In our kitchen we were using a butcher block that had never been properly finished or sealed to avoid damage. After storing wet kitchen utensils on the top surface, it started to develop a substantial amount of mildew. After seeing this I decided that it was time to refinish the surface to protect it from further damage. I'm going describe the steps required to refinish a wooden butcher block. This can be applied to cutting boards, tables, etc.*
Things you will need:
1. Power or Hand Sander
2. Sand Paper:
- 80 Grit
- 220 Grit
3. Tack Cloth
4. Brush or Cloth
5. Finish of your choice
Step 1: Assessing the Surface(s)
The first step is to determine what kind of surface you are working with. This includes type wood and damage occurred. In this case I will be refinishing a pine butcher block. This is a nicer grade of pine, however pine is very soft wood so I want to be extra careful when sanding, especially to avoid creating uneven surfaces in the wood. The damage to the wood is mildew and it hasn't absorbed very far into the grain. Knowing this I can avoid an aggressive sanding technique.
Step 2: Preparing to Sand
To sand the surface I will be using the following:
1. Detailed hand sander (Black & Decker "Mouse")*
2. Two types of sand paper:
- 80 Grit. This is a coarse sand paper used to take care of the surface damage (i.e. mildew).
- 220 Grit. This is a "ultra" fine sand paper used as a finishing sand paper.
*Note: You do not have to use a power sander, but be aware the based on the size of your job you may want something that isn't as exhaustive (i.e. by hand).
Step 3: Begin Sanding
The first thing that I want to do is start sanding all of the surfaces with the 80 Grit. Remember the following:
1. Sand with the grain of the wood
2. Try to keep the power tool or manual sand block even on the surface to avoid over-sanding one area.
The idea is to sand the surface until I have achieved a desired result. For instance in my case I want get rid of all the mildew the has absorbed into the grain. You may be trying smooth an otherwise rough surface, or you may be trying remove an old stain. Whatever your intended goal is just make sure not to over do it. Remember you can always go back and sand more off, but you cannot add more material.
Next I begin sanding with the 220 Grit. The idea here is to go over the surface to smooth any roughness that may have caused by the 80 Grit sanding paper. Make sure you go over the entire project's surface. After you have finished run you hand across and you should feel a smooth surface. If not repeat.
Step 4: Preparing Surface for Finish
What I like to do is first run my hand across the surface(s) to make sure there are no rough patches or edges. Next what I do is dust off the surface, typically with a small hand broom.
After I've done my best to get all of the dust off I then take a tack cloth and wipe down all of the surfaces. A tack cloth is a piece of material similar to cheese cloth, but it has a very sticky surface. This will allow you to pick up all of the left over saw dust for the surface(s). This is very important because it will be easier to apply the finish (stain, conditioner, etc) and ultimately do its job better.
Step 5: Finishing
Our butcher block is not actually used to cut food, but rather to store kitchen tools and pot/pans. Since this is the case I will be using a non-food grade shellac (Zinsser Shellac). It's important to know if you will be using the surface for preparing food or not. If you are I recommend using a food-grade product, below are 2:
Butcher Block Conditioner: gives the wood a protective coating for direct and indirect food contact.
Watco Butcher Block (Oil & Finish): this is more of a durable product than the conditioner.
Make sure to mix the finish thoroughly. Depending on what type of finish you use you will need to apply it with either a brush or a cloth. Since I am using a more opaque finish I will be using a brush. Regardless of what type of finish remember the following:
1. Brush with the grain of the wood.
2. Coat all surfaces before re-coating.
3. Follow the directions. Drying times vary and if you do not allow the finish to dry then you risk poor results (bubbling or uneven drying).
Step 6: Final Steps
At this stage I make sure that the surfaces are drying evenly, and that it is protected from dust and debris. After it has finished drying you can apply more coats or if the surface has a bumpy texture you can lightly sand the surface with a fine grit sand paper and then apply another surface.
DIYJRAY made it!