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Building an outdoor butcher block for use during the summer months is the perfect addition to your outdoor living space, cooking summertime meals with friends, and visiting. A butcher block is a conversational piece in its own right, and having it crafted well will make it an eye catching attraction for your outdoor cooking area. There are many beautiful materials that can be use for this project, as well as configuring it to be movable.

What is a butcher’s block?

A butcher’s block is, literally, a place where meat is cut raw before it is grilled. This makes it a perfect addition to an outdoor cooking area. But, even if you don’t eat meat, a food preparation surface for your outdoor kitchen can really come in handy. Here’s how you begin choosing materials and thinking about designs for your own butcher block.

Materials for butcher block

Two of the most important elements in creating a surface that will be used for outdoor cooking is making sure the material can withstand the weather. The other is making sure that the surface is sanitary. Many times when certain wood products are used for cooking areas they tend to warp or crack, allowing for germs and bacteria to penetrate and taint new food that is placed on the surface.

Butcher block

Photo: By TheLivingRoominKenmore

Among the best surfaces that answer for both issues is bamboo and teak; both exceptionally durable, and with surfaces that are harder for bacteria to find purchase. Marble and porcelain tops, either slabs or butted tile, are also popular options for similar reasons. But any choice in dense wood are equally viable.

Creating a design for a long lasting butcher block

It is always wise to find time and create a plan for how the butcher block will look. The key with butcher block is that it is strips of wood that are glued tightly together and sanded to a perfect finish. While the design of the actual unit can be predicted, the types of strips cannot. It is best to keep an open mind during this portion of the process.

Creating the top for the butcher’s block

You can find strips of bamboo and teak in a hardware or lumber store.You can find pieces that are close in size, erring on the side of larger pieces so that there is left over for the trimming. Take the pieces to a place in your shop where they can lie flat.  Sand the sides completely flat so that they are flush. You may find that a table saw is necessary for this task. If some of the pieces are much taller than others, trim them using a saw before assembling the table top. Using wood glue that is waterproof and intended to be used outdoors, begin to glue the sides together. Follow the steps below to finish the process:

  1. Glue the pieces together in strip and hold in place with vice grips or clamps. It is easier to do this part in small portions so that there is more uniformity.
  2. Continue step number one until all the top is right size per your design.
  3. Wait at least 72 hours for the glue to dry before releasing the clamps and vice.
  4. Sand until the top is smooth. Start with the lowest grade of sand paper, and work your way to the highest until the surface is completely smooth.

Finishing touches

After the surface is completely smooth, you can use either a hand held router, or a table router to shape the edges of the butcher block. This will prove a nice and polished look to the piece that will make it look professional and neat. The last step is to use a light coat of butcher wax on the surface. This will seal the wood and give it a bright and healthy glow that will last for months. You should repeat this step every three months or so, or if used often, every month.

An outdoor butcher block will provide a clean working surface while cooking in your backyard, and continue to look beautiful for many seasons to come.

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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.