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Sep 10, 2009 08:14 PM

Butcher Block Kitchen Island - Thoughts/Recommendations?

The missus and I just moved, and looks like a kitchen island with butcher block top would be ideal for our new space -- we need some extra storage, we need extra counter space, and also a little something to separate the kitchen from the rest of the living area. I'd love a Boos island, but they seem a tad pricey, and maybe that I'd be paying more for the name than the product (please correct me if that's completely wrong).

So - that being said -- any thoughts/recommendations/advice?

Many thanks!

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  1. We custom-built our home about four years ago, and wanted to feature woods indigenous to New England. So...maple cabinets, pine floors, an oak bannister, etc. The kitchen cabinetry supplier suggested a hickory butcher block top for the island. After we moved into the house, I read on a few sources via the Internet that hickory ("pecan" to any Southerners reading this) wood releases some toxins when cut into. I don't actually know whether that's true, or not, but I did see it noted in several places. So, for now at least, I don't use it for a cutting board.

    So, my advice to you is to be cautious of the so-called experts, some of whom may have, in selling you something, selling you something as their *only interest*. If I had it to do all over again, I would find a local artisan, ask him to find some nice untreated or naturally food-safe slabs of wood from which he could fashion me a usable, unique cutting board top for my island. And I may do that yet. If I ever get around to it.

    I do find I like maple best, though, for a wooden cutting surface. Just my preference.

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. TY so much for the paragraph re hickory/pecan, SMITH, and the correction re the species. I'm happy to have the proper information. I thought about the nuts, but I know there are some plants (e.g., rhubarb) when parts are edible and parts are not. So...after all these years, I can feel free to use my butcher block for its intended purpose? :-) Is hickory tough or okay on kitchen knives?

        1. re: Normandie

          I was curious and did a little googling. I would think *this* should set your mind at ease: "HICKORY - Most commonly used wood for smoking--the King of smoking woods. Sweet to strong, heavy bacon flavor. Good with pork, ham and beef. "

          I mean, if you're going to eat its smoke, then it's probably ok to cut on it

          1. re: DGresh

            For a fairly smart woman, D, I can be such a ditz at times. Do you know I even use hickory chips myself on the grill? (No, of course you don't, but I do.) Thank you for the wake-up call. Now I just have to decide if I *want* to cut it on it. I had fully intended to use it when we ordered it, but now like the way it looks with the patina of time and regular mineral oilings. It would be very convenient to use it, however. :-)

            1. re: Normandie

              I would use it - you can always sand it down to restore a reasonable surface if you don`t like the effect. Personally I prefer the designation cook to design consultant.

              1. re: Paulustrious

                That is very true, Paul.

                If it doesn't work out, it is amazing what sand paper and a good quality mineral oil can accomplish.

                I also like your thought re "cook". I've always found the most beautiful kitchens to be older, working kitchens, versus pseudokitchen "showplaces".

      2. Here is a link to a company that has been making Maple blocks for over a hundred years. AFAIK Michigan Maple Block and Boos are the two oldest in the country. If you go through their web site they explain the qualities of each species they work with. I really have no idea how MMB stacks up against Boos in terms of pricing for an Island. I do know MMB does custom work as well.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Fritter

          And here is one of the classic names in New England (JK Adams, in Vermont) for cutting boards and related products:

          I know they do furniture, but I'm not sure about islands.

        2. I'm sorry that my reply was cut out. I must have violated something. My apologies.

          Boos uses resins to harden their boards after finishing. Makes them tough on knife edges. I don't know what Michigan Maple Block does but I'm sure that Fritter will be more than happy to tell us all about them. Just look for quality, not some haphazard thrown together group of blocks. Look closely at the construction and that will speak volumes about how they care for the customers.

          Maple is one of the best choices, dense, heavy and tough. Oak has pores that are far to open to be cleaned easily. Hickory and Pecan are very dense as well but may be a little to hard. I would advise against that choice as I would any manufacturer who has to add a hardener. I have seen first hand how they chip good edges.

          1. I went through the same search very recently. After researching MMB, Boos, and getting a quote from the BoardSmith, I ended up going with Boos. Not because I thought anything poorly of the other two, but I stumbled across a ridiculous deal, 1/3 off, that I couldn't turn down.

            I ended up with an island with a 7" top. It had the "varnique" finish on it which I had to sand off but I've been using it for a month now with no problems. It was definitely pricey, even with the big discount we got, but I don't regret it. I love it and use it every day, it definitely drinks up the oil though. However, I've only had it a month, so I don't feel comfortable recommending it just yet. I'll have to see how it holds up over the long haul, but it was the right choice for me.