Butcher block island top -- Advice needed!!!

north40momNovember 13, 2007

We are planning to install a 53x40 inch butcher block top on our island. We will probably go with maple as this counter will get a lot of wear and tear and the hard maple seems to be the sturdiest thing short of lyptus (much more expensive). I have to decide on an oil or Durakryl fisnish. The Durakryl is food safe, but not an oil finish, and harder than oil. The rep says it will protect the top better, but also show scratches more. The island provides a major part of our food prep workspace, and will also likely have numerous coffee cups and wine glasses rested on it ;-) I don't mind some scratches, or patina, (this will be used for cutting!) but don't want something that looks wrecked from the get-go. Does anyone here have experience with bb counters and a strong opinion on this? Also, if anyone has a good picture of their installed hard maple bb top, I would love to see it. Most of the ones I've turned up on FKB are darker woods. THANKS!!!

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No matter what finish you plan to use, a combination of beeswax and mineral oil applied periodically to your counter will help keep your board hydrated, is food safe and will cause liquids to bead up on the surface so you can quickly wipe it down to avoid stains. Food and wine allowed to sit on a countertop too long will stain the surface. Beeswax Conditioner will help protect the finish you choose or may be applied directly to untreated wood. Apply every 2-3 weeks a thin coat, allow it to penetrate and then buff it out with a clean cloth.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 6:40PM
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I got a new maple BB counter for the island at our lake place - I got the oiled finish. I'm not familiar with Durakyl but a scratched BB finish doesn't sound appealing. I was going for the same look as a nice aged, oiled wooden salad bowl - the kind of thing where surface scratches disappear when oiled. I received Boos Mystery oil with my counter and that's what I've been using - works well. I don't cut on mine though.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 7:07PM
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DO NOT use Durakryl on a counter you plan to use for cutting! It is an acrylic finish.
You will want an oil based finish such as mineral oil, pure tung oil, or a mineral oil/beeswax blend for a cutting counter.

This is the maple island counter in our slowly progressing kitchen.

It has seen hard use since the beginning of April. We love it!
I have oiled it with mineral oil only.
Tung oil would give a more lustrous, more gold finish.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 7:12PM
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Ditto what Ellen said...I wouldn't use a hard finish, or think it would be recommended, on a bb I planned to cut on.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 8:17PM
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I have used 100% tung oil on mine. (I got it from Lee Valley Hardware.) It's gorgeous, I think.

The thing about tung oil is, though, that each coat has to harden for at least 24 hours, and it could take 2 or 3 days to completely dry. And you need to do multiple coats, so your butcherblock is out of commission for a couple of weeks. It's a very pretty finish, though, and tough.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 8:19PM
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Thanks everyone, for the informative responses. It is sounding like I probably don't want the durakryl, and will opt for the oiled finish. Thanks especially for all the great pics, they ARE worth a thousand words.

vjrnts-- I am curious about your counter, is it maple? In the picture it looks like a deeper color than the others. Is that due to the tung oil finish? Also, how did you order the bb, did you order it unfinished, and do all finishing yourself with tung oil, or was there a basic finish on it when you got it? THANKS again...

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 8:46PM
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It believe it is maple and it is much deeper in color than it was before I "tunged" it. (Sounds dirty.) But this BB is 40 years old. It was in the kitchen already, part of a 1968 remodel. I sent it out to be planed and sanded, so the surface that I oiled was brand new and clean, nothing on it. I mineral oiled it once or twice and decided that I wanted something with more staying power, so I got the tung oil (make sure you get the 100% kind, for salad bowls) and did a few coats. It gives it that amber look, which I really like. And it cleans up very easily. I had no problems with the tung oil over the mineral oil, although I didn't apply one immediately after the other. There were a couple of weeks between.


    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 9:12PM
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You can have a finish that sits on the top (so it's like a layer of plastic that can cut and curl up) or a finish that soaks in.

Finishes that soak in can dry or not dry. Tung oil will dry and turn into a tough, waterproof finish. There's a version of tung oil that will leave a slight layer on top called Waterlox that is very durable.

If you go with mineral oil and beeswax you will have to maintain it more often. It's lovely and not a lot of work but it is more work.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 10:02PM
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We've had a butcherblock island for about 20 years and I gave up oiling it about 18 years ago. It looks pretty good, stain-wise, and the color is about like ellene's (above). I know I can sand it down anytime I want to bring it back to perfect. The hard surface stuff makes it look like a polyurethane floor, if that gives you an idea. I don't think it would hold up well for long.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 12:09AM
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Hello North40Mom

I too plan on using my BB counter top as a food prep area and was going to use maple, but changed to Lyptus because I felt it would match my brick floor and Crema Bordeaux granite better (not so yellow). When my supplier told me that his Lyptus was on backorder I was upset and he suggested Brazilian Cherry which is a little redder than Lyptus (which is a little pinker) but just as hard and durable. In fact, he told me that it is harder than maple. I was a little worried it would be too red, but I love the rich color.

As for the finish, I ordered oil finish and that's how it arrived. I had re-oiled it several times with mineral oil. Then I read here about the bees wax & oil finish, so ordered some bees wax online, melted it with some mineral oil and applied it. Wow! Gorgeous finish that is lasting longer than just the mineral oil, and liquids bead up on it nicely.

I would highly recommend the bees wax / mineral oil mixture, whether you mix it up yourself or purchase it for the finish. Don't know about Tung Oil and if you can actually cut/chop food on it without marring the finish, so I can't help you there.

Here's my Brazilian Cherry counter:


    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 1:48AM
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All my step-mom's countertops were wood. She nor her cabinetmaker had the slightest idea what they were doing. (She bought the wood and tools, he built her cabinets.) He finished the countertops with several coats of polyurethane. She was afraid any use would damage the finish, so she spent the last 17 years with the countertops covered. We couldn't put a dish ON the countertop. What a waste. I spent the weekend moving them into a new house (with lamate countertops).

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 9:26AM
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Wow! That counter is really beautiful. Who was the supplier? What is the thickness?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 10:11AM
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Again, thanks to all for the great advice and pics. It is really a lifesaver hearing from all of you who have had it installed a while. I really would be lost on so many points without this forum ;-)

Mary T., your beautiful photo now has me considering a darker wood! It looks so great in your kitchen, which shares similar features with my kitchen to be (cream cabinets and a Lacanche). I'm thinking that the lyptus (though costlier) will make a nicer contrast with my cream colored island base and also go more nicely with the floor (quartersawn oak). Boy, will I be glad when I am finished making decisions.... I actually can't wait for the "point of no return" when everything is finally decided and can't be changed!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 12:16PM
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I have a 88"x37"x1.75" lyptus BB island countertop. My 3 young kids who love to drum with their flatware eat on it, so I went with a 100% tung oil finish. I am very happy that I did. I applied a new coat of tung oil for the first time just last week. Very easy (but don't wash the rags with clothes!!). It took 3 days to completely dry, but it was dry enough to put things down on it (but not prep) about 8 hours later.

I am having a problem, however, with the 13" overhang: checking from both edges, about 3" in from either side, just about 1/2" inch into the overhang. I left a message for the woodworker to call me. Anybody else have a problem with a BB with overhang?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 2:23PM
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Soigne, I did a quick search on your checking/splitting wood probem and found this advice:

from AWPButcherbck.com
As the seasons change the humidity level in you home will change. This some times causes wood products to change as well. Small splits in the end grain can occur. Most of the time this is only a cosmetic condition and needs no attention. But if you want to fill the splits we recommend the use of a good wood filler or white glue and saw dust mixed to a thick paste. After filling the split let the filler dry, sand off any excess and refinish.

from brookswood.com:
Melt a 1 to 4 mixture of paraffin and mineral oil and fill all checks. Make sure paraffin seals the check thoroughly. Continue oiling .Epoxy will also work well.

and from devoswoodworking.com:
Almost all problems on solid wood countertops, island tops, and butcher blocks are due to dryness. Your butcher block will look great and last for many years if properly treated with mineral oil on a regular basis...

End checks or splits: (separation of the joints along the end of the top or block). This situation is caused by excessive dryness or because the top is not oiled frequently enough. To repair this, melt a 1 to 4 mixture of paraffin and mineral oil and fill all checks or splits. Make sure that paraffin mixture seals any split thoroughly. Continue oiling the top on a regular basis.

To date, we have not had any problems with our maple butcher block island, which was made by AWP Butcher Block. We also did not have any checking or warping with our previous butcher block work table, which we used and cut on for 25 years.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 2:53PM
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Sue - I ordered it from Grothouse Lumber and they are wonderful to deal with. It is 2.5 inches thick, which is their minimum for an end-grain BB top. It is beautifully made and I couldn't be happier.


North40 - I think the Lyptus would be lovely. Maple is lovely too, but was just too yellow for my kitchen. I based this decision on both maple and lyptus chopping boards that I have and used before the reno.


    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 3:24PM
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Is your lyptus top end grain or edge grain?

Everyone-- I was planning to go with edge grain (strips), mainly because I can get it 2" thick. The end grain (little squares) is all thicker, it seems, and b/c my island has a DW (no sink), I can't really lower the top height to compensate for a thicker bb, and I am short-ish --5'4". It just seems the end grain -- 3" high plus -- would make the countertop too high. But I am concerned, a rep told me today that end grain (little squares) can be sanded but edge grain (strips) can never be sanded... is this true? As always, thanks for all the help!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 5:38PM
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Yes, you can sand edge grain butcher block.
I know that I sanded my old edge grain butcher block worktable at least once, maybe twice (in 25 years).

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 7:37PM
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My BB is 40 years old. It's edge-grain, and I had it planed and sanded and replaced when I changed the cabinets.

Sure you can sand it. Tell him that you know someone who did, and it looks great.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 7:42PM
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osswb - have you ever posted photos of your kitchen before? I'd love to see more. Thanks

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 8:05PM
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Thanks for the research Ellen. My edge-grain piece came from Devos. I was told that Dan Devos will call me to discuss in a day or two. I was asked to email some pictures.

MaryT, that is one beefy looking range you have there. Beautiful.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 8:15PM
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North40 - Not true - you can most certainly sand edge grain and I don't know why the rep would say that. Makes ya wonder, doesn't it .... [sigh]

Malhgold - I am still unpacking boxes, and will be posting pics soon.

Soigne - Thanks!!! :)


    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 1:46AM
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Hi all, how often do you need to pure tungoil your blocks, is it good for a few years? Can you find 100% tungoil at HD or Lowes?

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 9:11AM
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I have all American Cherry counters in my kitchen. I treated them with several layers of pure tung oil laced with citrus solvent originally. I agree with previous poster that to do it properly, your counter will be out of commission for a couple of weeks. The finish is superlative and just gets more and more beautiful as we run our hands over it and use it on a daily basis.

I don't use it to cut on, as the cherry is relatively soft compared to my harder maple cutting boards. When it has gotten marred, a quick swipe with a little tung oil and the mar is gone. After about six months, I re-oiled them, they still look terrific. Been in hard use for almost a year total.


    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 9:22AM
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Beeswax and Mineral Oil Conditioner is better than Mineral oil because the beeswax sits on the top of the counter while the Mineral Oil penetrates. Mineral oil makes a mess. Beeswax and Mineral Oil on the other hand are very manageable and a little goes a long way.

In the winter time houses tend to dry out and so keeping your butcher block oiled is especially important to prevent cracking.

I have found that over time a board will get darker with age, adding to it's natural beauty.

Also, sometimes it works well to use fine sandpaper when applying your beeswax mineral oil conditioner to kill two birds with one stone.... Smoothing the surface and conditioning the wood. (Just buy a foam padded sanding block and keep it with your container of conditioner).

Happy Holidays!

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 9:38AM
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If your butcher block comes with a mineral oil / paraffin finish but you want a richer look and hardier finish can you put tungoil right over it? Should block be sanded first?

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 10:26AM
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Pirula's cherry counters and osswb's cross-cut bb are different animals than maple.

I've had a maple island counter for 15 years in our apartment. I absolutely hate it. I find it impossible to clean. It stains and seems to attract a later of dirt. We don't chop on it -- we have a seperate board and then there is a dark frame around where that sits. Before that I had maple butcher block counters inset with a marble pastry area. Loved the marble and hated those as well.

Everyone's taste and likes are different and I always say to others to do what you want. But since you asked for advise I'm telling you straight. I have had them in my houses forever it seems and I hate them. I like laminate, granite, marble, engineered stone better. The only thing worse to me than bb is the tile I also have on the perimeter.

I am so ready for a new kitchen.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 10:45AM
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Pirula - I seem to remember you saying you would re-post pictures of your kitchen and counters when you could?! I just remember drooling over the counters, and when I went back to find the pictures, they were gone. Can you dig up one or two for me (us!)? Pretty please?? :-)

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 11:52AM
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Just happen to have Pirula's kitchen bookmarked (drool, drool). Top 3 photos.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pirula's kitchen

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 3:03PM
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Thank you, thank you, goutgrec!! I'm pretty sure she said she used cherry planks to make the counters, right? I'll have to go back and look at the pictures' descriptions.


    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 3:14PM
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If you plan on using your butcher block top as a cutting surface, then you need to plan on it looking like a cutting board after time. Thats it, plain and simple. If you want to keep your butcher block looking new all the time, then your gonna have to re-surface it periodically if you keep cutting on it. A quick sanding and application of mineral oil and your back to new. I recommend only Watco Butcher Block oil. For more info on butcher block care and maintenance check out our website. http://www.thebutcherblocktop.com

Here is a link that might be useful: The Butcher Block Top

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 9:16PM
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Sorry if I'm missing something, but is there anybody here who has used tung oil AND who cuts on that surface?

Christopher, Watco Butcher Block Oil says that it is safe for food contact, but are you saying that it be cut on? The MSDS sounds like maybe it's not, but I'm unfamiliar with such documents.

Thanks! Kate.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 9:53PM
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You can cut on Watco butcher block oil. Its a combination of Mineral oil, boiled linseed and Tung oil. This is the pretty much the base for all mixed butcher block finishes. If you dont require your butcher block to have a counter top finish then the best finish wood of course be pure food grade mineral oil. Watco and Boos mystery oil should never be applied as a top coat. Wipe it on and let it get absorbed into the wood then wipe off the extra. It is really not meant to be built up as a top coat as it will definitely show cut marks if you do. As for straight Tung oil, I would not recommend it as a stand alone finish for something you plan to cut on. Its normally mixed as stated above. When in doubt, food grade mineral oil is the way to go, but if your into looks more than functionality then go with something like Watco or Boos mystery oil. We use Watco on the sides of all our Tables and cutting boards and finish the tops with mineral oil unless requested otherwise.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Butcher Block Top

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 10:47AM
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I have an thick end-grain square butcherblock that sits next to the sink and is the non-meat cutting/chopping worksurface we use on an almost daily basis. It gets wiped off several times and then gets a more vigorous cleaning at the end. I have another thinner board I use for cutting meat that is easier to scrub clean in the sink.

When I first got the block I drenched it in pure tung oil thinned with citrus solvent. Let it soak in. Put more on. Repeat, repeat. Let it dry until it didn't smell.

What happens over time is that the center area where I work the most starts to look "dry" like untreated wood. There's enough tung oil in it that I don't worry about it drying out or splitting but aesthetically it looks like a well-used block.

Maybe twice a year I apply a coat of thinned tung oil over the whole thing to keep it sealed. I much prefer the soaked-in protection that the tung oil gives than the surface protection that frequently-applied mineral oil does.

So to me there are two considerations: how well sealed is it to protect it from splitting and how does it look. The tung oil will give the best long-term protection but if you use it it will look used. If you want it to look "wet", then mineral oil and/or wax will give that look on the surface.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 5:45AM
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Hi! I hope someone can help me.
I just sanded my large area BB (It's a thick maple) and I bought Pure Tug oil and a Citrus Solvent. I did 1 part to 1 part of each and have coated it 3 times in the last 5 hours. After each initial dry period.

I do want to use this BB for cooking, it is going to be used heavily in fact. I want something as natural and organic as possible since I am cooking for 2 babies, 2 kids and my parents.

With that said, I read somewhere that I should do 3 coats of just Tung oil to really "harden" the surface over 3-5 days. Is this correct?

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 6:34PM
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Hi Helen, I noticed this thread is over six years old, so it may not get much response, but thought I would chime in.
I've had a Maple butcher block counter top, used heavily for 27 years, and used nothing but mineral oil on it, and occasional lemon peel and salt to clean.
Maple is a very hard wood, while adding more oil can't hurt, it does not make the surface any harder, it soaks in to treat and condition the wood, think of it as lotion on dry hands...

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 11:37PM
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Thank you CTYCDM!
Should I do one coat of pure Tung oil on the wood before treating it with a citrus solvent? I am assuming that the citrus solvent can replace the mineral oil from what I read?

Happy Belated Birthday.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 12:18PM
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I do not currently have BB, but plan to have solid hickory countertops in our new build. I've done a lot of research and some product testing on my samples boards. So I'll give my input based on that. The tung oil takes the place of the mineral oil, but it needs to be thinned for the first few coats for better absorption into the wood. You can thin with a couple different things but citrus solvent is generally recommended for food preparation surfaces. You apply one coat at night, not too thick but the oil should be somewhat puddled on the bb surface. Do not wipe off, leave overnight, wipe off excess in the morning. Most of the oil will be absorbed. Let cure for 8-12 hours. Repeat 4 to 5 times until your BB is no longer soaking up the oil at night.

This is what I've done with my sample boards and they looked great. I used pure tung oil from The Real Milk Paint Co. and followed their instructions. But I haven't lived with them yet. Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 1:11PM
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There is SO much information here. I would like to install bamboo countertops in my kitchen. I can order either unfinished or prefinished with beeswax/mineral oil. I plan to install an undermount sink and will need advice on maintaining the tops in a "wet" area. Please advise

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 9:41PM
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