Contrary to common perception, modern butcher block countertops are one of the safest and most hygienic kitchen work surfaces available. They are practical, renewable and affordable.
The history of butcher block countertops
Before the invention of butcher block countertops, butchers used a section of tree trunk set on legs. These tree rounds cracked easily and created unsanitary conditions. Therefore there was an express need for hygienic butcher tops that were more durable and hygienic. Modern butcher block countertops, developed in 1880, had minimal cracking and were more stable.
Butcher block countertops are made in two basic styles:
- End grain–these are made by pasting pieces of wood together under high pressure. This is done while the wood fiber is perpendicular to the surface to maintain better quality and durability.
- Edge grain–these are made in a manner similar to end grain. However, the wood fiber is kept parallel to the surface during the pressure gluing process.
Traditionally butcher block countertops were made from northern hard maple. This type of wood is neither too hard nor too soft and therefore does not blunt the edge of a butcher’s tool or crack under constant hammering of the butcher’s axe.
Butcher block countertops are very thick and durableif the block wears down it can be planed to restore the surface. Butcher block countertops can be finished with non-toxic oils or conventional wood finishes, depending on whether they are used for food preparation or for decorative purposes.
Initially, modern butcher block countertops were used as heavy duty chopping blocks in butcher shops and meat processing units. However, butcher block countertops are now also used for decorative purposes on table tops, workbenches, cutting boards and furniture.