Birch Butcher Block

*updated: 1/5/16*

Hey ya’ll!

***If you’re up for a little fun while reading this post, grab yourself a beverage, and drink every time I write “butcher block”. 1-2-3 GO 😉 Good luck!

This project is something Brandon and I have gone back and forth on. He wants to stain & poly the butcher block. I want to leave it a more natural color. It’s unusual for us to clash on projects like this, but nevertheless we found some common ground.

What’s the old saying? Happy wife, happy life? Am I right??

When I say “common ground”, I mean he let me try my treatment first. 😀 #winning!

With Garrett’s birthday party fast approaching (FRIDAY!), we had to treat it with something before stacking presents and displaying goodies on it. Plus, it still looked very “factory” (Brandon’s words). And he’s right. Here’s a before picture:


We found the butcher block in stock at Menards.

When we first started discussing treatment for the island, I thought I’d do a quick Google search and find the answer I was looking for; however, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve been reading about butcher block treatments for weeks now.

I found posts recommending mineral oil, linseed oil, tung oil, stain & poly, stain & Waterlox, Waterlox by itself. I learned what treatments are food safe. I learned that lemon juice will ruin a stain & Waterlox butcher block. I learned that the type of wood used to make the butcher block greatly affects your finish.

Did you know that back in the old days, a butcher’s block was sealed/treated over time with the fats and oils secreted from the meat the butcher was cutting? Eventually the wood would soak up so much oil, it could repel every ounce of water or juice spilled on it.

Anyways, the information available about butcher block is endless. I may have gone a slightly cross-eyed reading about all of our options.

So around 9 pm last night, we started testing our options on the bottom of our butcher block countertop. We had dark walnut stain, and boiled linseed oil on hand. So that’s what we tried.

First up was the linseed oil. I poured some on a tee-shirt rag, and rubbed it in. Pretty simple steps, so I didn’t think you needed pictures. 😛

Next was the “dark walnut” stain. I rubbed it in with a t-shirt rag as well. First on the untreated wood, then over the linseed section I applied first.

NOTE: If you are going to stain your butcher block, I HIGHLY recommend using a wood conditioner beforehand. It allows the wood to soak up the stain much more evenly. The linseed section performed great, while the untreated section resulted in a very blotchy application.

On that note, we decided to go ahead and treat the top side of the counter with the linseed oil. Eventually we’ll test a ‘kona’ stain on the bottom of the butcher block, which is much darker than the dark walnut stain.

Here’s our results:


Left: Before – untreated Birch

Right: After – Boiled linseed oil over birch, 1 coat

Disclaimer: Linseed Oil is not food safe. It is recommended that if you follow this method of butcher block treatment, you do not prepare food directly on the butcher block service.

I’m thrilled with the linseed treatment. It warmed up the surface, gave it depth, and broke up the stark contrast currently present in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I took these pictures around 10 pm last night, and there wasn’t a whole lot of natural light available. So I don’t think this picture gives the finish justice, but you get the jest.


Here’s another picture from the other side. Please ignore the missing cabinet door. Someone (eh-hm yours truly) didn’t purchase enough hinges to hang all of the doors. Apparently working with numbers all day leaves my brain numb for any after work counting.


With Garrett’s birthday party Friday, we’re keeping the linseed treatment for now. We’re hoping to grab feedback from our friends and family on whether we should stain it or leave it.

***Decision made! We stained the butcher block over the weekend. Here’s the end result. Before (left), after (right).


The stain used was “Minwax Wiping Stain” in “Dark Roast”. We applied two coats of stain, and will use a water based poly the seal the surface.

I’d love to see your thoughts on our results in the comments below!

Just for fun……*butcher block* ;P How’d you do??



Tagged , , ,

20 thoughts on “Birch Butcher Block

  1. looks great,just finished painting my kitchen cabinets.picking mine up in menards,installing on island I just upgraded,and painted as well.iam glad you choose to stain it,thats the color stain iam going with.great job.

  2. It is beautiful! Was the linseed oil necessary, in the end, as a prep?

    1. Hi John! I don’t believe the linseed oil was necessary in the end as prep. A wood conditioner prior to stain would have been sufficient.

  3. Looks great! We are purchasing this from Menards also. Couple questions. We are planning on putting an undermount sink in ours. Is it solid birch, or once it is cut is it just a veneer with composite in the middle. I love the stain you used. Did you treat it before you stained it? Can you tell me the steps you did?

    1. Hi Patti! It is solid birch. Initially I wanted to keep the “light” colored birch, so we treated with linseed oil. However, as time wore on, my husband insisted we stain it. With your untreated birch, I would recommend using a wood conditioner prior to staining. The stain will apply more evenly. Conditioner can be found in the stain section at just about any hardware store. After staining and drying, we applied three coats of a semi-gloss water-based polyurethane. Best of luck to you! And please share pictures of your finished reno! 🙂

  4. Does the wood hold up nicely.? My hubby says its a soft wood so it scratches and dents easily.? But I love the look!!

    1. Hi Erin! We have not had any problems with softness of the wood, but we also aren’t throwing heavy things at it either. lol For basic kitchen wear, it’s doing great.

      1. Thank you!! We are purchasing ours tonight snd I love that stain as well.

  5. Did you sand the wood before staining?

    1. Yes. We lightly sanded, applied a wood conditioner, then stained.

  6. So now is it food safe? After you sand it lightly,wood conditioner and stained it and semi-gloss water base polyurethane?
    I am making my counter tops and island and this would help me to know or do I have to put on linseed oil?
    Your island looks so beautiful

    1. Hi Jo Ann! You can skip the linseed step. Here’s a tip from HGTV on final finish coats: There are many finishes available for butcher-block countertops that can be applied depending on how the counters will be used. If countertop will be used as a cutting and food preparation surface, apply food-safe oil like hemp or mineral oil. If a more durable, water-resistant finish is desired, use a product that’s made to penetrate like an oil, but will protect like a polyurethane. Traditional polyurethane is not suggested, since it sits on the surface and will bubble or peel over time. For an even more durable and water-proof finish, use a marine finish made for yachts and sailboats.

      I will say that our poly coat has not bubbled or peeled and we are 2 years in already.

  7. What finish would allow warm to hot items set on the surface without leaving white marks?

    1. Hi Connie! While we haven’t had an issue with white marks on the surface ourselves, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. We’ve been very diligent using hot pads. I personally haven’t found anything I like better than Minwax Polycrylics. This finish doesn’t taint the stain color or stink up the house during application. With proper care, your finish should last for years. Good luck to you!

  8. That wipe on stain is no longer available. DO you have any other dark wipe on stain recommendations? We have birch butcher block and can’t seem to find stain dark enough like yours:(

    1. Hi Rachel! I would try a basic Minwax espresso, jacobean, ebony, or a combination of the three. Before we applied our stain to the top of the butcher block, I tested it on the underside – I recommend the same for you. Good luck!!

  9. I love the dark warm color. I just purchased my birch counter tops from Home Depot with free delivery. I am so excited to ge them finished in a warm color. I really appreciated reading your blog. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Hey guys this is great! We just purchased butcher block from Menards. How did you secure the butcher block to the island?? Thanks!!

    1. Hi Courtney! We attached the butcher block by screwing it to the cabinet from below. Cabinet screws would be great for this.

  11. Wow it looks amazing after you stained it. I also purchased birch butcher block from Menards and I keep reading that you can’t stain birch. But after seeing this I really want to give it a shot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.