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I am request help and expertise from the group on the restoration of an antique butcher block. It is solid... but as you can see from the photos, it has cracks that have developed over time.

Would someone be able to provide me support in how to: 1. refinish the sides and top (Sanding etc) 2. How to repair or fill the cracks 3: How to best treat and finish the piece (it will be used for actual food prep if I can get it back to a nice working condition).

I would like to retain the character of the piece, but want it looking very nice. Any help is appreciated..

Bob
 

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I am request help and expertise from the group on the restoration of an antique butcher block. It is solid... but as you can see from the photos, it has cracks that have developed over time.

Would someone be able to provide me support in how to: 1. refinish the sides and top (Sanding etc) 2. How to repair or fill the cracks 3: How to best treat and finish the piece (it will be used for actual food prep if I can get it back to a nice working condition).

I would like to retain the character of the piece, but want it looking very nice. Any help is appreciated..

Bob
You have conflicting desires. Retaining character / looking very nice / it will be used for actual food prep.

IMHO, I would not want to use this for food preparation unless I had sanded the top, and especially fixed any cracks in the top to avoid bacteria growing in the cracks.

The challenge with the cracks is that they seem to be numerous. Some perhaps would be best fixed by cutting the top in two, re-surfacing and re-gluing. Some can be fixed by routing grooves and gluing in strips of new wood. All in all, not something for the faint of heart.

I am not seeing how to retain the character and have the item be useable for food preparation.

The sanding part is easy. A random orbit sander starting at 80 grit and working up to 300 grit.

When you apply oil to the top some of the cracks will appear to closeup, but some may still allow water to seep in the crack and grow bacteria.

If you want to retain the character and use for food preparation, consider adding a piece of glass on the top.
 

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I can't speak to fixing the block, although repeated coats of mineral oil -and ONLY mineral oil, unless you want the oil to go rancid with age- will swell minor cracks shut.

There is a way to maintain a cracked block (or any old wood block) with reasonable food safety, if not quite surgical sterility. Folks in the Old Country, and many butchers, would have known this trick in a second, and it's called 'Koshering' the block. After every use of the block, VERY liberally salt the block (doesn't really matter what grade, though Kosher salt and coarse sea salts are nicely abrasive), sprinkle on a few tablespoons of water, and then use a (dedicated) green plastic scrubby to vigerously scrub the block with the resulting salt paste for two minutes. Leave the salt on the wood for 5 minutes more, and then wipe off with the same green scrubby and water. Allow it to air dry. The salt will kill bacteria: the only thing more effective is bleach, and salt residue is much nicer when cooking, most agree. It won't help with stuff lodged, say, a half inch inside the block, but that part can't really reach your food on the surface, either.
To initially prep the surface, I agree with the above post: sanding is in order, followed by a very wet wipe of mineral oil, allowed to soak in for a few days. Then salt it a bit, and get cooking. No reason a beautiful block should be relegated to scenery.
 
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