Posted in DIY, Lifestyle

DIY “Live Edge” Hickory Wood Kitchen Island Top

A while back, I shared our “Give Your Kitchen a Face Lift for Less” post, showcasing our MUCH needed DIY kitchen do-over in our log house. Though we absolutely love the results from our low cost kitchen renovation, we wanted to take the “magic” one step further. Adding some extra spunk to our kitchen island was the ticket. I absolutely LOVE all things reclaimed!  When I was given the opportunity to take a tired workbench and re-purpose it for my kitchen island, I jumped at the chance. However, something was missing. That island still needed a little more work to make it just right for our “new” kitchen.

Kitchen Island "BEFORE" Refinished Top DIY Project
Kitchen Island “BEFORE” Refinished Top DIY Project

When we purchased the kitchen countertop wood from a local sawmill, I fell in LOVE with a vertical cut Hickory log that was laying in the sawmill yard. I knew I just had to have it! My favorite part was that a majority of the “live edge” bark was still in tact. From what I am told, this was a rare find. That Hickory log became my inspiration for our kitchen island top rehab. Now rest assured, I really had no idea exactly how we were going to work with such a large wood slab to complete this project. But, with a little elbow grease and a big imagination, the finished product for our DIY Live Edge Hickory Island Top was exactly what our kitchen needed. Not to mention I really grew tired of tripping over the log laying in the center of my garage 😉

Turning the Large Hickory Slab into Workable Sections

Hickory Slab Live Edge
Hickory Slab Live Edge

As I had mentioned, the vertical cut log was rather large — about 12 feet long and 16 inches wide. The log had previously been cut lengthwise to make it more manageable. This left only one edge “live.” I knew that I wanted the live edge on both sides of the island, so we cut the the long log into two equal desired lengths.  When put back to back, I would have my live edge on both sides of my new island top. Furthermore, the log wasn’t the same thickness due to the way it was rough cut at the sawmill. This presented some extra work and challenges for us. However, it was nothing that I knew we couldn’t tackle with a little determination. We had some further preparing to do of the Hickory slab, but my vision started to take shape.

Time to Plane and Join the Hickory Slab Sections

Now that we had our two slab sections with the live edge on one side, the first thing we needed to do was plane the slabs down. Planing would ensure that our island top was of equal thickness all the way through. Well, this gave us yet another challenge. The slabs were still too wide to fit through our planer! Rest assured, Mr. Fix-it (well, most of the time, LOL) had an idea! Let’s cut the slabs lengthwise again so that we ended up working with four sections instead of two! I was hesitant at first, but then it made sense. Having the four smaller sections would make it MUCH easier to work with. Brilliant!

We laid the four slab sections on top of our island as a trail run for positioning. Then, I penciled in left to right the number 1 through 4 so that we knew the proper orientation for assembling later (taking a bow, LOL). Next, after cutting the two slabs into four sections and numbering, it was time to plane the wood. During the process, I was extra careful to preserve the live edge bark. I was adamant to have that bark on the finished masterpiece! We planed the four slabs so that all four had equal thickness. We settled on approximately 2 inches thick for our island top. Once the planing was completed, it was time to run the slabs through a joiner to give the cleanest connecting edges possible. The planed and joined pieces looked absolutely beautiful, and the Hickory grain really started to shine through.

Assembling the DIY Hickory Wood Kitchen Island Top

After removing the slatted boards that were on the original reclaimed workbench, we found there were already several cross support boards underneath. SCORE! We decided that we could use these to attach our Hickory sections to our base, and found these to be perfect for our cause. We started to carefully place our planed and joined Hickory sections to the top of our workbench, in the numbered order from our trial run for proper orientation.

Since the workbench was reclaimed and not perfectly square, a few hidden shims added here and there underneath the Hickory sections made for a level surface to line up the seams. Once lined up, we fastened the sections down to the workbench using screws through the cross supports on the underside so that no screws or screw holes were visible on the top of the island surface. The only thing left to do now was to fill the seams, stain and seal the island top!


DIY Kitchen Island Top with Filled Seams
DIY Kitchen Island Top with Filled Seams

The Finishing Touches for the DIY Hickory Wood Kitchen Island Top

With our island top in place and fastened down, it was time to add the finishing touches. We filled the seams with wood filler that can be stained. Then, we sanded the filler once dried with fine grit sand paper for blending. Once sanded, we wiped on our desired stain color, then added a second coat once the first coat dried to give us our desired color depth.

The final step, and what I feel to be the most important, was applying multiple coats of high gloss polyurethane. The key is to lightly sand between coats, which allows the second coat, third coat, and so on to properly adhere. We also added several poly coats to the live edge for preservation. My husband even considered doing an epoxy finish to the island top (which he still may do since he still hasn’t put the idea to rest), but I am pleased with how our DIY project turned out. Off to the next project……DIY style!

DIY Hickory Island Top Finished Product
DIY Hickory Island Top Finished Product