Waterlox - best for butcher block island - or something else?

buffalotinaDecember 30, 2009


This post got lost so I am reposting.

I have a small John Boos table that I am using as an island. I got the unfinished Maple butcher block top that I am supposed to maintain with mineral oil. I am not cutting on the board. Already I decided I need to finish because I am getting wine stains, food stain, and a wet cloth left by accident swelled the wood...

I want to use Waterlox and wonder if that is the best product for this situation or if there is something else I should use. I want my furniture refinishing guy to do it (I can't ventilate here) but he seems leery of Waterlox which is strange because I have heard such good things here. I believe it is food safe (once cured) - correct? Since so many folks do butcher block as counters I figured there must be good finishes to use.

Thanks in advance!

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I've not used Waterlox but, I have finished two butcherblock counters. I used tung oil (which I think is what Waterlox is, but don't know this for sure)

Tung oil is food safe but takes quite a while to dry. Polymerized tung oil dries much quicker & is food safe once cured.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2009 at 2:15AM
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Maybe a silly thought, but what happens when a guest cuts something on the butcher block - before you warn them otherwise, or they just don't "hear"? Will the Waterlox scar?

    Bookmark   December 31, 2009 at 5:02AM
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The website says Waterlox is a tung oil finish and they say on it is food safe once cured. Website also says you can touch it up if needed. I guess I am conerned about the number of coats it needs and how to convince my finishing guy that it is right to use. He he talking about using a lacquer or something...not sure what that would be for the kitchen. Honestly if it weren't mid winter here I would put the thing in the garage and finish it with Waterlox myself. Maybe I'll wait until spring and do that.

I also found another finish made by General Finishes called Salad Bowl Finish which is food safe and is for wooden bowls etc. They also say you can use it for wood countertops. Has anyone used that?


    Bookmark   December 31, 2009 at 7:22AM
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>He he talking about using a lacquer or something

I hope it's "or something" because lacquer is a terrible choice for a surface that is going to come into contact with water on a regular basis.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2009 at 10:15AM
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Show him this site devoswoodworking.com

They make wood countertops. They use Waterlox. The Gallery is incredible! You'll swoon, I promise!

There is a wealth of information there and also on paintsource.net

I just ordered a quart each of Waterlox Sealer/Finish and Satin(from paintsource.net) I'm going to sand the finish off a black pedestal tabletop that is scratched and apply the Waterlox (mixed with wood stain) to the top. I can't wait!

The salespeople (Doug and Davd) are incredibly helpful and knowledgeable!

    Bookmark   December 31, 2009 at 10:44AM
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i used the Salad bowl finish (By McCloskeys, now I think bought by out General) on my butcher block table top, maple & cherry. I sanded to a very fine grit (220) and applied four coats. It has no problems drying to a hard durable finish, that is not plastic-y or high gloss, but wipes clean easily. Three years eating on it, and writing checks, etc, and no damage.
Waterlox can be repaired without removing it, unlike poly. You would have to catch it early before the cut in the finish led to a stain, if the wine or oil seeped into it.
The salad bowl finish is not poly either, so any scratches could be dealt with in a similar manner.
Several folks here have had excellent results using waterlox on butcher blocks. I would think that it would look nice as a wiped-on finish rather than a built up shiny finish. I have a four-coat heavy waterlox finish on my kitchen floor, so I'm well-acquainted with the smell. In comparison, the salad bowl finish is nearly odorless. The smell is not as all-pervading and long-lasting.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2009 at 10:51AM
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Hi there - we used Waterlox on our island, which is not used for food prep, but just about everything else (including eating and serving meals from). As mfrog said, Waterlox is polymerized tung oil. Our island is not at all shiny. I would use Waterlox again in a second.


    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 3:26PM
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I could have said what Eliz said...we have Waterlox on the island and would do so again. It provides great protection around our prep sink and I don't have to go crazy about the kids letting anything sit on it. I have never had a guest try to cut on my island. If they really went at it with a sharp knife and some strength, I'd guess that it would make marks. But Waterlox is pretty easy to refresh, too. It obviously won't fill divots, but you can refresh just a spot, or wipe on another coat or 2 without it being a major project...other than keeping people off for the lengthy drying time.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 4:23PM
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Happy New Year! My husband and I were fortunate enough to ring in the new year at the home of a master woodworker. When asked what his thoughts were on waterlox, he replied,"I'm a disciple! Love it!" He also said that the way to get the best finish is literally with your hands. When I find the time to apply waterlox to my cherry bb island, I will be using my hands!HTH

    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 4:44PM
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Thank you all so much! This thread is really helpful.

Casey - thanks for the info on the salad bowl finish. It sounds like that would also be an excellent option.

catkin: I checked the devoswoodworking site: wow! Gorgeous wooden counters. Thanks for the link!

I think I am coming round to the fact that I will have to wait until spring until I can do this project in the garage. It's not as if it is beyond me, I just wanted my guy to do it so I could have it done now :). I think I want Waterlox and he doesn't want to use that then I will wait and do it myself.

Another question: The devos site says BOTH sides of the counter should be finished. Should i remove the top from the island (would be work, but I probably could do it) so both sides can be finished?


    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 10:16AM
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Ideally, you finish both sides exactly the same, but if you can get to most of the bottom with it fastened down, it will probably be okay. 2 coats of whatever you end up using will certainly seal the bottom side adequately (no sense using 3 or 4 coats there).

    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 11:51AM
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Hey - make sure you ask a wood expert whether you need to do something to the island before you put waterlox on it since you've already put mineral oil on it. We use mineral oil on ours (2 yrs old), but when I mentioned to our carpenter that if I didn't want to continue that I'd just waterlox it, he said NO - can't put waterlox over mineral oil. I'm sure there's a way - maybe sand it or something, but make sure you tell them what you've already put oil on it, in case they need to treat it differently.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 11:56AM
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We used Waterlox on our butcher block island, and I love it. We have a prep sink in the island so I wanted something durable and lasting. We've only been in the house about four months, but already I've taken to treating the island just like my laminate perimeter countertops. No worries about spills, and I do all my prepping on it (I don't cut directly on it though). It can definitely take a beating, as my two little boys have put it to the test.

My island has already developed a patina, as I knew it would. But I like knowing that if I get sick of the scratches and dings in a few years, I can just sand it down a little and put on a few more coats of Waterlox. I would definitely recommend it.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 4:14PM
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november - thanks for that warning! I am letting the oil disperse somewhat now. I will call Waterlox I think and ask them about that. I think sanding ought to take care of it...but thanks for raising the issue. Perhaps I can strip it with mineral spirits or something.

Looks like Waterlox gets the vote!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 4:52PM
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I just found this on the Waterlox website. Looks like I should almost let my block dry out and then sand with 320 grit. The regular instructions say to sand with 100 grit prior to application of Waterlox so I think I would need to check with them whether that still applies AFTER the 320.

"Waterlox Original Tung oil finishes can be applied over a non-film forming mineral or vegetable oil. 1. Allow the countertop to age for 30 days. 2. Scuff sand with 320 grit sandpaper. 3. Clean the surface with a rag dampened with mineral spirits (paint thinner) which will attract any remaining dust and dirt. Mineral spirits (paint thinner) is recommended because the Waterlox Original Tung oil finishes are based in this solvent and is therefore compatible with it, and it also evaporates slower than other more intense solvents such as lacquer thinner. 4. Apply as described under âÂÂNew Wood ApplicationâÂÂ."

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 10:29AM
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Waterlox is phenolic resin (ie plastic) mixed with tung oil. It looks and behaves a lot more like a varnish than an oil finish. (but considerably harder than most varnish). It reportedly can be recoated without stripping or sanding. It forms a layer of finish on top of the wood. I tried some and didn't care for the look.
I finished my 3" cherry countertops with Polymerized tung oil, from Lee Valley. 4 coats top and bottom before installation. I reoil every 3-4 months. Seems sturdier and longer lasting than mineral oil. looks very similar.

I have two sections. one I sort of fastened down with two #10 screws in 1/2" holes and the second piece I never got around to putting in the screws. The weight of the countertop plus the caulking between the top and the backsplash seems to hold the top in place pretty securely. Which is a good thing because the loose screws (which are the recommended installation) would let the counter slide back and forth about 3/8". If I ever had to remove the first section, I would not bother repacing the screws.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 11:48AM
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You're welcome, Tina.
Call the gentlemen @ paintsource.net. They can tell you how to proceed if you still need advice.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 4:02PM
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catkin - yes, I will try paintsource.

Researching I also found these finishes from Tried & True. Wondering if anyone has experience or suggestions about these? One benefit is I could use it now, in the winter, without having to majorly ventilate.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tried and True Wood Finishes

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 9:18AM
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