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How to Build a Walnut Vanity with Live Edge Backsplash and Inlays

How to Build a Walnut Vanity with Live Edge Backsplash and Inlays

If you want to see more completed pictures of this project or are interested in ordering one, please check out my custom furniture website, “Walnut Vanity with Live Edge Backsplash and Inlays,” where you will find all the details.

filling knot holes with epoxyI first started out milling and gluing up the wood for the top of the floating vanity.  I arranged the boards so the board with the bark inclusion would be at the top left corner.  As luck would have it, the slab I picked out has a similar bark inclusion on the left side.  This will be a nice subtle detail where it will look like the vanity board was cut from the same slab somewhere along the line.

Custom Furniture Design and Fabrication by Brian Benham

When I pour epoxy to fill a significant void like this one, I, of course, use blue tape to seal up any holes on the other side and to create a damn along the edge to hold all the epoxy.  I also add about a 1/3 by volume of some acetone or denatured alcohol to thin it out a little bit.  This allows it to flow faster into the deep crevices, allowing the air bubbles to escape before the epoxy skins over.  The thinner mixture reduces the number of bubbles that you have to work out.  In the final step, I go over it with a heat gun. This helps bring any remaining bubbles to the surface.  I use West Systems Epoxy for most of my glue-ups and when filling defects.

Safe and accurate way to cut a long miterOnce I had the vanity top assembled, I used my skill saw on a sled to cut the angle. This probably has a 20-degree angle that returns the countertop to the wall.  To cut the miter for the apron to glue to, I tilted the blade on my table saw to 45 degrees and glued on a piece of pine along the edge to ride the fence so I could safely pass it across the table saw.

Woodworking courses taught by master craftsman Brain Benham

using glue blocks to clamp a miter tightI used a bunch of dominoes to help align the miter and add strength to the long-mitered joint along the apron.  I used West Systems Epoxy to glue it all up.  I’m sure there will be several people (because there were last time I used glue blocks) who will tell me to use blue tape instead of the glue blocks.  However, this is such a long piece it would be pushing the blue tape to its strength limits.  I also needed to align the compound angle on the front corner as well as on the back corner.  To do this, I needed some lateral movement to be able to shift the pieces left or right to make it all come out perfectly.  The tape would not allow me to do this.  With the glue blocks and clamps, I could clamp it just tight enough to hold it in position while I tapped it back and forth to get it all aligned just right.

compound miter I think the miters came out great.

Installing a french cleatSince this vanity will be floating, I came up with a cantilevered beam system to attach it.  It all started with installing the French cleat.  Yes, that is a Bosh impact driver. It should give me years of reliable service.

Installing support beams for a floating countertopHere, I’m installing the support beams.  I made the full depth, and they pressed against the French cleat that is bolted to the wall.  That pressure against the cleat is surprisingly strong and holds up the counter, and the really heavy stone onyx sink my client picked out.

Moving on to the backsplash, I used the method Nick Offerman made popular to flatten the walnut slab.  I built two parallel runners for a router sled to ride on.  The bit I’m using is a 1-1/2 inch DIA flat bottom fluted plunge bit.  You don’t want to take too big of a bite with that sucker unless you are holding on really well.  However, that large of a bit quickly flattened the slab.

hand cut bowtie inlays The customer specifically requested I get a slab with some cracks to add decorative bowtie inlays in someplace that would make sense.  I drew out some sizes I thought would go well with the size of cracks in the slab and used some spray adhesive to attach them to the ebony.  To save on cost, I used an ebony turning block.

I roughed the bowties out on the band saw and used some files and chisels to refine the shape.  To install them, I used a marking knife to trace the shape, staked it in with a chisel, and hand-chopped them out.  I glued them in place and used a hand plane to flush them up.

Live edge walnut back splash with bowtie inlays, butterfly inlayWalnut vanity with live edge backsplash, inlays

I used spar varnish on the vanity top since it is a wet area and a wiping varnish on the backsplash.  The sink is onyx with LED lights on the back to light it up.


I’m the owner of Benham Design Concepts, a mixed media art studio where I design and build custom furniture and other works of art using wood, glass, stone, and various metals.
In this blog, I talk about the art I create, my journey, and the things I learn along the way.

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