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Butcher Block Care & Feeding

BossHog's picture

Butcher Block Care & Feeding (post #56351)

A couple of days ago my Mom gave me this butcher block:

Apparently my Dad gave it to her shortly after they were married 52 years ago. She doesn't use it any more, and was gonna throw it out.

I said I'd take it, as I think it's kinda neat. But I don't really know what to do to preserve it.

I have some tung oil, but I don't think you're supposed to use that on stuff that food might come into contact with. Maybe I could use it on the bottom, then use something else on the top?

I was thinking about sanding the top a bit to smooth it out before I finished it. Any reason I shouldn't do that?

TIA for any thoughts....

There are no stupid questions but there are a LOT of inquisitive idiots

Marcia's picture

(post #56351, reply #1 of 70)

Why does it need sanding - is the board rough? I'd give it a good scrubbing, dry it very well and then coat with mineral oil which is food safe. After it soaks the oil up, rub off the excess and you should be good to go.

Repeat the treatment as needed - it looks like a nice cutting board.

Gretchen's picture

(post #56351, reply #2 of 70)

I would sand it just to get it clean. I had mine redone when we did some kitchen work years ago.  To answer Marcia, who posted simultaneously, sanding will get it down to the wood again and will even out the color. Bleach will help that also.

Then just treat it with mineral oil--no vegetable oil or tung, etc.  You can also heat some paraffin with some mineral oil (I can get the ratio on Knots) and apply that. This is what butcher shops use on theirs, and is longer lasting than just mineral oil.

OR you can just use it as is after a little sanding. I bleach mine to clean it.


Edited 1/15/2009 10:06 am ET by Gretchen

thecooktoo's picture

(post #56351, reply #3 of 70)

I rub mine down with a 3M heavy scrub pad that I get at the hardware store.  Wipe it off and apply mineral oil.  Let it set (if it hasn't been treated for several years, it will absorb all the oil), when it has absorbed most of the oil, add another heavy coat.  Keep adding heavy coats of mineral oil until it stops absorbing them.  Then just rub it down and it's ready to use.

I redo my wood cutting boards and the maple butcher block island top about every 6 months or so.  Missed a treatment and this past week did the island for the first time in over  a year.  I put on three heavy coats of mineral oil before it took all it could.


chefd's picture

(post #56351, reply #4 of 70)

Sand it with 200 grit or better.  Use a palm sander if you have one.  They run fast.  Scrub with hot water and bleach.  Oil with a food grade mineral oil.  This will bring out the grain and the board will be clean and useable.  I assume the wood is Maple.  Very nice !


Gretchen's picture

(post #56351, reply #5 of 70)

The fine grit may be OK, but be prepared for it to fill the pad if it has never been done before!  The guy that did mine did it with a belt sander! Of course it is a countertop basically.


chefd's picture

(post #56351, reply #6 of 70)

A belt sander me be a little slow and rough.  I would use a palm sander the give at least 40,000 OPM. 


Gretchen's picture

(post #56351, reply #7 of 70)

I didn't disagree. I am just saying that is what the guy had to use on mine.  ;o)

I would use it because that is what I have--the palm sander. But depending on what is on that cutting block, the pad may fill up a lot, which is what the guy told me.

BossHog's picture

(post #56351, reply #8 of 70)

I tried sanding this morning, but the sandpaper quickly filled up with gunk. So I tried a cabinet scraper, and that seemed to work well. The top surface is now incredibly smooth.

I'll have to head by the hardware store and see if they have some mineral oil to put on the thing.


Thanks fer all the help so far.

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Gretchen's picture

(post #56351, reply #9 of 70)

the other thing you could try--and probably not have to sand at all--is what was also suggested. Put some bleach (basically flood it) on the board and take a plastic scrubby and really really scrub it. Then take a spatula or some sort of wide scraper and push the stuff off the top. Rinse it well, using the scrubby, and scraping again.  Let it dry well. You will be amazed at how pretty it will be.

When I had mine sanded it was also partially because of a dip in the board where I do the majority of my cutting and chopping!! 

Marie Louise's picture

(post #56351, reply #17 of 70)

I want to see pictures of your progress.

BossHog's picture

(post #56351, reply #19 of 70)

Here ya go:

Butcher_Block_Progress.JPG111.7 KB
Gretchen's picture

(post #56351, reply #20 of 70)

There ya go--is that bleached or sanded?  Might try some bleach on the discoloration in the middle, with a scraper.


BossHog's picture

(post #56351, reply #22 of 70)

I didn't put bleach on it - I was afraid that would lighten the wood up too much. I like it the way it looks now.

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Gretchen's picture

(post #56351, reply #24 of 70)

That is what it would look like bleached.  Good job.


Sondra's picture

(post #56351, reply #23 of 70)

Ohh, lovely!  What a wonderful piece!  Come back and show us when it's all polished and oiled up.

MadMom's picture

(post #56351, reply #25 of 70)

Really gorgeous!  If you should decide you don't want it, just email me and I'll give you my address, LOL.

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chefd's picture

(post #56351, reply #27 of 70)

Looks Great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Marie Louise's picture

(post #56351, reply #29 of 70)

Wow it is end grain. OMG, so beautiful, and so, so special that it was a gift from your dad to your mom. That's the kind of thing you grab in case of fire.

I want to see it again after you put a few coats of Boos oil on it.

msm-s's picture

(post #56351, reply #53 of 70)

beautiful, beautiful!
Rubbing with a cut lemon rather than bleach is good enough maintenance unless you do something that needs serious germ-killing power.

TrueRed's picture

(post #56351, reply #70 of 70)

Wow, what a change! This is a gorgeous cutting block...  how nice that it's still in the family.

FL.Cook's picture

(post #56351, reply #10 of 70)

What is food grade mineral oil?  I just buy regular mineral oil, is there a difference, and if so where do you find it?  I have had permanent butcher blocks for years, have never sanded any down, but wash them after every use, spray with a clorox solution once a month and oil once in awhile when needed with plain old mineral oil.

Aberwacky's picture

(post #56351, reply #11 of 70)

Mineral oil you buy in the pharmacy is food grade because it's designed to be taken internally.  If you buy it in the paint department, it might not be.


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chefd's picture

(post #56351, reply #26 of 70)

Just do not buy it @ Home Depot.  I use Canola or Olive oil because I clean mine so often. 



FL.Cook's picture

(post #56351, reply #28 of 70)

I buy my mineral oil in the drug dept, but I was under the impression that olive oil and Canola oil were big no no's.

Gretchen's picture

(post #56351, reply #30 of 70)

hey will go rancid with time, and are sticky. Mineral oil is the norm.


Adele's picture

(post #56351, reply #31 of 70)

You especially don't want to put oil other than mineral or specific food grade oil on them especially here in FLA.  Got roach? :)  It goes rancid after a while, as Gretchen stated, plus it will go sticky and icky.  Ask me how I know.  Just couldn't figure out what that 'smell' was.  It was a board near the bottom of my stack of boards, didn't use that one as often as the others.

This was a while ago, but after cleaning, bleaching, putting in the sun, it went away.  Then I got my first tool, the sander.  Now they all look like brand new.

But, but, it's SUPPOSED to taste like that!

But, but, it's SUPPOSED to taste like that!

chefd's picture

(post #56351, reply #32 of 70)

I scrub my board two or three times a week with hot water soap and bleach.  Never had a problem.  I have just started to use a plastic board.  Easy to keep clean and cheaper. 


FL.Cook's picture

(post #56351, reply #35 of 70)

Not great on the knives though, and I really do like my wood blocks!

BossHog's picture

(post #56351, reply #36 of 70)

Well, the "John Boos Mystery Oil" that you suggested showed up, so I thought I'd treat the block this morning. The directions say to treat the block, then come back 5 minutes later to wipe off any excess.

When I came back, the block had split on one side - Maybe 3" deep. I wiped off the excess oil, drizzled some wood glue down in the crack, and clamped the crack together.

As I was tightening up the clamps, the block split through from the other side.

I figure I'll let it sit a few days so the moisture euqlizes throughout the block. Then I'll see if the sides will mate together evenly.

If they won't, the block may have to make a trip through the table saw to even up the edges. Then I should be able to glue it again.

But you gotta admit - The color of the block is pretty good....

Broken_Block.JPG60.36 KB
Marie Louise's picture

(post #56351, reply #37 of 70)

Oh, I'm so sorry...I've used this product for many years, on many different boards and countertops.

I'd call the Boos people and see if they have any suggestions.

My current "block" is 3 inches thick, but I leave it on until it soaks in, then add more and let it soak in again. Every few months I just leave it on all day and go off to work.

Here's my butcher block when it was new. It is now about the same color as the cabinets.

mariexs_block.jpg37.53 KB