A One-Piece Wood-Slab Countertop

Splitting is a concern, craftsmen agree. October 28, 2005

I have a question from a customer of mine that I have some concerns about. He wants me to cut a 2" thick x 24" wide x 8' long aromatic red cedar counter top for him. He is building a house and wants the counter top in one part of his kitchen made from this piece of material. Knowing that I will just cut it for him is one thing, but I have concerns with his end result.

I would never want to sell a customer a product that will fail them in the end. Even if this piece is KD and finished will it not give him problems? I suggested to him I can finger-groove the smaller width boards, glue them and finish the product with a better result in the end but he insists that he wants a one piece unit for the history and width from a tree and a conversation piece from what I understand from him.

What is a professional view using a solid piece unit like this? I have fears of warping, splitting and a customer saying that I sold him a junk piece of wood that he is not satisfied with in the end. Any help is appreciated. It is his tree that I will be cutting.

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor A:
I don't believe that any of us doubt it will split eventually, and the customer should be apprised of that fact. With today's modern kiln factors, the perception of dryness is always a question. And, being aromatic, I doubt he wants it finished. As a builder, there are several constructions you could utilize to forestall the inevitability; either install breadboard ends, or a heavy web frame substrate, or both.

From contributor C:
I had already told him about potential cracking in the future. We did discuss about logs being used for counter tops. My thoughts are this: I believe a log is more stable from being in its true grain and stress capability because it is still in tact more so than a 4 sided cut piece of wood. I could be wrong but that was explained to me by an older gentleman that built log houses in Michigan.

From contributor J:

I have used wide slabs of a variety of woods, including ERC, and splitting hasn't been a problem. I have built tables out of red oak slabs that were 3' wide, and by allowing for seasonal movement of the wood, splitting has been prevented. Gluing a slab to a piece of plywood is an invitation for the slab to fail - wood has to be free to move.

From contributor D:
Splitting is much more related to whether the heart of the tree is included in the final plank. Boxed hearts will always split - look at any log. The only other causes of splitting are too rapid drying at the ends, causing end checks, or restricted movement as the piece loses or gains moisture. If this is green wood, fasten it with room for it to shrink. Make it so it can be periodically removed and reworked to flatten and clean up the surface.

From contributor P:
I would have him sign a written release of liability for any movement, warping, or splitting. We can tell that you will do your best with this, and I am sure that he trusts you as well, but it is a risky proposition and he should take all responsibility for the outcome.

From contributor B:
I would also advise him of the toxicity of aromatic red cedar. It should not be used in a food prep area and should be thoroughly sealed.