How to finish oak countertop without using polyurethane

Q We have a new custom-made kitchen countertop made of bare-oak flooring. I would like a surface finish that will not be discolored by water, yet I want to avoid polyurethane and toxic oils, such as linseed. Several coats of ordinary salad and walnut oils have not worked, nor has a wood preservative which is supposed to be effective on butcher block. What product will save me from daily sandpapering and reoiling?

Frank Wilder

Block Island, R.I.

A We fired this unusual question to R.L. Thompson of a Virginia Hardwood Company branch in Phoenix, and even he had to scratch his head in his search for an answer.

Mr. Thompson says that polyurethane is toxic only when first applied, but thereafter it loses its toxicity. He says he believes polyurethane is by far the best surfacing finish to use on that bare-oak kitchen counter.

His second choice, however, is a butyrate lacquer finish, which is obtainable from a quality furniture manufacturer or photo-supply firm. Consult with the supplier and follow the label and oral directions.

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