A Soupçon of Woodworking


While working on my kitchen last Saturday, I had to cut a notch in the butcher block countertop to fit the apron-front sink in place. One side of the counter was long enough and therefore heavy enough to stay in place as I sawed (and had sufficient overhang into the sink area to allow me to work), but the other side was smaller and moved easily. It it was, however, still heavy – so I didn’t want to carry up to my bench on the second floor.

I’m not lazy – really! It’s just that between running downstairs to use the power tools in the basement and upstairs to use the hand tools and bench on the second floor – not to mention hauling out to the backyard the heavy piles of termite-barf old cabinets and countertop – I’m worn out.

Instead, I grabbed four cans of Campbell’s soup (I believe it was two cans of tomato, one of French onion and one of chicken noodle), the bottoms of which nest nice and firmly inside the lids of one another, then placed them against the wall. Perfect. The counter stayed firmly in place as I cut the notch.

I offered this trick to Chuck Bender for our Tricks of the Trade column, but he turned it down. Crazy, right? (So I guess I’ll consider this as errata for “Handsaw Essentials.”)

— Megan Fitzpatrick

22 thoughts on “A Soupçon of Woodworking

  1. Anderson

    One thing about the beech gluelam countertops. I installed one in in my apartment and saw several others in the building and at friends (this was Germany). They systematically delaminated/rotted around the sinks. Mine had absorbed water and was starting to delaminate when we moved after 4 years. In general the beech absorbs water easily and works quite a bit, and with the wonky wood they use in gluelam, it is worse because of grain run-out on the faces of the boards. If I had to do it again, I’d look at sealing the endgrain with epoxy resin or something around the sink, and using a matte varnish as opposed to the drying oil Ikea recommended. The other problem with the oil finishes was that they tended to creep under the silicone sealant around the sink and at the backsplash ect, as the wood worked with the seasons and at my place and just about all the other counter tops I saw, the oil broke the bond with the wood and the silicone lifted up, became useless/trapped water and looked crappy. Maybe sounds worse than it was, and the wooden countertops were really nice to use in general.

    1. robert

      I recently built a counter top out of strips of cherry and sealed it with Waterlox. That stuff is easy to use, and reportedly works well, I have only had my counter in for 4 months – hopefully my experience bares this out. If you use Waterlox, invest in a professional quality respirator with organic filter cartridges, and apply it with plenty of ventilation (even with the low VOC stuff).

    2. John Walkowiak

      Megan, I replaced my maple butcher block counter 6 years ago. As stated above, the glue joints were failing around the sink. Upon removing the sink I could see that no finish had been applied to the cutout and the caulk failed allowing water to seep under the sink and soak in. So, on the replacement I coated the cutout with 2 coats of 2 part epoxy, running it over the top and bottom edges 1/4″. The first coat really soaked in, so I was optimistic that the end grain would be sealed. As of now, there are no problems so the epoxy seems to be doing it’s job. Good luck with your project.

  2. Edward in Vancouver

    I see you’ve been to Ikea, I know “Numerar” solid beech counter top when I see it.

    Good move! I installed about 25 linear feet of it at my cafe, and it performs great.

  3. Jonathan

    Perhaps Chuck thought the failure to clock the soup cans brought this technique below the caliber of material your subscribers have come to expect.

  4. Chuck BenderChuck Bender

    I didn’t turn it down – I just wasn’t sure of your soup selection. If there was a little more research out there on the best soups (or combinations thereof) for sawing, I would have taken the trick immediately, without question.

    1. pmac

      Hold the phone. I can see you guys entering Tricks of the Trade, but are you also eligible to win? Because that seems really wrong to me. I may have to cancel my subscription.

        1. tms

          And the best part is after you finish the soup, the empty cans are great place to store pens and pencils. 😉

            1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick Post author

              This isn’t an April Fools’ Day post…I really did this in a moment of desperation and it worked. (Pretty sure the French onion soup was the key ingredient.)

              1. tms

                Of course not!
                It was obviously a transparent attempt to impress us with your use of the cedilla.

                1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick Post author

                  Indeed. You’ve winkled out my (wholly ineffectual) self-aggrandizing tendencies.

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