Wood counter tops can be finished in a few ways. Polyurethane, varnish, shellac, mineral oil, and wax, are generally used. Some require more maintenance than others; and knowing the right product to choose, can save work further down the track. If the counter top surface is to be used as a cutting surface, choose polyurethane varnish or acrylic resin. Always purchase food grade products when using for kitchens.
Polyurethane varnish has a hard plastic finish and is resistant to water, scratches, and chipping. Polyurethane varnish is available in oil and water based. Oil based is more water resistant.
Acrylic resin lacquer is suited to wood counter tops. It is best to use oil based acrylic resin as water based is not recommended for food preparation areas.
Shellac is another form of lacquer and has a beautiful finish. It isn't as strong as acrylic resin and shouldn't be used as a cutting surface.
Mineral oil helps to cure wood but is only a temporary solution. Mineral oil requires regular application and is not a good surface for cutting on.
Usually paraffin wax is melted down and applied to wood to create a water resistant surface. Needs reapplication and is also not recommended for cutting on.