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  • Writer's pictureJessica Doberneck

Butcher Block Table Refinish; Before & After and a How-To

We made this butcher block table a little over 2 years ago to stage our Mid-Century Modest home before we sold. Our old farmhouse table couldn’t keep up with all our mid-century modern updates, and we needed a new table anyway, so we made this!

Super simple project, you can read about it here!

Since then, the varnish on the table was starting to chip in some areas and become slightly sticky (I think we were using too many harsh chemicals to clean it. Oops!). I took the table outside for a light sand thinking it’ll be a quick little project… oh was I so very wrong! Ha! Little did I know, the high grit sandpaper was swapped with a low grit without me realizing and within seconds of sanding my varnish AND stain was removed.


This turned into a happy accident because in the back of my mind I was itching to change the stain of this table to match our new design plans for the room. Eventually, I’ll get a new dining set, but in the meantime, this was a great opportunity for a little color change to make do.

I continued sanding the entire table with low grit sandpaper till the varnish and stain were removed.

I then sanded it down with a medium grit, and lastly a high grit to get this table as smooth as a baby’s bottom! So satisfying.

You can buy these variety packs of varying grits at Home Depot or Lowes. Works like a charm.

To be clear, this took 3 days of sanding, a pile of sandy clothes in the laundry room, and I washed my hair every day till this sanding project was done (ugh!). It was a total workout and I had tan lines from the summer AZ sun! Ha!

Once my wallpaper arrived…

…I took it with me to Ace Hardware to pick out a stain that would match!

I really have a hard time picking stains at the store because the names are totally irrelevant, and the pictures (if they have any) aren’t accurate because the stain will have different tones based on what kind of wood you're staining. It took me an hour to pick these 4 stains. Ha!

I took a soft rag and applied each of the 4 stains to the bottom of my table.

It was an obvious choice for me… But I’m curious, which one do you think I picked?

Callie walked in from taking her nap and said “Oh no! The table’s broken! Oh, wait, I wanna paint!” Haha. She went from confused and concerned to excited and eager! Love her artistic side - it’s really starting to come out!

Here Callie, half awake, acting as my Vana White to showcase my choice: #4!

I love how it gave a moody, cozy vibe while still matching my coral flowers and not being too much of a stark difference against our dark leather chairs and black metal legs. Great for resale!

I used a soft cloth and rubbed the table down with our new stain choice. Be sure to rub with the grain in a straight motion. No side-to-side, or circular/wavy motions - that will leave obvious streaks and an unnatural-looking coloration to your butcher block. I only applied one coat because I didn’t want it any darker than this.

(Also! Isn’t that color just seamless with my coral flowers?! Ugh! I am happy! That’s exactly what I was going for!)

Let that stain sit for 24 hours.

I tested a varnish on my samples and just wasn’t happy with any of them. A varnish will ad some kind of gloss or haze to your wood and can oftentimes slightly change the color of your stain. I loved this color so much I just didn’t want to taint it! I did a little research on food-safe sealers for butcher blocks and found this:

I first, generously applied Howard Butcher Block Oil to a soft rag and rubbed the table down, frequently reapplying oil to the rag when it seemed to be getting dry.

After the oil was applied to the whole table, I returned with a dry paper towel to wipe off the excess. Wait 2 hours and repeat this process one more time.

The next day I repeated that same process except with the Howard Butcher Block Conditioner. I only applied 1 coat.

I let the conditioner sit for a full week, wiping it down with a dry paper towel every few days to collect any remaining loose oils.

And now I have a beautiful, rich-colored butcher block table with a food-safe, raw finish.

I absolutely love the Howard products! I'm so glad we chose them over doing a varnish again. Now, we have a raw wood table without the worry of stains or sanitation. Perfection!

I’m so happy with how this turned out and I’m even more excited to see this dining room transforms into a cozy gathering space with my new wallpaper, board and batten, and paint selection! Stay tuned!


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Sep 23, 2023

What is the stain color you ended up with?

Jessica Doberneck
Jessica Doberneck
Mar 02
Replying to

Honey 272 :)

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