How to Protect Table / Island / Counter / Workbench Tops

BEFORE YOU START: it is a good practice to bring the item to the room where it will be used. It will adjust to the humidity in that room in 24 - 48 hours. Equally important is to finish your project in about a week. Butcher blocks and island tops not mounted to bases are prone to warp with sudden changes in humidity and temperature.   

Work Space: Please make sure your work space doesn’t have excessive dust and that you have enough light.  Ideally the temperature should be between 65-85F and the humidity around 50%. Supplies: Safety Glasses, rubber gloves, drop cloth to cover the work space, rags or paper towel, sand paper #120 and #200 grit, tack cloth, paintbrush, stir sticks, pre-conditioner (same base as the stain) and stain.

Preparation: Check your table top round for splits, scratches or dents. All these defects can be easily filled and fixed with the pine wood putty. Even if you didn’t find any defects, you should sand the entire table top, Even slightly on the back too. Sanding will smooth the surfaces and also open up the wood pores. For the first sanding, use type 120 grit sandpaper and be sure to always sand with the grain. For the face, a final sanding with #200 grit sandpaper is recommended.. For machine sanding, use random orbit type hand held sanders. Never use a belt sander since it leaves lines which even stains can not hide. After each sanding, wipe off the dust. Then apply prestain wood conditioner, making sure the pre-conditioner matches the base of the stain. .

Staining: Stir the stain and test the color of the stain on the back side. If it looks fine, then proceed to stain the whole back.Why this is important? First, staining face, back and all sides prevents cracking. Also, if you have a brand new brush, chances are that there are some loose bristles which will come off. It is better to have those on the back than on top of your piece. Begin staining with the brush or rag and always stain in the direction of the grain. After the stain has been applied and the desired saturation occurs, wipe off any excess. If a deeper or richer stain color is desired, repeat the staining process approximately every 4-6 hours (follow the instructions on the label for drying time in between coats). 

Finish Sealer:  Before applying the finish sealer make sure the stain is completely dry.  A polyurethane based finish should be used if the stain was oil-based and a water based finish should be used if the stain was water-based. Stir and apply the conditioner.  Apply the finish sealer up to three coats of finish until the desired luster is achieved. Sand with a fine grit (#220) between coats. Make sure to wipe off the table top before applying the next coat of finish sealer. Follow the instructions on the label for drying time in-between coats.