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These photos are super soothing. Watching a piece of butcher block — especially walnut, which is what these are — go from bare wood to richly oiled is pretty darn awesome. Wanna see?

new kitchen bar gets oiled
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In case you missed the last few posts about this area of the house, the gist is that I decided to install a casual bar-slash-shelf thing against the wall (the one that divides the kitchen from the dining room) with a leftover piece of walnut butcher block that I had from my kitchen renovation. I tried in vain to find a picture from waaaaay back in the day for this area so you can see what it really looked like to begin with, but this was the best I could find for now:

Here’s the original mock-up I did for the space, which also includes the knock-off light fixture I did earlier this year:


Since I am trying to create a more comfortable eating area just outside of the kitchen and lead guests out to the back yard (which has taking plenty of work this summer in its own right), I don’t want there to be a big table in the way that blocks traffic flow from the sliding glass door. So, I took a few Ikea shelf supports I liked, spray painted them black, and screwed them into the studs on the wall (you can also use heavy duty wall anchors if the centering is off). Then, I cut down the remaining piece of walnut that I had in my garage down to about half its width (so roughly 13 inches) and fit it against the wall.

small kitchen bar left side

Using finer and finer grits of sandpaper (you want to start with a lower grit like 180 and work your way to 240 and then 320), I sanded down the surface to get it super smooth. I also routed the edges to a slight curve, similar to how I did the rest of the kitchen. Out of curiosity (which you may have seen on Instagram stories a few weeks ago), I tried out a new finish on the underside to seal it and test how the grain looked (General Finishes High Performance), but ultimately, the color wasn’t as rich as it was with the mineral oil and beeswax mixture I used for the rest of the kitchen counters. So, I went back to what I know and like to use: Howard Butcher Block Conditioner.

adding oil to the new kitchen bar

As you can see, the oil really brings out the grain when it soaks in!

direct comparison without oil with oil

For the first few coats, you slather it on and just let it do its thing. I typically apply a thick coat at night and let it soak, then wipe off any excess in the morning. With the first few treatments, there really isn’t any left over in the morning, but once you can see it begin to build up, the wood is better protected from damage and moisture (water will start to bead up on the surface instead of soak in). I will have to periodically retreat it the same as I do with the rest of the counters, but the color really stands out once the wood is treated this way. I especially love the color variation at the end closest to the doorway that leads to the dining room:

bar stools: Joss and Main

You’ll see a slight gap as I did this so that I didn’t wind up slathering thick coats of mineral oil along the painted walls, but I’ll be screwing it in soon. It’s heavy and not really going anywhere, so there’s not much to worry about. :)


I didn’t have time to switch lenses to make the room not look wonky when looking at the whole wall, but here’s as best I could do for now. It’s a great new addition to the kitchen. I still need to add some art, crown, update the sheers, and switch out the outlet so I can put the cover back on, but it’s definitely looking more my style than what this area looked like in the listing photo from 2009:

Breakfast nook - Kitchen - 2009
Breakfast nook – Kitchen – 2009

There you have it. Onto the next!

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  1. The bar looks great! I can’t wait to put in my butcher block island/peninsula. I will be trying that oil!

  2. Nicely done! I just bought my home and I’m already dealing with not having appropriate “before” photos…maybe I should run around and photograph everything, just in case.

  3. Afternoon,
    Been enjoying reading your blog. I have used the Howard’s butcher Block finish on my cutting boards
    Something to think about for future wood projects when you want warmth and protection, General Finishes Arm-R-Seal, It is an oil and urethane wiping topcoat(You could also use a foam brush)
    Downsides: Takes longer to dry, slight odor, needs mineral spirits or paint thinner to clean up
    Upsides: Durability of water-based polyurethane with the warmth of a oil.
    Disclaimer: I do work at the Atlanta Woodcraft and am very familiar with General Finishes Products as well as other finishes that we carry. You (or anyone else) are always welcome to come by, have a cup of coffee and ask questions about our products or techniques needed to finish something.
    (We are also able to answer other woodworking questions)
    Enjoy your day and look forward to future updates.

    1. I’m familiar with Arm-R-Seal, and I even tried using the High Performance for this project (but I know that’s water based). The main reason I haven’t gone with a coating like ARS is because it’s not food safe, and that was a factor in deciding what to use to protect the other counters on the opposite side of the kitchen. Also, the oil finishes that ARE food safe are reported to be a bit more yellowed than what I was going for too. I wanted things to look rich, but as natural as possible. Ultimately it just comes down to what your priorities are. I don’t mind oiling down the counter as much as I thought I would, so I still think it was the right choice at the time. Can’t wait to try ARS on other projects though! I’ve heard really great things!

  4. wow it’s incredible what some oil can do. amazing!!!!!!! i can’t believe your house actually looked like that listing photo, but i remember your posts from when you first moved in and what an old-lady nightmare it was!

  5. That oil trick is mesmerizing. I need to try that when I get home because my wooden counters are getting rusty, and don’t pop as much as when I bought them.

  6. Looks great! Sad, but i can`t find such type of oil on my local market. Can anybody tell about simple and cheap alternatives for it?

    1. You can either order online (affiliate link here) or you can try basic mineral oil. It won’t have the same mix of ingredients as the stuff I prefer (which also uses beeswax for better water protection), but mineral oil can be found at most drug stores and is an inexpensive option.