Monday, February 28, 2011

Arrrrrrgh! Sales Counter Top Update

No, I'm not a pirate.  That's "Arrrrrrgh" as in "I am really upset and frustrated!"  Ever have one of those days?  Me too.

As a reminder, I recently built a sales counter for a friend that is roughly 14 feet long.  It has been installed, and the last thing left to do was join two store-bought butcher block counter tops together into a single long slab for the top.

Easy, right?  Well, kind of.  I'm going to get a lot of practice.  I made it too long the first time, so I get to try again.

Here's how I did it the first time.  With a series of too-complicated router setups, I created a half-lap joint between the two top slabs.  This turned out to be ultra-strong, but was the source of my error.  Somehow I messed up and the length of the overlap was added to the total counter.  The half-lap is about 3 inches wide.

Half lap joint is very strong, but I didn't measure correctly for overall length.
If I had caught the problem at this point, fixing it would have been easy.  I could have just trimmed the ends of the counter to the correct overall length.  Instead I just plowed ahead with all the remaining steps. I sanded, stained, varnished, and delivered the top.  I plopped it down on top of the sales counter and finally discovered the length was wrong.


This sales counter has a jewelry case at each end, so part of the design called for a glass insert in each end of the top.  You can see one of the cutouts in the picture below, and there is one on the other end too.

After adding cutouts for glass inserts, the only option is to cut it back apart to fix the length.
The problem now is that the cutouts for the glass inserts prevent me from simply trimming the ends off.  I will be forced to cut the two slabs apart again and redo the center joint.


The other challenge is that the top has been stained and I have several coats of durable poly applied as a finish.  I really don't want to repeat the half lap process, because I don't want to have to sand or plane the joint to get it flush.  I haven't had good luck touching up a stain/poly finish and I don't want to strip the entire top.

I'll keep you posted.  Back to the shop.

Ever have one of those days?  Got any ideas?  How would you recover from this blunder?  I'd love to hear it!


Dyami said...

Man, I feel your pain. I have had those days. Sorry to hear of your frustration.

Thinking of ways to fix it, I don't think you can hide the joint, unless you go though the trouble of leveling the joint and touching up the finish.

What if instead, you accentuate the joint and make it a design detail? As an example, you could cut the current top on one end, even with the end cabinet section. Build a half lap (or other joint there). Then, over the lap joint and over the equal space on the opposite side, route a recess and set tile in the recess. Once the tile is in, you'll never know there's a joint there.

Hope that helps,

Jeff Branch said...

I had one of those days with my TV Console project. I attempted to make a panel flat with hand planes. That was just beyond my skills and I ended up very frustrated. Arrrrrgh!

Hope your fix doesn't take to long. Good luck.


Aaron said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. I know we've all been there, but it helps to hear it again.

I've already taken the leap and cut the counter in half with a circ saw. The extra 3 inches of material are sitting in the trash can, mocking me!

I've got a couple ideas of how to proceed. I may just simplify things a bit this time.

Dyami, the idea to make it a design feature is a great idea. I would do that if the piece was all mine, but the friend who commissioned me was very specific about the look she's going for. Boo.

Anonymous said...

How about using some counter top bolts to join the 2 pieces.

Aaron said...

I haven't used counter tops bolts before, I'll have to check them out. Thanks for the suggestion, mystery commenter!