I’ve fabricated kitchen and bathroom countertops from plastic laminates and most of the solid-surface materials on the market. In the past few years, though, I’ve been making most of my tops from one material — Swanstone’s 1/4-inch sheet material (Swan Corp., One City Centre, St. Louis, MO 63101; 314/231-8148). Swanstone, which is also available in 1/2-inch thickness, is a solid-surface material made from modified acrylic resins reinforced with fiberglass. Although the material’s hardness makes it more difficult to work with than some softer solid-surface materials, it’s this very quality that I like: I’ve hammered on it without so much as leaving a mark and have put a propane torch to it without doing more harm than warming the surface. With the ability to withstand this kind of abuse, it makes a great kitchen countertop material. Swanstone’s durability is also helpful during fabrication and installation, because it’s forgiving of the occasional bumps against other surfaces and the inevitable scratches that seem to plague plastic laminate fabrication. But while the material is virtually shatterproof, it can’t be thermoformed, which means I can’t use radius corners like you commonly see on island and peninsula tops. Instead, I use either 90-degree or clipped corners.

The 1/4-inch-thick sheets are easy to handle, and the countertops are fabricated much like a plastic laminate top. Depending on your choice of color and pattern, the seams are inconspicuous if not practically invisible. Regardless of whether the countertop is to be installed in a new or existing kitchen or bath, I first rough-cut the 3/4-inch...

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