Friday, October 9, 2009

Seamingly Obvious

So, the island is finally DONE! We have a working dishwasher! And a working convection oven! I cooked a pork roast in ten minutes flat. Not bad, eh?

Of course, I don't have any pictures of the finished island - that would be too easy. What I DO have however, is a mini-tutorial on how to seam Ikea butcher block together.

From day one of island planning, Mike and I knew that if we wanted to save money by going the Ikea route, we'd have to seam together two pieces of their butcher block to get the proper size. When we looked into doing this online, we could not find ANYTHING on seaming Ikea butcher block. Sure, plenty of people were seaming end-to-end to use for counter tops, but we needed to seam it horizontally - the long way. After searching for instructions and coming up empty, Mike decided to bite the bullet and go for it. I don't know if it was sheer luck or sheer genius or both, but the end result looks damn near perfect. Can you find the seam in this picture? Yeah, me neither - but it's there somewhere:

If you are interested in doing this, here's the play by play:

We started with two pieces of 73 1/4 x 39 3/8" birch butcher block (which you can find here: To create our 48 x 65" island, we could have bought the smaller, cheaper 73 1/4 x 25 5/8" pieces of butcher block, but decided to use the remnant we'd be creating for our future laundry room project. Two birds, one stone and all. So anyway, we used almost the entire first piece of butcher block and added about 10" from the second piece - creating a nice, big remnant for the laundry room.

To begin, Mike made horizontal cuts on both pieces of butcher block, at the first possible seam (about 1.5 inches in), using a circular saw with a fine blade (the higher number of teeth, the better). He had made a guide for the circular saw, to ensure a straight, clean edge on both pieces. These cuts were very important, as these were the ends that would be seamed together and therefore, the cuts had to be as close to perfect as possible. An added bonus to having extra butcher block to work with was the option to re-do a cut if we weren't happy with the result - we'd simply move to the next seam and try again.

Once we had two cuts we were happy with, Mike used a router with a straight tip router bit to fix any inconsistencies caused by the circular saw. He ended up taking about 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch off each edge, again using the homemade guide for accuracy. He then used a biscuit joiner, roughly every six inches and a Kreg Tool (found here: to put screws in between every biscuit. This was definitely overkill, but as we have an overhang portion on our island, where part of the heavy butcher block top is supported only by turned legs rather than a base, we decided to err on the side of caution.

Then, Mike applied wood glue at the new seam and used four HUGE four foot clamps to hold the pieces together. We spread the four clamps out over the 73" length of the island and they worked fine. We then let the glue dry for 24 hours. A tip: do NOT wipe glue residue while it is still wet. This will only cause it to spread thin and it will become even more difficult to remove when it dries.

After the glue had set for 24+ hours, Mike lightly scraped and sanded all glue residue from the top. He then made the vertical cuts needed to take the 73" length to 65". Once the top was properly sized, Mike again used the router, this time with a Roman ogee bit, to put a nice custom edge on it:

At the end of the day, this is what the island looked like (before dishwasher and convection oven were installed):
We still have to treat the top with mineral oil, but we are very happy with the results so far. Not bad for $400 worth of Ikea butcher block, especially considering the laundry room table we'll get out of it. Quite a difference between $400 and the $1000-$2000 we were quoted for finished pieces of butcher block this size.

Gotta love money-saving DIY goodness.


Sarah D said...

Curious how this seam has held up over time? I'd like to do the same but my contractor is convinced it will crack as the wood expands and contracts.

Alec Nelson said...

I'd also love to know how it has held up over time. Thinking of doing the exact same project in my kitchen.