Wooden Countertop Joints


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Hey everyone,

I'm in need of some help from the wood working brain trust.  I've got a client who wants a "L" shaped kitchen island.  Up until now she was going to go with a quartz countertop.  However, she has now changed her mind, and would like a wooden countertop.  I think it will look great, but I'm stumped about the joint.  I think a miter joint would look best, but I'm worried about the wood movement putting too much stress on the joint.  Would a butt joint work better? The countertop is going to be 36 inches wide, and if we stick with using wood, it would be at least 1.5" thick.  Any thoughts?     

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I've seen lots of counters of various materials with a mitered inside corner and I think they look good.  In fact the only counters I've seen with butt joints are solid surface materials with the epoxied (and basically invisible) seems.

Google "counter connector bolts" and you should find lots of examples of the bolts that can be installed on the bottom side of the countertop.  

I suspect you should be able to find these types of connector bolts at a local home building centre.

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Sides of a butt joint will move unevenly. Long grain doesn't move much but cross grain will ! Both sides of a miter should move about the same. 

Tite- Joint fasteners are easy to install. Drill 2 holes in each half of the counter. They even sell a jig to help drill them. Tighten with a steel rod which should come w the drill jig.

You can cut a wide miter with a track saw if you are very meticulous when laying out the cuts.

Pretty reasonable price too. Made by KV, sold on Amazon.

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I used maple butcher block for our kitchen counters, and used a mason's miter jig for the joints.  The jig I used is made by Trend, and Amazon carries it.  The jig comes with a router bushing and 1/2 in spiral bit.  The jig makes both the male and female cuts and the cuts for the connectors.  Not sure it would work on 36" wide piece, our counters are 25 and 1/2 wide by 1 and 3/4.  If my memory still works, I think Festool sells a jig too. If you feel the need......

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Not sure of the exact dimensions, but if seeing a little more end grain isn't a deal breaker you could just orient all the grain all in the same direction and use shorts for the other side of the L. This would avoid any joints aside from the normal butt joints used to connect the boards.

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Sides of a butt joint will move unevenly. Long grain doesn't move much but cross grain will ! Both sides of a miter should move about the same. 

Tite- Joint fasteners are easy to install. Drill 2 holes in each half of the counter. They even sell a jig to help drill them. Tighten with a steel rod which should come w the drill jig.

You can cut a wide miter with a track saw if you are very meticulous when laying out the cuts.

Pretty reasonable price too. Made by KV, sold on Amazon.

I agree that the sides of the miter will move together - but - as the wood expands or contracts across the width, the angle of the joint will change. Depending on humidity changes and type of wood, this could be significant enough to cause a problem if both legs of the joint are fixed against the walls. If one leg is a peninsula, it could be allowed to float as needed. You can figure the amount of movement and build it into the design.

 

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Anytime I mount a solid wood top I leave a gap where it goes against a wall, cabinet etc. Quarter round or a backsplash can cover the gap. I use a flexible caulk called  Lexcel to keep anything from leaking underneath.

I make all the fasteners through slots or oversized holes. A round head or washer head screw like the pocket hole screws with a large fender washer lets the top move with seasonal changes in moisture content.

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Thanks again for all of the good info! We decided to go with the miter joint. With it being an island, I don't have to worry about one side being constrained by a wall. Plus, the client really liked the look of the miter. It was also decided to go with sapele 1.5 inch thick. Which should be pretty stable. 

Pug, I'll post the sketch up drawing tomorrow morning. 

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Another way you can go would make the joint a hi-lite by cutting it kinda like a jigsaw puzzle. By making a series of male and female shapes like a puzzle piece along the joint edges you don't have a long joint to try and match and by careful cutting the joint locks itself together. I've seen it done on shelves and railings and it is cool looking and would fairly well minimize the expansion issue. 

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