Answers to your Butcher Block Questions

Whatever your Butcher Block Questions may be, we're here to help! We maintain close relationships with our suppliers in order to provide the best service to our customers. What does this mean for you? It means that even if we don't know the answer off the top of our head (not to brag, but that is super unlikely!), we can call or email a representative directly at the manufacturer to find out for you. While we occasionally need to make one of those calls, we mostly get a steady flow of a few different repeated questions. We figured it would be nice to put answers to your most common butcher block questions all in one place. See our most frequently asked questions below, and let us know if you need anything else answered!

Here are the quick answers to your most frequently asked butcher block questions.

1. Can you explain the different wood species, hardness and grain styles? John Boos Butcher Block is available in four wood species: Maple, Walnut, Cherry and Oak hardwoods. Catskill uses mostly Yellow Birch. Each hardwood species has its own unique coloration and grain pattern. Hard Rock Maple is the most popular wood for butcher block. It is light in color, with a golden hue, a slightly wavy grain, with a fine even texture. Red Oak is not nearly as common. It has a reddish brown color, straight and open grain pattern, with coarse texture. Black Walnut is growing in popularity for butcher block. It is the darkest of the four hardwoods and has the most natural variation in the grain pattern, from dark brown streaks to pale or yellowish brown. American Cherry is known for its pink and red hues. Freshly-hewn, its heartwood presents as a light pinkish brown, but will darken to a golden brown upon exposure to light, since it’s photosensitive. Yellow Birch has very close grain and even texture, making it ideal for butcher block applications and kitchen cabinetry.

Wood Species

All of these woods have hardness suitable for butcher block. But in general, Hard Rock Maple is the hardest, followed by Oak and Yellow Birch, and then Walnut and Cherry. Maple is almost 30% harder than Walnut and Cherry. John Boos butcher block is available in three grain styles: End grain - is constructed by fusing together short rails or blocks of wood, each standing on end. Looking down on such an array one would see the ENDS of wood pieces showing the rings of a tree. Melded together, these small rectangles create a checkerboard pattern on the top. Edge grain - the wood slats run the full length of the board. No butt ends or finger joints are seen and the block shows less overall color variation. Blended grain - is jointed-edge grain style. But instead of using uniform-sized wood rails, each spanning the board's full length, blended-style boards use different sized pieces to span each row of the block. Almost a parquet floor look. Read our Blog:  "How to Choose the Right Butcher Block for your Kitchen" Read more:  End Grain vs Edge Grain, and About Yellow Birch

2. What finish should I get, natural oil or Varnique?

Natural Oil FinishVarnique Finish

If you intend to cut on your block, choose a Natural Oil Finish Most butcher blocks come pre-treated with a food-safe, natural oil finish that moisturizes and protects the wood and makes it safe for food preparation, including cutting. This finish must be renewed through the reapplication of butcher block oil or board cream about once a month. Wipe up spills promptly to lessen the likelihood of staining the butcher block. Choose a Varnique finish if you want a fine-furniture look and less maintenance. Varnique is a branded, semi-gloss varnish-like product developed by John Boos & Co. It requires less maintenance than natural oil and serves to seal and protect wood. Varnique is the finish of choice among bakers in particular, since it provides a hard, smooth, non-stick surface on which to roll dough. Although Varnique provides a fine-furniture look and is perfect for general kitchen chores, it is not to be cut upon. While the Varnique finish is more resistant to spotting and staining, as with all butcher block, wipe up liquid spills right away so as not to mar the surface. Read more: Varnique vs Natural Oil Butcher Block

3. How should I care for my butcher block? Natural Oil Finish Scrape – Remove any remaining food particles with a scraper or spatula. Wash – Wipe the surface clean with a washcloth dipped in hot water and mild soap (do not soak wood in water). Rinse washcloth and wipe again. Dry – Using a paper towel or dish towel, dry surface thoroughly between uses. Store cutting boards on edge to dry completely and save counter space. Oil the top once a month - It is pretty easy to care for butcher block. But just because it is easy it does not mean it is not important. Use a food grade mineral oil like John Boos Mystery Oil or Board Cream to help prevent board from drying and cracking. Use a plastic grocery store bag, instead of a cloth, to apply the oil. This way you can avoid getting your hand oily and the oil will stay on the block and not absorb into a cloth. Varnique SemiGloss Finish Wipe – Gently remove any remaining food particles with a sponge. Wash – Wipe the surface clean with a washcloth dipped in hot water and mild soap (do not soak wood in water). Rinse washcloth and wipe again. Dry – Using a paper towel or dish towel, dry surface thoroughly between uses. Always wipe up liquid spills promptly to avoid marring the semi-gloss finish. Read our Blog: Caring for your Butcher Block Read more:  Cleaning and Oiling Butcher Block

4. How do I get a quote for a custom butcher block countertop? Visit our Online Custom Calculator to build your quote. If the options you need are not listed on the calculator, please email us at [email protected] with a simple sketch showing your specifications. Sink and Stove Cutouts Cutouts for sinks, stoves, faucets, etc. can be done at the Boos factory for an additional charge. Please label your drawing with the dimensions and placement of these cutouts and include the makes/model numbers with your email to us. Please note: Undermount, farm, and apron style sink cutouts will void the factory warranty. Cutouts may be done on site, but will void the warranty. It is not recommended to do on-site cutouts in Blended Grain or End Grain tops. Custom Order Process Give us a call at 1-877-845-5597 or send an email with a basic description of what you need. We will lead you through a series of questions to get the full details of your project. If you need anything more custom than just a size or edging change, we will have you send us a simple sketch. We work with John Boos & Co. to get a quote for your specifications. Once approved, you can give us a call to place your order. The tech team at John Boos & Co. will create a drawing according to your specifications. You will need to review this carefully, sign it, and send your approval back to us before production begins. Special Care for Sink Cutouts If you have a sink cutout, it is important to take extra care to ensure the top is protected from water damage. Cutouts done at the factory will be finished along with the rest of your top (either natural oil or Varnique semi-gloss). If you’ll have exposed edges (like with an undermount or farm style sink), you can increase protection by using extra coats of a clear polyurethane finish along the edges and on the underside of the countertop surrounding the sink cutout. For oil-finished tops, beeswax or paraffin wax can be used in the same manner as a moisture barrier. Water spotting or damage needs to be addressed immediately to avoid further issues. Lightly sand the affected area with 220-grit sandpaper and refinish with the appropriate sealant. Warranties Countertops come standard with a 1-year warranty against defects in materials and workmanship. As noted above, certain sink styles will void this warranty, whether done on-site or at the factory. Any cutouts or other modifications done post-delivery will void the manufacturer’s warranty. If you choose to have your countertops shipped with no finish, they will ship void of warranty. This warranty does not cover damage caused by neglect or regular wear and tear.

5. What are your lead-times? For John Boos butcher block the lead time is approximately 4 weeks on most items. The reason -- they are all built to order. The items are not sitting in a warehouse; instead when your order is received it is placed into their production schedule. The wood is chosen, cut, glued and made for you. For Catskill butcher block items the lead time is 1 week because they maintain a small inventory of every item. Because these items are ready-to-assemble they are already packaged and easier to store in inventory.

6. Do you have a store, showroom, or person in my area? We are strictly an on-line store. Our website butcherblockco.com  is our showroom!  And is open to you 24/7 so please browse as much as you like. And our Customer Service Reps are just a phone call away. We can help answer all of your butcher block questions!

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