DIY – Build your own butcher block countertops

Claire and I have recently been doing some renovating in the kitchen area, and thought about new countertops. New countertops are crazy expensive! There’s some thick cash for these things. I got to thinking about it a bit, and decided that maybe I could put together some butcher block countertops. I got to work on the internet, and came across some sites that I thought were instructive. Each offered some good tips and really got me started.  Big thanks to the writers of each.  Those sites can be found at:

Build a Traditional End Grain Up Butcher Block – Part I of II |

Fisherman’s Wife Furniture: DIY Butcher Block Countertops

Build a Butcher Block Tabletop | DoItYourself.

Stuff you’ll need for this project if you’re relying on these instructions:

  1.  Home use table saw.  This one retails for 199 if it’s on a stand, or for $119 for one that does not have a stand.  It’s a must have if you’re going to do much in the way of woodworking.
  2. Home use planer.   A power planer is the electric version of device that looks like this:  .  The power version of this is much better.  You’ll be a lifetime and with less success trying to use the manual version.   The power one retails for about 119$ if you get one at Canadian Tire.  If it’s on sale you’ll get it for about 1/2 that amount.  They are a great tool for finishing work, and last well.
  3. Belt Sander.  These things are great!  Ever had belt sander races?   Plug two of them in, press the on switch and the lock switch (the lock switch keeps it going after you’ve let go of the power button) and set them down, they run like crazy!  Okay, enough fun, we’re not here to do belt sander races, let’s build some countertops.   Here’s what they look like:  These are a very handy workhorse to add to your stable.   If you’re trying to prepare a rough floor for laying hardwood, or trying to clear a lot of material, this is the thing.
  4. Multiple grades of sandpaper.  You can get this at Canadian Tire or at Homedepot.  You’ll want some 40 grit, 80 grit, 120 grit, and 220 grit paper.  This stuff, for the belt sander, retails for about 5.99 per pack of 5 belts.  One pack of each should be more than sufficient for you.
  5. Optional – Random orbit sander.  This is a bit of a different beast.  The random orbit aspect prevents predictable power sander deformities, and gives you a more refined product.   You can get one of these for about 50$ at Home Depot or Canadian Tire.    This one is optional, you’ll get a very nice finish without it, but if you want a step above and can afford the tool, it’s a good choice.  You’ll need sandpaper pads that fit it, which will be 5 inch round pads.   As you will only use this on the second last and last application you only need sandpaper pads in 120 and 220 grit for this one.
  6. Skil Saw aka circular saw – you will use this to cut off the ends of the counter to make it even when you’ve finished forming it.  Note that when you do this you’ll be cutting through lumber that is 2 inches thick for the depth of your counter, which is usually 24 inches deep.   It’s important that this be a very careful and complete cut, so use a corded skil saw.  Some cordless ones out there might do it, but corded never seem to run out of power at just the wrong moment.  These sell for about 60$ or so.
  7. Chop saw.  You’ll use this to cut the boards to length after you’ve ripped them.   This will only be cutting through a single board of 2 inches by 3/4 of an inch so you’re not asking a lot of this.  A chop saw will give you a very nice square cut each time.    These vary in price, and can get fairly expensive ($600 or so) if you go to a full mitre type saw.  Less expensive ones for basic projects are available.    
  8. Waterlox  original sealer and waterlox satin finish.  This stuff is crazy expensive in Canada.    A pint container, by the time I pay shipping, costs more than 115$.   Yep, a gallon is around $400.  Ack!  Good grief, I can’t believe how expensive this stuff is.   However, based on the articles above, I concluded that it’s the right product for this job.  As I understand it, this product goes on and absorbs, and leaves very little in the way of oil on the surface, so that stuff you set down on the surface once it’s prepared does not suck up a bunch of oil.  It’s food safe. 
  9. Titebond III glue.  That’s like Titebond 3 but we have cute roman numbers.  This stuff is very high quality glue, food safe, and very solid.   It’s not all that pricey but you’re going to go through quite a lot of it.
  10. Clamps.   You’ll want a few of these, and the long ones will be needed for the counter as it gets wider.  You can get these at Canadian Tire on sale.   You’ll need a few.  I’d say a minimum of 4 of them, and that’s a bit lean.   


With the information from the above sites in mind, I decided on maple as the wood to be used.  Claire and I went to Home Depot and found some maple.  Good grief!  That is some crazy expensive stuff!  It worked out to about $82 dollars for each 1″ x 8″ x 96″ board.  Now have in mind that these are finished boards, all four sides.  That’s not all that useful to me, because I plan to build 2 inch thick countertops.  That means that I’m not using the boards as they are by any means.  Instead I’m running each one over the table saw, and cutting them in two inch strips.  That would seem at first thought to be 4 strips from each board, but have in mind that a 1 x 8 x 96 board is in fact finished out to .75 thick by about 7.5 wide.  The length is actually correct, you get a full 96 inches on the board length.  Because of this, I get three boards of 2 inches thick out of each allegedly 8 inch wide board, and a small strip that I plan to use in a different project.

So tip number one that I found would be to go to a more diversified lumber supplier.  These were high end boards for Home Depot, obviously meant for a home wood worker that would be using them as a finished board.  Since I was not using them that way, I could probably have saved some money had I found a supplier that could bring them to me in an unfinished state.

Ripping the boards:  Get a blade that is meant for ripping.   A table saw will save you a ton of time and give you a more consistent product.  Mine has a 10 inch blade on it.   I set the cut for two inches and started ripping.  Initially I had a finishing blade on it, thinking that this would give a smoother cut to the wood.  Wrong wrong wrong idea!   The finishing blade is meant for across the grain cuts, not for ripping.  Using the finishing blade darn near lit the wood on fire.  It’s just the wrong way to use the tool.  Add on a ripping blade and away you go, that thing does a great job.  One person feeding it into the saw, the other person receiving the pieces as they go through, and you can rip a ton of wood in a very few minutes.


Lay the pieces down, end on so that they are two inches high.   As you reach the end of a row (the length of your counter), cut off the board, and use that piece as the start to your next row.Please note, and I hope there’s no confusion on this.   The goal is not to cut a bunch of boards to a length of 48 inches if that is the width of your counter.   Do not do this.  Instead cut the first board to 48 inches, and if the next board would then be 48 inches cut 8 inches off of it, and then take a new board and cut an 8 inch piece.  So row #1 is a 48 inch board, row #2 is a 40 inch board.  Now take a new board and chop 8 inches off of it, and add that 8 inches to the right hand end of row #2.  Row number #3 will start with the 8 inch piece that is left over, together with 40 inches of your board that you already cut.   Row #4 will be a single piece, being the one that you did an 8 inch cutoff from, and the remainder of that board will go into Row #5.   You’re not wanting pieces to all be the same length here, so every now and again chop off a piece a

bit differently, like 18 inches or so.  

Do not use pieces that are shorter than about 4 or 5 inches.  You’ll need some glue to attach them.  Do not glue as you go.  Wait until you’ve cut and fit enough for a few rows, maybe a counter 6 inches deep, and then get them laid out for you to glue and fit together.   Apply the titebond III glue, and fit together 6 inches of counter depth, and use clamps to hold it all together. 

Take care as best you can to get all the pieces at the same depth, this is where care in your table saw cutting can really show up.  It will be all but impossible to build to the exact length that your counter is.  Build the countertop about one inch longer than what you want so that you can trim off the ends.

Tip on applying the glue:  Run a generous bead the whole length of the wood, and then use your finger to spread it out a bit.  If you don’t do this, the glue runs straight down the wood, giving little coverage to the material above your bead.

Second tip on applying the glue:  Place parchment paper underneath your project.   This glue is really strong stuff, and if you have any that leaks out the bottom when you tighten up the clamps it can really stick your new countertop to whatever you’re using to build it on.   I initially used newspaper underneath and the paper was a mess to get off of the bottom of the countertop.  Parchment paper does not stick and peels off like magic.

Each application of the glue requires 24 hours to reach it’s maximum hold.  Note that we are talking about a two inch thick hardwood countertop here.  It gets heavy in a hurry.  Get help rolling it over.   Keep at this until you’ve built a countertop in the dimensions that you require.   Use a skil saw and cut off the ends very carefully, so that you have the perfect width.  This is why you’ve built it a bit long on both ends is to allow a nice even cut to be applied with the skil saw (circular saw).   Use a saw guide to get the best cut.  There’s more about a saw guide below.

Get your planer out and use it to smooth the surface.  You will have some boards that are sitting higher than others, and the only way to deal with this is to power plane the entire surface to get the high spots down to the spots of the low spots.  Strip this stuff away, take care not to create more mayhem then you must, but strip it off.  You will have a lot of wood shavings happening here.  The planer is the way to really speed this process, sanding will take about a million years without it.  Here’s a video to show you some of the planing.DSCF7490

After using the planer, switch to the belt sander at 40 or 50 grit paper.  Get that thing working, and sand with the grain of the wood.  You’re trying to remove the wounds that were left by the power planer.    Keep at it.  Once you think it’s looking pretty good switch to 80 grit and keep sanding with the grain.   Eventually  when you think you’re done switch to a 120 grit.

Sanding Tip:  As you’re sanding with the power sanders, lift it up from time to time and allow loose stuff to fall off the sanding belt or pad, and use  a broom to sweep off your countertop.   Sanding belts and pads do not work at their best when they have a bunch of material caught in them.

After long enough on that to have made a nice difference switch over to the random orbit sander, and run that for a while, firstly one 120 grit, and then finally on 220 grit.     You may wish to smooth the edges of your counter.  This will make it less prone to giving up slivers and such.  You can use your random orbit sander and an 80 grit paper to do this.  Be careful, you can peel a lot of material off in a hurry.

When it’s all beautiful, apply the Waterlox.   That will be two coats of the regular waterlox Sealer/Finish, and one coat of the Waterlox satin finish if you’ve chosen to go with that.  Note that if your counter is on top of a dishwasher, or around a sink, it’s a good idea to apply the sealer both to the top and bottom and of course the sides in any case.

That’s it, you’ve done it.  You’ve built your own butcher block countertop.

That built the shortest counter in our house, and was sort of a trial run.  The next task was to build the longer ones, which have an L shape to them, joining in a corner.   Do your measuring carefully here.  Mine was 94  inches from one flat end into my corner and 44 1/2 from the other flat end into the corner.   It’s a 90 degree corner where they meet.   I chose to built this as a single long countertop, then cut it at 45 degrees, and flip over one piece so that they would meet at a 90 degree angle.    You could cut them straight and join them as a 90 but I thought that would not give the finished look that I wanted.  If you’re joining them with a straight cut and fitting them at 90 the math is an easy one, add up the length of the long piece plug the short piece, and build a single countertop that long.   If you’re joining them with two 45 degree angles to create a 90, or some variation of that, then the length is the total of your longest edge flat to corner plus your shortest edge flat to joined corner. Build it about 1 inch longer than you will actually need to allow for trimming of the ends after you’re done.  That way you don’t have to obsess quite so much about making the ends line up as you build.

I built the long counter all as one piece.  Have in mind that this is a much longer counter than the first one that I built (over twice as long) and so I had to make some changes in construction.  In terms of the number of rows that I could add at any one time I found that about three layers was all that I could get attached before the glue set up.  I was working on warm days, about 25 degrees Celsius  and it takes very little time before the glue is so set that you have to pound it apart.

I built the long counter in two portions.  I would not build it this way again and you’ll see why!   I got about 10 rows of the full counter length attached to one another and then started another section and built it to full counter length, adding rows until I finished out at a total of 25 inches which was how deep I wanted this countertop to be.  The next step was to attach the two full length pieces.  This proved a bit more challenging than I had anticipated.   I had foolishly failed to dry fit the two blocks together.  Instead I applied the glue as I had in the past, slid them together, and put the clamps on.   Uh oh!   No matter how hard I applied the clamps the ends of the two blocks would not fit together.  They were close.  Really close.  But they were not together.   I had struggled like crazy trying to pull these pieces together, and the glue had set up, so I did what I could to pull them as close as possible, but was left with what I thought was a noticeable split at each end that was about 5 inches long and up to 1/8th of an inch wide.   I’m sure you can imagine the level of disappointment that this brought about.   These materials were very expensive, and I had by now invested a lot of hours in cutting and gluing them together, covering the blocks up each night in case of rain, getting them all unwrapped to do some more, working for a few minutes after 13 1/2 hour days at work.  I was so disappointed.   But wait!  It’s okay.   I came to learn that this things will happen, don’t panic, wood filler is your friend.

After building the whole countertop as described I trimmed one end to get everything perfectly aligned.   Then I used a carpenters square to draw out the angles that I wanted.   Don’t panic with this.  In most cases we are talking about a 45 degree angle.  That’s about as easy as it gets other than a straight 90.   With your kitchen measurements in mind measure from  your nicely trimmed end out to the very furthest corner that you need, and place a mark there.  Then use your carpenters square to mark that spot and draw out the 45 degree angle.  That’ll give you a line about 10 inches long that is of the correct angle.   Lay a square, or a level, something with a nice straight edge on it, and draw the rest of the line.   Use your circular saw/skil saw to cut the line.

Lets talk about how to actually cut the line.   This is a two inch thick chunk of hardwood.   You’re asking your circular saw to do a lot of work here and you’re on expensive materials.   Get a new blade.   Don’t use the one that’s been on the saw for a thousand plywood cuts building the chicken coop.  This is not the chicken coop.  As well, I’d recommend using a circular saw guide for this as a really straight cut is important.  In fact if you don’t use one you’re really not giving much credit to the work that you’ve done so far, and the cost of the materials.  A circular saw guide is an essential part of quality building.  You don’t buy these, you build them, but they don’t take long to make and they last forever.  Tuck them away in your shed.  Here’s a couple of links, but if you google circular saw guide there are lots more:

From the Family Handy Man site, how to build a circular saw guide

From the Popular Mechanics web site ( and how great is Popular Mechanics!) here’s another description of how to build a circular saw guide

Once you’re made your cut you have a couple more to do.   The first is cutting out the hole for the kitchen sink.  There are a ton of YouTube videos out there for how to do this and I’m not trying to re-invent the wheel with this post.   Google “how do I cut out the hole for my kitchen sink” and you’ll have a ton of advice.   One caution that I can offer with this is on the matter of the sink appliance holes.  Top mount sinks:   A lot of top mount kitchen sinks have some holes in them for the faucet/soap dispenser/etc.   It’s better if you drill through the countertop for these holes, rather than cutting out the entire slab based on the diameter less 1 inch of the entire sink.  Many faucets have some weight to them, and when mounted on only the sink, without additional supporting material underneath, they are floppy.  Floppy means poor quality, or I feel that way when I encounter it anyway.   If you cut out the actual sink part only, so that the surrounding edges and appliance holes have good support, your sink will feel a lot better and your appliances like faucet etc will also feel better.   Choose a hole drill bit that fits the hole, drop the sink into your cut out, mark the holes and then use the hole drill to do the holes.

By now you have two big chunks of wood.  In my case one has a sink hole cut out in it, with three holes along the top for the sink appliances.  Have in mind that you may be flipping one piece over to make a 90 instead of two 45’s.   Start finishing what are to be the finished surfaces in the manner that I’ve described above.   Power planer, belt sander, random orbit sander.    You don’t need to finish both sides by any stretch, though I would recommend using the power planer to take off anything crazy on the non-finished side just to avoid problems laying the countertop.

Now measure out your short piece.   Measure again.  Be absolutely positive and measure again.  Then cut off the flat end of your short piece.   You’re trimming it to make it nice and straight.  Use your awesome saw guide that you built yesterday.

Now that you have two countertops that are ready to go in terms of measurements and cut outs it’s time to start finishing.  Pull out the sander again, and give everything a nice once over to get the edges that you’ve created nice and pretty.   Start applying the waterlox as I’ve described above.

Might I insert a comment about waterlox here?  Of course I can, it’s my blog!  That’s great!   Waterlox is an amazing product.   I’d use this stuff again to be sure.  BUT….  It’s hella expensive in Canada.  Almost $400 dollars a gallon.  Yes, four hundred dollars a gallon.  It’s pricey in the states, but not like this.   A little goes a long way, I used two quarts, (about two litres) one being a sealer/finisher and one being a finisher, and the cost was better than $200 dollars for those two cans.   This stuff is a lot like varathane, but instead of sitting on top it is absorbed.   An amazing product, water when spilled sits like a bead on top.    Paper when you set it on it does not get oily.   But we have to find some way to get around this cost issue, because at that price per gallon I feel like I’m buying drugs.  It’s crazy way too expensive in Canada.

Once you’re got your pieces finished place them on the counter, and secure them.   You should have a pretty good fit where they connect.   You can use a bit of wood filler to fill in that joint, and then do some light sanding, and re-apply the waterlox as described above.    If there are any spots that you’re unhappy with, where the boards did not fit really tightly, you can also apply wood filler there as well.

That’s it.  There were my counters.  They’re beautiful.   It’s a tough project in terms of time commitments but the end result is pretty great.



Other sites that provided information before and after this post include:

Installing butcher block countertops

A review of butcher block countertops two years in

My butcher block countertops two years in


Bountiful, Winston Blackmore, and the BC Government’s backdoor approach to prosecution

So I’ve been reading that sentencing is being scheduled for Winston Blackmore. He’s the guy that has been the leader of the Bountiful religious sect for some time. Winston has a lot of wives. He doesn’t deny that he has a lot of wives. I don’t care that he has a lot of wives. I don’t think that Canadians care that he has a lot of wives. We are at a time now in our society where relationship structures that are beyond what are usually recognized as normal are a curiosity. People watch Sister Wives on television in the evening.  It’s a show about a polygamous family presently living in Nevada. Each of the wives on the show got married when they were adults to a guy who was up front from the outset that he lived in a polygamous lifestyle.   They all live together.   This is not on late night TV, or some alternate sex channel, it’s mainstream television entertainment. I have yet to encounter anyone who seems particularly distraught about someone having multiple wives. There’s no broad based emotional reaction to this, it’s a curiosity and nothing more.

So what’s the deal in BC? Why the prosecution on polygamy charges? Peter Wilson, a well known lawyer in British Columbia, was privately retained by the Crown and asked to look into the prosecution of Winston and the bountiful sect. He wasn’t the first one to be asked to look into this.  There’d been a series of opinions that the polygamy legislation was not constitutional.   The Crown kept trying until they found someone who would say yes.   Why are we concerned about Winston Blackmore? Here’s the problem, it’s alleged that Winston marries girls when they are very young, too young to consent, or old enough to consent but in a situation in which he stands in a position of authority to them, and hence their consent is not validly given. That’s definitely something that Canadians get upset about. Bring that up at the dinner table and you’re not going to find anyone that thinks that’s okay. It’s a moral issue for Canadian’s, and spawns some significant emotional reaction.

The criminal law in Canada, as set out in the Criminal Code, is about addressing moral blameworthiness.  As Canadians we expect conduct that we have an negative emotional reaction about to be sanctioned by the state. The place for that is in the Criminal Code. In fact, in the Criminal Code there are provisions that address this very conduct.  Here’s section 153 which sets out the conduct that is criminalized:

Sexual exploitation
  • (1) Every person commits an offence who is in a position of trust or authority towards a young person, who is a person with whom the young person is in a relationship of dependency or who is in a relationship with a young person that is exploitative of the young person, and who

    • (a) for a sexual purpose, touches, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of the young person; or

    • (b) for a sexual purpose, invites, counsels or incites a young person to touch, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, the body of any person, including the body of the person who so invites, counsels or incites and the body of the young person.


      A young person is defined as well:

    • Definition of young person

      (2) In this section, young person means a person 16 years of age or more but under the age of eighteen years.

    • Here’s the section that sets out the punishment for the criminalized conduct:
    • Punishment

      (1.1) Every person who commits an offence under subsection (1)

      • (a) is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of one year; or

      • (b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years less a day and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of 90 days.

British Columbia has not chosen to proceed under this section of the law.  As I understand it Peter Wilson determined that there may not have been enough evidence to meet the standard of prosecution for this offence.     Instead, the Province of British Columbia has elected to proceed under section 293 which provides:

  • (1) Every one who

    • (a) practises or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practise or enter into

      • (i) any form of polygamy, or

      • (ii) any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time,

      whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or

    • (b) celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (a)(i) or (ii),

    is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

The possible sentences on these offences are instructive to say the least.  A charge of Sexual Exploitation has a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison and a minimum sentence of one year (though that one year sentence may have been struck down, I don’t recall).   The charge of Polygamy has a maximum sentence of 5 years.  Have in mind that these have been law for a long time.  The polygamy charge has been in the Criminal Code since at least the 1890’s.  That was a time when people were fairly worked up about that kind of conduct, though there’s good argument to suggest that what they were really worked up about was Mormonism, and this seemed a handy backdoor way to get rid of it.

Step ahead about 120 years, and it seems that we’re still doing things by the back door route.  We’re prosecuting Winston Blackmore using a law that is no longer regarded in Canadian society as being one about a moral wrongdoing.   As I understand Peter Wilson’s conclusion the Crown does not have enough to proceed with a prosecution for the conduct that we find really obnoxious and highly deserving on censure, and so the answer is to proceed with a prosecution using  a law that is entirely archaic and has become irrelevant because we find Winston Blackmore conduct as being one that is highly obnoxious and deserving of censure.   This is reasoning that does not bear examination.   Let’s use a parallel argument here.   Take a situation where someone is suspected of a serious criminal action, like robbery,  but that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute for that offence.   We can all agree that is conduct that bears some moral condemnation.   Now if we suggest that the police should start to ticket that person every day for every motor vehicle infraction that can be found, that they should follow the person around and continue ticketing until such time as the fines become so high that they serve jail instead, have we addressed this in the right way?    We’ve gotten to a possible jail sentence, but have we done it the right way?    I saw we have not.  We’ve tried to go by a backdoor to something that we cannot get by going through the front door, and that’s a dishonest way of applying the criminal law.


Part two

Now that Winston Blackmore and James Oler have been found guilty of Polygamy in the BC Supreme Court, they are to be sentenced.  The Crown is seeking something between 90 days and 6 months for Winston Blackmore, and one month to 90 days for James Oler.   You can be assured that these convictions will be appealed.   This is where I as a taxpayer feel some ire.  This polygamy law itself was referred to the Supreme Court of British Columbia to assess whether it was constitutional in the first place.  That hearing I understand consumed 42 days.   The BC Supreme Court is not the final arbiter on such a matter.  Now we’ve had this entire criminal prosecution, and face a very likely appeal to the BC Court of Appeal to be followed by an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.  This is absolutely enormous expense incurred by the Crown to chase after something that has a maximum sentence of 5 years, and… more importantly, conduct that they are at the time of sentencing going to suggest to the court bears a sentence of between 90 days and 6 months at the high end.   Good grief, an astounding waste of taxpayers money and court time.    This prosecution never should have proceeded on these charges.  Doing so was intellectually dishonest and not befitting a crown agency.   The Crown hunted around through one lawyer after another to find the opinion that it was looking for, to find someone, in this case Peter Wilson, who would say “we can do it this way”.   Just because you can do something does not mean you should, and this is an example of that.

Update:  June 26, 2018 – The sentencing is complete.  That does not mean the appeals are complete.   The sentence..  yeah…. ….  hows about a 6 month conditional sentence for Winston Blackmore, and a 3 month conditional sentence for his co-accused James Oler.   A conditional sentence is a jail sentence that can be served conditionally, which usually means at home.  They each have a year of probation to follow.   Very meaningful.  I say that with sarcasm.  It’s not meaningful at all.  Weren’t we really more concerned about a person in authority having a sexual relationship with a young person?  Winston Blackmore is the closest thing to an actual god that can exist within his community.  How is it that he’s not “in a position of authority”?   He had wives as young as 15 years old.  That’s so far within the definition of young person that there’s no contesting it at all.   Unless he’s suggesting that he’s not had sexual relations with these women???…… no, I have not heard him make that suggestion.

The Crown has a number of principles they are to consider as they proceed with a prosecution.  One of those principles is that the prosecution must be “in the public interest”.     This prosecution was not only unprincipled at it’s outset, it remained unprincipled, and completely missed the public interest component.

Better days, but it took a while to get to them. Cancer can still go fuck itself.

Claire went to the cancer treatments like a champ. Radiation and Chemotherapy. Not what you’d call a real good time. She had cervical cancer, what’s called an adenocarcinoma type. The trouble with radiation being applied to this area of the body is that it not only kills cancer cells, it kills all kinds of cells, including a good part of what makes your digestive system work. There’s all kinds of bacteria in there that keeps you running well, and when you slaughter it all, you don’t run well at all. It also takes forever to rebuild it.    The progress of the treatment was a miserable affair.   I have a co-worker (Steve) who has come to be a very good friend to me.  He had cancer, and went through treatment.   He survived.  I had not known that he’d gone through cancer but it happened that  he was the first guy I told when we got the diagnosis, and he’s been an absolute rock to me through these difficult times, which is not to say that his opinionated views don’t put me right over the edge from time to time.  When Claire could not have the cancer surgically removed he told me words to the effect that “now is when it gets really invasive, and you get to know what you’re made of”.   At the time he said it, I wondered how it could be that medication and radiation would be more invasive than surgery.  I came to learn that he was absolutely right.  I’d spoken to Claire about what he’d said and she came to see the wisdom in what he said as well.   Cancer treatment is a slow miserable grind, and the person that is getting the treatment is the grist in the mill.    There was no sudden day that Claire was sickly and weak.  That didn’t happen overnight.   Instead there was a progression, days that were pretty good, and she felt pretty strong, and then more days where she didn’t feel strong at all.   Then there were more days, and more days, where she didn’t feel strong at all.   My beautiful girl is a sturdy sort.  She’s not what you’d call willowy.  She’s strong, and can hold her own during the yard cleanup.  She’s not afraid to get in there and lift the heavy stuff, and she’s been up on the roof with a reciprocating saw cutting a hole for the new bathroom vent.  I note that I struggle when I’m on the roof, something about my quivering knees and cowardly whining really slows down my production rate.  She saw this strength slip away, a little bit, and a little bit, and a little bit more.   Eventually she had to say one day, I’m weak as hell, I can’t do this.   That’s not something that easily comes out of the mouth of Claire.  It really brought home to me how badly she was feeling.  This had not happened overnight, but it sure as hell happened and it happened to my partner.

Cancer treatment is no doubt different for everyone.  Cancer is not a well defined thing at all, it has a hundred faces and there are many different treatments.  Every person that experiences cancer brings different physical and mental attributes to the experience.   My spouse is a physically capable and mentally strong individual.  The treatment and the fear brought tears many many times, sometimes out of the blue with no warning, sometimes at night in the bathroom when she thought I could not hear.    The treatment brought times where she just couldn’t do it, and those times meant just getting out of bed and getting some clothes on.

Moving forward in time, after completing the treatment she still feels like death warmed over.  There’s no amazing time where she’s just feeling good.  Instead there is a very slow moving forward.   It’s not leaving the misery behind, it’s more like not just having it right at your shoulder all the time, maybe down by your elbow.   It’s a pretty small difference.  BUT, it is a difference.

Again forward in time, the treatments are finished and it’s time for another MRI to see how it went.  Okay, we’re not at all interested in “how it went”.  Horseshit, is it gone or not.  Gone, not going, not getting better, gone.   The scan is getting to be second nature.   Don’t get me wrong, an MRI is a challenging thing.  Claire tells me that it’s a claustrophobic experience to say the least.  The machinery is very close, and the sound is very loud.  They offer you music but really you couldn’t hear it anyway.   The operators know that its a very difficult experience being in the machine, but there’s really very little that can be done about it.  It’s a really frightening experience.   (As a bit of a sidebar, my father had multiple sclerosis, and had some MRI’s before he died.    He told me that he cried throughout.   It’s no joke.  )  A few weeks later it’s time to meet with the doctor who has reviewed the MRI, and he says. … wait for it.  .. yep, wait for it….. There’s still something showing on there,, but it could be scar tissue from the treatment, or it could still be cancer.  WHAT??  Are you serious?  Then the next part.  In a few months we will scan it again and that will tell us whether it’s growing.  If it’s growing it’s not gone, and if it’s not, it’s scar tissue.   How the hell is that an answer??  That’s no answer at all.  That’s saying it might keep growing in the next few months until we take another picture.   That’s saying we might be 3 more months behind the eight ball after they take the next scan.  The eight ball here kills you.  I want no part of it for my beautiful spouse.

3 months go by.  1…..2…..3..  months, waiting for a bomb to drop again.  A bomb to drop that kills us, kills my girl, kills me.   That’s a ticking thing in the back of our heads every day.   Pressure doesn’t go away, it’s there in a big way, a huge weight there, all the time, and it never ever goes away.  Instead I find I’m acting crazy, and she is too.    We both say and do things that we are not proud of, it’s a percolator for stress, a pressure canner.  Keep it up, keep roasting, and see what happens.  What happens is not pretty at all.


3 more months – christ really, we have to keep at this?   Yep, another 3 month MRI,  and then the meeting with the doctor.   He says, yep, how’s this, “there’s no sign of cancer” .  Can I do backflips down the hallway??  Oh yeah, I can now.  I can damn near fly off the balcony if I want.   Hell, I can glide around the house.  Claire…   is over the moon!  OUtstanding!!!   Such a huge weight lifted from us.    Such a vast vast weight lifted off our shoulders.  It’s amazing to hear this, and I soon appreciate that cancer has coloured every aspect of our lives.  I feel I walk a hundred pounds lighter, Claire does too.  it’s amazing, it’s everything, fucking cancer, fucking cancer, fuck…  totally helpless.   Not today, today is a great day, a day of growth.  Walking forward, but not keen to look back, worried about something coming along behind.  I want no part of that.  I’m a coward to that one, I want no part of it, and I surely hope that it leaves us alone.

A good day of life today- cancer can go fuck itself

Today is a pretty good day to be alive.  Once in a while life gives me a little kick that tells me to adjust my priorities.  Usually the hint is to say that my priorities are my health and my family.  I would guess they are the same for everyone but since I can’t stand in the shoes of everyone I have to guess.    Today was a day to putter about in the garden, have a workout on the weights for a couple of hours, pick the plum tree to dry them in the dehydrator, that sort of thing.  Today was also a day to watch the idiot box (TV) with my spouse.    She had a diagnosis of cervical cancer in july of this year.   That threw a wrench into life in a big way.  I was at work and she called me, and I’d known that she was going to the doctor as she had not been feeling right.  That call was no surprise, and perhaps a diagnosis that something was wrong was no surprise.  We all walk around in one state or another but at some point there are signs that things are just not right and it means a bit more than the common cold.  Anyway, she called me at work, and told me she had the diagnosis of cervical cancer, and I listened, and told her I understood, and would see her at the end of the day.  Then I walked about 10 feet, and sat down and cried.   When I saw a fellow co-worker I said that I’d just had an interesting phone call.  He quite reasonably asked what it was about and I couldn’t speak, and started to cry.    Cancer of any kind is a really scary thing.

Now a couple of months have gone by.  My beautiful girl is still alive, and things are looking pretty good.  We took her down to Vancouver (the big city about 400 kilometers away) for surgery to have the tumor removed, and as that surgery was about to start they found the tumor was too large to allow reasonable margins for removal.   We came back home, and a couple weeks later she started on chemotherapy and radiation therapy.  Chemotherapy was a weekly thing, and the radiation was a daily thing that extended for about 6 weeks. The physical experience of this is a very personal thing indeed.  My first typing would have been to suggest the surgery would have been easier but in fact I’ve not been in those shoes.  My beautiful girl experienced stupid biology, crippling biology, and pain.  We are all prisoners of our biology ( let anyone with diarrhea say we are not)

Many people have experienced this.    Tons, stack and stacks, I get that, but it sure the hell feels personal and a bit alone when it comes to my door.   Through this process I’m raw emotionally.  A next door neighbour decides to trigger his car alarm to show his dissatisfaction with his neighbours and I’m near throwing him in my pond (it really does become very personal).   A clerk offers a word or two of incorrect advise to my spouse and I’m off to the customer service desk.    A perceived slight on the roadway and I’m tapping on a window in the parking lot.  I’m really really angry.  This is a nasty little thing romping around my house, and I don’t like it.   I really don’t like it.  It’s a bit of powerlessness that is a thing to go away from my house, now, but…   I can’t make that happen.  Instead I am left frightened, really really scared, and wanting to be optimistic but this is really serious stuff and it will take a long time to get out of the woods if indeed that happens.   The cold hard fact of the thing is that my spouse may not survive.  This stupid cancer bullshit might kill her.

A couple of months go by and we are into September of 2017 and my dear spouse has gone to Vancouver for surgery,  been refused for surgery, we’ve come back to the Okanagan, she’s undergone 6 weeks of treatment, and things look really good.   The tumor seems to have disappeared.  There is at September 23, 2017 no reason to believe that it has spread.

As this journey was going on we went to the cancer clinic for treatments.  This as a hell of an awakening.  The first time I walk into the doors with my beautiful spouse I see someone outside sitting on a bench with a hat covering what is obviously no hair.   As we enter and walk down the hallway there is a woman who is very obviously near death sitting on the chairs in the waiting room.  I am experiencing some really up close and personal experience here.




Signs of a police state under development

Some things are developing that cause me to be concerned about where our democracy may be going. I’m concerned about things that are inconsistent with public accountability. Things like:

 November 2, 2010 article – Toronto, Ontario, Canada – The Star

“About 90 Toronto police officers are facing disciplinary action for removing the name badges from their uniforms during the G20 summit, Chief Bill Blair said Wednesday.”

Another article in the Star from Toronto Ontario, dated January 24, 2017

“A Toronto man who lawfully recorded police arresting and Tasering a man near Ryerson University on Tuesday was repeatedly told by officers to stop filming the interaction, then threatened by two cops who claimed they would seize the phone he was using to record it.”

Equally troubling are the kind of directions given to police officers by those higher up, when addressing gatherings of people in protest.   By way of example, check out what’s referred to in the May 16, 2012 report from CBC news cited here

“Deputy Chief Tony Warr issued such a directive late on June 26 following a day in which police lost control and saw windows smashed and a police car set ablaze.


Gerry McNeilly, head of the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, speaks to reporters about G20 protests in June 2010. (Dave Seglins/CBC)

“The night shift incident commander said Deputy police Chief Warr told him that he wanted him to take back the streets,” writes McNeilly in the report. McNeilly said the commander told him, “‘I understood his [Warr’s] instructions to mean that he wanted me to make the streets of Toronto safe again. He wanted the streets that had been made unsafe by the terrorists that were attacking our city to be made safe again by restoring order.'”

Referring to protesters in such a way left the impression that they were criminals, the report says, and that attitude resulted in the decision to contain and arrest approximately 1,100 people during the weekend summit.”

and a little later in the above article:

“McNeilly says Toronto Police Services Chief Bill Blair intervened to end one kettling incident in which hundreds of protesters as well as residents and passersby were held for hours at the intersection of Queen and Spadina late on June 27 as the summit was winding down.

“About 400 people were detained in pouring rain for four hours while the arrests were being processed,” McNeilly states. “In the end, Chief Blair himself went to the [Major Incident Command Centre]. He called the incident commander and the public information officer out of a meeting and ordered that the people at Queen and Spadina be released unconditionally and immediately.”

By then, more than 300 people had been arrested or detained, mostly for breach of peace. The reports says it was “unreasonable and unnecessary” to arrest people one by one during a severe rainstorm.”

I observe that protest is not at all restricted in Canadian society.  Not one bit.  A protest against the Prime Minister, or against chafing nylons, are both perfectly legal, and not subject in law to one shred of restriction.   If there are protests going on, and unlawful activity occurring in the course of that protest, it is the unlawful activity that is illegal, not the protest.  The unlawful activity should be stopped, but that does not equate to the protest being stopped.

Another aspect of my concern in this area is the increasing militarization amongst the police forces.  Here’s a police vehicle purchased by the Vancouver British Columbia Canada police department.  It cost them 350,000$.  Kim Bolan, a reporter with “The Province” reported on it in September of 2010  here.

The Ottawa police Service unveiled its new Lenco Bearcat armoured vehicle in 2010.

The one above is owned by the Ottawa police, reported in 2014 by the National Post.

As I understand it the police say that with criminals increasingly having high powered rifles, they need an armoured vehicle.   To this I would like to inquire, which criminals in the last 10 years in the entire greater Vancouver area or the Ottawa area have engaged, actually shot at, police, with a high powered rifle?  How many specific times?  How many police or members of the public died in those events?   And of those times, how often was there any warning whatsoever such that police would have been able to bring this military monstrosity into a place where human beings live (ie.  not a war zone)  and save the people that died.  Of those occasions, if there really are any, any at all, how many times have police driven such a vehicle into the actual fire zone, where the assailant had fire control with a heavy rifle over the area?  If  there are any such occasions, I ask why.  Why the heck did you do that, and to what gain?   I say that this sort of police acquisition is more of the removing of badges, covering of faces, and increasingly trying to appear as a military force.  I understand that we have a need for a military force.  Sometimes there are war environments, and that kind of environment is one that is completely foreign to a functioning civilized society.   That environment requires an military force.   We, in Canada, in absolutely no city anywhere in Canada, are anywhere near a war environment.   We might use phrases like war for the environment, war on drugs, there’s all kinds of commentary, but it’s not war, it’s not a war environment.  But…. by trying to appear as a military force, our own police forces are adopting the aura of a war environment.  A state of war is about everything not freedom, cancelling freedom.   The very concept of “cancelling freedom” is counter to freedom itself.   The very action of appearing as a military force in the midst of an operating democracy is about an attempt to walk over freedom, essentially to cancel it.

On the same theme, there’s increasing militarization of police forces in Canada in terms of the gear they carry and their presence at public functions.  Here’s an officer at a Canada Day Celebration in Kelowna British Columbia.  I note that Kelowna is a town of around 50 or 60 thousand people, it’s not a capital city, and it’s never, to my knowledge, had any sort of “terrorist” attack.  What I ask would he possibly do with a firearm of this sort in a crowded environment associated with a Canada Day celebration? 

This post is a bit of a work in progress.  I’ll be cleaning it up over time and adding to it.  But the substance stands as it is.  I’m concerned about this sort of thing.  We all should be.  Militarization, a police force hiding its members, these are very concerning matters, they’re not right in a democracy.

2019.03.27 – Here’s another vehicle spotted in Lumby on 19.03.09.  It’s quite different in appearance to the one that was owned by the Vancouver Police Department.  How many of these do we have running around in BC and at what cost??


Please, really slow down for Kiera

I’m driving on highway 97 coming into Vernon, British Columbia a few months ago, roughly October 2016. A car comes up behind me, and passes me. That’s okay. I’m doing about 93 or 95 in a 90 zone. Cars pass me all the time. What was interesting is that this car passed me pretty vigorously.  I was near the dump, it’s a highway area, but this car stood out passing me, perhaps doing 105 to 115?  I’m just guessing, I appreciate.  Being that it was going quickly, I noticed two things.  The first were ads for Bev Carlson, a realtor, and the mother I believe of Kiera Leigh Carlson, that were fastened to the side of the car.  The second was a bumper sticker, “Slow down for Kiera”.   Kiera Leigh Carlson was a lovely young woman, just getting started in life, who was run over by a young man driving like a jackass here in Vernon, BC.   He was going way too fast, and went around a corner, and killed her while she was walking to work along the side of a highway.  Horrible, just plain awful.  Why I write this article is to address the matter of entitlement on behalf of the motoring public.  I’ve been a jackass on the roads.  I’ve been a jackass a thousand times over.  I was the guy that would swerve left at you if I felt that you were too close to the centre line coming the opposite direction.  I was also the guy who would tailgate you within a 1/2 car length at 80 to 100 kilometers an hour.  “Get the hell out of the way!!” was the thought in my mind.   “Holy shit, you’ve got to occupy the passing lane????” was another common mantra in my thoughts.

I had a chance to go away from the world for a while.  It was quite a long while, and it was prison.  I was there for nothing driving related.  Prison is a place where things move very slowly.  It gave me a place to think a hell of a lot.  I had occasions before I went away where my present mate said to me “William, please slow down”  and “William, please stop”.   She was near crying at the time.  That’s not cool, that’s really fucked up. If you’re driving, and your passengers are afraid, actually scared..   what the hell is going on?  STOP.  STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING.  Bev Carlson is I’m sure a fine parent,  who has had to deal with a hell of a lot more pain than most of us about driving.    We all need to slow down.  Speed kills.    It’s easy to get the idea of I’m just tying to move promptly, I have to get somewhere, … but …. it kills.  Speed really kills.  Following the speed limit will leave you with a lot more time to respond to problems, including deer leaping out, cars pulling out from lanes with no warning, and pedestrians and bicycles riding down the road with no lights at night in the rain (these are all things I’ve encountered recently).   I hate to end on a slow down type comment.  It seems like such a weak comment.  In fact, it’s an empowerment comment.  If you slow down, you really take control of what’s around you.  You’re able to exercise a lot more control when that deer jumps over the highway barrier in front of you, or the dumb guy on the bike is riding down the highway when it’s raining at 4:30 a.m.   in pitch dark with no lights.   It gives you that chance, and  it’s a really big chance.   We’ve all as motorists had something go wrong on the roadway.  I’ve never heard anyone telling their “wow, this crazy thing happened while I was driving” story end it by saying they wish they’d been going faster when it happened.   This goes to all of us, please, STOP.  Take control.   The speed limit brings a measure of  safety.  Lets follow it.

Kevin O’Leary and the notwithstanding clause in the Charter

I’m a guy that is inclined to vote Liberal when a federal election comes around. Not invariably, but it’s where I’m most likely to end up. Recently however, I had been interested in a candidate that is running for leadership of the federal Conservative party.  Kevin O’Leary is a well known canadian character, doing a lot of public interviews, appearing on Dragon’s Den (a great TV show), and apparently being very successful in business.   Most of my exposure to Kevin has been through Dragon’s Den.  He’s a sharp tongued guy who often rides the applicants a bit hard, but there’s some real good sense in what he says, and he’s clearly got the business skills to back up his commentary.   For that reason, I had been pretty impressed with him.   However, just a few days ago I heard Kevin on CBC radio.  He was commenting on an issue that is frequently in the news recently, about refugee claimants seemingly jumping the queue by crossing the Canadian border illegally.   I allow that this may be a problem,  but compared to a lot of other issues, it’s a pretty small problem.   When I think about things like the fentanyl crisis, refugees crossing the boarder seems pretty tiny indeed.   As I understand matters, refugees crossing the border illegally are usually arrested pretty promptly, and hence it’s difficult to see how these refugees really have any significant impact on the lives of your average canadian at all.  Given that Canada is a nation having one of the highest standards of living in the world, I think there’s fair argument that we have a duty to help up those that ask, which would include refugees.   However, what Kevin O’Leary suggested was a change to legislation to prevent the queue jumping, and said:

Mr. Trudeau has the ability to do this by using something called the notwithstanding clause,” O’Leary said in the video. “His dad [former Liberal prime minister] Pierre Elliott Trudeau put this in the Constitution in 1982 to give Canadian governments the authority to respond to extraordinary situations like this one and put in place policies that are reasonable for a fair and democratic society like Canada.  (this quote drawn from a Huffington Post article to be found at Huffington Post

There has been discussion as to whether in fact this clause in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms could be applied to what Kevin refers to.  Some say he misunderstands the application of the charter, and this particular provision, to the issue.   That however is not the concern that I was left with.  I will not be voting for Mr. O’Leary if he should become the candidate for the Conservative Party because I believe his misunderstanding is not of the application of a section, but rather an entire tenant of the Charter.

Section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides:

Exception where express declaration

  •  (1) Parliament or the legislature of a province may expressly declare in an Act of Parliament or of the legislature, as the case may be, that the Act or a provision thereof shall operate notwithstanding a provision included in section 2 or sections 7 to 15 of this Charter.

  • Operation of exception

    (2) An Act or a provision of an Act in respect of which a declaration made under this section is in effect shall have such operation as it would have but for the provision of this Charter referred to in the declaration.

  • Five year limitation

    (3) A declaration made under subsection (1) shall cease to have effect five years after it comes into force or on such earlier date as may be specified in the declaration.

  • Re-enactment

    (4) Parliament or the legislature of a province may re-enact a declaration made under subsection (1).

  • Five year limitation

    (5) Subsection (3) applies in respect of a re-enactment made under subsection (4).

As should be obvious, this section is a pretty significant one, and a potentially dangerous one as well.   The Charter sets out those values that are thought to be absolute foundations of Canadian Society.   The protections set out there are fundamental to what we term a Free and Democratic Society.   They are described as the fundamental rights and freedoms.  This is the stuff that forms the cornerstone of our society.     Kevin appears to be suggesting that we should invoke a clause that has the effect of negating those very rights and freedoms, and that we should invoke that clause so that legislation may be aimed at people who arrive in our nation with the intention of claiming refugee status.  Respectfully, this is the very situation where the notwithstanding clause should not be applied.   The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is at its most powerful in the protection of those who are marginalized in our society, being those who are not very popular, perhaps criminal, those who have different beliefs or values, or simply are not part of the “mainstream”.   That Kevin would suggest it be applied to the present situation says to me that he regards the values contained in the Charter to be preferential ones, rather than fundamental, and this is surely not the intent of our Charter.

The unfortunate naming of a government department

There is a government department that has a most unfortunate history. Every policy they have come up with has had some flaw that reveals itself. Every plan they have put together has some failing that causes it to fall apart, and eventually results in disaster. Every task, no matter how mundane, that they’ve undertaken manages to get screwed up somehow.   Because of this, well, they’ve been named. It’s the department of corrections.

Senator Lynn Beyak – just doesn’t get it

There was a report released recently regarding the effect that the residential school system had on native persons.   Suffice it to say that cultural genocide is not an overstatement.   CBC reports that on Tuesday March 7, 2017 Senator Lynn Beyak, an appointee of the Harper government, commented “she wished the commission’s report, which conducted an exhaustive six-year study of the system, had focused “on the good” aspects of the schools rather than the atrocities children faced.” I was astounded to hear of this. Clearly this Senator is entirely out of touch with the modern world. Her comments are akin to suggesting that concentration camps provided jewish people with affordable housing during the war.  It’s absolutely appalling that these words would come out of the mouth of a presumably educated person.
See the original cbc report here: