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A wooden (beech) kitchen counter has been treated with cheap wax in the past, and is now discolouring because of food preparation and constant splashing. I've decided to make a better job using Danish Oil but first need to remove the wax from the beech.

I have performed this routine 4 or 5 times:

  1. Soak with White Spirit.
  2. Sand with 120 grade along the grain.
  3. Wash with hot soapy water.

The reason I've done this so many times is because there always seems to be more wax coming out of the wood.

My question: Do I have to continue sanding and washing the wood to remove any trace of wax, or have I done enough already to apply the Danish Oil?

I'm planning to rub the Danish Oil in to the wood with a cloth, leave overnight, then buff it up in the morning, possibly applying more the following night depending on the colour.

If anyone has any advice for producing a really nice water resistant finish, that will be greatly appreciated.

The worktop is as pictured below, to help understand what type of wood I am working with (not my photograph, but same product) :

enter image description here

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Is the counter made such that the surface is the end-grain of the wood? –  JayL Jan 4 '12 at 19:40
    
@JayL does the photograph answer that? –  Greg Jan 4 '12 at 20:05
    
In the picture the surface of the counter is the edge grain of the wood, and the left edge shows the end grain. End grain is sometimes used as the surface of butcher blocks and wood countertops but it can really absorb (and sometimes weep back out) liquids. Doesn't sound like the problem you're having though. –  JayL Jan 5 '12 at 3:50
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

If the surface is edge grain and the previous finish was only wax, wiping down with mineral spirits and then sanding using progressively finer grits up to 220 or so should be pretty good preparation to refinish. Skip the soap and water treatment as it won't dissolve any wax and only complicates finishing. Before applying any finish the wood should be smooth and dry. Any staining or blotching you can see is not going to be hidden too much by a clear finish - it's sometimes possible to bleach out stains but this is tricky to do well.

If you are still getting something soaking back up after sanding down to the raw wood, it could be a prior mineral oil treatment. Mineral oil never hardens and is often used on wooden butcher blocks and countertops. Simply reapplying more would be one refinishing option. It's easy (you just apply until it is no longer absorbed) but you have to reapply it frequently. Inexpensive pure mineral oil can be found in a pharmacy (it's sold as a laxative).

Another option would be a pure tung oil finish. It would be slightly more expensive but a little more water resistant. You can get it from a woodworking or finishing supplier. Most "tung oil finishes" sold by hardware stores are not actually tung oil so check the labels carefully if you go this route. It would be applied and reapplied similarly to mineral oil.

Some "Danish oil" finishes are a blend of varnish, oil, and thinner, and others contain only thinned varnish. Generally one applies "Danish oil" in light coats such that a film is not really built up on the surface of the wood. Often wax is then applied over it. This feels nice on furniture but it is going to be less durable that a slightly thicker application of regular varnish applied with a brush or thinned and then wiped on in several coats.

The mineral oil or tung oil would be my choices for a counter that you are actually going to cut on. On the other hand if you don't plan to cut with knives directly on the counter, and if you are able to prepare the counter down to a clean, dry, smooth surface, a wiping varnish is probably the most durable and best looking option.

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I would use Tung-oil instead. It offers very good protection and is easy/forgiving to apply. I like the Waterlox brand but any will do. It doesn't really like wax though and will soften in areas that still have it but it will not peal or become harmful. If soft or sticky spots do come up they can be removed with a little food safe mineral spirits and a rag then more tung-oil applied. There's a good chance that your wood did get a lot of wax deep into the grain so it will be very difficult to get it all out without some extensive sanding. Use acetone to remove as much as possible. It is better than mineral spirits. Let the wood soak it up and it will desolve deeply imbedded wax. Be careful not to get it on your floor or cabinets or it could damage their finish.

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