I just bought a birch butcher block countertop from Home Depot. The instructions (https://www.homedepot.com/catalog/pdfImages/71/71b1d057-7ed6-4336-a063-fb816fb7110c.pdf) states that "the butcher block MUST be sealed or finished on all surfaces within 48 hours of removing shrink wrap."

Any idea why this is? Is it to prevent warping of the wood? To prevent moisture from getting into it?

  • any dust will make the finish look nasty. using it before sealing is another no-go. i would also strongly prefer walnut oil to mineral oil if you use this with food.
    – dandavis
    Nov 28, 2017 at 1:27
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    I would not substitute walnut oil instead for food grade or USP mineral oil, if mineral oil is the sealant recommended by the manufacturer. Vegetable oils can and will go rancid over time and exposure to oxygen. Mineral oil USP is a pure and safe product which is generally recognized as safe for human consumption. It is also generally not used as a medicinal anymore, but the small amounts that would be expected to be introduced into food by sealing a butcher block would be negligible. Nov 28, 2017 at 10:44
  • They don't want that wood to absorb moisture from the atmosphere. It was probably dried in an oven just prior to being shrink-wrapped. Any moisture in the wood is going to dull the appearance of the end product.
    – Paul Logan
    Nov 28, 2017 at 12:40
  • The oil in the wood is what brings out the rich texture and natural beauty of the wood grain. Any moisture that is absorbed into the wood and filling the pores is that much less space that is available to the oil. This moisture is going to be absorbed unevenly. This in-turn causes the oil to absorb unevenly, thus leaving the finish splotchy.
    – Paul Logan
    Nov 28, 2017 at 12:55
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    Yes that is an acceptable plan. For a desk probably a good plan. you will get protection for the wood and also have a nice smooth writing surface. Seal all sides of the wood. You will now have a glassy looking surface. You will loose the raw and typically unfinished look of butcher block.
    – Paul Logan
    Nov 29, 2017 at 7:54

1 Answer 1


Answer compiled from multiple comments to the question:

Wood is dried just before being shrink-wrapped. The second the wood is unsealed, dust and moisture can start to absorb into the wood. Both cause issues with a clean finish and water can cause damage in some situations.

  • One thing that is missing is why butcher-block is special in this regard. A butcher block surface is cut and glued such that the end-grain of the wood is exposed at the surface. This greatly increases the amount of exposed end-grain when compared to 'normal' wood furniture. End-grain is a cross-section of the capillary fibers of the wood and therefore absorbs moisture more than other edges of cut wood.
    – JimmyJames
    May 22, 2019 at 15:35
  • @JimmyJames Great advice but the Butcher block in question here is a countertop butcher block not a butcher block with the end grain exposed on the top surface like a chopping block.
    – Alaska Man
    May 22, 2019 at 18:56
  • @AlaskaMan Thanks for the clarification. Personally I think this is a abuse/misuse of the term 'butcher block' but I guess I just have to move on with my life.
    – JimmyJames
    May 23, 2019 at 13:28
  • @AlaskaMan According to this "the term has also come to mean Edge Grain Construction". This will also absorb more moisture than the face of the board. Maybe not as readily as the end-grain but it would think these pieces would be more likely to twist and bow than edge-grain construction.
    – JimmyJames
    May 23, 2019 at 13:38

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