Butcher Block Refinishing

By Judy Kilpatrick

Butcher block is made of pieces of 3/4- to 1 1/4-inch thick hardwood glued tightly together to create a solid, sturdy block in the size desired. A wooden board created from hardwood pieces is less likely to warp than a solid slab when exposed to moisture. As the name implies, butcher block is used for cutting meat, but it is also used for countertops, kitchen islands and tables.


Clean a butcher block used in food preparation with vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, soap and water, or dilute bleach solution. Before refinishing a butcher block, thoroughly clean and allow it to dry completely. Butcher block used for tables is often stained and finished; clean with soap and water and allow it to dry before refinishing.


Strip butcher blocks already finished with varnish or polyurethane prior to sanding and refinishing. Use a thick, brush-on stripper, which is easy to use and effective in removing an old finish. Brush-on stripper loosens and melts the old finish, making it possible to wipe off the old finish of the butcher block. Rinse the butcher block thoroughly, following the manufacturer's directions. After it has dried completely, the butcher block is ready for sanding.


Whether countertop, table or cutting board, refinishing a butcher block involves sanding the surface. For a smooth finish use a oscillating tool with a hook and loop pad accessory fitted with sandpaper. Progressively sand the block, beginning with coarse, 80-grit sandpaper, then medium-grade, 120-grit paper, and finally, fine-grade, 240-grit sandpaper. Do not apply pressure when sanding, but allow the sander to do the job. Applying pressure can result in dips and ridges in the wood.


Stain and varnish or polyurethane your butcher block table; however, do not stain or varnish a butcher block cutting board because it comes in direct contact with food during preparation. Instead, season this kind of butcher block prior to use. With a soft cloth, apply warm mineral oil, or mineral oil mixed with beeswax, to the block. Allow the oil to soak into the wood. Use five or six coats of oil over the course of several days, allowing four to six hours' drying time between coats.

© Demand Media 2011