Finishing and Maintaining Butcher Block Counters

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This past weekend I finally installed the remaining counters in our kitchen renovation. After they were in (and looking pretty darn good), it was time to choose a finish.

Half of my counters are recycled granite, picked up off Craigslist from a kitchen remodel (yes, I'm aware of the potentialradon). The other half, wood butcher block (chosen for easy of installation, ease of refinishing, ease of recycleability) surrounds the sink so it needs to be waterproof. I also want to be able to cut directly on it, therefore choosing the most safe finish is of top priority.

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Reading online yields a plethora of finishing options:

  • Drying Oils - (linseed, tung, and diluted varnish)
  • Nondrying Oils - Including vegetable and mineral oils.
  • Vegetable Oils - e.g., olive, corn, peanut, safflower
  • Mineral (or paraffin) Oil - (not baby oil as it contains other ingredients)
  • Paraffin Wax

Vegetable oil sounds safe but it will eventually become rancid. Diluted varnish would include many harsh chemicals which wouldn't be very green. Ultimately, after vising the hardware store, I decided on mineral oil which is both food safe, completely non-toxic, and easy to apply.

Wiped on liberally (the first time) with an old cotton tee added a nice glow to the wood and has water bleeding up off the surface. Every few weeks I'll have to reapply as it dries out but mineral oil is safe for throughout its life.

While we're at it, check out these great ideas in wood counter top design from Devos Woodworking:

For hot things:

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For wet things:

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For sharp things:

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