|Ask Norm: Refurbish A Butcher Block|
David: Question: I'd like to restore an old end-grain butcher-block table for the kitchen. Can I make it food safe?
Shannon Wright, Anthony, FLA.
Norm's Answer: The short answer is, yes. In fact, I just restored one like yours. You'll need a belt sander and a lot of patience, because sanding end grain is slow and tedious work.
To erase the stains, bumps, gouges, and other imperfections, use coarse 80-grit sandpaper and be sure to keep the sander moving over the entire surface so that you don't dig furrows in the wood. Once the surface is smooth, flat, and stain free, repeat the process using 120-grit sandpaper and a random-orbit sander. Vacuum thoroughly, and fill any cracks with a nontoxic, water-based wood filler to keep out food particles. (Solvent-based fillers aren't suitable for food-prep surfaces.) After the filler hardens, hand-sand those spots flush with 120-grit paper.
Finally, treat the surface with food-grade mineral oil. Warm the oil in a pan and apply several coats, using a rag or brush, until the wood refuses to absorb any more and the surface begins to glisten. Wipe off any residue. Maintain the top by recoating it every month with more oil.