Need help fixing up a large butcher block table


I have a solid wood restaurant butcher block table whch measures 24" X 24" X 10" thick. I found it thrown out on the sidewalk. I am really excited about restoring it. Before I ask for help have a look at it here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/daliaandasaf/sets/1690170 /
the butcher block has a lot of character (such as knife marks, dents and has also gotten a nice color from all the grease and oils it came into contact with) and I want to preserve that somehow. Putting function slightly aside, I look at this from a slightly more artistic perspective. I can see this as a piece of furniture.. a chess/backgammon table or something for example or as a kitchen island or just a stand alone piece of furniture somewhere. I love furniture that has some kind of life and story to it.
Its really dirty and kind of nasty at the moment. Can someone offer some suggestions about which solvents i can use to clean it thogroughly? I'm thinking denatured alcohol / mineral spirits but will that be tough enough to clean it?
In terms if bringing this to life, I think sanding it would ruin its character no? Given the knife marks and the sag that you can see in two sides it would be sort of a disconnect to look at that as freshly sanded and sort of homogenously colored dont you think?.
Though I picture sanding it and adding a linseed oil to it could look pretty damn cool but once you go the sanding route you gotta commit, theres no way back. Do you think a very fine grit sandpaper could do the trick of cleaning it up without taking the color off?
What are your thoughts? Can you see what i'm driving at about wanting to keep its character? I dont have much expericne with this, i usually sand things until i get the original wood and then completely refinish it. One person i asked suggested to leave it as it and buff it with a paste wax a few times a year.
All you experienced woodworkers out there send me your suggestions ! Thanks so much!
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I had one just like that several years back. Weighed about 300 pounds (not exagerrating). Was more used than yours. I wasn't really into woodworking then. I sat it by my garage intending to do something with it and forgot about it for a few years. When I found it again the weather had done it's work and it was ruined. I ended up using it for firewood. I like the chess board idea but you'd at least need to flatten to top. You could maybe rub some lard, blood, guts, etc into it to get that dirty look back.
Kevin
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Make sure you keep it oiled, that was what killed the other one. If it ever dries out it will check and split.
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It's tough to tell from the photos. Think of it this way... Why was it thrown out? Can you go back to where you found it and ask?
What is "nasty"? Does it smell? Is there a possible health risk?
If not, you may want to consider a whole lotta work with cabinet scrapers.
If you're gonna use it as a game table, though, it will have to be level. How are you going to do that while maintaining the character?
djb
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I dont know why they tossed it.. this is new york city, people throw valuable stuff out here all the time, in fact i make a few bucks every now and again picking this stuff up, fixing it and re-selling it on craigslist. My guess is that some restaurant/deli went out of business and left it behind. The good news is it doesnt smell.
youre right about needing to level it for a game table. To level this thing though I would need a serious belt sander and hours of toil.
Does anyone know if these things are worth anythng? Id spend the time if i could turn a profit. I saw similar things for sale on the net for $800-900 new.
Do you reckon I can clean it thoroughly with mineral spirit/paint thinner?
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doityourself (in snipped-for-privacy@g44g2000cwa.googlegroups.com) said:
| I dont know why they tossed it.. this is new york city, people throw | valuable stuff out here all the time, in fact i make a few bucks | every now and again picking this stuff up, fixing it and re-selling | it on craigslist. My guess is that some restaurant/deli went out of | business and left it behind. The good news is it doesnt smell.
Good news indeed! Still, I think I'd be leery of using it as is in /my/ kitchen. | | youre right about needing to level it for a game table. To level | this thing though I would need a serious belt sander and hours of | toil.
Wrong tool, I think. It'd be easy to build a jig to mill the top down with a router - probably about a 15-20 minute job with a 1/2" straight bit (less with something like a dish bit).
| Does anyone know if these things are worth anythng? Id spend the | time if i could turn a profit. I saw similar things for sale on the | net for $800-900 new.
They're worth whatever someone is willing to pay. Got a good sales pitch ready?
| Do you reckon I can clean it thoroughly with mineral spirit/paint | thinner?
It's probable that the stains have penetrated to a significant depth, solvents might remove grease and oils from the surface; but I doubt they'd do much more than that.
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto/solar.html
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I have made three butcher block tables and getting the finished surface flat is really a bear. I am guessing that it is made of end grain maple and that is very difficult to get smooth if you were to try and surface it with a router. I would recomend giving it a sanding and then oil it with mineral oil. You don't have to sand it so deep that you remove all the knife marks, probably hard to do anyway, and I doubt you would take out all of the stains either. If you are going to use it for food prep make sure it sees some bleach, then oil it with mineral oil. Mineral oil is food safe, you will find it in the drugstore with the laxatives and it will prevent the thing from cracking.
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I do not recommend belt sanding. It will take a long time and is very difficult to get a flat surface at the end of all the elbow grease.
I needed to flatten a maple top which a friend gave to me about 30 in x 60 in. I clamped straight edges and made a sled for the router and then flattened using a dado bit. Goes fast once the sled is set up.
If you want to use hand tools, then a scrub plane would be the best to remove most of the high spots, and then a low angle plane for the final sanding.
Dave Paine.

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At the end of the day most butchers give their block a good scrub with a stiff wire brush & soapy water to get rid of all the blood and grease that has soaked in during the day. Thats how they get the nice curved surface.

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Steven Boyes wrote:

Yep. The brush we used was the one at the top of the following page:
http://www.hubert.com/store/catalog/c/203/s/1667/ss/21061/src/203/page.htm
I hated that job.
--
Jack Novak
Buffalo, NY - USA
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Finally someone who knows what it is ,a table to chop meat on and cleaned exactly as you said at the end of each day....
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Well i'm looking to change its intended purpose. Theres no rule that says a 10 inch thick block of wood has to be for chopping meat only.
The way I feel is that anyone can go buy furniture at ikea where theres a few million other people who own the exact same thing, made in a cookie cutter factory by a machine out of a bunch of particle board. This on the other hand, was once alive, and when it becomes something else, has a story to tell.
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The butcher/supermarket that tossed it did so for one of two reasons: a) they went out of business, b) liquid/blood/water spills all over the floor (and the butcher's shoes) when they use it because it's so dished.
If you want to make a decorative item out of it then give it a good scrubbing with a stiff bristle brush and then let it soak up all the mineral oil it will take. Otherwise leave it alone. You won't be able to duplicate that well-used patina by other means.
OTOH if you must make a game table out of it (which, to be honest, is much too bulky to serve in that capacity in my opinion) then you shall have to level the top. Router with leveling jig is the only way -- provided that you're not going to dig into the threaded rod that runs crosswise through the block -- followed by power planer, hand scraper and mineral oil. That's how I leveled mine, but it wasn't quite as dished as yours. And I use it as a butcher block and cutting board. Mounted it on casters for use in a cramped kitchen. It's great.
J.
doityourself wrote:

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