• Amanda

DIY Geometric Butcher Block Countertop

When I started building this coffee cart, the client loved the look of butcher block, but we didn't love the price or the weight. For something that had to live on wheels and move easily, adding a solid butcher block countertop didn't seem realistic. I figured I could easily mimic the look of butcher block without the cost, and in the end I decided to add a bit of a geometric twist to the final look. Click here for the downloadable how-to guide.


Here's what you're going to need:

  • 3/4 in plywood base

  • 1/4 in x 2.5 in x 2 ft poplar appearance boards (I used 38) - You could use any hardwood board for this. Just depends on what look you want. If you're painting it, you could even rip down some less expensive plywood!

  • 1 in x 2 in x 6 ft poplar boards for trim

  • Miter saw

  • Wood glue

  • Brad nailer + nails

  • Orbital sander and sandpaper (80, 120, and 220 grit)

  • Stain/Paint + poly of your choice

Step 1: Cut your plywood base down to size

I used a simple 3/4in birch ply as the base. You'll want your dimensions to be the total width and depth of your countertop minus 1.5" to account for the trim that will be added at the end.


Since I needed the final countertop to be 61" x 31", I got my plywood base cut down to 59.5" x 29.5".

plywood countertop base

Step 2: Cut a million 45º angles

Cut a 45º angle at the top of all of your poplar boards, making sure to cut off as little of the length as possible. It doesn't matter which direction you cut them, because you can flip them around as needed.

poplar boards with 45 degree angles

Step 3: Mark your center point

Create a cross down the center of your plywood base both length-wise and depth-wise. This will serve as your guide for laying down the boards, so try to be as precise as possible. If you don't own a triangle square, I highly recommend investing in one. They're only about $10 and will make your life so much easier!

plywood countertop base with center marked

Step 4: Lay out the first quadrant

The first quadrant is the trickiest because you're free handing the placement of the boards. Because you only have your center point mark as your guide, I'd recommend roughly laying out the entire quadrant before securing anything to the base.


Align the 45º angles along the center lines, until you have the majority of the quadrant laid out and lined up with your guides.

poplar boards laid out to measure

Step 5: Cut your boards to length

After you've laid out your boards, carefully go underneath the plywood and mark where you need to cut the boards to be flush with the edge of the base. Then take them to your miter saw and cut them down to length. These will also be 45º angles!

poplar boards being marked for cutting

Step 6: Attach the boards to the base

Once you have your pieces cut down to length, it's time to attach them to the base. I found that starting with the pieces that line up in the center of the countertop was the easiest way to keep things aligned. First you're going to apply wood glue to the back of the board. I like using an old paint brush to help spread things out and to avoid using too much glue.

wood glue on the back of poplar board

Then carefully align the board in place. Try to get it as flush against the guide or adjacent boards as possible and always be checking that it still lines up with the edge of the base. Secure it in place with your brad nailer.


Note: I tried to use as few nails as possible to avoid having too many filled nail holes in the final product.

poplar board attached to plywood base with brad nailer

As you get closer to the edge, your pieces will get smaller and smaller, so it gets a little trickier. But just repeat this process until the entire quadrant is filled.

geometric pattern on plywood countertop

Step 7: Repeat on all 4 quadrants

You're going to repeat this until the entire base is covered. The pattern of the 4 quadrants should be moving away from one another to create an X in the center.

geometric countertop pattern

Step 8: Fill the nail holes and sand

Using woodfill, fill all your nail holes and let dry. Then, sand down the entire countertop, including the edges, to get it as smooth and level as possible. I started with 80 grit, then moved to 120 and finished with 220.

geometric countertop pattern with nail holes filled

Step 9: Cut your trim down to size and sand

Next, cut your trim down to size with a 45º mitered edge. Remember, the inside edge of the trim should be the same length as the base side it's being attached to. The outside edge will be longer when you cut the mitered angle. Then sand down your 4 trim pieces.

poplar countertop trim cut down to size

Step 10: Attach the trim

Add a small amount of wood glue to the edge of the countertop. Then carefully line up the first piece of trim. Secure with your brad nailer. I managed to do this solo, but if you have a second set of hands lying around, I would recommend doing this with two people. It would have made life a lot easier! Repeat until you have all 4 pieces of trim attached.

geometric diy butcher block countertop

Step 11: Stain and seal!

The last step is staining and sealing with whatever you choose. We went with this grayish, natural stain from Minwax and this water based poly that is easy to wipe down with soap and water, since it's a coffee bar! And after 2 coats of stain and 4 coats of poly, she was done!

dil butcher block counter stained and sealed

Make sure to go visit Stay While Coffee at the Little Gay Shop if you're in Austin!

stay while coffee cart

And check out the Stay While Coffee cart on KXAN!


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