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Installing A Custom Wood Countertop

custom wood countertop

Constructing a Custom Wood Counter-top

I decided to install a solid wood counter-top and came across DeVos Custom Woodworking, a small millshop in Texas, that does some real slick stuff with wood.

DeVos Custom Woodworking is a small family business. They operate out of a small shop just outside Austin Texas where they have been designing and building custom furniture and counter tops for over 18 years.

What I liked the most about DeVos was the the communication I had with them. Communication is key in any project large or small. I felt that my small 25: x 7′ counter top was their only project! DeVos does not mass produce products, they only do custom work.

Creating A Custom Counter-top:

Creating a solid wood custom counter-top begins in the measuring and template stage. I decided to template my own counter-top and used “oak tag” to make a template. Once this was done I mailed my template to DeVos and they started the process of selecting wood and making the counter-top.

DeVos has a wood workshop and also a separate finishing room which is heated in winter and cooled in the summer. DeVos told me they keep these rooms at about 40% humidity (more humid than most houses)–very comfortable for the workers and the wood—so that the wood remains in good working condition throughout construction and finishing. They use kiln dried wood with a 6%-9% moisture content.

Preparing The Wood Slab:

In order for DeVos to make a 2” thick counter-top, they start out with 2.5” rough sawn boards, then skip plane a number of boards before choosing and arranging the boards. My counter-top is is 3 boards wide. The boards are cut slightly longer and wider than necessary at this point in construction.

The individual boards are then planing on all sides of the board to get them as flat and square as possible for matching and gluing.

Lay-up is next, alternating the growth ring pattern if possible (the boards will go together easier if they have the alternating pattern). My counter-top boards are alternated. A Lay-up includes drawing a “v” across all of the boards to line them up properly for the glue-up phase.

Preparing The Wood For Glue Up:

After Lay-up, more planing is done if needed. The wood then through the jointer so that the boards have perfectly straight edges and are perfectly flat on all sides. This processs is super important to create tight glue joints.

After jointing the boards are glued and clamped. The top remains in the clamps for 2-4 hours. DeVos has wall clamping units [see photo] which I thought were cool and space saving.

Rough Sanding:

After the glue is dried, the top is fed through a 60 grit, 80 grit, then 120 grit, wide belt sanding machine. After sanding the top arrives at its final thickness.

Once all this prep has been done, the exact width and length of the top is cut out on the CNC (computer aided router) machine unless the top has a template. All wood tops with templates are hand cut.

Prepping Edges And Final Sanding:

Bench work, which is all hand work, is next. Edge profiles are applied to the designated edges, then hand sanded. DeVos craftsmen check for cracks, knotholes and other minor defects that need to be filled with epoxy. If imperfections are detected and need to be repaired DeVos uses a 5 minute epoxy, then sands the entire top with 120 grit to a final finish.

Distressing is performed at this stage as well. I chose a medium distressing.

After final sanding the top is transferred to the finishing room. Finishing generally takes about 5 business days for a Waterlox finished top. DeVos applies 4-5 coats of semi-gloss Waterlox, sanding between each coat, cleaning with mineral spirits before the next coat is applied. Finish is always applied to the bottom of the top first so that it can be turned over (very carefully) and rest on screw blocks while the top and sides are finished. A final coat of satin Waterlox is sprayed on.


The top is allowed to dry 36-48 hours before final buffing, then wrapping and crating for shipping.

The counter-top process takes 4 to 6 weeks. The crate that is shipped is well constructed and prevents any damage from occuring to the tip in transit. I was impressed.


Installing A Custom Counter-Top

There is an unmistakable, unique quality when I see a solid wood counter-top.  It is the mix warmth, character, and quality that makes it most popular and sought after.  Many people have a perception that installing a solid wood counter-top is cost prohibitive.  It is not.

I recently worked with a small mill shop outside of Austin Texas called DeVos Custom Woodworking.   My experience dealing with DeVos was great.  From start to finish the process was easy, enjoyable and I learned a lot.  DeVos excelled in communication and did not disappoint with the quality of the counter top when it arrived.

I installed my own counter-top.


If you plan on installing a custom wood counter top against any walls or other structures you will most likely need to use a template to get it to fit right. 

Templates are designed to reduce error and allows you to have your counter top fit to imperfect angles, uneven walls or rough surfaces.  Shapes and cuts which look quite difficult can be transferred to your solid wood top by the DeVos skilled craftsmen in their shop.  To do this, you need to provide DeVos with an accurate template. Templates are not required for every top such as an island and some peninsulas.

Template Tips:

Scribing and Cutting:

If you make a perfect template there should be no additional scribing and cutting.  My template was not perfect and I knew that going into this.  When my counter top arrived I had a few minor tweaking things to do to it.

A little scribing, planing and cutting got the counter-top to fit like a glove.  I made sure to use the Waterlox finish DeVos provides to seal all cut ends of the counter-top to prevent humidity / moisture from entering the top.

Wood Movement:

Wood is a natural living material which is affected by cold, heat, and humidity.

A solid wood counter top that is 25″ wide, can expand or contract by 1/16″ to 3/16″ in varying weather conditions. Your custom top needs to be installed in a manner that allows for that movement.

Installation Tips:

When I installed the screws in 3/8″ holes, I used a wood screw with a washer that was slightly larger then the hole.  This will allow the wood to move if needed but also provides a secure connection.

Tops with a Waterlox® Finish:

These tops receive a minimum of four coats on the visible side of the top and three coats on sides that are not visible. Six coats are typical for tops with cut-outs for sinks or cook tops and for satin finish tops. Waterlox® is waterproof. It is also heat and stain-resistant for a tough, hard finish.

Tops with a Tung Oil/Citrus Finish:

These tops receive four coats of finish on all surfaces of the top to ensure a well-oiled finish. Since the Tung Oil/Citrus finish penetrates into the wood, the finish can last 3-6 months or more before it needs to be reapplied. This finish is water and stain-resistant as long as the surface is maintained properly.

Care and Maintenance:

Mild soap and water is all you need to keep your counter-top clean.  If disinfecting is needed it is suggested that a mild solution of vinegar and water applied with a spray bottle is best.

Nicks, Scratches, etc; 

Waterlox® Finish:   Touch ups can be done at any time.  Lightly sand the area and applying more Waterlox® to the top.  Sanding down to bare wood is typically not required.

Tung Oil/Citrus finish:  Touch ups can be done at any time.  Lightly sand the area and applying more Tung Oil/Citrus finish to the top.  Sanding down to bare wood is typically not required.


Making A Solid Wood Counter-top

Constructing A Solid Wood Counter-top

Installing A Solid Wood Counter-top

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