Should I Patch a Butcher Block Crack?
Issue: Issue 309
Posted Date: 9/11/2012
I have a 6-year-old, 2-inch thick maple butcher block top kitchen counter that I cut out of a 6' x 10' for an unusual shaped kitchen island with a cooktop. The finish is polyurethane. One joint in the middle has split and gotten darker due to spills, etc. (The split does not go all the way to each side.) I do not have the ability to rip the joint and re-glue the top. Any suggestions on how to patch and prevent it from splitting again? I thought about using a router and installing a 1-inch wide strip to overlap the joint. - Bob McGregor
Chris Marshall: Bob, rather than making a patch that could potentially end up looking more unnatural than the original crack, I'd suggest you consider living with the split as part of the character of the butcher block. Fill it with clear epoxy, scrape or sand the top when the epoxy cures and then refinish the surface. It's a quick solution that will at least take care of the darkening effect of future spills or from food getting trapped down inside the crack. And, it's an easier fix than patching or a more extensive repair of some sort.
Tim Inman: Wood moves. Wood must be allowed to move. Dense hardwood moves more than softer woods, as a rule. Thick hard maple will move around a lot! If it is trapped in an installation, where it cannot move, it will simply tear itself apart in the process. Wood also eventually comes to EMC (or Equilibrium Moisture Content). It is quite possible your maple was wetter in the middle than on the outside surfaces when you made it. It might simply be drying out and undergoing the final "shrink" as it ages. In any case, you have a crack in your countertop you don't want. One of our shop bylaws says, "Hide it or show it." When we have flaws or defects, we always follow that rule. If we cannot completely! hide the problem, then often it is much more visually pleasing to just accept it and show it off. If you can rout out a "butterfly" and insert that over your crack, that might make the best repair. Stabilizing the wood crack by filling with epoxy adhesive might be one step to consider, before inserting a cosmetic butterfly bridge. One craftsman who made this sort of work into a furniture art was George Nakashima. You might investigate his work as an inspiration for your solution.