7 July 2011

Meanwhile, at the Carpinteria…

When designing the kitchen, we always felt like the cabinetry had to be wood.

After flirting with tzalam, (and buying a stack of wood we’ll now have to use elsewhere) we changed our minds and went with pucte. It’s lighter in color and the fact that it’s easier to work made it the superior choice for our needs.

The big question, however, was what to use for the counter tops? This was solved when we stumbled upon a number of old salvaged beams made from jabim wood. Being over 100 years old and so dry there is no possibility for any movement or splitting, it was the perfect choice.

Our carpenter was both thrilled and cautious. Transforming a ragged stack of beams into a flat counter top measuring 3 x 1.2 meters is no mean feat. After acquiring some shiny new equipment to work on these old giants, she was ready to go.

Old Salvaged Wood Beams

First, each beam was squared up with a large planer before being cut into four planks, five centimeters (2 inches) thick.

Although most of the nails and other metal bits were pried off in advance, our carpenter advised that the beams were so old, they may have “swallowed” a nail or two. Striking one with the saw blade while cutting would break the blade and cost us 500 pesos each time. Luckily, we only struck one.

Salvaged wood beams cleaned and cut into planks

Once cut, the wood was laid out into a rough approximation of the final shape. We opted for an irregular pattern, with some boards longer or thinner than others. As well as achieving a more organic look, not cutting the beams into even sized planks allowed us to minimize the amount of wastage.

Planks with rotten sections or large gashes were designated for areas where they would eventually be cut out to make way for the drop-in cook top and sink.

Our kitchen island countertop, rough assembled

Next, the wood was joined. Thin strips of wood were cut and inserted (with glue) into the ends and sides of each plank to join it to its neighbor.

Each plank was so large and heavy that clamping them together with traditional G-clamps while the glue dried was impossible. Instead, the counter top was built on its side, each board sitting atop the next, allowing gravity to naturally compress the planks together.

Wood planks, joined and stacked under compression

Once the glue was dry, the ends were trimmed to the right size and holes were cut for the sink and cook tops. Large holes were plugged with wood off cuts. Minor holes and spaces along the seams were filled with a putty made from a mix of glue and sawdust created during production.

Kitchen island countertop assembled and being sanded

After a serious sanding, the counter top is largely complete. It’s taken two months to get to this point, but we couldn’t be happier. Being so old and partially petrified, the wood was like rock and work was arduous. Our carpenter is relieved it’s done. At least until we reminded her of the cabinetry work still remaining.

Kitchen island countertop assembled with prep sink

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