Finishes for a Butcher-Block Countertop with an Undermount Sink

Suggestions for finishing wood in a tough environment. April 21, 2011

I strongly recommended against it and stated I will not warranty it, but my customer insists on a maple butcher block top with an under mount sink for her island. I also stated I am not willing to learn how to use a use a finish we are not familiar with. She still insists on the wood top. How well can I expect conversion varnish to last?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor B:
About as long as I can hold my breath underwater.

From contributor D:
Boiled linseed oil and turpentine. I had a walnut countertop and treated it like this and it was great. It will take constant maintenance though. I would say to oil it after initial install at a rate of once per month.

From contributor M:
Rocket science this is not. Polyester sealer with an Isocyanate topcoat. Make sure you seal all edges including the sink cutout and faucet hole. Nothing else will hold up. If you are unwilling, you may find a local finisher that will do the project. I just did one in redwood for about $650.

From contributor L:
Is the butcher block counter to be used as a butcher block or knife board? If so, wipe it with vegetable oil occasionally and suggest she have you come back and sand it down every once in a while (for a small fee - repeat business!).

Contributor M, how does that finish stand up once there are nicks and dings, especially on a sink opening? If one of our teenage boys were to wash a pan in the sink, there would definitely be some finish and wood missing!

From contributor M:
Get new boys to wash your pots! If the finish is damaged and you breach the surface, it will cause water to crawl under and lift the finish. The polyester is incredibly durable. We finished a series of Plyboo science displays for a local children's museum about 5 years ago. One is a wave generation display and is constantly flooded with water and I have had no complaints yet.

From contributor G:
Try using teak, and seal the edges with epoxy, then treat it with teak oil.

From contributor A:
Butcher block tops are traditionally treated with mineral oil. Vegetable oils may turn rancid. I don't think you would want a finish that builds on the surface either, especially if this is a prep sink.

From contributor S:
Most people with an island unit can afford a dishwasher, so you may not have to worry about the finish on the maple butcher board.