized as no manufacturer is currently making any version of it, and the original stuff is hard to find for the many people who actually want install it in their new kitchens, rather than rip it out.

    • Oh, I’m well aware! I really do love retro 40s/50s/60s kitchens, it just isn’t right for this house or this kitchen, given the direction it’s going. I’m not throwing the counters away——I’ll either reuse them or see if somebody wants to take them off my hands.

  65. I can see it!
    It’s really coming along. Very exciting.

  66. Just a quick comment just to be the 100th !! Good job Daniel’s gang, as always !

  67. Daniel, I really like the counter tops and how the colour scheme is taking shape – it is nice to have the warmth of wood alongside the clean white walls and anchoring effect of the grey lower cabinets.

    I don’t think you should have a TV show or do video stuff on the internet. I enjoy the quietness of your blog, your writing, and that I can read and absorb everything in my own time.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing the kitchen finished! I assume you are too!

    • Agreed. Everybody seems to insist on making everything a video and I hate it. I can stop and stare at pictures I am interested in and reread text describing tricky steps…I’d much rather do that than keep rewinding some video.

      Video can be great, but this is a step by step process that took many hours. You can’t capture the whole process in a video, and none of these steps are things that need a video explanation.

      I hate when you get to a how-to video that lacks accompanying text or photos (the worst is when they have a materials list or measurements listed in the video…so you have to pause and write them all down before moving on). Video is great for showing how a certain tricky step might be done, but it is a terrible way to report the whole process.

      • I agree. Video has become a BIG DEAL in the ole blog-o-sphere (particularly with sponsors, who really want them), but I don’t really get it! And I totally agree about the whole simplifying something that took hours into a 2-minute clip thing. Part of the reason I like blogging (and I blog the way that I do, in a very process-oriented, step-by-step way) is because I don’t like sugar-coating the process of doing this stuff. Particularly where home renovation is concerned, I think people put too much effort into making it all look fun, simple, and fast, which just makes everyone feel bad about themselves and like they’re doing it wrong when they can’t renovate a kitchen in a weekend!

      • Frankly, when I see videos I think something was faked behind the scenes. Maybe because so many home improvement TV shows are fake behind the scenes. In this case, I got to “see” Daniel and Nora working their little butts off on these DIY countertops and feel the pain/joy/exhaustion by using my literate mind, tee hee.

        That having been said, if it is someday good for Daniel’s career to appear on some TV show, we should forgive him. ;)

  68. If you want to speed up the aging proces, on a BBC DIY show they had the following trick: They filled an old pillowcase with one or two hands full of (big) nuts and bolts and smashed the wood with it randomly. Although I really like it as it is in your pictures. Really well done, it will look great come Thanksgiving. Have you invited people yet?
    Have a wonderful day!

  69. I have those same gold specked formica countertops in my little 1915 fixer-upper. I’m torn between ripping them out or keeping them because they are so vintage and I’m all about the 1950s vintage. This explains why I have done nada to my kitchen since I purchased the home in 2012. I love the old charm and everything is perfectly functional so there’s really no need to remodel, other than to make the kitchen look more up-to-date.

    Did Linus help with the sanding? ;-)

    • I totally understand! If our kitchen was in good shape, I’m sure I would have embraced the 1950s-kitsch aesthetic and just gone with it, but the countertops were really the ONLY thing that weren’t a disaster, so I decided to make the kitchen more my style and just ditch the 50s thing altogether. It would have looked crappy if I had tried to do both, though, you know?

      Linus helped in his own way (looking cute).

      • You did the right thing…. kitsch is not comfortable.

        You know what might be cute, and not having many skillz I don’t know if this is even possible, but if you made something small out of the remaining formica to keep in the kitchen but not be a focal point. Something like a little bar cart or mini-island that could be brought out or tucked away somewhere? I don’t know.

  70. Wow Daniel, I love you blog and all these DIY posts. Greetings from Helsinki ;-)
    P.S Jenifer: our archipelago cottage is situated at the west-coast of Finland, about 2 and half hours drive from Helsinki. And Thank´s! I feel honored now :-)

  71. Genius. I love this countertop solution. And I’m glad to hear you saved the originals – hope they end up in your laundry room. They seem so laundry-retro to me!

  72. Daniel: Thank´s and same here.

  73. Hi Dan!
    It’s Melissa from NYU! Just figured I’d check what awesome projects you are up to and saw this! You might want to consider Bona Naturale for the countertop to help with waterproofness. It’s eco & fairly matte.
    Big hugs from NYC!

  74. Hey! I know nothing about any of this stuff, but I think your countertops are very nice, and love the general look of the kitchen thus far. Even if for you it is just a kind of “starter kitchen” it is still quite the project.

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