Help please with butcher block countertop stain

jlj48August 31, 2013

I'm hoping you can help me with something. Replacing a faucet and sink has led to the need to replace my countertop. After much soul searching, we have decided to NOT go into debt for granite and install butcher block counters. I absolutely love Vanessa's counters from the "this & that" blog that was referenced in another thread. However, she used "special walnut" color with waterlox. I KNOW the waterlox will lighten the stain and I love her results. However, special walnut seems so dark and I'm getting nervous. Can anyone please post pictures of their counters and list their stain so that I can make the best decision? Thank you!

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You can always lighten the stain if you feel it's too dark. Just wipe it down with mineral spirits after it's dried. The spirits will wipe off some of the stain. Jump in!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 10:03PM
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Oh thank you! If I did that then it would be okay to waterlox right after? The mineral spirits wouldn't affect waterlox would it?

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 12:07AM
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Joanie - What wood species?

Waterlox will probably darken the stain a tiny bit, and give it an amber cast (like any oil finish). For better control of the stain color, TEST it on the bottom of the piece. Do a full test, including the number of layers of Waterlox you plan, wiht the sanding between and everything. Then seal the whole bottom to keep the wood from warping.

Mix it well and wipe on thin layers, adding color to get the intensity want.. If you spread it thickly and try to wipe it off you run into working time problems on a big piece.

TIP: put several small pebbles or big steel shot into the stain can before you shake the stain. They help get the pigment off the bottom of the can.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 4:54AM
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Thanks for your response. I understood that waterlox will LIGHTEN the finish, and that you should not Shake the can at all, only stir. Also, that it needs to be used within a few days, which makes it difficult to do test areas and allow for drying time and time to do the whole thing. That's what has me a little nervous, the uncertainty of it all and the time crunch.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 1:02PM
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I wouldn't think mineral spirits would be a food safe option.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 1:18PM
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Mineral spirits evaporate. Unless you drink them, it's not a problem. Tung oil isn't food safe either if you eat it, which is why you shouldn't use it on a counter you're going to cut on. Nothing that creates a protective surface for a counter is truly "food safe". It's a completely overblown concern unless you eat off of your counters though. Cutting boards and trivets should be used with all counter surfaces. The only time you need to worry if a finish if food safe is if you are using butcher block for it's original intended purpose, and chop directly on the counters. Then, you wouldn't stain them at all. Only oil them with mineral oil. Which IS food safe, in it's original meaning, meaning you can ingest it without harm. It's used as a laxative, after all.

Staining butcher block is usually best accomplished by a wood dye, not a stain. It will be much more even, especially if you're dealing with a maple butcher block, which can blotch badly. Or, you can use a plain light coat of tung oil as a sealer to minimize the blotching, and then use regular stain on top of that. I wouldn't recommend a stain/tung oil mix for any coatings though, as if you scratch it, you'll be scratching off the color. It's the same as using a pigmented varnish on cheap furniture to disguise the wood underneath. It's one way to end up where you want to be, but it's far from the best way.

Tung oil is a good choice for a top coat over the dye though, not because it offers more protection than a standard much harder polyurethane, but because it's easier to touch up if someone's knife does slip off the cutting board and scratch the counter.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 1:45PM
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Joanie - Shake the STAIN can with pebbles, not the Waterlox can.

Waterlox will last for at least a few weeks after you open it. The trick is to pour out what you need into a separate container to dip your rags or brushes in and close up the container. Don't pour anything back into the can.

You'll have plenty of time for testing.

Snookums: There is a lot of stuff that is unsafe to eat or drink that is perfectly fine after it has dried and cured. Mineral spirits is in that category: it makes lousy salad dressing, but it's perfectly safe to use it while you are staining and finishing countertops.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 1:47PM
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Thank you lazy gardens for clarifying, however, I've always stirred my stain too - never shake. I only shake paint. Shaking stain causes bubbles but you're right, I need to be sure to get what's on the bottom. I'm glad to get the waterlox tips too, about pouring into a separate container. I've never worked with waterlox but am looking forward to it. I'm only nervous about the color. I don't want to mess it up.
I've worked with tung oil and like it. But this counter is birch and I know it will be too light in color without a colorant (stain or dye).

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 3:06PM
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Check out this youtube series w/ Askwoodman.
He shows a great way to squeeze the air out of the container. I was able to keep my canister for over a month.

good luck.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 3:13PM
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If you can't do the bottom first or get a scrap, at the very least go get a piece of birch wood to experiment on. It won't be exactly the same result but you should be able to get a feel for it.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 3:15PM
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Thanks for the u-tube video. I will watch it in a little while. And thanks for the tip about practicing on scrap. It is getting cut tomorrow and I thought I would play with some of the scraps.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 3:18PM
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There's no reason not to shake stain. You're wiping it on and off, so any bubbles would be impossible.

GreenDesigns, I have my 16' 10" maple BB I made, which I haven't stained yet. I've been putting it off because of the Fear of Splotching.
You mention a dye is better. Do you happen to know if a dye can be matched to an existing stain? I found a color I just revel in, but .. that... splotching ... thing.
And, I've never seen dyes in regular stores. Where would one pick that up?

Thanks for your information.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 12:06AM
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