Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Pulling A Greg Out Of My Hat

Awhile back Greg had a nice blog entry on his marble countertop fabrication. Inspired by his work, we decided to fabricate our own soapstone countertops for our kitchen.

Soapstone is much softer than marble, so the job was likely easier than Greg's, but nonetheless it was nerve racking making the cuts.

Unfortunately I don't have any "action" shots, but the process went something like this:


  1. First I made a template of each counter top out of MDF--thinking it would be better to screw up a $20.00 piece of wood than the relatively expensive stone.
  2. Once assured the template fit the counter top and all the sinks, I took the template to the stone and clamped it down.
  3. I traced the template onto the stone and then removed the template.
  4. I then took a worm-drive skil-saw with a diamond blade and cut the stone--leaving about 1/8 inch of the line exposed. Care was take to assure the counter top piece and the piece being cut off were well supported, so it wouldn't crack as the cut was completed.
  5. I then re-clamped the template back to the stone and took a router with a carbide tipped pattern cutting bit and traced the template-taking off a little at a time. The soapstone was soft enough that the router tip held up quite well (I bought a Rockler "cheapy" bit for this). The cuts came out extremely smooth, and the template method helped create very accurate cuts (except for inside corners).
  6. The template was then removed again, and I switched to a 1/4 carbide round over bit to soften all the exposed edges...We could have use an ogee, or some other bit quite easily, I believe, but we wanted a relatively simple edge and the round over worked great.
  7. With a tungsten encrusted hole saw, we drilled the holes for the faucets and air pressure switch for the garbage disposal.
  8. Finally, a friend loaned me his wet polisher--which had a series of diamond pads that I used to buff out the sides and tops. Although it was nice to have the polisher, with soapstone you could have used a series of regular sand paper and a random orbital sander to get to the same smoothness.

Both the diamond blade for the skil saw and the tungsten hole saw were purchased at my favorite, ahem, store, ahem, Home-Depot.

Honestly, the hardest part of the job was moving the stone--you'll know who your friends are when you have to move this stuff. The "pennisula stone" weighed over 500 lbs before I cut the sink out...And the whole time you are sweating bullets that the stone might crack--but luckily that didn't happen.

Here are some of the money shots:





























We chose soapstone for a number of reasons:


  1. We felt we could do a reasonably good job of fabricating it ourselves--saving some money in the process.
  2. The stone is impervious to staining--so it is a very functional stone for the kitchen--(you may have remembered soapstone from you high-school chemistry class--you can spill anything on it and not worry)
  3. No chemicals are needed to seal it--you use mineral oil which darkens the stone considerably and really makes the veining pop and gives the stone great depth...The stones in the pictures have not yet been oiled. One nice discovery since oiling the stone is that the stone continually seems to change in between oiling--It's almost like a different kitchen each day.
  4. Soapstone is used to make fireplaces--so you can set a red-hot pan on it without worrying.
  5. While we want the stone to "patina," most scratches will disappear with oiling--and deeper scratches can be "buffed" out with 150 grit sandpaper and oil.
  6. Soapstone is naturally anti-bacterial in nature.
  7. We didn't want a "high sheen" stone to show the water marks.

We purchased the soapstone from http://www.soapstones.com/ . We dealt with Philip who was quite helpful.

For anyone thats got a lot of friends to help you move the stone, and has some experience with a router, I think this is within the realm of the average do it yourselfer--and when you price stone fabrication, you will be happy with the savings as well.

5 Comments:

Blogger John said...

Wow, that looks great. If I ever do another counter top, you and Greg have definately sold me on the do-it-yourself approach.

6:46 AM  
Anonymous Carol said...

What is the brand/style/color of your cabinets and your subway tile? The whole room looks great!

7:51 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Very, very nice! I love soapstone. I came very close to using it on the island.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Thanks guys for the nice comments...Carol, look for a post in the next couple of weeks--I'll give all the details...

7:29 AM  
Blogger Fred said...

Beautiful job -- I'm very impressed.

7:32 AM  

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