Growing up on the Green River in the woods of Vermont, summer jobs meant framing houses. With a few “breaks” to salmon sein in Alaska, travel and study English and Philosophy, Matt eventually worked his way into finish and trim carpentry, built-ins, cabinetry and furniture.
Green River Woods was originally founded in 2008 and now serves clients all over the world. As a company we emphasize environmental care and attention to process, from tree to finished piece, using traditional and modern methods to make one-of-a-kind pieces large and small.
Virtually all the wood that comes into our shop is re-purposed in one form or another.
Our founding obsession, evidently, lies in exploring the limits and possibilities of end grain construction. No surface is more difficult to work, more beautiful, or more durable. More recently, we have begun acquiring an inventory of unique salvaged slabs that over time suggest their own enduring form and function.
Traditional butcher blocks were built to last for generations. Ours still are.
Furniture should be too.
• For tops finished in Pure Tung Oil or Waterlox Varnish:
Re-apply a thin and even coat as needed roughly every 6 months-1 year. Allow to cure FULLY (7-14 days) before using/ non-toxic. Paste wax and carnauba wax can also be used over pure tung oil for a more scuff-resistant protection.
The product page for pure tung oil maintenance and care is here:
Wood tops from GreenRiverWoods are made to your exact specifications. Installation should be easily accomplished by a cabinet specialist or a handy homeowner; however, it is very important to follow receipt, handling and storage instructions of the tops before installation.
Please read ALL of the installation instructions before installing your wood top. Failure to properly receive and install your wood top will void the warranty.
Receipt and Storage of the Top
Upon receipt of your top from the freight company, check to ensure that the package or crate is in good condition. Please note any and all damage to the crate or packing materials directly on the delivery notes.
You MUST uncrate your custom wood top within 48 hours of receiving the crate. Remove the entire countertop from the crate. If it is not being installed at this time, it should be stored horizontally on “stickers” in a climate-controlled room.
Stickers are boards (usually 1/2” to 1” thick by about 1-1/2” in width) that are laid horizontally to the top on a supported surface. The top is placed on top of the stickers to enable air to flow under the top while it is being stored. Stickers should be placed to support the ends and the middle of the top.
If, upon opening the crate, you discover damage to any part of the custom wood top, you must report the damage to UPS or FedEx Freight and to GreenRiverWoods immediately. Failure to report damage within 48 hours will relinquish your right to make a claim for any damage that may have occurred during shipping.
Preparing the Top for Installation
We do not include screws with the countertop because there are many variations in how long the screw should be in securing the countertop to the cabinetry. You will need a good-quality wood screw that is long enough to go through the corner block (or other attachment device) and penetrate the wood countertop to at least one half of the thickness of the top.
Dishwashers, Washing Machines, under counter appliances, and Built-In Ovens
A heavy-duty aluminum foil membrane should be attached to the underside of the solid wood top (the shiny side should face the appliance) over any appliance that produces heat or moisture. Aluminum foil on the underside of the top prevents heat and moisture penetration that could cause cracking. The foil should be adhered to the top (3M® brand spray adhesive works well) before it is attached to the cabinets and should cover the whole width of the top and overlap to the adjoining cabinets on either side of the appliance.
Sinks and Faucet Pipes
All sink cut-outs should be carefully sealed with the type of finish that is used on your countertop. A thick coating of silicone can also be used to seal faucet holes. Any other cutouts or modifications to the wood top must be sealed as well. Failure to properly seal any cut-out or modification to the wood top will void the warranty. Sinks and faucets should be tightly secured to prevent water from penetrating the top.
If your custom top includes a corner where two pieces are joined together, those pieces should be assembled first. A thin bead of acid-free silicone should be applied to the upper and lower edges of any joints to ensure a good seal.
The bottom surfaces of the two pieces to be joined together will each contain a hole with a groove that extends across the joint. These holes will accommodate the FlipBolt® countertop connectors that were shipped with your multi-piece top. These connectors will be tightened and serve to clamp the joint together. See the photos below for instructions on installing the FlipBolt® connectors.
A joint will also have Domino® pins, which are flat wooden dowels that you will insert into the holes (already pre-drilled for you) on both surfaces of the joint. The countertop pieces now fit together much like a leaf fits into a table. After the countertop has been properly aligned, insert one FlipBolt® connector into each hole. Then simply hand-tighten the nut and then lower the flip lever to tighten each bolt. The Domino® pins and the FlipBolt® ensure that your countertop stays perfectly aligned.
Installing the Top
The countertop should be attached to the cabinetry by screwing it to the corner braces and blocking provided by the cabinetry, or additional strong blocking added to sit flush to the top of the base, if necessary. Another option to secure the wood top is to use “L” brackets.
In order to allow for the natural movement of the top, only one long edge should be “fixed.”
For the fixed (usually back) edge or corner, pre-drill normally relative to the size of the screw barrel being used to avoid any chance of splitting. All other areas should be “free” and secured with over-sized, elongated holes in the substrate/blocking and washers to allow for seasonal wood movement. In “free” areas, first pre-drill an oversized hole into the *substrate* or *blocking only*. This hole should be elongated perpendicular to the grain at least twice as large as the screw. Then pre-drill normally through the center of this larger hole at least 1/2 way into the top. Screws and washers should then be used in the center of the holes to secure the top. HAND TIGHTEN ONLY.
Do NOT use glue to secure the wood top. Glue will prevent the wood top from its natural inclination to move and will cause the top to split and crack. Using glue or any kind of adhesive to install the wood top will void the warranty.
The top should be attached at every available opportunity including, but not limited to corner blocks, ledger strips, metal brackets, or any other attachment throughout the length of the top. It should be secured on the front edge, in the middle, and at the back edge of the top.
If necessary, GreenRiverWoods will provide further detailed installation instructions for your particular top. If there is any part of installation or handling of wood tops that you dont understand, please contact us.
For active food prep island tops, counters and cutting boards finished in Bee Good Wood Oil (mineral oil/pure beeswax):
Please open and inspect immediately upon arrival, wiping off any excess oil and then re-oiling both sides again generously with a light, quality food-grade *mineral* oil or mineral oil-based butcher block oil, such as my own Bee Good Wood Oil, before using.
Never use organic, vegetable or cooking oils on your end grain board (or any food surface)...they will always eventually break down, and risk turning rancid and spoiling, making you sick and ruining the board. Some organic oils like coconut oil may take several years to break down, but in the long run you are better off being safe with food grade mineral oil. Any responsible cutting board oil is made primarily from high quality food grade mineral oil (not the heavy stuff at your supermarket pharmacy sold as laxative), and is safe:
Please note: END GRAIN REQUIRES SOME BASIC ROUTINE CARE
Regular cleaning and oiling is essential for both the long-term stability and self-cleaning quality of your block.
To wash, wet a sponge lightly in warm water and mild dish soap and bring it to the board, scrubbing thoroughly. Do not submerge the board or even hold for any length of time under direct flow of water in your sink and certainly dont put it in your dishwasher.
I strongly recommend oiling end grain boards GENEROUSLY once every day for the first week or two of use in any new environment, once a week for the next month, and thereafter once a month or more, depending on use and climate. Get in the habit of always oiling directly after washing and hand-drying, and your block will last for many decades of hard daily use.
Basic mineral oil can be found at any local pharmacy (sold as laxative), but a “board butter” product with both added blocking/antimicrobial agents and most importantly pure beeswax greatly helps ensure the stability, cleanliness and longevity of your block by building a more enduring surface layer of protection. Also it smells nice.
I make my own Bee Good Wood Oil from scratch, which blends the highest quality light viscosity and food safe mineral oil, additional blocking agents and exceptionally sweet pure beeswax from a local Asheville beekeeper with some anti-microbial fragrance oils. Based on decades of experience and experimenting, Im rather proud of it:
To oil, first clean the board by scrubbing with warm water and soap, hand-dry and then rub an even and generous coat of slightly warmed oil/wax into all surfaces of the board with a clean cloth or paper towel until it stops absorbing. Work the beeswax in with small circular movements, as you would wax a car. Let sit overnight. The beeswax top coat may be buffed aggressively once it has been allowed to dry (generally six hours) for a nice protective sheen and patina.
Basic end grain care instructions are as follows:
• Store flat (away from direct heat, including sunlight)
• Keep clean, cool and dry and most importantly, well-oiled
• Wipe, scrape or hand wash with warm water & soap (do not submerge, let soak in moisture or put in dishwasher)
• If absolutely necessary, a stronger cleaning agent can be used to get rid of unwanted residues, odors, bacteria or stains, such as pure white vinegar, lemon, salt, or something stronger (see link above).
• Hand dry with clean cloth *immediately* after washing (do not let drip dry in dish rack)
• Get in the habit of quickly re-oiling both sides and all edges thoroughly and evenly after every washing and drying. This is part of the pleasure of owning an heirloom block, and the other wooden items in your kitchen with a penetrating finish just might benefit as well.
FURTHER USEFUL TIPS:
• Your board and any seams that rise up may always be buffed smooth by sanding lightly with a very fine grit sand paper (say, 320 grit), rubbing hard and carefully by hand with the grain. If a coarser grit is required, just remember to sand evenly and check that the board remains flat, and work your way back up to at least a 180 or 220 grit.
• Any seams or cracks in the wood itself that open up as a result of drying out, dramatic changes in climate, exposure to excessive heat or moisture, or neglect, should be filled immediately with Titebondiii waterproof polymer wood glue and sawdust of a matching color. Simply fill the crack with glue and sand over thoroughly, right away, either by hand or with a random orbital sander, working your way from 120 grit back up to at least 180 grit (320 is better).
• Any stains or discoloration caused by improper cleaning or bacteria may be treated with a stronger cleaning agent such as vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, or in extreme cases even diluted bleach, before reseasoning, as per the recommendations at the link above. Here is that link, once again:
• Placing a non-slip Rubbermaid mat or clean towel under the board is highly recommended to prevent slippage on the counter and to elevate above any moisture. Small non-slip rubber bumpers may also be found for a couple bucks at any hardware store and attached to the bottom corners of the board (a drop of superglue helps). To reverse the board, the bumpers will need to be removed and the area sanded and re-oiled. For this reason, I prefer to leave them off my boards (this way they are also reversible).
• Any undesirable cupping caused by moisture imbalance and/or climate may usually be corrected by oiling the *concave* side generously and placing that side face down overnight. Something heavy placed on top may further help return the board to its original flat shape. Several oilings over the course of several days may be required. If any racking develops, sanding the offending corners with a random orbital sander may be desirable. Please bear in mind, very few surfaces in this world are perfectly flat. The board may always be resurfaced, working from an 80 grit up to 180 or 220 grit sandpaper, and then re-seasoned thoroughly.
ADDENDUM: TO FEET AND GROOVE OR NOT TO FEET AND GROOVE:
I realize many board-makers have strong opinions on these matters. Here is mine:
Reversible is best; no feet. Place a clean dish cloth underneath and change regularly to keep the board from sitting in any moisture on the counter. Flip the board very so often (say, once a month or two) and use/clean/care for both sides equally.
Airflow is really only necessary when the board is allowed to dry out to the point of being in danger of warping. For example, working with raw wood and especially large slabs, before you apply a finish to a large furniture top, say, it is essential to keep the top stickered allowing airflow so the moisture content between the two sides stays balanced. When one side dries out it contracts, when the other side absorbs more moisture from the air, the cells expand and it bows...
End grain of course absorbs and expels moisture more readily than edge or face grain. It responds more quickly to soaking (and then drying out in direct proportion) as well as to proper care.
If you keep it oiled and waxed, especially during the first week, re-seasoning especially after scrubbing with lightly-dampened sponge and mild dish soap and/or diluted white vinegar spray, thats really what counts. Ive seen plenty of footed serving boards over the years that warp just as easily (if not moreso) because only one side is ever used (and naturally wears, and begins to absorb/expel at a different rate than the underside.
As for groove, I do think they are potentially weakening only in the sense that people tend to leave moisture in the groove and not wipe clean before sitting down to a meal...over years and decades of use, any part of your board that is allowed to sit in moisture will require extra care, again, re-oiling, to prevent undesirable wood movement/seam failure. That being said, a 3/4 groove leaving one side open tends to encourage better care, and can be extremely useful in keeping moisture off counters..waxing helps a great deal with water-resistance, and Im very proud of my Bee Good butter. Hundreds of boards with grooves Ive made are still going strong after decades of constant use.
Only END GRAIN construction makes a genuine chopping block. Built right, end grain boars are highly functional heirlooms. Only end grain is self-healing, self-cleaning, gentle on your knives and will hold up to decades or even generations of hard daily use. They are significantly more labor-intensive to produce, but the rewards are well worth the effort.
Whether your needs are for an end grain working surface, an edge grain carving board or a face grain or serving board, please do not be fooled by the “green” bamboo or “sanitary” plastic (they are neither). Real wood is both more sanitary and naturally anti-bacterial, as scientific studies have repeatedly proven, as well as potentially sustainable. Not to mention pleasurable in both an aesthetic as well as quotidian, tactile way.
I make a strong effort to use salvaged and reclaimed, locally and sustainably-harvested, kiln-dried timber. All the wood I purchase is sustainably harvested, properly milled and dried and worked for long-term stability.
Buying artificially cheap and highly-manufactured, mashed-up and glued bamboo product from clear-cut monoculture “farms” of an invasive species, harvested in China (where it is grown instead of much-needed food, purely for export) and shipped halfway around the world, does not make you or the world any “greener.”
As if that werent enough, there is little worse for you knives or cooking experience than bamboo. Bamboo is actually a grass, not wood, and while a versatile building material it constitutes one of the most unpleasant surfaces to cut on. Dulling your good knives instantly, you may as well be cutting on a rock, or glass. Bamboo is also chock full of nasty glues and untested/unmonitored chemical compounds by the time it reaches your kitchen counter from the other side of the world, soon to dry out, dull your knives and be thrown against a wall in disgust and then into a landfill.
Here in the hardwood capital of the world (and cradle of modern forestry), people are once again increasingly being drawn to the warmth, elegance, functionality and timeless character of real wood surfaces.