I have considered putting a section of butcher block in my counter, only where I'd use it in food prep. I'm wanting quartz for the rest of the kitchen counters.
Wood countertops are a beautiful and functional element in any kitchen. They provide warmth, color, texture, and valuable work space. After you’ve settled on wood as your countertop material of choice, however, there are a few more decisions to make about the type, cut, and finish you would like, based on your lifestyle and needs.
It is helpful to begin by determining the function you want your wood countertop to serve. Do you want to create a food prep space for chopping, an artistic piece—or both? Is the thickness of the counter a concern for you? Answers to both of these questions are important, since the function and thickness will influence the construction form. There are three main options for countertops in terms of form: End grain, edge grain, and flat grain.
End grain butcher blocks are a chef’s choice for chopping and cutting. End grain assures knives stay sharp, since the wood fibers accept the knife easily, as if you were cutting into a brush. In addition, this construction is self-healing; the knife marks disappear after cleaning. This construction form is typically a minimum of 2-1/2” to 3” thick with an unlimited maximum thickness. The checkerboard construction allows a variety of patterns and color combinations to be achieved by mixing wood species.
Edge grain pieces can also be utilized for direct chopping as well as for creating aesthetic pieces. This style is noted for its stability with a thinner minimal thickness of 1-1/2” (though pieces can be thicker). This construction style is often found in more modern decors due to its more streamlined style.
In a flat grain top the wood pieces are wide, flat-sawn boards that are typically 1-3/4" thick, showcasing the graining of the wood.
Flat grain is perferred for a fine furniture surface such as table tops, desk tops, bar tops, and select countertops. While you could chop on a flat grain countertop, it will leave significant knife marks and show the distressing readily.
In terms of type of wood to use, much of it might depend on what color you want and how much wear-and-tear you expect on its surface. There are so many beautiful wood species, finding the right hue to fit your design is easy. Light tan-toned woods include maple, ash, bamboo, and oak . If you are leaning toward a red hue, select from a mahogany species such as Sapele and Santos. Popular choices for brown woods are walnut and wenge. If a very specific color is needed, wood countertops can be stained to match virtually anything. As for durability, wood is rated on its resistance to dents and scratches through a test called the Janka hardness test. Brazilian cherry, Lyptus and Santos mahogany are a few examples of woods that scored high on this test and are therefore proven to be more wear-resistant than other woods.
There’s also the question of maintenance. Consider the amount of care you want to invest in your counter. Do you desire a care-free surface or are you willing to periodically oil the piece?
Aesthetic wood surfaces are commonly sealed with a permanent finish like Durata® that make the wood impervious to water, red wine, and most common household chemicals. Any common household cleaner can be used on this finish. However, direct chopping will damage a permanent finish, so a cutting board or alternative chopping station is necessary.
Working surfaces for direct chopping, on the other hand, are typically finished with a food-grade mineral oil. Mineral oil is non-toxic, hypoallergenic, and available in drug stores. It is FDA-approved to drink (although not recommended) and it’s also used to maintain soapstone countertops. In this case, cleaning with dish detergent and a monthly re-application of oil is sufficient. Wood oiled with mineral oil finish can be used for pieces to serve either an aesthetic or working surface. If nut allergies are a concern, avoid tung oil finish. It is a nut derivative and can cause reactions.
Whatever kind and cut of wood you choose, however, you can rest assured you’ll be using countertops that will fit a variety of styles and that are always appealing both to the eye and to use.
That is a very smart decision, facilitates efficient food prep and adds warmth to the countertops!
I have butcher-block counters (U shaped kitchen) and although they are very warm and natural looking, they stain easily. I treat them with mineral oil every once in while (more often in the winter) but I'm finding the maintenance a bit of a chore. I think I would prefer something else, but haven't decided what.
To remove stains, Try sea salt. Pour sea salt over the stain and wet with lemon juice. Scrub it around and let it set over the stain. When it dries the salt pulls out the stain. This works on carpets too. You can also check out pure tung oil from http://www.realmilkpaint.com/oil.html It can be tricky to apply as it is thick, but it does not require as much maintenance as mineral oil. Also tung oil is a nut derivative so if you have nut allergies do not use. Hope this helps!