Woodworking/Butcher Block Repair
QUESTION: Greg - I read the answers to another butcher block issue and I have some additional questions. How do remove the caps to the bolts without breaking the caps. If that isn't possible are replacement caps available? I only have bolts running in one direction and unfortunately the direction they run in I don't think will help my problem. Would injecting wood glue into the separations and then drawing together with a ratcheting band clamp.
I want to sand the sides to clean it up a bit. What would recommend for applying to the sides after sanding.
The piece came out of my fathers corner grocery store in Milwaukee so i really want to make a show piece in my kitchen
ANSWER: Hey Randy, thanks so much for the question and the tip....it would be unusual for such a block to have bolts only going in one direction, but possible. That type of split will likely not be persuaded back together, as it looks like a shrinkage crack, meaning the cells of the wood have contracted and pulled away from each other. Lack of humidity, coupled with less than adequate storage conditions over time likely caused this type of crack, and it will likely have to be filled. The bolt caps have to be destroyed to remove them, and custom tapered plugs will have to be made to replace them, I have made many. The best way to fill the damage is with Maple wedges and/or Maple saw dust mixed with white glue, or System 3 clear epoxy. I usually try to pull the caps, by drilling a small center hole and driving in a coarse threaded drywall screw, and then using a claw hammer and/or small "L" shaped pry bar to persuade it out, sometimes the screw will even hit the bolt and can be used to help push out the plug. You can give the screw a few whacks with a hammer once it's driven in, (not bottomed out against the bolt), before trying to pry it out to see if the plug will likely loosen up....it may not. If not, then it likely has to be carefully chopped out using a small,stout, sharp chisel...a long and delicate operation. I also find a sharp cabinet scraper is better than sandpaper, or at least before a final sanding. My favorite finish for blocks is Waterlox, a modified Tung oil finish, but it does have a deep amber color which may not be desirable on a Maple block...I have several end grain Cherry block thought and it looks amazing on them. a block that's going to be used on a regular basis to prepare food probably needs a 'Block' finish on th chopping surface, like a mineral oil or mineral oil/bees wax product. Preserve is another one I keep around, although the Waterlox is claimed to be non toxic when cured as well,(which will take a week or more).Boos has a complete line of Chef grade finishes for blocks and wooden cookware.
Please post back if need be, and warm regards- Greg
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Thanks for the quick response, apologize for the slow response. Just moved into a house 2 months ago that needs a lot of TLC and have been quite busy. I've never used a cabinet scraper before and I just tore a rotator cuff and have bad arthritis in both shoulders so that may not be an option for me. Would I be able to get a decent finish on the sides using a palm sander. Would I generate enough sawdust to fill the cracks, if not can sawdust be purchased? Where can I purchase maple wedges or is something I'd have to make? If I can talk my wife into trying the cabinet scraper (she's pretty handy and strong like bull) could the filings from that be used or would they be too course. I want to put a clear finish on the sides what would you recommend for that. Finally if I did try to pull the cracks together could I potentially create more damage.
Hey, sorry for the tardy reply, sorry about the shoulders, I share the same malady....you can definitely use a palm sander, just don't start too coarse..or sand too fine.80 or 100 to start, and sand to around 180. if you have a dust collecting palm sander, it might be possible to get enough dust...a sharp cabinet scraper will produce more shavings than dust, so they won't really be good for making a filler. And a sharp scraper is very easy too use, not a lot of bearing down, the main annoyance is heat, scraping end grain Rock Maple will heat the thin steel scraper blade to blistering temps pretty quickly so watch your finger tips... Do you want to prepare food on this Block?...or is it just a showpiece/ counter surface in the area? Filling the cracks with wood is a good option, but also the hardest to pull off. Any wedge has to be made accurately enough to be able to fit exactly when slightly driven in. The way to see if the crack will close, is to pad the Block with some wood blocks, and put a clamp on it and see what it does when moderate pressure is applied.If you have to strain to make it budge, (my guess), then it can't simply be glued back together. Wood under tension never successfully glues, and yes you could cause further damage... it needs to willingly go back together with a modicum of clamping pressure, and a good fit to make a lasting, durable repair. The other option is to 'underfill' with a good strong filler like the Minwax 2 part polyester filler, then come back in with a colored wood filler and sand to smooth when dry.The polyester resin is a light beige color and does not stain well, so it needs to be hidden with a stainable ...or matching putty.
I really like the General Satin Gel urethane for an easy to use, durable finish. It's quite light in color, which is good on Maple and other light woods. (looks almost 'straw' colored like a solvent lacquer), Apply thin coats with a cloth pad (Polo or flannel in several layers), and it couldn't be easier.
Finally, a source for some thin wedges of wood would be any Cabinet shop, Restorer, Carpenter, etc...they'll be happy to furnish you with some scrap, and if you make a simple shirt cardboard templet of the wedge shape, you can come pretty close I bet.