As we have mentioned previously, our kitchen had a couple of issues we wanted to improve-- primarily this nook with a little extended shelf that the previous owners used to hold a TV above a fold out table with chairs for eat-in kitchen dining.

We asked you, Internet, to give us ideas for how to improve this nook, way back in this post.
Then we clarified that request with more pictures and diagrams in this post.

We tallied the votes and formulated our plan: make the nook into a drink station.  Beer/wine/dr. pepper/capri-sun fridge below, coffee pot, french press, tea pot, hot water pot etc. above.

We enlisted the help of Jeff and got him to take the excess length off of the former TV shelf, making it a regular old cookbook shelf.  That was November. And then we did nothing for months. Well okay, there were all those other projects.

Actually, our next focus was the island.  There was nothing really wrong with the island in the middle of our kitchen.. well let's go ahead and refer to Alli's diagram again:
And here's an old photo showing some empty space:

So, nothing wrong with the island, but there is a lot of unused blue space over there on the right by our nook (nook unlabeled, but it's on the right in red), and our kitchen didn't have a ton of counter space- which again is why we thought the drink station was a good idea.  So in line with creating our drink station, we also thought we would extend the island and create a little tiny seating area for a couple stools. And that plan worked at least in our heads, because we figured we'd get a new countertop for the island and reuse the blue Corian in our drink nook. This way, we'd have a consistent counter style around the perimeter and something catchy in the middle.

We did a bit of pricing, and essentially, to do this tiny little island we were looking at $1000+
And so of course Alli turned to Pinterest and the blogosphere. Butcher block countertops, DIY. We were sold.

Alli found a good deal at a place here called Southeastern Salvage (a place with all kinds of random goodies) on 10' x 26" x 1" pieces of unfinished butcher block for $150. We purchased one January 7th. They weren't all in fantastic shape, but Jeff and I sorted through a pile and picked out a favorite. Some were bowed, most had some cracking apart of the individual boards at the ends, but we only needed ~66" of good wood, so this was okay.

Here is the original wood:
In our guest room back when it was still pink and bedless.

Before I jump too far ahead, the stack of wood came with warnings to bring it home and place weight evenly across the entire surface on another flat surface for at least 3 days before installing/working with. I borrowed some very heavy particle board table tops from Jeff and followed the rules. (foreshadowing.)

Next, I made some gnarly cuts with my dremel sawmax (not really meant to cut through wood this thick, so I had to cut from the top and then from the bottom)- just to get it to a more manageable size and get rid of split ends:
I borrowed a nice sander from Jeff and made it smooth. I did a bit of filling in knot-holes with oak-colored wood putty:
(formerly a decently deep hole there in the middle).

After completing our 3 day flat-weighting of the butcher block, I was noticing that it still wanted to bow up in the middle if I left it unweighted. And even though I'd cut away the splitting ends, something about acclimating to our house made these start to creep back in.
A little wood glue, a little more putty...
I was planning on cutting that part off anyway...

Based on the internet's wisdom, we'd decided to finish our countertop with Waterlox. This is a tung oil-based finish that is meant to maintain a somewhat natural look to the wood (not that thick clear lacquer of a bar table), yet be easy to clean and maintain, and once cured, food and baby safe.

Part of my problem with the wood flexing and splitting was that I didn't move right on into this finishing process- mostly because you can't buy waterlox at home depot, or lowe's, or most anywhere. You can buy it online and pay shipping, but I did finally find it at a small local place (listed on Waterlox's website) --So another $80 on finish (2 kinds).

We wanted less gloss, so we started with their original sealer/finish- 3... maybe 4, coats.  We also figured this would halt any further wood warping in its tracks until we could get to the next stage. That may have been true, the verdict is somewhat out.

Anyway at this point the wood is already getting gorgeous-er:
And as you can see, we'd bought a bed for the guest room. There's a towel crammed under the door there, because it was about 5 degrees F outside while I was doing this staining, and it's very necessary to get good ventilation at this step, so the window is open and a fan is pulling air out of the room.
different lighting:
different view:

So I started to feel a little less pressure to move right on to the next step, because with the table sealed from moisture (supposedly at least), the cracking and warping should have been done.

Jeff had some great ideas for how to take this countertop up a notch. First, some plywood attached on the bottom. We figured this served a few purposes: thicken the countertop up (most countertops more like 1.5"), give it a firm surface to help keep it nice and flat and prevent any more potential warping, and also give us more material to screw into when we eventually attached it to the cabinets underneath.

So we bought a ~1/2" piece of plywood, cut it down to size, liberally applied wood glue, attached, and then screwed the two pieces together for good measure:
Maybe I didn't take a picture of it attached and screwed... That was February 22nd.

Again, I was feeling better about the shape of the wood.  I left it flat in our guest room for some time, and then at some point we had guests, and I decided to just stand it up in the closet to be out of the way.  I left it there for probably 4 days.  And the warping returned. In fact, it was pretty bad-- laying it down on my floor, I could fit a whole finger underneath it in the middle, and I kind of think the plywood was the main culprit. Apparently wood warps because of uneven drying, and since the butcher block was moisture-sealed, the likely bad guy was the plywood. Ugh.  So I got to work trying to flatten it back out.  I tried just weight-- the particle board tabletop from before-- but that didn't do a ton. The internet suggested placing it over a giant drum of water placed over a fire, so the water would steam and moisture would really get in there.  Rewet, reflatten, re-dry.  I didn't have a drum or bonfire handy, but some smaller projects suggested ironing wet towels/t-shirts.  Why not?

After a good bit of this hot ironing, I stacked the particle board tabletops, and then I stacked everything I could get a hold of that seemed weighty. I used every bit of beer-brewing paraphernalia filled to the brim with water, my cooler, all of our biggest books, everything.  And, it kinda worked over time. I flipped the butcherblock/plywood block over every once in a while and put the weight on the other side.  I think I re-ironed once.  Progress was made.  This was somewhere in the March-April range.  I took a number of pictures of this crazy setup, but I have no idea where they got to. I must have deleted them to make room for videos of Hamish singing.

So we'll just move on. When we finally felt good enough about the flatness of the wood, we planed off the extra plywood (we left extra around the edges so there'd be plenty while we glued):
My first planing. Jeff was better at it...
Jeff's next good idea past the plywood (which was definitely a good idea, we just didn't anticipate that this wood needed its own acclimation period to stay nice and flat and dry) was to create a trim of dark walnut. This would give a pretty border and hide the plywood. I found a place and bought a good board that was an inch thick. Jeff got his boss to use some kind of fancy machine plane to cut that down to a 3/8". Jeff then cut these to appropriate size and made all the fancy 45 degree cuts with his mitre saw:
hmm, so maybe I put the phone down while the saw was spinning. But it was glorious.

We knew the countertop was not perfectly flat, so we left this edging too wide; then we could plane it back down to the table edge and match any hills and valleys better.
Next step was gluing that walnut edge on. First on the long edges, one at a time.
And then I planed the top down to the countertop, and the bottom to within 1/8" or so of the countertop.
(lots of shavings)

And then the short edges (we had to buy some really long pipe just so we could use pipe clamps to get this part done (with borrowed pipe clamps)):
The joy was mounting as it was coming together:
More sanding and planing:

But now the walnut edge plus anywhere I planed/sanded off finish needed all the coats of Waterlox.  Three coats of original and 1 coat of satin finish later, and...
Mmmmm.  All that's left to do is attach...

Well before that, a picture of Hamish helping assemble some stools for our mini seating area:
And finally, we bought a couple of really simple unfinished wood corbels at Home depot to help support the overhanging weight. Once we chose stools, we decided to finish the corbels black to match. So a simple spray paint job.

Saturday, June 21, a mere 5 months and 2 weeks after starting, our project was complete:
ta-da! We think it's gorgeous! so, more pictures:
My new standing computer desk, when I just want to admire the work.
This view comes with two bonuses. 1) H's new hand-me down ducky. 2) our rigged nook vision-- this approximates the height and depth of the countertop shelf we would put in there atop a beverage cooler.
Also here is a comparison shot showing the unfinished wood that we cut off, lacking the walnut border:
So- we love it! It is far from perfect, but I learned along the way to be okay with that. The surface is definitely not 100% flat, but until you get down and look right along an edge, I doubt you'll ever notice. If we pour water on it, it will probably pool somewhere, but again, not really a problem. The finish already feels nice and seems to clean very easily. The waterlox will apparently continue to cure completely for the next ~3 months, during which it will harden more and take on a more satin finish, so perhaps an update to come then. We went from a 24 x 44 countertop here to a 26.5 x 66.75", so it's about 1 and 2/3 times as big as the old. It gives a place for a person or two to sit while someone is prepping dinner, and just feels like a better use of the space. Color wise, we were a tad bit concerned about wood floor, wood island, and wood countertop, 3 different kinds-- but the butcher block kind of matches everything with its varied color, and the walnut I think looks very similar and goes well with the dark veneer of the cabinetry.
And back to cost, I'm sure it added to over $300 when we consider the screws, wood glue, sanding discs, etc., but it definitely beats the $1000 range, and I get to be proud of it.
I'm definitely proud of it.
One more before and after-