Butcherblock Woes

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    A few months ago my wife and I found someone throwing out two good sized maple butcher block counter/table tops. I made a dog-bowl holder from the wood, but had tear out on several pieces during stock preparation. I recently started work on building a small rolling kitchen island using that same wood. Before I started work, I took a good amount of time and sharpened all my chisels and plane irons to try to reduce mishaps and tearout. Still, I’m having problems.

    One of the most frustrating issues is that the lamination layers in the butcherblock seem to have misaligned grain direction, so each ~1.5″ layer will only plane nicely in a direction opposite to its neighbor πŸ™

    Another problem I’m having is my own inability to plane a straight square reference edge to start with. I ripped my boards about 1/2″ oversized to give me room to work. I assumed the top and bottom to be flat (or very near) so I then proceeded to plane one edge to try to get a flat and square reference from which to mark my width. I would do a little work, then check my progress – it would be out of square with the ‘top’ , so I’d plane some more to correct. After many iterations, I got a reasonably square edge relative to the ‘top’, but then I checked with a straight edge and found it was not flat across the length of the edge. Ugh…. Despite my planes being as sharp as I could get them, I could not reliably get any of them to take a full length shaving, even when dialing back to a very thin shaving. After a while of work I measured and discovered I had burned through more than my 1/2″ buffer and now I have to resize my parts to accommodate my incompetence.

    Eventually I gave up and ran the boards through the tablesaw a few times until I got it reasonable straight and square – then just took a few light shavings to try to get the kerf marks out. But I’m very frustrated in that I cannot seem to accomplish the first, most basic operation in working with hand tools πŸ™

    It’s funny, I saw a thread where a few people were saying how stock prep was relaxing. I find it maddening. Lol. I’m no better at joinery than stock prep, but I find it more enjoyable for some reason.

    Guess I don’t really have any questions – I’ve watched the stock prep videos. I think I know what to look for. Just wanted to share my frustration. I’m thinking I have to make sure my plane soles are flat and maybe have another go at getting a sharper edge on my irons.

    Take care everybody.


    I’m having a few problems with this too. In my case it comes down to a possibly wavy edge on the iron and therefore not being completely able to set it to take an even width shaving across the width of the iron. Therefore even when I hold the plane nice and square and do everything as I’m supposed to, without me realising one side could be taking a bigger shaving than the other and I will end up with an out of square surface. You could check this too.


    Stock prep only gets relaxing when you start having success, and not pressure to get it done “now”. To much pressure and sharp plane I find is the fastest way to out level and square.

    Tuscloosa, Alabama
    Lung T'an Hu Huesh Kung-fu Woodshop

    David Perrott

    Butcher block is often all end grain or just way different grain patterns. It may make it easier to first put some denatured alcohol on it. Makes it easier to plane end grain.

    Stock prep is the one thing that makes me wish I had a machine!


    Thanks for the feedback everybody.

    Don’t think I’ve heard the Denatured Alcohol trick – maybe i’ll give that a shot. This butcher block happens to be edge grain, but I’d like to use some scraps to make an end grain cutting board :). I did a little end grain planing to square my ends and it was also challenging for me, especially on the tiny 1.5″ square stock. I need to build a shootingboard.

    I think my plane irons are square because I cheated and bought a worksharp3000 sharpening system – I was working with waterstones for a while but I was too slow at it and I wanted to spend more time working and less time sharpening :-). I may be going through the grits too fast and not getting things as sharp as I should (leaving marks from previous coarser grits?).

    I have some new ‘buffing’ level abrasives on order and I will probably try to resharpen a few things this week being more careful

    I had a little better luck face-planing to thickness yesterday. It helps me a lot when there is a gage line to work towards – versus when I’m just trying to freehand a flat, straight edge.

    Every thread needs some pics πŸ™‚


    I’ve had a little more success reducing tearout after adding a few more grits to my Worksharp. I bought the ‘honing abrasive kit’ that has a 3600 and 6000 sanding pads. I ran the iron from my smoother through the top 3 or 4 grits yesterday and then it did a better job. I think I still have a bit more work on the back of the iron – it does not have the same mirror finish that the bevel has.

    Unfortunately, some of the tearout is too deep to remove completely. I know it will show after final finishing. Are there any techniques like mixing fine sawdust with some sort of glue or anything like that to fill in the tearout?

    I’ve started joinery. Already botched the first mortise, but like I said, I still find it more enjoyable than stock prep πŸ™‚

    Thomas Angle

    I am willing to bet that everyone here has experienced the same frustrations. For me some days are good and some days, well they are days.

    It has been my experience that end grains needs a very sharp iron. Your iron is only as sharp as the roughest side.

    You can really control tear out if you set the iron protrusion from the cap iron to less and a mil and take light passed. You also might want to try a card scraper also.

    The best advice I give you do not get too discouraged. Discouragement is like cancer. If you are having a bad day/night. Finish it with something that you know you can do good. I like spoons, easy and do not need to be perfect.

    Arbovale, WV

    Proverbs 18:13
    13 He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

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