Butcher block island with 3-D effect

A fine kitchen addition has something to fool your eyes

By Ryan Shervill

butcherblock detail

Photo by Roger Yip

For some of you, this project will be familiar. Those who attended the Canadian Home Workshop Show this past March may have seen this butcher block on display in the Master’s Workshop area, where I spent the weekend building a second one for showgoers. This project starts with the traditional end-grain butcher-block design, but I added colour and shapes to inject more visual interest. This version includes an optical illusion known, as a “tumbling-block pattern,” on the top surface. Although the tabletop appears to be made of a collection of cubes, it is actually a series of diamonds strategically placed to achieve the effect. I will show you how to create this illusion in your own shop.

Some words of warning: this project, although not particularly large, takes much time and many materials in order to complete. In fact, I dubbed this butcher block an “a lot” project, as it took a lot of precision, a lot of wood (more than 80 board feet), a lot of glue (almost a gallon!), a lot of time (about 150 hours) and a lot of patience. I’m quite certain I invented a lot of new curse words during the building process as well.




Part Material Size (T x W x L*) Qty.

For the Base

Legs cherry 3 1/2" x 3 1/2" x 31 1/2" 4
Long aprons cherry 1" x 4 1/2" x 27 1/2" 2
Short aprons cherry 1" x 4 1/2" 15" 2
Side skirts cherry 1" x 4 1/2" x 15" 2
Inner top supports cherry 1" x 4 1/4" x 21 3/4" 2
Bottom shelf cherry 1" x 15" x 34 1/4" 1
Short cleats maple 1" x 1" x 15" 2
Long cleats maple 1" x 1" x 18 3/4" 4

For the tabletop

Light-coloured diamonds maple 1 3/4" x 3"** x 48" (**aproximate width) 8
Mid-coloured diamonds cherry 1 3/4" x 3"** x 48" (**aproximate width) 8
Dark-coloured diamonds walnut 1 3/4" x 3"** x 48" (**aproximate width) 8

* Length indicates grain direction

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