What Is The Best Finish For A Butcher Block Table All You Need To Know




Is your butcher block table unfinished? Does your butcher block table need a protective layer? Is your butcher block table and kitchen island full of scratches and need refinishing? Do you want to refinish your table but don’t know ‘What is the best finish for a butcher block table’? Do not worry. Read more and get all the answers to your queries.

What Is The Best Finish For A Butcher Block Table

Best Finish For A Butcher Block Table

There are many finishes available for butcher block tables. But the best finish for a butcher block table is a food-safe finish. Because it can protect the wood from moisture and stains. Although mineral oil and beeswax are popular choices as well.

For a better understanding, some key points that will help you throughout the process:

Key Takeaways:

  • There are many finishes available but it is important to learn about the suitable finishes for the butcher block table such as penetrating finishes and surface finishes.
  • When choosing the best finish for the butcher block table it is crucial to follow the guidelines step-by-step such as prioritizing your needs, getting familiar with different finishes, inspecting the wood, and testing a few samples.
  • When applying the appropriate finish on the table, follow the steps properly such as cleaning the table before starting the process, sanding the table, staining the table, and applying the chosen new finish.

Why Is Finish Important For Butcher Block Tables?

A lot of people say that applying a finish is not necessary for butcher block tables or it contaminates when in contact with food. I suggest applying a few coats of oil finish or oil sealers from time to time for the following benefits.

To Enhance Durability

Applying a coat of finish is necessary for any wooden furniture. It acts as a barrier against insects or parasites. Also, it prevents stains or scratches which can lead to permanent damage and extra work. It gives the surface a protective layer. Because of this characteristic of finish, applying finishes enhances the durability of the butcher block tables.

For Food Safety

Butcher block counters and tables are known for their usability in food preparation and cooking processes. Applying a coat of oil, especially mineral oil, makes the surface food safe. It is organic and doesn’t contain any chemicals which makes it eco-friendly.  It also makes the surface easy to clean and maintain.

For Appearance

Applying the finish gives the table a layer of protection that protects it from external damage. It keeps the appearance intact. Also, a lot of the finishes help to balance moisture levels in the wood. It prevents the table from drying or warping. It provides a smooth finish with a shiny appearance.

What Types Of Finishes Are Suitable For Butcher Block Tables?

Before going to the suitable finishes for butcher blocks, let’s talk about the different types of finishes. All the finishes fall into two categories. They are-

What Types Of Finishes Are Suitable For Butcher Block Tables

Penetrating Finishes

  1. Tung Oil: One of the most popular finishes for butcher blocks. It is eco-friendly and food safe.
  2. Linseed Oil: It enhances the natural wood finish and is easy to use. It gives the butcher block countertops or tables a shiny appearance.
  3. Danish Oil: It gives the butcher block counters or tables the most protection among the penetrating finishes. It is also easy to use and enhances the natural wood appearance.
  4. Cedar Oil: It increases the lifespan of the butcher blocks and acts as a protective barrier between insects and the surface.

Surface Finishes

  1. Water-based Finish: The water-based finish brings out the natural wood finish. It is easy to use and dries quickly.
  2. Varnish: It is transparent and adds a gloss finish to the surface. You can also use varnish when repairing a chipped laminate table top.
  3. Shellac: It brings out the grain and brightens the surface. It is less durable and fades if in contact with water and alcohol solvents for a long time.
  4. Lacquer: It is durable. It adds a gloss finish to the surface and makes the table shinier.
  5. Polyurethane: It is durable, resistant to water and other solvents, and adds a layer of protection on the surface of the table. It also brings out the natural appearance.
  6. Wax: It is easy to apply but not durable.

You can easily find out the best butcher block finish for your table. Butcher block countertops or tables are commonly used as cutting boards in food preparation and cooking processes. As penetrating finishes are mostly natural oils that are food safe and eco-friendly, they suit butcher blocks the most.

What Is The Best Finish For A Butcher Block Table?

To find out about ‘What is the best finish for butcher block table top?’, you must consider the qualities of various butcher block finishes.

If you want to know about ‘What is the most durable butcher block finish?’, the answer is Surface finishes. Most of them provide a durable finish if not all. They are water resistant and protect the surface from insects, parasites, stains, scratches, etc.

But, to know about ‘What is the best finish for food safe butcher block’, the answer will be penetrating finishes. These are completely safe. These are natural oils that don’t contain any chemicals, especially tung oil and linseed oil. These two are the safest finishes when they are in pure form. Now that you know more about the butcher block sealers or finishes, choose the finish that works best for you.

How Do You Choose The Right Finish For Your Butcher Block Table: Step By Step

There are a few things you must consider to choose the best finish for you. To help you, all the steps are mentioned below. Follow these steps to give your butcher block table the protection it needs.

How Do You Choose The Right Finish For Your Butcher Block Table

Think About Your Needs

Different types of finishes are available. Each of them has its own specialties. They have their pros and cons. Identify the things that you need. Make a list of all the qualities and find the finish that fulfills all your needs. You should also prioritize your needs when repairing a damaged veneer table top.

Get Familiar With Different Finishes

You can not find the best finish for you without getting familiar with it. Every finish has its own characteristics. If you know them better, it will help you choose one that goes with your demands.

Inspect The Wood

Similar to the finish, wood has different types. Each species is unique depending on its grain, structure, color, hardness, softness, etc. The same finish can get different reactions from different types of wood. Inspect the wood, identify the wood type, and do some research on what type of finish would have what reaction from your table. Then, go on with the next step.

Test A Few Samples

The previous steps will narrow down the options and this step will help you to choose the ultimate one. Testing samples will help you get a clear idea of how different types of finishes look on your table. You can choose the one that suits your taste the most.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Different Butcher Block Table Finishes?

Everything has pros and cons. Finishes are no exception. Some pros and cons of the most commonly used finishes to help you choose the best one for you.

                  Finishes                       PROS                      CONS
Tung OilEco-friendlyHigh protectionFood SafeLess durableExpensiveTakes time to cure
Linseed OilFood SafeEco-friendlyWater resistantDurabilityNo protectionColor-fading
Danish OilFood SafeWater resistantDries fastLess durableTime-consumingRegular maintenance
Cedar OilLight-weight.High protectionAppearanceRegular maintenanceColor-fadingSensitive
Water-based FinishAppearanceEasy to useDries quicklyLess durableSensitiveLow-protection
VarnishAppearanceDurableHigh protectionDifficult to useSensitiveLow-resistant
ShellacAppearanceEasy to useDries quicklyLess durableLow-resistantFades quickly
LacquerAppearanceVersatileDeep-penetrationDifficult to useLess durableToxic when first applied
PolyurethaneAppearanceDurableHigh protectionDifficult to useTakes long to dryToxic when first applied
WaxAppearanceNon-toxicDurableLow-protectionFades quicklySensitive
Pros And Cons Of Different Butcher Block Table Finishes

How Do You Apply The Chosen Finish On Your Butcher Block Table?

If you want to know about how to finish a butcher block countertop with polyurethane, mineral oil, water-based finish, shellac, or any other finish, follow the steps to get your desired result.

How Do You Apply The Chosen Finish On Your Butcher Block Table

Clean The Table Before Sanding

Use a scrapper or a putty knife to remove all the previous wax and oil finish before sanding. It will help you prevent your sandpaper from getting clogged by the oil and wax finish. For an unfinished butcher block surface, skip this step.

Sand The Table

Sanding the wood surface before applying stain and finish will prepare the surface for them. Start with 120 to 150-grit sandpaper. Increase the grit number to finer-grit sandpaper throughout the process. Using sandpaper can be laborious and time-consuming. So, if you have access to any power sander, use that. I suggest using an orbital sander. Sand the table till you get the feeling that it is enough. The tip is to sand in the direction of the wood grain.

Wipe the entire surface with mineral spirits. It will clean the surface firmly and remove all the leftover paint and finish. It also highlights the areas that need more sanding. After sanding the missed spots, wipe the table with a  tack cloth until it’s dust-free.

Stain The Table

There are a few things to consider in this step. First, do you want your butcher block surface to be food safe? If not, you can use any kind of wood stain you prefer. But if the answer is yes, the only option you have is mineral oil. It also brings out the natural color of the wood.

Now, if you want to keep the natural color of the butcher block surface, skip this step. Use wood stain only if you want to change the appearance of your butcher block surface. Choose the stain color according to your preference. Before applying it to the entire surface, test it using it in a corner of the wood surface to see if that’s the stain color you are aiming for. If yes, continue the process.

You can use a paintbrush or a piece of cotton cloth wrapped in wadding to apply the stain. I suggest using a paintbrush for even application. Apply a few light coats of stain. After the first layer is dried, use a finer-grit sandpaper to sand the surface. Wipe all the dust with a tack cloth before applying the next layer. Continue the process till you get your desired color.

Apply The New Finish

Choose the finish that works best for your butcher block surface. The process of applying finish is the same as applying stain. Apply the finish with a brush. Apply the next layer only after the previous one is dried. Sand lightly with fine-grit sandpaper between the coats and clean the dust with a tack cloth. 

The tip is not to shake the finish before working. It will create bubbles in the finish and result in uneven application. Use a wood stick and gently stir the finish in a circular motion before using it.

Are There Eco-Friendly Finish Options For Butcher Block Tables?

Surely. Here are a few examples:

Are There Eco-Friendly Finish Options For Butcher Block Tables
  • Mineral Oils: Mineral oils are the safest and most eco-friendly finishes when in pure form, especially Tung Oil and linseed oil. These are natural mineral oils. There are no chemicals in these finishes. These are non-toxic which makes them eco-friendly.
  • Water-based Finishes: These are non-toxic compared to oil-based finishes. These don’t contain any harmful chemicals that might harm the environment.
  • Shellac: It is a natural resin extracted from bugs. As it is taken from nature and doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals, it is environment-friendly.

How To Maintain The Butcher Block Table After Finishing?

Finishing the table is not everything. Because it is also important to maintain the table after you refinish it. Maintenance is important even after you fix a glass on table top as well.

Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance is crucial for butcher blocks. Butcher block tables are used for food preparation. Hygiene and cleanliness are a must. Wipe it with a damp cloth every day and disinfect it. Do not use any chemical cleaners. Clean any spills promptly to prevent warping.

Use Cautiously

Most of the finishes applied to a butcher table are temporary. So, use the table with caution. Use placemats and coasters to prevent scratches, warping, or stains. Using coasters and placements is necessary after you fix a warped card table. Use a cutting board to chop ingredients to avoid scratches and cuts.

Refinish Once In A While

As previously said, most of the finishes applied to a butcher table are temporary. To have a protective layer on the surface and to protect the table from external damage, apply a new finish in a span of a few months.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Possible To Change The Finish On An Existing Butcher Block Table?

No. You must remove the previous finish with a scrapper and sand the table completely before applying the new finish.

Can I Sand The Butcher Block Table Before Applying A New Finish?

Sanding the table before applying the new finish is a must step in the finishing process. It will clean and smoothen the surface. It will help you to apply the new finish.

How Often Should I Refinish My Butcher Block Table?

The finishes used in butcher block tables are to ensure food safety. Which is why they don’t contain chemicals and are less durable. So, you must refinish your table once in a while.

Can I Use Polyurethane Or Varnish On A Butcher Block Table?

You can. But if you want your butcher block table to be food-safe, I suggest using mineral oils. These are chemical-free and food safety proven.

Is Mineral Oil A Good Finish For A Butcher Block Table?

Mineral oils are the best finish for a butcher block table. Butcher block tables are used in food processing and cooking preparations. Mineral oils are chemical-free, food-safe, and eco-friendly.


To find out ‘What is the best finish for a butcher block table’, is difficult. You may need to spend a lot of time and effort. But with the right process and guidelines, it is possible to get the best result so far. If you have read this long attentively, you can choose the best finish for your butcher block table and get the best result for your table.

Richard Journey

Written by

Richard Journey

Meet Richard Journey, the Antique Furniture Maestro. With a Fine Arts degree in Furniture Restoration and Conservation, he’s a guardian of historical craftsmanship. His accolades include the Golden Chisel Award, and he’s your guide to discovering and restoring antique treasures.

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