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DIY Mixed Wood Island Top

Mixed Wood Island Top by

I love our kitchen island, but the top has seen better days. Instead of buying something new, we decided to resurface the top with a mixed wood pattern using poplar, pine, and oak. It came out so nice I just had to share it!

Mixed Wood Top Supplies

The supplies needed for the mixed wood top are pretty simple and self-explanatory. There are also other ways to do this, of course :). We used:

  • Pine, poplar, and oak boards. Any wood you like will do.
    Most are 1×4″ and in the center we used 2 pine strips that were 1×2″ as a border
  • Molding – you can get molding at the big box store. Make sure it’s large enough to cover your old table top PLUS the height of your new wood. We used the leftover boards from my rustic pallet desk project.
  • An old island/table top, an old door, or plywood in the size you’d like your new mixed wood top to be.
  • Wood glue
  • Orbital sander (or sandpaper)
  • Wood stain (optional)
  • Polyurethane or Tung Oil. We used the polyurethane for floors that was left over from the penny floor.
  • Finish nailer (or nails/screws if you want to do it the old-fashioned way)
  • Miter Saw
Mixed Wood Island Sketches by
Here are some sketches I did before we went out to purchase our mixed wood.

Design Your Mixed Wood Top

Before you go shopping for wood, you should sit down and figure out how you want to design the top. There are endless options, and lots of different width boards to choose from. If you pre-plan before you go shopping, you’ll ensure that you have enough wood and not so much excess. We experimented with several different options before settling on our final design, and actually changed a portion of it after getting to the lumber yard. Because of the dimensions of our island, we determined that this pattern would leave the least amount of waste.

Cut the Mixed Wood and Secure it To Your Top

After your shopping trip, head home and start measuring and cutting the boards to length. A chop saw (miter saw) will really help with this if you have one. You can also use a circular saw.

Cutting the Mixed Wood Island Top by
Cut the boards to length with a chop saw. Protect your eyes of course.

After the wood is cut, lay out your entire design onto the table to be sure it works. Then, use wood glue and some nails to secure the mixed wood to your old top (or plywood). We used a finish nailer so this went really smoothly as well. If you have someone to help you, they can make sure that the boards are very tightly butted against each other so you don’t have any big seams. Getting the boards tightly in place is key to making this table top usable over time.

Nailing the mixed wood onto the old Island Top by
We used wood glue and a finish nailer to secure the mixed wood onto the old kitchen island top.
Mixed Wood Island Top (Before Stain) by
Here is a our island “au naturale” — this is after we glued and nailed our mixed wood onto the old island top.

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Install Your Molding

After your top is finished, you can go ahead and install the molding. Molding is hard, especially if you want those nice mitered edges. You can also go with a simple edge without any 45 degree angles. But, of course the edges look nicer when they are form fitting. Here’s a few videos about making compound cuts for this type of project.

Once you make your cuts, you can glue and nail your molding onto the sides of the table. You will probably need another person to help you with this.

Sand, Stain and Seal Your Mixed Wood Top

Now comes the sanding. We used an orbital sander to make the top as smooth as possible. Sand, sand, and when you think you are done… sand some more.

Once you are done sanding, wipe it clean with a tack cloth or a wet rag to get all of the sawdust off your new island top. Then, you can stain it!

Staining the Mixed Wood Island Top by
We used a custom stain on the mixed wood to match to our cabinets, and taped off a strip in the center of the mixed wood island to leave natural.

Staining is not that scary, but a lot of people have trouble with it. The trick is to put EVEN, LIGHT coats on. Make sure that your coating is nice and even. Any imperfections in the stain will show through. I always recommend doing light coats as well, because you can always make it darker with another coat (or 2, or 3). You should time how long you leave the stain on, then wipe it down for an even look.

Mixed Wood Island Top (After Stain) by
This is what the mixed wood looked like after we stained it. The natural wood in the center is very light, but darkened after applying the poly.

After you are happy with the stain color and everything is dry, you can now seal your mixed wood top. You have a million sealing options, but I would recommend Tung Oil or Polyurethane. Tung oil is what they use on butcher block, so if you are making a “true” kitchen island that you plan to handle food on, this is the way to go. If you are just making a kitchen table or some other furniture top, you will probably want to use polyurethane. Because I had it left-over from my penny floor, I used the semi-gloss finish of Minwax 13025 VOC Fast Drying Polyurethane For Floor. I think it came out nice, but you can use whatever polyurethane you like. Pick a sheen that you are happy with, and apply the sealer according to the instructions. We lightly sanded between our 2 coats of sealer.

Mixed Wood Island Top by
This is our island after staining and sealing with a clear polyurethane semi-gloss. The poly really brought out a nice color in the natural wood.

Install Your Mixed Wood Top onto the Base

This is the final step! After your tung oil or polyurethane sealer is dry (and you’ve applied 2-3 coats), you can install your wood top. Because we installed our wood right OVER top of the old island top, all we had to do is reattach it the same way we removed it. It had some nice bolts in place and it only took a few minutes. If you have made your own top, you’ll have to do some research to attach the base. You’ll probably need to screw the legs onto the top to secure it, but the method you use will depend on the material of your base.

Here’s the before and after of the mixed wood kitchen island. Do you recognize it from my post about choosing a kitchen island?


This was a great solid island, but unfortunately over the past few years the finish on the top has not held up. It actually got so sticky that no matter what I did to clean it, 5 minutes later it was sticky. It drove me crazy. That’s what motivated us to resurface it.

My new kitchen island and green stools
My new kitchen island and green stools


Ta Da! What do you think?

Mixed Wood Island Top by
Here’s the finished island top finally in place. It’s right under the ceiling light and looks gorgeous. The stain actually matches the kitchen cabinets in the background.

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