Q: How should I finish a 3 foot wide x 10 foot long lodgepole pine countertop I’m making for a kitchen and bar? I want the wood to be protected from spills.
A: The challenge with every wooden countertop is creating a finish that’s both durable and repairable. Polyurethane provides great protection, but when it starts to get cut marks and areas of wear, there’s nothing much you can do except strip back to bare wood and start from scratch. You can’t repair urethane finish so it looks good. And refinishing is an especially big hassle because you have to work in your kitchen.
The best finishing option I’ve used for countertops is something called Watco Butcher Block Oil & Finish. Don’t be fooled by the term “oil” because this stuff does form a protective surface film, something like varnish. It’s also easy to work with and non-toxic. When it comes time to rejuvenate the finish, simply rub the countertop down by hand parallel with the grain using 180-grit sandpaper to remove anything loose and roughen the surface, then recoat. I’ve used this product in several situations and it works and lasts quite well. Depending on the level of wear involved, you’ll have to re-apply more Butcher Block Oil every year or two.
Click below for a video lesson on sanding wood properly before finishing. This is especially important with something as visible as a countertop.