Finishing the Butcher Block

So we bought a giant butcher block countertop for our rolling kitchen island. This is not built-in, but it might as well be because it was built in the house and I have no idea how you'd get it out (OK, fine, turn it on its side, but it's heavy as all get out).

This giant butcher block needs to be finished somehow, and I wanted to finish it on both sides (to keep it from cupping and cracking due to unequal moisture absorption). So we had some work to do.

Countertop before

We started by sanding the counter on what would be the bottom. I sanded all the way around knocking down the sharp edges, and smoothing out the cut sides. This counter is a nice piece of wood, but not install-ready.

Tape crud

Noel scraped off the crud left behind by packing tape, because that was not sanding off nicely. Then I sanded those areas to get the residue off.

Running the random orbital sander over the surface

When we'd done the edges, Noel ran the random orbital sander over the surface to get it ready to take up the finish. Counters like this come from the factory with a thin layer of factory grease and dust over them, so sanding just kind of cleans them up and makes the wood more open to the finish.

A little ding in the surface

There were some dings in the surface, which was why we decided this side would be the bottom.

We decided this would be the bottom because there's a row of dings

You can see a whole row of them run across this one stave of the block. Now, we could have sent this counter back and had them send us one that didn't have this flaw, but it does have a good side, so we decided not to worry about it.

Doing inadvisable things with an extension cord

When we finished the bottom, we flipped the counter over to sand the top. Of course, the pendant lights were hanging down in the way, so we tied them out of the way. But since we have almost none of our tools at the house, we used an extension cord. I do not advise doing this. (It obviously was not plugged in.)

Then we repeated the sanding routine with the top.

One layer of finish

The finish I chose to use is Waterlox (Original System), with a satin finish coat. This is a penetrating oil finish that is more durable than plain tung oil, so you can apply it once and not really worry about having to apply it again unless something catastrophic happens.

The system is applied in three coats: two coats of the sealer, then a final coat of satin finish. Each coat requires 24 hours cure time before recoating. Recall that I wanted to put this on both sides of the counter, so today we did a coat on the top, and tomorrow we will come back, turn the counter over again and coat the bottom. Then Tuesday we will come back and give the bottom its second coat. Wednesday we will turn the counter over and give the top its second coat. Thursday we will give the top the final coat (no need for a finish coat on the bottom; I'm a perfectionist but not actually certifiable).

The colour of the counter is just a little deeper

The counter with the sealer on it has deepened in colour and is really quite pretty.

We'll be stress-testing this next weekend, because our traditional weekend of canning tomatoes and making all our pasta sauce for the year will now be happening at our house. The timing with the floor finishing could have been better. Heck, it originally was better. But we will make things work and we will survive.

posted by ayse on 07/28/19

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