Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 19

Thread: Finishing a Butcher Block Countertop?

  1. #1

    Question Finishing a Butcher Block Countertop?

    I need to finish an unfinished Butcher Block Countertop. I will not be using it as a food surface but as a desk top. Anyone have suggestions for how to do this and with what materials?

    Thank you,
    Aimee

  2. #2
    I'm looking for a hard, maintenance free surface.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Stone Mountain, GA
    Posts
    669
    Probably would recommend oil-based polyurethane in whatever level of gloss you like. Relatively inexpensive and available at any hardware or big box store. You can brush on at full strength, or dilute about 50% with mineral spirits or naptha and wipe on with a rag, which is easier to achieve a nice result than brushing for most people. Wiping on a thinned mixture will require more coats to achieve the same thickness. Usually needs 4 hrs or so between coats, with a light sanding in between.

    Poly is resistant to stains and spills and abrasion. There are even tougher finishes but you'll need to go to a specialty supplier and probably will need spray equipment.

    The downside to "tough" finishes is that they will still eventually wear, and then they require a strip and refinish (not feasible to touch up). So another approach is to use something less durable like an oil/wax finish, and reapply every so often, which is trivial compared to refinishing poly. However you did say "maintenance-free" and I think a poly desk finish should last long enough that it's not going to be a big issue. A kitchen might be another matter.

    One thing to know about oil-based finishes is that they will impart a yellowish color to light colored woods like maple. If you want the wood to stay very light-colored, then you can try water-based poly. I do not have experience with it personally but I hear they now approach the durability of oil-based. If you have a darker colored wood, the oil makes it look fantastic.

  4. #4
    Thanks Robert,

    So, you may have converted me. I love the look/effect of tung oil but I also want a smooth surface. Any suggestions?

  5. #5
    What material? Iím partial to Waterlox original sealer finish. Rock solid and easy to apply. If you are spraying, target and general finishes make some good choices: Em8000cv and enduro clear Poly have worked well for me. The color effect of the these vs waterlox will vary.

    Waterlox is more durable but off gasses for longer.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    Fairbanks AK
    Posts
    906
    Couple questions. Can you tell what wood the butcher block is made from? Are the little pieces arranged end grain up on the surface or face and edge grain up on the surface?

    No offense, I am old enough to have known real butcher block was end grain up back before they invented cordless telephones and answering machines.

    If the old counter top is showing you edge grain or face grain when you are looking at your future desk top surface, a bunch of little pieces glued together you can do whatever you want. Polyurethane from the homestore ( brush quality counts) will last a good long time as a desk top finish, but refinishing it later is going to be a problem.

    I stopped using poyurethane on hardwood floors in the 1990s. One you drop a coffee mug on a floor, or dance on it in stilettos, the poly will crack, water will get in and the finish will start flaking. For a desktop, sure, get it done with poly, get it in service and get on with our life.

    It sounds to me like you are trying to get stuff done right now (having looked at your other thread) , without spending 5 decades learning the history of varnishes.

    However, if you have real butcher block (all visible end grain on the work surface) I would steer you towards a shellac for now (available in spray cans from the home store) just in case you get serious about either cooking or woodworking in the future. A shellac desktop finish will not last as long as a poly desktop finish, but it will look almost as good, you can spray more coats on it after you clean later, and be one metric sawdust ton easier to remove later if you choose to.

    My next desk top (seasoning on the floor next to my current desk) is going to be face grain white oak with a bleached finish. The quartersawn grain isn't going to pop, but it will be there to be seen if someone looks for it. Clean up will be soap and hot water. Refinishing will be open windows, Susie homemaker gloves, boiling water, Clorox, and a rag.

    If you go with home store polyurethane, find the cheapest price, the most expensive price, and choose anything in the top half of the price range. For brushes, get the highest quality brush you can afford, and the correct solvent to clean up after the poly you choose. Keep the carboard scabbard or bristle protector that comes with your brush. When the brush is dry after cleaning, put it back in the scabbard. With poly, your ability to tip-off or tip-out at the end of your brush strokes is fundamental to good results. This is exactly where cheap and mediocre brushes fall flat on their faces.

    Best wishes and good luck.

  7. #7
    Unfinished Hevea 4 ft. L x 25 in. D x 1.5 in. T Butcher Block Countertop

    Definitely not the 'real' butcher block. I just can't decide which way to go, I
    absolutely love the effect that tung oil brings but I want some sort of protective coating.

    Thoughts?


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    Fairbanks AK
    Posts
    906
    You can apply polyurethane over tung oil- after the oil in completely dry.

  9. #9
    Scott,

    Someone told me that the poly wouldn't 'stick' to the oiled surface. Thanks for telling me that! I'm leaning heavily toward the tung oil alone route. I can always add the poly at a later date if I really want it. How long does it take for tung oil to cure? I heard after 7-10 days you can use fully but its not fully cured for 30-90 days? By then I should know whether I want to do a poly coat.

    Thank you for your help...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    Posts
    57,862
    Quote Originally Posted by Aimee Dutton View Post
    Scott,

    Someone told me that the poly wouldn't 'stick' to the oiled surface.
    Tung Oil (the real stuff) is a "drying oil" just like BLO is. It cures over a period of time, which can be variable depending on the wood species and how much absorption occured as well as the pore structure. But if you plan on using an oil based varnish, poly or not, there's little benefit from using Tung Oil or BLO as the first coat of your oil based finish will provide pretty much the same effect.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Stone Mountain, GA
    Posts
    669
    Quote Originally Posted by Aimee Dutton View Post
    Thanks Robert,

    So, you may have converted me. I love the look/effect of tung oil but I also want a smooth surface. Any suggestions?

    What sort of "Tung Oil" do you have? If you got it from a typical hardware store or big box then it is probably Formby's "Tung Oil Finish" which is just a wiping varnish and not what most folks here are talking about when they call something an "oil finish". You can get 100% Tung Oil from places like Woodcraft or online, but I've never seen it at Lowe's or the like.

    I did not recommend an oil finish (100% tung oil or Boiled Linseed Oil) because you wanted a maintenance free finish, and an oil finish is not very resistant to stains and moisture. They deepen the color nicely but don't leave much of a "finish" on top of the wood to protect it. They will have a very matte sheen once dry, almost like bare wood but with a deeper color.

    Oil-based varnish or poly will deepen the color in a similar way, so there's no real need to put oil on first. You'd just be adding a day or two to the finishing process waiting for it to dry.

    If you have the Formby's "Tung Oil", then you can just use that. It's a varnish (maybe not polyurethane resins, but still pretty durable) that is pre-thinned so you can wipe instead of brush.


    As for making a smooth surface, that will have more to do with your prep. Most finishes will raise the grain to some extent after the first coat, creating a rough texture that you need to smooth down with 320 or 400 grit. Subsequent coats will go on much smoother.

    If, by chance, you are talking about filling in all the little pores in the wood (creating the glass-like surface you'd see on a piano or fancy conference table), that is a much more involved process and I would try to talk you out of it. But that does remind me, if your wood is open-pored like oak, hickory, etc. then definitely avoid a full-gloss varnish/poly. Stick with satin or semi-gloss, otherwise all of those pores will catch the light and look strange and garish.

  12. #12
    Thanks Jim, I'll take that into consideration.

  13. #13
    I have had good luck with Waterlox on my Cherry kitchen butcherblock

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Longmont, CO
    Posts
    736
    waterlox original and then a coat of the matte. I have had it on a kitchen island that was long leaf pine, maple and walnut. beautiful and hard wearing finish. I also used it on a European beach desk and it has been fantastic. it gives the look of the tung oil surface, brings out the grain, ages really well.

  15. #15
    I would not put Poly over Tung oil. Arm r seal is a wiping varnish that will look like your tung but is rock hard. Itís as good as Waterlox but lighter in color

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •