End Grain Butcher Block Countertop: Finish


Kitchen Island with End Grain Butcher Block Countertop

The last two steps are to apply finish and install the countertops.

The problem with brushing or wiping finish onto this end grain countertop is that the red dust from the padauk will run over the white maple, turning it pink.  I know this because I’ve done it.  So – my solution is to flood the surface with finish and move it around by tilting the countertop – or very lightly using a brush to push it around the top.  This worked really well for cutting boards (which were much smaller), but less so for this countertop.  I did have to use some light brushing and that unfortunately caused some running of the dust.  It’s not enough to notice, particularly in such a large surface.  If I were to do it over, I’d probably spray on some shellac as a sealer first, and then finish from there.

I put on about six or seven coats of General Finishes HP Top Coat, sanding in between.  It went quickly – no trouble.  I started with around 220 grit and moved up to 320 and 400 for the final coats.

End Grain Butcher Block Countertop

Installation went without a hitch.  There are base cabinets on either side of the range, and two countertop sections sit on top of those.  The third strateches between them, along the back behind the range.  There’s some plywood stretchers, attached to each cabinet, that support the third countertop across the back.  All three are cantilvered about 12″ off the back and with the plywood sub-base, there is almost no flexing and no need for additional support.  I simply screwed through the cabinets into the countertops to hold them in place.  A little clear silicon along the joint between sections.

I ripped a single straight cut across the back where all three countertops align.  Then applied the 1″ padauk edging all the way around.  Cutting each piece to length as I went.  Once that was all in place, it was taken back off, rounded over, sanded, finished, and put back on.  Then a couple more coats of finish over the entire surface plus edging.  Finally finished with some wax.

The whole thing looks absolutely gorgeous in place.  It’s now ready to be put to use.

End Grain Butcher Block Countertop

8 Responses to “End Grain Butcher Block Countertop: Finish”
  1. chris morgan says:

    Hi scott,
    that was a helpful video.. I am just getting into wood working and i would like to start building furniture.. I have a good knack for it already and i would really like to take on a project at my home similar to the one you did in this video… I would like to do a checkered pattern with walnut and maple and I was wondering if you could tell me of any good sites on the internet to refer to or any other videos you may have that are more detailed on the construction from start to finish.. Thank you much, Chris M.

  2. Morton says:

    Chris — thanks man. The best resource I know for documenting the process of this end-grain butcher block is by The Wood Whisperer in his Cutting Board episode. It details the process. From that, you can jump off into various designs as you see from my island. Good luck!

  3. Mike Mallory says:


    Great Videos! Gotta love a nice finished product. Beautiful work-


  4. Joe says:


    Great job on the counters. Curious how the finish has held up over the years?

    Based on that experience would you use GF HP again or go another route? Besides the detail about using a sealer coat.

  5. Morton says:

    Great question. It’s held up fine except for around the sink area. Since that is always wet – the finish really hasn’t done too well there. Another note is that the wood has seriously darkened due to many windows in the kitchen – so if you want to keep the original color (for longer anyway), I’d use something with UV blocking. The product itself has held up OK – but it’d need more coats around the sink area. Or, next time I’d probably go with a thicker varnish that’d build faster (thicker finish with less coats).

  6. Paul says:

    I am sorry if you have already answered this question elsewhere, but what, if any, steps did you take to mitigate expansion/contraction of the wood?

  7. Morton says:

    I didn’t do anything to the assembled butcher block itself. However, I mounted the butcher blocks to a 3/4″ plywood base with elongated screw holes (circular to expand/contract in any direction). And then mounted those to the cabinets underneath. It’s definitely moved, but not really opened any cracks.

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