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I've been looking into creating my own custom computer workstation and for the top I wanted to create butcher block but I am needing it pretty thick to be able to hold the weight of servers, monitors, and laptops I am working on. I am using pipe underneath to support the top so that will effect how thick the wood will be, such as this:

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After several weeks of research I have seen a variety of methods used from:

With all the weight of the hardware I dont want the wood to bow and I will be running supports in the center as such:

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Image from this tutorial

So my questions are:

  • What wood should I use and how thick for a 36" x 84" table?
  • What is the best method to build the tops?

I did see some butcher block at IKEA but sadly I dont have an IKEA near me.

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4 Answers 4

I honestly have to recommend that you buy the work bench top pre-built. You can buy these for about the same cost of the raw material itself. The ready built ones are beautiful, nicely sanded and sealed with rounded edges. Look for work bench tops at certain online business supply places. Tops can be found that are about 1.75 inches thick which are very sturdy. A typical top is 60x30 inches in size.

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As I recall the IKEA ones are way thinner. Maybe 1.00 or at most 1.25 inches thick.

A web search will turn up many sources. One name to keep an eye out for would be ULINE.

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If you're set on building your own butcher block top, first you're going to need some tools. You most likely won't have most of these, but you might find a shop in your community that rents time, or try a local college, high school, etc.

You may or may not need all of these depending on the wood you're using.

  1. Jointer
  2. Thickness planer
  3. Table saw
  4. Radial arm saw (maybe, if you need to cross-cut raw lumber)
  5. Clamps, lots and lots of clamps....
  6. More clamps. Did I mention you need a lot of clamps?
  7. Sander - lots of options here. Belt, palm, wooden block, etc.
  8. Router (maybe, if you want to round or shape the edges of the wood)

As well, you'll need some wood, glue and lots of working space. You could build this out of many different types of wood but Maple and Cherry are common. As for thickness, somewhere between 1.5" and 2" thick. 1.75" is common.

Using each of the above tools is outside the scope of this question, but essentially you need to get your raw lumber cut down to rough size, jointed and thickness planed down to rough dimensions. Then you'd rip strips on a table saw that will make up the blocks.

Once you have all the wood cut to dimensions, you'd arrange the wood and test fit it together. After that, glue everything and clamp it together. It might be easier to glue smaller sections first, and then glue all the smaller sections together to create the final top. Once the glue sets, sand the top, route the edges and apply a finish.

Don't underestimate how long this will likely take!

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You might be over-thinking the weight and strength issues. You are going to be setting servers and monitors on this, not pounding them with sledge hammers. One inch is thick enough to hold that without bowing, especially if you are adding extra supports.

Are you doing butcher block because of the perceived strength, or because you want to create a beautiful piece of furniture? If it is for the beauty, go for it. If it is just for the utilitarian strength of holding PC machines, don't bother.

If all you are concerned with is strength, just glue two pieces of plywood together. Any thickness from 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch will work; perhaps a nicer piece of 1/2-inch hardwood plywood on top of a 3/4-inch piece of anything. That's going to be massive and strong; you could stand on it and jump up and down on it all day long and not hurt it or make it sag.

If you want to do the butcher block to create an awesome looking piece of furniture that could last for decades of pounding a meat cleaver into and still remain water-tight, then by all means do it.

The strength in butcher block comes from glueing the strips together. Cut and plane your boards, glue them up, and clamp them to dry. Glueing and clamping is the key. Pin nailing is a convenient way of holding the pieces aligned while you assemble everything. If you have a pin/brad nailer and want to avoid everything shifting around in assembly, use it. Don't bother buying one just for this if you don't already have it (unless you've been looking for an excuse to buy one; they are fun). The pins/brads certainly don't add any strength; that's all in the glue.

Butcher block is traditionally tall, narrow strips of wood. I've seen the pocket screw approach to create large tables from wide flat boards, but I don't know if I'd call that butcher block. I certainly would still always glue the edges of the boards together.

Whichever way you do it, you will still end up needing to plane it after all the glue dries, if you are looking for a smooth flat table-top. Doesn't need to be a power planer; a hand plane works as well.

So, ask yourself about what your goal is. You can certainly make a strong, fine-looking piece of furniture with the butcher block approach, if that's what you want. If you just want the strength, look into plywood.

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Personally, I would set the computers under the desk and only set monitors, keyboard(s), mice, printer, and other input devices (tablet, scanner) on the desk.

For a high quality and strong desktop easily obtained, check your local building supply stores for doors.

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