I had friend ask me to build a 6x3 ft butcher block countertop out of soft maple. It was one beast of a project and I had a ton of trial/error along the way. But in the end, it turned out great!
I bought 2in thick boards of soft maple from my local hardwood supplier. I started to get all of my stock ready by first cutting them to a rough length on the miter saw.
Then I jointing one edge on my 6 in jointer before beginning the process of cutting it into strips.
Once I had a square edge to reference off of I cut the boards into 2 in strips. Some of my wood was warped so I needed to keep flipping the board over to keep a safe cut on the table saw.
Then I used my miter sled on the table saw to cut the strips into random lengths.
All of the strips were taken through the planer to reach the same thickness before glue up.
Since my planer is only 12in wide I built the table top in 3 sections so that they could be taken back through the planer to catch any inconsistencies that might have happened during glue up.
I used long bar clamps with a thin piece of plywood underneath to build the countertop on top off. Then using a paint roller I applied glue to all of the surfaces before flipping and clamping everything together.
Once all three sections had been glued and ran through the planer I used the same process as before (just a lot bigger!). I also used a few pine strips across the top that were clamped down to keep the boards from bowing.
Despite my best effort I still wound up needing to do a good bit of work to even out the table top. I started with a belt sander and moved to a hand plane to get a good consistent surface across the entire width and length.
Then to prepare the top for stain I sanded the entire surface started at 60 grit and then moving to 120, 150 and finally 220.
I left the ends of the table top long throughout the build. I came back with a circular saw with a long straight edge clamped to the surface to cut off the ends.
All the edges were rounded over with a 1/2 round over bit on the router.
I know, I know. Why would you stand hardwood!
This was to match my friends' kitchen but still be able to use soft maple for the construction. This was actually the hardest part of the process as maple can be really blotchy.
I went through several different rounds of trial/error and there is an entire video covering the process above.
What I landed on was this:
Step 1: Pre-stain conditioner.
Step 2: General Finish Gel Stain
Step 3: General Finish Arm-R-Seal top coat.
I found that the gel stain especially helped to even out the color since it is a good bit thicker than normal stain so it doesn't absorb into the wood as quickly.
The final top coat took 4 thin layers before I got a great smooth shiny finish.
Once everything was dry I packed it up and delivered it to my friend's house. The top was attached with screws and washers. I left room in the holes to allow for wood expansion throughout the seasons.