Making a kitchen island countertop

Hi, I want to make a countertop for a kitchen island that would create a separation between the kitchen and the living room. In a building materials salvage store, I bought:
A solid cherry panel (3/4" thick) Mahogany boards (1.5" thick)
My plan is to glue another panel to the underside of the cherry one to make it thicker and make a ~ 1.5" mahogany border around the perimiter.
The project is complicated by the fact that the island is an irregular hexagone.
As I have very little experience with woodworking, I would appreciate any constructive advice, especially:
1. What should I glue to the board's underside - MDF or plywood? What gue should I use? 2. How do I attach the border - just glue, glue + tongue-and-groove, biscuits? How do I join the ends of the border segments - miter or rabbet with dowels, or? If the segments are just glued together, is there a risk that they could separate due to the board's shrinkage and swelling (even if it is glued to MDF)? What kind of glue? 3. Routing the outer edge of the border - should I glue the border and then rout it, or rout the segments before gluing on a router table?
Thanks, iouri
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First important question to be answered is, what do you mean by solid cherry panel? Cherry plywood panel or glued up boards cherry panel? That is going to be a major factor in answering several of your questions.
For the best appearance the ends of the border should be mitered. I'd probably use FF biscuits but you have to have a biscuits jointer that is adjustable to the irregular angles. Splines would work well as will dowels if you can drill the holes at the proper angle. A lot depends on what tools you have to work with and how good you are with them.
Generally you'd want to be easing edges and such after the piece is all glued up and the glue has cured. .
--
Mike G.
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Mike, thank you very much for your reply!
By solid cherry panel I mean "glued up boards cherry panel". I do not have a biscuit joiner, but I guess I could rent one at HomeDepot... although it seems simpler to just rout a groove in both the panel and the border and glue a spline around the perimiter and in the miter. Something I am worried about is that if I rout a groove at the mid-depth of the board, it would be half in the wood, half in MDF. It that a problem? BTW, should I use MDF or plywood?
Thanks, iouri

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Consider how much rental would be and for how long. Most of the time, you could just buy one for about as much as you could rent one from Orange.
You could get a cheapy from HF for $40 ($60 with a tilting fence). Even if it just lasted through that one job, it's probably cheaper than renting one. And if it survives, it's all cheddar.
Or you can buy a really good new (Porter-Cable or DeWalt) biscuit joiner for about $180.
Case in point, I did a big Pergo job (the glue-up kind). Needed to rent the strap kit for installation for about 4 days. It was a mess. Straps caked with old glue from God only knows how many previous renters. Cost about $100. The day I returned it, they had a brand new, unopended kit for sale for only $80. Total screw job.
Now, I never even consider renting first. Well, unless it's something like a Bobcat.
codepath

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Hi Iouri
No you can't glue. MDF or plywood to the bottom. Laminating a solid wood panel to something like plywood or MDF would not allow your glued up panel to move as it will want to do. Do anything to greatly reduce the cherry panel's ability to move and it will eventually and probably quickly destroy itself. That's why I said it the make up was an important factor. Solid wood ALWAYS moves and if you don't take that into consideration in the design you do so at your own peril.
A little redesign work is in order. On a similar project where I wanted a thicker top I just made the substrate, in my case plywood, a hair or two smaller then the top, put some double sided carpet tape in the middle of the substrate and simply dropped the glued up panel on. It was, of course, edged to hide the substrate. The top now had room to move and with the double sided tape only in the middle the wood could move in and out uninhibited. a stripe of glue along the middle of the substrate would work also. You can also just make the top look thicker by just gluing a filler around the edges and only gluing the filler blocks in the middle where it's on end grain. That's two ways, I'm sure there will be more once people see what you have in that cherry panel. As long as the solid wood panel can expand and contract across the long grain you will be ok.
Plywood or MDF? It really doesn't matter. In a kitchen environment I would probably go with plywood in the very unlikely chance the substrate got wet. Besides the plywood is lighter and I hate horsing around MDF.
Splines are fine. However, just because a piece is 1 1/2" thick doesn't mean you have to make the slot for spline in the middle of the 1 1/2 thickness. You can make it completely in the 3.4" solid wood piece or entirely in the MDF/ply if you want. I would suggest the solid wood part.
Hope it helps
--
Mike G.
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Why is it that I would have to have a biscuits jointer that is adjustable to the irregular angles? I guess I am missing something here and I have never used a biscuit jointer - but - if mitered planks join at, say, 138 degrees, their edges are cut at 138/2 = 69 degrees, the biscuit should still be inserted perpendicular to the miter cut on both sides, shouldn't it? iouri

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Yes, you are correct in theory. However the physics of the matter are against you doing an accurate job without a fence that will adjust to the 69 degrees. If you try to do it with out a fence that can be set and locked at 69 degrees you are faced with lining up both the depth from the reference surface and how parallel it is from the reference edge strictly by eye then holding it steady on that precise plane against the torque of the motor and the tendency of the jointer to slip as the blade enters the wood.
--
Mike G.
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On Thu, 11 Dec 2003 17:17:04 -0800, you wrote:

kitchen, and got a choice of walnut, red OR white oak, cherry, or soft maple flooring all T&G... local place had some 'end of the runs, of each of these....its 2 1/4" wide, and short lengths..about a buck a square foot.
--Shiva--
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