Choosing The Right Butcher Block

More and more homeowners are including butcher block islands as an essential part of their kitchen design. Butcher block islands give you the perfect surface for chopping, while providing an extra work station and storage space, too. If you don't find a ready-made island to suit your needs or kitchen design you can custom design the base and purchase the butcher block top. There are even mobile kitchen islands set on wheels to give you even greater versatility.

The butcher block top is crafted from thick strips of knife-friendly hardwood which have been glued together to create a professional-quality cutting surface. The standard thickness for a butcher block is around four inches with the width and length running from 21" x 17" all the way to 60" x 36", but if you don't find the exact dimensions to fit your kitchen, you can have one custom made.

Look for a butcher block that is faced with the end-grain of the wood. This means that the strips of wood are arranged so that the grain runs in a vertical, or up and down pattern. The top of the board would then consist of many individual pieces of hardwood.

End-grain Surface

With the grain aligned in this vertical manner, the wood grain separates as the knife strikes the surface and then closes as the knife is removed. This self-healing quality is specific to the end-grain surface because the knife cuts between rather than through the wood fibers. An end-grain butcher block is kinder to the blade of your knife, keeping it sharper, longer. End-grain butcher blocks last longer and are safer than any other kind, since they are immune to gouges which can hamper chopping tasks as well as harbor bacteria.

The island can be any size or shape and can be crafted from just about any material you choose, with walnut and oak topping the charts. If you have a tiled backsplash or counter, you may want to create a custom base that incorporates the same tile into its design. Stainless steel, on the other hand, has a professional look and is a breeze to clean. Brick can give a homey, rural feel to your kitchen, adding warmth to the space that is often the hub of a home.

Styles for kitchen islands include the gathering island which has a slatted shelf below the block and sits a few inches above floor level. If length permits, wicker storage baskets can be installed on a drawer track so you can pull them out from either side of the island. Some islands are loaded with racks, drawers, and cabinets for storage space and may include a towel rack, situated at one end of the island, a knife rack, hooks, or a breakfast bar extension which is a drop leaf that can turn your island into a serving area.

Messy Workspace?

Some islands are set on casters so they can be wheeled from place to place. You can move an island on wheels anywhere you like to open up floor space where you need it most, to hide a messy workspace from guests, or to use as a cart for serving food in your dining room.

You'll want a minimum of a few feet of walking space around your island, but you can get away with space on only two adjacent sides if you have a rolling island. Don't forget to check that the height of your butcher block is suited to your height so you don't get a backache while chopping those carrots.