Most of us we move into a new house and find a built in butcher block top. At first, it looks great but on closer inspection, it does not look so good. Butcher blocks are not something new on the market or even old fashion like from the 70's. They go back hundreds of years. At that time, the favored wood was maple or various other types of hardwood. In today's building of the butcher blocks, they are quite often made from imported hardwoods, which gives a bit more of a variety. It must be remember that years ago there was not the equipment for slicing meat that we have today. Back in the good old days, it was a lot of arm work and a good cleaver that was used to cut the meats. So needless to say why a butcher block was in order.
In our modern kitchens today, we are far gentler with our butcher-block tops and in most cases, we opt to use a cutting board and leave the butcher block top for aesthetic reasons.
You can restore your butcher block if is showing the worst for wear and tear. The first thing you need to do is sand it down. This will remove the other varnish and urethane that probably has begon to chip anyway. It depends on just how bad the condition of the butcher block is to determine the sanding techniques. If it's very bad then start with an 80 grit sandwich. Then each time you sand it reduce the grits. This mean each application of sanding is being used with finer sandpapers. The purpose of this is the heavy grit removes the gouges out of the wood but the finer sandpaper removes the scratches made from the previous sandpapers. It actually turns out to be a process of elimination.
One thing you need to remember though when you are sanding out all these gouges the top is going to become uneven with a lot of dips in it. The best thing is to leave some of the deeper gouges. Beside, it adds character to it.
Once you have your butcher block back in condition you need to treat it. Do not use the urethanes and varnishes that are used on regular furniture. Instead use a good finish of food grade mineral oil. Do not us your regular cooking oils because they spoil and leave a bad taste on the food. All you do is with the mineral oil is wipe it onto the surface of the butcher block and you will see it rapidly soak in. Keep doing this until the wood has become seated then remove the excess. Ideally, this should be done one month. Then ideally, to finish it off perfectly a good coat of beeswax is in order. The food grade mineral oil soaked into the wood but the beeswax will sit on top and give it added protection. It retards moisture and bacteria from getting into the wood surface.
The one thing you want to avoid is having your butcher block becoming too wet. They are made from wood so naturally the moisture is going to eventually break it down. If it becomes too moist the wood swells then the butcher block begins to swell then as it dries out it begins to crack. The same effects can occur from the wood drying out too much as well.
Source by Ryan Henderson