Wooden Worktops Construction - How to Make a Quality Wooden Worktop
The first and most important thing to consider about any wooden worktop is the stave (plank) width, as this immediately illustrates the quality of lumber the manufacturer is starting with. The narrower the stave the lower grade of lumber, with 20 to 40 mm being the lowest, up to planks of around 200 to 300 mm with the highest grades. 40mm staves have become an industry standard for low grade finger jointed wooden worktops (small blocks of wood) as the process only demands the cheapest lumber. The knock on effects from starting with such a low grade of lumber are numerous. For example, the use of waterproof glue may simply be too expensive relative to the value of the product produced. Likewise, running with the fine tolerances required, and the attention to detail needed to produce a lovely flowing worktop, for example colour matching, all costs time and money, much more than the product is worth.
Contrast this to planked super stave wooden worktops. Produced from what is called eight quarter planks, which essentially means the individual planks are 2 inches thick. On average, each plank is around 12 foot long, and 8 inches wide. When the timber is felled, it is immediately sawn in to these planks, separated to allow air flow, and then put in line for the pre-drier. The pre-drier takes up to 120 days to get the moisture level down to 31 %, at which point it can go in to the kilns for further drying. Once the timber is dry, it is then sorted in to varying grades. The grades are dependent on the number of knots, colour variation, sapwood and general condition.
After initial grading, the lumber goes in to the rough mill. The rough planks pass through a laser sizer. The laser sizer simply measures the planks for length and width, and then a computer automatically tells the rip where to cut that particular plank to optimise the yield. Having been sized, the planks then go through a 'dynamic' rip saw and come out in one of three standard widths. The uniform width planks are then sent through a 'wood eye' which scans the planks for any defects automatically, and then tells a computer controlled cross cut saw where to make cuts either to cut out the defect, or again for optimisation, this time in length.
The different lengths are then sorted and stacked according to length and width. At this point, the lumber is ready to go in to the finger jointing machine if making block style wooden worktops or directly to the moulder if it is for planked wooden worktops. The finger jointing machine cuts 'fingers' at each end so when the ends are glued and pressed together the join it makes is enormously strong. At this point it can be decided how long this particular run of wooden worktops should be. The machine automatically selects the required number of staves to make that length, and then it glues and compresses the staves to make one long stave.
From here, the staves need to go through a moulder which is like a giant 4 sided planing machine. This cleans up the staves to make them perfectly square, and importantly leaves a good enough edge so that the staves can be glued together. The correct number of staves is then selected to make the width of worktop required, and finally the worktop is glued up and pressed to make a totally solid bond.
Whilst it seems simple enough, the margin for error is compounded with each step. A proper professional set up is key to producing a quality wooden worktop.
Making the perfect wooden kitchen worktop is an extremely complex task and something that is very difficult to achieve. It requires the finest timber to be kiln dried slowly reducing the moisture content to less than 10%. If the drying process is rushed it will cause the timber to split.
In constructing the perfect worktop the timber needs to be selected by hand. Hand selection allows for any defect within the timber to be removed. An important factor to consider is the size of staves required. Generally the wider the stave the more expensive the product. If smaller staves are preferable then the timber would need to be finger jointed together to create longer lengths.
Once stave sizes are decided the timber is then laid out to get the perfect colour combinations which can then be glued together. This process takes time and therefore often reflects in cost but well worth the effort. After gluing the worktop needs to be clamped and then left to dry.
The worktop is then machined in such a way that suits the design needs. For example creating cutouts for hobs or sinks or maybe adding drainage grooves or end caps. All worktops are bespoke depending on the clients requirements.
Once constructed the worktop will be saturated with oil in the hot oil dip tank. Not only adding to the colour of the worktop but protecting it for years to come. Finally the worktop will be finished by hand in order to check every detail is perfect.
When delivered, to the customer, the worktop can be fitted straight away and just needs a few finishing coats of oil once in situ.