I have an old piece of butcher block that I want to use as a small bit of countertop -- planning to build what is essentially a small kitchen island (18" x 24", based on the size of the butcher block).

the whole slab

Unfortunately, the butcher block is not perfectly smooth. That's probably why we got it for $8 at a garage sale 10 years ago. ;-) You can see one corner floating about 5 mm (1/4") above the floor here:

gap between one corner and flat surface

Another way of looking at it is head on to the edge grain:

side view of edge grain

Anyways, I want this thing to sit flat. I've been reading about various techniques to correct a warped/cupped/bowed butcher block by adding or removing moisture, and I'm not sure how applicable those techniques are here. This seems to me more complex than warping, as you can see from the edge profile.

So I think I want to remove the excess material, but I'm not sure of the right tool for the job. Belt sander? Random orbital sander? Hand plane? Something else entirely?

FWIW, I own none of these tools. I can easily rent a belt sander or a random orbital sander, but I'm not sure about a plane.

  • 3
    If you want it truly flat, swing by a cabinet shop and ask them to run it through their panel planer. I'm not sure how else you'd do it without lots of putzy localized sanding.
    – isherwood
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 18:20
  • I agree with @ Isherwood when make those we run them through the planer and sand them Trying to do them without owning the tools may cost more in rental than making or having a new one made. That is not very big it will probably fit in a table top planer that many woodworkers have.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 18:42
  • you only need one side plane, the other can be shimmed into level.
    – dandavis
    Commented May 19, 2020 at 16:26

1 Answer 1


Finding a shop with a large enough planer or drum sander would be your best bet. But I have found when I plane a rough, warped board I end up with a smooth, warped board! To do it properly, you may need to make a "sled" and support the board so it doesn't rock. Run it thru the planer or sander and get one side truly flat, then remove it from the sled and plane/sand the other side. Sounds like a lot of work for an $8 garage sale find. Up to you of course. If it's not badly warped, just planing it might get the job done. Good luck!

  • I run the board lengthwise flip and rotate 180 and that has flattened butcher blocks out quite nice.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 18:44
  • @EdBeal that works too at times. Every piece of wood is different and you just have to study it and plan the right approach. Not to be OCD about this...but technically I think what the OP called a butcher block is actually just a cutting board. I thought true butcher blocks have end grain as the cutting surface. ...not something you'd want to run thru a planer! LOL A drum sander, fine, but not a planer. Commented May 18, 2020 at 23:54
  • To me a true butcher block is 2-1/2 inch or thicker. The true ones we made for butchers were much thicker and made out of laminated hard wood. The reason they are made so thick is they were shaved daily as a cleaning method not scrubbed I don’t know if butchers even use them any longer but remember there are natural chemicals in the wood that kill germs I have made a few over the years including a bent wood bar / butcher block , two much work today for the cost of materials but laminated hard wood is normally called butchers block.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented May 19, 2020 at 3:53
  • Thanks for the response. I've told many ppl about the natural, germ killing ability in real wood cutting boards, they are actually more hygienic than plastic ones. I make "fancy" cutting boards as gifts for birthdays and Christmas, so I was really curious about this. Thanks again. Commented May 19, 2020 at 13:09

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