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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone. I'm in need of some help. I have inherited an old butcher block from the mid-1800s that was in use in our family store generations ago. (photo attached) Until about ten years ago, it was in use on our family farm. It's a single piece of wood (tree cross section), and the top has been waxed with paraffin and rewaxed with paraffin for generations. As far as I can tell, the bottom was never finished. As a result, it has a large number of cracks, but the top only has two cracks. Both run in the direction of the rings and go all the way through the piece.

Here's the problem. I want to use it as a coffee table, but it's rather nasty looking at the moment. After all, it's got 150 years of animal fluids and wax as a finish. I want to try to take off the top 1/4 inch of wood to remove a warp, and get back to a point where I can see the rings. At the moment, it's solid brown with zero underlying wood grain showing through.

I can plane it with the router, but I fear it might blow apart. I can plane it by hand, but there's so much wax, that I'm not sure how I'd get down to the wood without spending 20 hours cleaning paraffin out of the blade. I've thought about filling the cracks on the bottom with epoxy to lock the thing in place, but I don't know if that will do the trick or not. I also have no idea how to finish something this old. Again, I don't see it ever being used as a butcher block again, so I'm not concerned about food-prep.

To sum up:
1) would the epoxy help me keep it from splitting more (not as a finish, just as a void-filler/glue?
2) how would you go about getting rid of the wax, or do I even need to?
3) chances of it blowing apart if I try to take very small bites with a router/sled plane?
4) what else am i not thinking of?

Any tips would be appreciated.
 

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Personally Ii would not want to remove any of the history from the top. I would clean it up as best as I could using mechanical means. That may be a rasp, hand plane, sand paper, etc.

I would not use liquid cleaners for fear of ruining 150(?) years of history.

I would then put a glass top on it and be happy that I had it.

If you just have to take 1/4" off the top then the router with sled should be fine. I do not possibly see how it could cause the log to come apart. You would be more likely to put a lot of force using a hand plane than router.

George
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks. I agree about the beauty of the history in the piece. Unfortunately, my boss at home (my personal interior designer) won't allow it in the house unless it's a bit less "historic" looking. :)
 

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Does the old block have an odor? That will be noticeable if you bring it into your home.
A well adjusted hand plane can quickly cut through any paraffin, oils and fats with no injury to the plane at all. Once you cut deep enough to get through the top layer, you can use a sander to get a smooth finish.
I would fill the voids with the epoxy you're thinking of above. Pushing it as deep into the cracks as you can. I would apply it in stages (less than 1" at a time) to allow the epoxy to dry.
If it hasn't fallen apart in 100 years of being beat on, it won't fall apart now.
I bet it's heavy.
Good luck to you.
 

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I think someday you would really regret re-surfacing the top. If you are going to do it I would keep it at a minimum and use paint stripper and just cut what was on the surface and then put some kind of an oil finish on it.
 

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I think someday you would really regret re-surfacing the top. If you are going to do it I would keep it at a minimum and use paint stripper and just cut what was on the surface and then put some kind of an oil finish on it.
Steve,
I think the top is concave from all the years of use. He wants a flat top.
 

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Only 1/4" from not being flat? A friend has one that came out of an old castle! It's about 3' x 3' and only about 2' high. The top has about a 3" dish to it! Would love to see the tools that were used on it.
 
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