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Counter tops from antique pews

Hi, Ihave these old pew backs that I recalmed from a church that went to a chair format. They are made of oak and are designed like butcher block. They have a dark stain and some sort of sealer on them. I was going to stip all that down and use them as counter tops in my kitchen. Is that possible???? Thank you Roberta

Re: Counter tops from antique pews

If they are flat, you have a nice stockpile of material. Some pew backs were contoured, which wouldn't rule out using them, but would be a more involved process to make flat stock from it.
The main part of the process is going to be edge-jointing the material to get your 25" (or so) wide countertop slabs. This is really, really hard to get perfect without very, very expensive machinery.

The procedure it to get a perfectly straight square edge on one board, then saw the other edge parallel to it. You then have a board with two good edges. When you get two of these boards and their widths add up to 25" or greater, you can glue them together. How you get there depends on the tools or equipment at your disposal. A pro (like me) would use a huge machine called a jointer to get perfectly square and mathematically straight edges in one operation, quickly. This task can also be accomplished with a chalk line, a skilsaw and hand planes, but it takes much longer and actually requires more hands-on skill.
Lets say you have two sections ready to join together. You need clamps with at least a 25" opening. It is possible to make some clamps from some 3/4" dowels and scrap pieces of 1x4 with holes drilled in them for short pieces of dowel. The 1x4 sandwiches the glue-up, the dowels provide the clamp surfaces, and wedges drive between the dowel and the work to draw it up tight. Or you can buy a good number of Bessey K-body or pipe clamps from the hardware. I recommend a clamp for each end and every 16" in between. It adds up to a lot of clamps and money.
We haven't addressed the necessity for keeping the face of the glue-up aligned to a acceptable degree of flatness. The wood will have some natural variation in how flat a face it will give you. You would want to sort this out before the glue flows! People will use some means of controlling the joint face by adding a routered joint (spline or tongue&groove) or a series of fasteners like biscuits (plate jointer wafers) This adds a step and some number of tools. A plain glue joint is also possible, but requires a synchronization of gluing, clamping and fiddling to get it aligned and staying aligned until the glue sets that is hair-raising. I have done this, and it's flop-sweat inducing.
If you can pull off a 12' section of hardwood countertop without an expensive jig (there are room-size pieces of equipment made for gluing up wooden countertop blanks, they are very impressive) then you deserve a pat on the back, as you are an extremely good woodworker.
When the glue dries, you have a more or less flat blank. Then the real fun starts; getting the blank flat and ready for finish. I don't have a thickness planer or thickness sander capable of taking a 25" countertop blank, so for me it means loading the workpiece on the truck and driving to the mill where they have a 36" sander. After the mill, it's a matter of scraping and sanding the blank until it is smooth enough to finish.
Still interested?

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