Wood Countertops: Slab (Book-matched) Countertops

texas treads bathroom vanity slab wood countertop

This is an example of slab wood countertop applied vertically.

Hello, Thank you for joining us again at Texas Treads.

Today Iʼm going to talk about solid slabs of lumber used for countertops and tables. The difference between using a slab as opposed to dimensional lumber is the following: Slab counters are usually made out of one or two large pieces of wood. You can see the edging, which is called the sap of the tree (video).

Slabs are usually large pieces of wood and you get them from your mill. The advantage of the wood slab is that a slab will show much more of the natural contour, of the knots, of the movement of the tree. Very little of this beauty is available in dimensional lumber. Slab products will be usually 2 to 3 inches thick, as opposed to dimensional lumber that will be thinner. Dimensional lumber comes pre-cut and kiln dried. It looks like typical lumber that you’ve seen, is ready to be cut and glued together. It is a lot easier to work with. Examples of both are here.

Difficulties of working with slabs: every slab is unique and it takes some work to find the right slab to match the right countertop. It is not a common product because it is mostly done by hand and requires detail and skill from a craftsman. We use traditional systems of joining combined with the newest glues and pressure, and dowel techniques within the slab.

An example of our craftsmanship detail is a technique called bow tie. Bow ties fasten two pieces of wood together. We usually make them out of something like Brazilian cherry, Brazilian walnut, because these are very, very strong woods (examples are in the video).

In this particular case we did what is called a book match. A book match is where you take a piece of wood and cut it in half and you open it like a book. The movement of the wood repeats a mirror image like butterfly wings. This is only possible when you buy slabs.

Wood slab countertops and tables are more costly to make. The result is capturing the beauty of the tree that is lost with other types of construction. Slabs are made for kitchens, vanities, powder room vanities, and can also be constructed horizontally as shown in the photo above.

Well thatʼs it for now, thank you for reading!

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Wood Countertops by Texas Treads: Choosing Woods

Choosing the Right Look: Color, Character and Width

At Texas Treads we love working with our clients through the decision-making process.  With wood countertops, the first question I usually ask my clients is, “What color are you trying to achieve? Are you looking for a dark countertop, or a light countertop?” I will then select two or three types of wood that are closest to the color they want to achieve. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a walnut, red oak, hickory, or a mesquite.  The excellent quality and functionality will be the same in all these woods and they will all perform for their use.  The most beautiful countertops are the ones that showcase the wood’s natural colors.

The most important thing is to select a color wood character that you like. Different woods have different movement or grain characters. Some are heavier grain, some are lighter grain, some have more knots and holes, and others are cleaner. Some clients like a rustic look, and some clients like a smooth, contemporary look.

It’s important when selecting wood that the client understands some characteristics are inherent in a particular species. Sometimes we have clients who say, “I like the hickory but I don’t like the sap.” It goes back to picking a look – not a type of wood – that feels right to the customer. If width is what’s really important to a customer, then we concentrate on woods that come in wider boards. At Texas Treads we will always present you woods that are appropriate for the project – whether it’s a kitchen or vanity countertop, wood table, stair tread, or custom wood flooring.

Local Woods: Texas Mesquite

I think Walnut and Hickory are just beautiful and elegant woods for countertops. Walnut has a beautiful grain and a dark strong brown color. Hickory also has a great distinct look with unique grain movement. I think it’s important to mention to the client the availability of local woods. It’s kind of neat to have countertops that are manufactured with local grown woods we know and recognize. One of the woods that I really like, and is probably actually my favorite, is mesquite. Mesquite just says Texas all over it. You look at mesquite, with its gracious and distinguished strong movement and say, “Wow, that’s Texas.”  I have mesquite boards that are 12 inches wide. An added bonus of mesquite is it has a natural defense against bacteria, fungus, and bugs.

American made/American Grown Woods

The benefit of using local or regionally grown American wood is that it reacts better to our weather – it’s more stable in its natural climate.  One of the practical byproducts of being American grown is that the product is more readily available and can be found in many more sizes and grade selections. When you call Texas Treads or send us an email, the choices you have are endless. At Texas Treads we do not prefabricate any countertops, in just 2 weeks we can acquire the material of most woods and make you your dream countertop or table. We can change the color of the wood with many color stains available, build it in your style of construction, and add one of many available decorative edges. This is not possible with prefabricated products or woods shipped from other countries that are half-way around the world.

American made is very important because keeping jobs in this country is very important. A good and stable job is essential to maintain our American way of life. American made also means that the product is built with the qualities and standards that are necessary to pass all the regulations and requirements that we have in this country. These quality standards and safety standards are lacking in many, other countries. American made also means that it’s a very environmentally friendly or green product because we have to respect and abide by all our environmental laws, rules and regulations.  American made products does not generate the carbon byproducts made by the transportation of a product that’s circling half the planet to get to you.

Construction Styles

Butcher block or Edge grain:

The Butcher block style, also known as Edge grain, is what most people are familiar with. This type of countertop is made from thin strips of wood, typically 1-2 inches wide. The wood strips can be all of the same species of wood or can be mixed from several species to create a more colorful and unique look. Butcher block construction is the favored choice of wood countertops among professionals such as: chefs, butchers and bakers, the edge grain of the wood protects the blade of the cutting knife from damage and dulling, and the multiple board construction gives the countertop exceptional strength and durability.

Face Grain:

Face grain looks more like a table or a desktop. This style has a more artistic look because it shows off the beautiful grain of the wood. For this style, we have to buy thicker and wider lumber that is more expensive and available by fewer suppliers. Texas Treads specializes on face grain construction. Very few countertop manufacturers make the face grain style because putting the boards together is more difficult, and it’s more difficult to obtain the lumber required, also dealing with the board’s twisting and moving requires a more custom attention to the assembly of your countertop.

Island Countertops Using Face Grain

Island countertops are always made of multiple boards, even when it’s a face grain style, because it’s solid wood. When you see a piece of wood that is wider than 16 or 18 inches, it’s typically some kind of laminate or plywood.  But we use solid wood, so you see grain and movement that you wouldn’t see in a laminated or plywood wood top.  Depending on the species you pick, you get a width of the individual board. Typical islands are about 30-36 inches wide, so it would take four to six boards – but that doesn’t take away from the movement.  In fact, the beauty is intensified with more boards that each has individual movement.

Cutting on Face Grain

At Texas Treads our standard finish product is Monocoat hardening oil. Monocoat is a food safe, water resistant and VOC free finish, so you can cut, slice, or chop directly on top of your face grain countertop. But most of our clients – once they see their beautiful furniture quality finish on our countertops will rather not cut directly on them. So we end up making them a cutting board to place on top of their countertop. The oil finish blends well when needing to do a touch up repair after a scratch or cut. It is also very easy to apply an additional coat of oil finish when needed. For day to day cleaning simply wipe the countertop with a rag damped with soapy water and dry.

Podcast:Wood Countertops by Texas Treads: Choosing Woods


Video: Wood Countertops by Texas Treads: Choosing Woods


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