Organic Alternatives - Re-Finishing a Butcher Block Table

The previous owners of our house had this little booth table custom built for them in Vermont out of butcher block. It's really beautiful, but after years of wear and tear from their kids and then a few scratches and stains from us, it was in sad shape. So we needed to re-finish it. But, of course, the question was 'with what?' Whatever we used to seal it needed to be food safe and, to meet our standards, natural and eco-friendly as well. As I started researching, the most common material that came up was 'food grade mineral oil;' however, after some detective work, I found that mineral oil, even though it sounds all earthy, is actually a petroleum-derived product and not really natural at all. No thanks. After weeks of searching on the internet for products and methods, we finally decided to do it ourselves using these instructions. It was quite a process...

The first thing we had to do was sand the table, which, using my dad's ancient electric sander, ended up being more of a pain than we anticipated. Josh did most of it by hand.
While he was doing that, I was mixing up the finishing material, which is made of a combination of beeswax and walnut oil, both of which we purchased at our local health food store. First, you have to heat the walnut oil over a double boiler to purify it, otherwise there's a small chance it can go rancid after time. Then, you add the beeswax and let it melt together slowly until it's all combined.
When you first take it off the heat it looks like oil, but it quickly hardens and starts to look more like butter. (It also leaves a film all over everything, so beware. It took multiple cleanings to finally scrub free the glass bowl I used.) All we needed at that point was one of Josh's old t shirts and some elbow grease. At first, we were worried that the mixture was too waxy and wouldn't sink in, but if you keep it just a little warm, it polishes in nicely... and you give your arms a nice workout. We coated the whole table and then let it sink in overnight. I wiped it with another clean t shirt in the morning and it looks like a brand new table! Plus, it has a nice faint sweet smell to it from the beeswax. The leftover mixture will harden and keep in a jar for years. All we have to do is reheat it slightly anytime we want to use it. A complex process, but worth it in the end! I should also add that you can use this re-finishing technique on any wood that you want, including wood toys for all you parents out there!


  1. I'm lovin' the light in these photos - makes it look like summertime in Skandinavia :) I can almost smell the beeswax

  2. thanks! i WISH i was in Scandinavia in the summer. it's my current dream vacation spot. :)