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Butcherblock Island, how to finish it?

Hi, we just bought a home with a butcher block island, they had used it to chop food on directly, and therefore oiled it monthly to keep it in good shape. I want to get it sanded down, and then either put a light stain on it, and then seal it (with what?). I'd prefer to use cutting boards that I can really scrub, (and put in the dishwasher), than using a huge island to put food directly on.

Any ideas?

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  1. I have butcher-block counters, and even though I usually use cutting boards over them I still make sure I use food-grade oil on them just in case I want to put some food directly on them (or in case the kids forget). So they get a monthly rubdown with any good food-grade oil like walnut or peanut oil. Once a year they get a good sanding and a heavy re-oil. You could use a mineral oil as well.

    I wouldn't recommend using any other chemicals near a food-prep area. I wouldn't want any petroleum-based stains or finishes near food, and a polyurethane finish might blister if exposed to a hot pot or pan.

    1. Thanks...the only issue is that this is a 2nd home, so we will be there sporadically (missing a few months at a time), and don't want to worry about it drying out. Wondering if their is a safe 'finish' that is not oil? Don't really have to worry about kids, mine are 20-somethings... I appreciate the help!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Koukla

        Use plain old mineral oil from the drug store. Do not use cooking oil that can go rancid. I wouldn't stain a butcher block regardless if I used a cutting board on top or not.

        1. re: melo7

          Mineral oil is probably best, but I remember reading that Peanut and Walnut oils are fine, as they are higly refined, very stable and not prone to going rancid over time. Other cooking oils are, as you say, not recommended.

      2. I see what you're saying. I wouldn't worry about it drying out, especially if the former owners were good about keeping it oiled. You could lay a thick coat of oil on it before you leave it for months and just not wipe it off, and then upon your return months later a quick wipe with a towel and you're good to go. Really, just plain peanut oil is the simplest, cheapest, safest, lowest maintenance plan around.

        All that being said, I bet you're right... I'm sure I've seen these stained darker, so there must be something I don't know about. Maybe a professional wood expert/remodeler will weigh in.

        1 Reply
        1. re: acgold7

          I wouldn't worry about them drying out. Do you oil all the furniture in the house before you come and go? Of course not. The butcher block is less temperamental than a lot of other furniture so I wouldn't worry so much. Really, enjoy the luxury of a butcher block island. Give it a scrub and light oiling before you leave each time and you will have the luxury of not having to worry about cutting boards. I envy you;

        2. I would use mineral oil which can be bought very inexpensively and there would be no risk whatsoever of rancidity. If you're gone for many months nothing bad will happen. Just oil it when you return. We have some extremely fine oiled walnut furniture, and we oil it once or twice a year, and ir remains looking perfect (although it is probably a denser, less absorbent wood than your butcher block). Oil your butcher block when you can...not to worry!

          1. My dad had a butcher block island in his farm house. I think he may have waxed it once in a while (once in a while means every five years or so) and it never split even with the extreme eldery person heat level of the house. After he passed away and we winterized the house for several months with no ill-effects.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cleobeach

              Thanks, all, I appreciate all of the good advice! The waxing sounds interesting, and you mentioned the heat level...this is an Arizona, so it will be rather warm (summer) while we are gone!