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Soapstone is a malleable stone with exceptional density that feels to the touch like a dry bar of soap. It makes a great, elegant countertop material.
To cut and install custom-cut soapstone for any countertops, backsplashes or islands, it is critical to first measure precisely.
Measure each part of the countertop area, taking into account and eliminating irregularities in the back wall. Include a 1-1/4” overhang at the front edge of the countertops. Before you begin cutting any stone, double-check those measurements.
Use a level and nylon string to make sure your cabinets are plumb and square.
Next, build a template (Image 1) for each piece of stone that needs to be cut. This is especially helpful for those pieces that have unusual shapes and are not strictly rectangular. Make the template using 3/8” or 1/2” luan plywood. It's best to make the template fit the cabinet bases perfectly, nailing and gluing the pieces together and then placing the template right on the counter bases to get an exact measurement.
When the template is ready, lay it directly on the stone and hold the template in place with clamps. Trace round the with a pen mark that you can see when cutting (Image 2).
Cut the stone using a circular saw with a dry cutting diamond blade. Set up a straight edge to guide you as you use the saw. Cut along the marked lines with a steady hand (Image 1).
Once the piece is cut, sand it with 36-grit sandpaper, using a belt sander with a vacuum attachment (Image 2). You must wear a mask during this process.
Once the piece is cut and sanded, dry set it in place and check that it fits exactly (Image 3). Make sure the overhang is 1-1/4”.
The next step is to measure the island (Image 1). A template is not needed for these pieces of stone because they are rectangular. The island countertop will be made with three separate pieces of soapstone.
To create eating areas around the island, add an overhang of 12 inches on one side and 8 inches on the other. The other two sides maintain a 1-1/4” overhang. The whole island for this project measures 37 inches from front to back and 70 inches from side to side.
Transfer the measurements of the island to the stone. Because of the size, the island counter is made of three equal pieces that will be joined together. Each section measures 37 inches by 23-1/3”. Cut each piece for the island (as above).
Because these pieces will be joined together, the edges have to be treated in a special way. Use a router with a diamond bit along the seam edges to smooth them out and create an edge that is 90 degrees to the surface (Image 2). Work the router along the edges in a back and forth motion and apply a steady, even pressure. Use a straight edge to guide you. This treatment will ensure a tight seam that will almost disappear when you join the pieces together.