Time-Lapse: Building a Laser Etched, Basswood Butcher Block with Black Pipe Legs from Scratch.


This was a really fun project! It took me a week to complete rather than the single day (ha!) that I had planned for. My wife really wants to redo our kitchen cupboards and top them off with butcher block counter tops, so this was a bit of a practice run for me. Boy am I glad for having it, too! I learned many lessons!


First, I ordered basswood blanks from Bell Forest Products. I have to confess that I did not research the company before hand (no excuse) so I have no idea about sustainability practices or fair trade policies, or anything like that. I literally just googled “basswood blanks” and voila, up they popped!

Why basswood? I lucked into working with basswood a couple of years back when I built a chest for my daughter for Christmas. It was one of the few choices for “hobby lumber” that I was able to purchase locally, in person. It’s a fairly light stock, not as light as balsa wood, but not too much heavier, either. It sands quickly and effortlessly, takes stain like a sponge, has enough structural integrity to build sizable (though not huge) projects with, and just has a damn cool name.

(Full disclosure, I’m a long-time bass player, so I may be biased.)

You don’t have to go with Bell, but at $55 the price was right for me! Here are a couple of other options, though:

Of course, I like to build with as few fasteners (nails and screws) as possible. So, you’ll need a good wood glue, and lots of it!

For this table I used a polyurethane spray around the edges (3 heavy coats) and a glaze coat epoxy kit for the work surface.

Last, but not least, I fastened the whole thing to a set of black pipe table legs. These come in many shapes, sizes, and styles. Here are some of my favorites:


First, I laid out the pieces of basswood as they would be arranged in the finished project. I then snapped a photo, and began planning out all of my laser etchings:

The laser etcher that I used was by LaserPecker. I ordered the deluxe version (thanks to the S.B.A.), but it comes in many different configurations. Here are a couple of them:

I then glued together only the 3- and 4-piece blocks that would have to be glued together prior to etching. This was primarily necessary for the 4 portraits, but also for the H.S.T. Gonzo emblem and the ship’s seal for the USS Reuben James, etcetera. From there each individually etched piece was processed through the LaserPecker and assembled, piece by piece, to form the entire surface of the table.

I stained the surface and edges of the desk, then flipped it over and glued four 1 x 4 furring strips cut to match the depth of the tabletop. This may or may not have been necessary, but it gave me piece of mind in the sense that it shores up potential structural integrity issues with the butcher block pieces by adding cross supports that bridge most, if not all, of the basswood blanks with the others.

Next, I flipped the whole thing back over and created a basin for the epoxy resin (glaze coat) using several layers of tightly pulled painter’s tape. Glaze coat pours out pretty thick, and maintains a high viscosity all the way through to curing (hardening). This gives it what the manufacturer calls a “self-leveling” quality, which is probably just marketing hype, but it’s also not untrue. You have to work the liquid around a bit to make sure that it gets into all areas, but once it has contact with the entire area, thicknesses pretty much level out on their own thanks to gravity and time.

The key is to have a heat gun or flame available to work out as many of the bubbles that you will inevitably find trapped in the goo–once it is spread evenly–as possible. If you miss this step, you will get dimples and holes where the bubbles remained during curing. They are actually pretty easy to coax up through the gelatinous epoxy, so long as you warm the goop from a proper distance and don’t overheat or boil it. I found that a heat gun was also good for fine tuning the spread of the resin, as it was able to move the material without leaving behind a depression in the surface like the mixing paddle did.

Anyway, the rest is pretty much self-explanatory. Please do watch the time-lapse above of me building this project as described in this blog post.

Thanks for reading!

Stand by to stand by! –Mad Squid

Consecrated Chest of Protection

For Christmas this year I decided to try and make at least one gift from scratch. My daughter lent me the perfect idea when she began reading and talking about witches. This is an interest that I believe she picked up from her Anime shows and graphic novels. Wherever it came from though, it was a perfect match for my gift plan because hand made objects are imbued with power in the world of witching.

Also, in order to make a quality gift, I knew I’d have to be into the concept on some level myself. When I began reading up on witchcraft spells, I quickly found my way to the story of the origins of magic runes. Originating from an ancient Norse poem called Hávamál, the tale is one of sacrifice and attainment of knowledge. It is also one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read!

In this story Odin pins his corporeal self to Yggdrasil, the tree of life which contains the nine realms (be prepared for lofty language and imagery). There he hung above the Well of Urd, a repository for all of the knowledge of the entire Universe, for nine days and nights. He refused help, food, and water from all of the other Gods for this entire time. After the ninth night, the Norns recognized his sacrifice (himself to himself!!!) and taught the power and use of the runes to him. Odin then passed this knowledge on to Humanity, teaching it to the first generation of witches himself.

I was blown away by the depth and beauty of the imagery of this story. If you are unfamiliar with it I highly recommend looking it up. Here is one pretty good link to further you along that path: https://norse-mythology.org/tales/odins-discovery-of-the-runes/

I built this box from an idea. I had no blueprints or plans. Also, I chose not to use fasteners of any kind (except to affix the bronze hardware). The wood is basswood, sourced from my local hobby shop, called Hobby Hut Models. They were very helpful and understanding of my staring at their wood selection for what seemed like forever as I measured and remeasured in my head.

Wooden blocks on the shelf at Hobby Hut Models.
Block selection at Hobby Hut Models.

I began by cutting and gluing the frame of the chest together using 90º clamps. I then cut and glued boards around the frame to create the body of the chest. For the floor of the chest I used the thickest pieces of basswood board so that it could hand the abuse of having things tossed into the chest over the a period of years.

Next, I used a plate to trace a semi-circle onto slightly thicker boards which I used to create the end caps of the domed lid, as well as two ribs to give it more structural integrity. This I had to do because in order to bend the planks for the rounded top of the lid, I knew I had to use fairly thin sheets of wood. I glued these to sticks to create the frame of the chest’s lid, and then glued boards atop the arched end pieces in what I would call a shingled fashion.

For the consecration, I focused my energy and chanted “Elhaz” as I burned the rune itself into each side of the chest, and onto the end pieces of the lid. When the consecration ceremony was complete I used a weathered gray wood stain to color the box, as well as a clear coat inside the chest. Lastly, I glued a beautiful golden garland around the lower seam of the lid, both to close a small gap and to provide some aesthetic nuance to the chest.

My family watches television directly outside of my office, so my daughter knew that I was working on something in here, but we didn’t let her see what. Instead I pieced together a small gazebo from an old wood burning kit and showed it to her at various stages of completion. We repeatedly told her that she was getting the gazebo for Christmas, which really messed with her because of how much time I spent in here working on such a simple object, not to mention the noise and smells that I created in the process. I even wrapped the gazebo and put it under the tree. It was really great fun!