Back when we were picking up one of my endless Craigslist treasures, the guy selling it said: I have a pool table I’m getting rid of, you interested?
We weren’t… but on the way home, Paul said something to the extent of: pool tables are heavy because there is a slab of slate inside.
And I was like – wait… What?
Define slab of slate.
Then I got out my phone to check what I knew in my bones.
Do you know what Craigslist is FULL of?
FREE POOL TABLES
FREE KITCHEN COUNTERTOPS
I like the look of contrast/dark counters with light cabinets… and since the cabinets around our kitchen’s perimeter will be white, I had been thinking soapstone for the countertops– but free slate will be even better.
For the piano island, we already have the reclaimed Carrara, which fits with my general design plan of a contrasting countertop layout similar to below… marble on the island, dark counter on the perimeter. (more of my kitchen inspiration here, here.)
Before we begin, know this: a conversation about slate countertops is no different than a conversation about Carrara or soapstone.
These are materials used beautifully throughout history that will develop a patina and enhance your kitchen and bring you a lifetime of happiness forever because you are a special snowflake who appreciates the beauty of natural stone.
These materials are utterly incompatible with a working kitchen and anyone who tells you otherwise is an idiot.
I am not trying to tell you which camp you should fall into, I’m just recapping.
Personally, I am comfortable making decisions that other people think are idiotic… if you are not, do not choose these materials.
Either way, here is my compiled research about the Mohs scale of mineral hardness: a petrological examination of metamorphic properties, sedimentary shale, porosity, permeability, and absorption measurements.
If that sounds hideously boring, just skip down to the video.
Ok! For comparison’s sake, let’s include soapstone because people are used to thinking of it as a traditional kitchen countertop material.
The primary ingredient in soapstone is talc—the softest mineral on the Moh scale… Slate is soapstone’s cousin: a metamorphic product of sedimentary shale; it has a hardness from 2.5 to 4 on the Moh’s scale.
-Both scratch easily, but scratches are usually superficial and can be buffed out.
-If you choose slate over soapstone, the provenance of your slate could be important: Vermont slate is the hardest on the Moh -scale, from 5-6; this is still soft for a rock.
-In comparison, granite scores 7-8 on the Moh scale.
-Granite has a porosity ratio of between 0.4% – 1.5%
-Marble has a porosity ratio of between 0.5% – 2%
-Slate has a porosity ratio of between 0.4% – 5%
I think because people associate slate with blackboards, there is a perception that it is sort of delicate… but if you have any familiarity with a slate roof, you know that when maintained, they will easily last over 100 years.
Anyway… Do I actually care about Mohs and his rock-mansplaning? No.
But I know I’m setting myself up for outrage from the Appropriate-Cooking-Evaluators, and I’m going to be running afoul of those people soon enough, (with the MOST EGREGIOUSLY HORRIBLE DECISION I CAN MAKE) so I decided to pretend that I am scrupulous in my decision making and I ran my own scientific test of durability: we left a slab out in the backyard.
Paul rolled the monster saw that weighs 9 million pounds out onto it 47 times… I used it as a potting surface… We rolled the mower over it… And raked over it.
I am pleased!
We also set a chunk on the piano island and have been using it as countertop.
I am pleased!
Will I be MORE pleased when Santa brings Paul some snazzy new router bits for making tiered/fancy/unnecessary/ogee/waterfall/bevel edges? WHY YES, I WILL.
Paul said he already had something he could use to make a simple bullnose, and I was all, LOL Paul.
If you’re like— whoa, that does NOT look pleasing! This is after we did a batch of kale,
My kale method involves glass ball jars, and you can see, the slate WILL scratch if you grind the base of a jar in a circle; but the scratches are surprisingly superficial.
I clean my counters with water and some Dr. Bronner’s, and I found that if I use a scrubby pad, the scuffs pretty much wipe away. (But even if they didn’t, I wouldn’t care, so don’t base your decisions on my personal preferences without a test run for yourself!)
I did not try oiling the stone, because:
A – fewer steps are better steps.
B – I prefer the lighter shade.
C – I am someone who likes patina.
I really love the color and I prefer the matte finish… but you could oil the slate to give it a darker/richer, more-uniform appearance.
The test piece we put on the piano has a vein through it, and I think we’ll probably discard it… the rest of the pieces are unmarked, (pictured below) so we didn’t cut those yet… what you are seeing below is the underside of the stone. The top of the slate is perfectly smooth and looks like the piece above on our countertop, minus the vein.
Anyway, getting the slate was just the beginning… now for the exciting part!
DO NOT TRY THIS.
IT IS PROBABLY A TERRIBLE IDEA.
Cutting stone (or tile) requires water… and my job was to hold the hose.
However, the entire time I was convinced that the whole undertaking was about to explode, so I shut my eyes.
Paul said – WHY do you have your eyes closed? PLEASE watch what you are doing!
The saw was deafening and Paul had earplugs in… So I had to shout to explain that water + electricity + spinning metal blade = CERTAIN DEATH.
And that dying while trying to save money on kitchen countertops was something I wanted to have my eyes closed for.
Paul was like – A: no one is going to die. B: this was YOUR idea.