I'll number this info so it's easy to follow the steps of the process!
1. The question I get asked more than any other when it comes to this material…where to get it?
I've purchased at two places. IKEA is the easiest and honestly the best quality I've found. I just don't always purchase from there because it's a four hour round trip. :) (Next year we'll have one here in Indy, yay!!) Also, IKEA used to have an island size and I get mixed info on whether or not they still carry it in the Numerar butcher block.
I've also purchased from a local lumber store called Northwest Lumber. They are more expensive but are maple and come in much larger sizes. They will also cut them down (for a fee). I used their island size for our kitchen and they cut it down and refinished it with a food safe protective treatment. You can also ask for that finish to be sanded off and that's what I did this time.
Lumber Liquidators also carries butcher block. They don't typically have any of the island countertops in stock so you'll have to wait for those to come in, but if you are just looking at perimeter countertops in a kitchen or something on a built in, they would be a good option. I can't attest to the quality but the pricing is similar to IKEA.
Bottom line -- if you are not near one of the stores that carries butcher, do some searching for lumber companies near you. I bet you'll be able to find it! (But it will probably cost more.)
2. No matter what you plan to do with your butcher block, the first step is to sand it. Every piece I bring home I sand, even if it's been done already. You don't have to go crazy with it -- just a light sanding with a fine grit is fine. You just want to even out the wood for whatever finish you'll use.
Be sure to wipe it down with a tack cloth or a wet rag -- if you use a wet cloth it will open up the wood even more to accept stain. (Just be sure to get all areas or it may look different in spots when you stain.)
3. This is a step I used to skip and I've now learned how important it is. If you are going to STAIN, use a pre-stain conditioner first:
I never used it before because I thought it would slow the process down, and that's not true at all. It takes mere minutes to spread it on and you just leave it. You can stain immediately! It helps to even everything out and prevents blotchy spots.
4. There are a few options when it comes to finishing butcher block and those depend on your design preference. You can leave it natural and put a polyurethane on it (more on that in a minute), you can stain or you can enhance the natural wood with Tung oil:
When I first installed butcher block I was concerned about using anything on it that wasn't food safe. I've since realized unless you are literally eating off of the countertop, you are OK to use a stain and poly. But I did love the natural look and it was a nice contrast to our dark floors.
This is the Tung oil I use:
Remember if you want a high gloss finish to pick accordingly. I share how to apply it here -- it's very easy! You just need a soft cloth to put it on.
It really enhances the tones in the wood and protects it from liquids and most stains. Every year or so I would sand down the island and reapply the Tung oil, so there is a bit of upkeep with this. Here's how this finish looks with IKEA butcher block:
Can you believe how different our kitchen looks? Here's our new countertop (and island) with the larger butcher from our local lumber yard:
If you want a stained look, that's easy too. :) None of this is hard, it's just time consuming! I used dark walnut by Minwax on the large desk in the loft:
I love this stain and it is the color I use most on projects around the house. It's a beautiful dark brown with no red undertones:
Follow the instructions on the can for the application -- there are two things to keep in mind when staining. Keep a "wet edge"while applying, meaning don't walk away from your project in the process. Don't let the stain dry in sections and then start up another one. Make sure you have time to stain the entire piece at one time.
Also, it is really important to let the stain dry and cure the recommended time in between coats. It will become gummy and won't dry well if you rush it.
4. After your stain has dried you need to protect it, especially if you will using the piece. I don't always add a polyurethane coat -- like on our wood wall in the basement:
We don't use this sink a ton and even when water has splashed on it it's been fine. But overall, especially for countertops of any kind, you'll need to add a few coats of poly.
I use this fast-drying version and love it:
This version speeds up the process a bit because you can reapply quicker.
I use cheap foam brushes to apply both stain and polyurethane. They allow for a smooth application and I can just toss them afterwards:
Here's how the wood stain and poly looks on our kitchen shelves:
If you don't add that protective coat they will be very hard to clean and will not be protected against liquids. Blocking liquid is the most important aspect of having butcher block in your kitchen. There are a few different options for countertops so if you are considering them near a sink be sure to research the best protective coating.
5. Final sanding -- my latest trick!
So when I was finished with the desk in the craft room it still had a slightly rough texture that was bugging me. This is not typical -- usually it's super smooth. I think I must have jostled the poly around too much before I used it because it was just not the finish I was used to.
I didn't want to use sandpaper on it because it can change the look of the wood and make it slightly cloudy. I could have tried steel wool but was nervous it would do the same. I remembered I trick I had heard about years ago and decided to try it out.
I couldn't even believe how well it worked!:
It was a paper bag! Can you believe it? Maybe you know of this awesome trick but I was so surprised with the results. I just used a little piece of the bag and it worked for the whole desk. You just rub it over the surface and it knocks down those tiny imperfections that make it feel rough.
Isn't that awesome? I don't know how well it work work between coats but for a final touch it was perfect. It left the finish looking exactly the same -- no cloudiness at all.
Here's a closer look at the finished product:
They are easy to clean and look great!
Using an island countertop size allowed me to create a massive double-sided desk. We LOVE it:
I'll link to a few more of my favorite butcher block projects below! Have you used them in your home or kitchen? I think adding them to an island is a perfect mix -- you don't have to worry about the area near the sink but you still get the warmth of the wood.
Have you tried the paper bag trick for sanding?
Some affiliate links included for your convenience!
See how I made and stained a farmhouse table here:
I used a section of IKEA butcher block, cut straight down the middle, to make the counters for the DIY built ins:
Butcher block was the perfect top to the DIY mud room bench: