Highland Woodworking Wood News Online: Ask the Staff
Highland Woodworking Wood News Online Ask the Staff, January 2007

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Ask the Staff

Question: I am making a pasta board for my nephew who is an up-and-coming chef. What do you recommend in the way of a finish? Apparently pasta boards and cutting boards should have a fairly "open grain" finish, rather than a hard surface film like a varnish or polyurethane finish.

Turned wood salad bowls Answer: Oiling wooden boards and bowls helps seal the grain against stains, odors, bacteria and moisture. However, you want to use a product that is edible, flavorless and won’t turn rancid. Pure mineral oil, such as Butcher Block Oil , is a good choice because unlike vegetable oils or olive oil, it doesn't turn rancid and remains safe throughout its life.

Apply the oil with a soft cloth in the direction of the grain, flooding the surface and allowing it to soak in for a few minutes. Then remove any excess oil remaining on the surface with a dry, clean cloth. The oil will reduce the penetration of moisture into the pores of the wood. Some folks prefer to warm the oil slightly before applying it. Beeswax may also be added to the oil to create a tougher finish. Just shave about 1/2 teaspoon of pure beeswax into a cup of mineral oil and warm until the wax shavings have dissolved. Then apply to the piece while still warm in the same manner as described above. It's also a good idea to oil the surface after it’s washed or weekly to replenish the oil removed by washing and disinfecting.

Walnut oil is another popular choice for items intended for food use. Unlike mineral oil, it is a drying oil that reacts with the air and eventually hardens and will not evaporate over time. Mahoney Walnut Oil Finish is a pure California walnut oil which is heat-treated to penetrate deep into the wood. Like raw walnut oil, it imparts little or no flavor or odor, nor will it go rancid. Wipe on or immerse the piece in the oil and let harden for 24 hours. Mahoney Oil Wax Finish is a blend of heat-treated walnut oil, beeswax and carnauba wax in paste wax form that may be used alone or in conjunction with the Mahoney Utility Finish. Regardless of the oil you choose to use, however, keep in mind that it is more of a "treatment" than a "finish", as it will require maintenance.

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