Alternative cutting board finish - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 17 Old 10-19-2014, 01:42 AM Thread Starter
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Alternative cutting board finish

Ahoy there! I had a question about using dewaxed shellac on a cutting board. I read a book on wood finishes that said shellac is considered food safe and is even used to coat some types of candy. Although I found that interesting, I thought I had no use for it. I've made my own cutting boards and I use mineral oil and occasionally some beeswax on them. they've been holding up great, and I have no intention of changing my finish for my own boards.

Having said that, I have been on the lookout for a different finish for boards that I make as gifts. Some people have no problem with applying mineral oil from time to time, so I give them the board with my usual finish of butcher block. However, there are other people (like my brother) who are incapable of maintaining their cutting board, or anything else for that matter. Part of me wants them to just learn to take care of their stuff, but it isn't realistic. So with that in mind I've been searching for a finish that is longer lasting than butcher block or mineral oil. I've tried walnut oil, but I found it to be very similar to mineral oil. I thought about trying tung oil because I know that it would also be food safe, but it might be a bit too pricey and I'm not totally sure it will work. That is what brings me to dewaxed shellac...

Since I know shellac is food safe, I feel like it would be a good one to try. I don't need the finish to be high gloss, and in fact I don't want it to be glossy. I haven't really used dewaxed shellac much except as a sanding sealer. But I suspect that it would be good as a longer lasting finish for cutting boards. Before I actually try it though, I figured I'd ask if anyone here has thoughts or experience that might be useful to me. Thanks in advance!
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post #2 of 17 Old 10-19-2014, 01:47 AM
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Polyurethane is food safe too but would also make a bad finish for a cutting board. Any finish that makes a film isn't going to do well for you because you are cutting through the finish. With mineral oil it gets down into the wood repelling water. The finish needs to be an oil of some type or another.
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post #3 of 17 Old 10-19-2014, 02:00 AM Thread Starter
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Yeah, I know what you mean regarding the film finishes. That is kind of why I wondered about dewaxed shellac. In my experience, using a single coat of dewaxed shellac mostly just soaks into the wood and doesn't leave much of a film. I know that it's quite good at sealing pores too, at least when it comes to protection from water vapor. It might become less effective with knives cutting into it though. I should probably point out that the boards I typically make are end grain boards, so soaking up a finish like dewaxed shellac seems like it would work pretty well.

I didn't realize that poly would also be food safe, that is pretty interesting. I don't think I'll use it, but it is good to know just the same.
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post #4 of 17 Old 10-19-2014, 02:02 AM
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You know, as regards your concerns about the lack of care for the cutting boards you give away or sell, I will share with you my own experience. I have a hard maple, 1 3/4" thick , edge laminated cutting board. It is from the cutout section for the stove top in a kitchen counter I did 16 years ago. My wife takes and washes this cutting board in the sink and lets it sit and air dry, at least once/week. It bugs me but I cannot stop this from happening. While I tell my customers that they should use mineral oil on it, and apply it often, I have been seriously negligent with mine. I probably think to oil it maybe once every year or two. But you know what? It doesn't matter. It's as good as new, except for the knife marks in it. No de-lams, no splits, no warp. About a year or so ago, I ran it through the planer to take a little off and re-flatten it. With a fresh surface, it basically was just like new. So, my point is, you may be unduly concerned about the negligence factor. Oh, and I used Titebond II when I glued it up. AND, I wil say that we use our kitchen like an industrial kitchen and this cutting board gets USED daily, a lot.

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post #5 of 17 Old 10-19-2014, 02:15 AM Thread Starter
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That's good to know mmwood, I appreciate the post! I usually don't get to see the boards that I sell to people, so I have no idea how they are holding up. The ones I have seen look ok for the most part. The one that looked the worst was my brother's, but even that one came back to life pretty well when I oiled it up for him.

I'm still curious about using a different finish though. If something like dewaxed shellac gives longer lasting protection, I would like to at least offer it as an option to people that I give them to. I usually sell about a dozen boards a year for Christmas and I'm getting this year's boards ready to go, so I'm trying to research other finishes. It sounds like tung oil is probably going to be a safe bet for the time being. But it's certainly more expensive than mineral oil, so I'm hoping it actually lasts longer. It also adds color which in some cases is not what I want. That's why I was curious about dewaxed shellac. Maybe I'll just try it on my brother's board since he doesn't seem to care much about anything anyway. That way I can keep an eye on it and see what happens...
post #6 of 17 Old 10-19-2014, 03:40 AM Thread Starter
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update

I found this article that seemed somewhat relevant and interesting: http://www.thewoodwhisperer.com/arti...-board-finish/

I don't like how vague the article is about what finish he uses, but it's still fairly interesting. Does anyone out there have thought about this article? Does anyone have a suggestion for a finish other than mineral oil/butcher block? Thanks!
post #7 of 17 Old 10-19-2014, 09:38 AM
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You can use melted Paraffin Wax. After it soaks into the wood and dries, scrape off any surface excess with a putty knife.

You can use any finish that's appropriate to your project, including varnish, lacquer, shellac, and boiled linseed oil. Before putting it to use, be sure to allow for complete curing, a chemical process that takes significantly longer than drying. Some kinds of finish cure by evaporation of their solvent, and some cure by reacting with oxygen. Either way, the process continues after a film has formed on top.

Even salad bowl finish has toluene in it along with naphtha, ethyl benzene, and cobalt, all of which can damage your health with sufficient exposure. So, these products are as safe as, but no safer than, any other cured finish.
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post #8 of 17 Old 10-19-2014, 12:37 PM
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The biggest negative with shellac is that is does not last in water or wet environment and it is damaged by many cleaning chemicals and detergents.

As already said, it has no durability if you are going to chop and cut on it. Any cuts in the surface or any dings will allow water and food juices to penetrate.

Commercially made boards are treated with mineral oil and/or a melted paraffin wax which would last much longer than a shellac treatment.

It also

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post #9 of 17 Old 10-19-2014, 02:29 PM
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I use Bees wax with mineral oil in it(Made my own) Works very good. Been on my cutting board for over a year and haven't needed to re-apply yet.
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post #10 of 17 Old 10-19-2014, 04:21 PM
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I handcraft cutting boards to sell and was not happy with the finish I was using. I looked for a new finish for the same reasons you are. Some clients do not want to maintain the board so the mineral oil did not fit. Also mineral oil looks great for about a week and then dulls. I found a couple of finishes that work great. First is Howard's Butcher Block Conditioner. It is available at Home Depot as well as other places. It has Mineral Oil, Carnauba Wax, and Bees wax. The carnauba wax is hard and shines nice, bees wax is soft and polishes well, and mineral oil soaks in and seals. I find it best to place the bottle in the sun for a while to melt the waxes which helps it soak in well. 3 coats seam to work. The second finish is Tried and True original. It is available at Rockler. It is a polymerized Linseed oil and bees wax. Linseed oil is a drying oil so it soaks in and dries to seal the board. Apply 3 coats letting each one dry over night. So far the finishes seam to look good for longer time.
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post #11 of 17 Old 10-19-2014, 06:39 PM
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Finishing cutting boards could possibly be the number one talked about threads on the forum. Last week my mother sent me a picture of a cutting board I made for her 30 years ago. Still uses it to this day. I made it from poplar used plain old Tite Bond glue and it's never been finished with anything but Dawn soap and water.

The four cutting boards in my house also have never been finished. A few days ago I made a few for my brothers wife and took my boards down to the shop and hit them with the sander. Good as new.

It's my understanding when something "soaks" into the wood of a cutting board. It doesn't live and grow. Which to me is the beauty of using wood in the first place.

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post #12 of 17 Old 10-20-2014, 07:19 PM
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"It's my understanding when something "soaks" into the wood of a cutting board. It doesn't live and grow. Which to me is the beauty of using wood in the first place."

I don't know about other woods, but having worked for more than a decade in food service when I was younger, I know that most health departments consider hard maple food safe because the tannins in it deter bacterial growth.
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post #13 of 17 Old 10-21-2014, 12:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmwood_1 View Post
"It's my understanding when something "soaks" into the wood of a cutting board. It doesn't live and grow. Which to me is the beauty of using wood in the first place."

I don't know about other woods, but having worked for more than a decade in food service when I was younger, I know that most health departments consider hard maple food safe because the tannins in it deter bacterial growth.
From my research its a combination of the wood whicking water away from the nasties and dehydrating them and the wood absorbing the nasties and keeping them from transferring to the food. First ive heard of the tannins deterring growth. Makes sense, given that in the still living plants tannins deter bacterial growth. Interesting tidbit.

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post #14 of 17 Old 10-21-2014, 04:41 AM
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I know that most health departments consider hard maple food safe because the tannins in it deter bacterial growth.
Maple has very little tannin in it. My guess why Maple is used is because it doesn't have deep grain. Oak and Walnut have more tannin than Maple so why not use those instead?
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post #15 of 17 Old 10-21-2014, 07:29 AM
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Exactly that, you don't want an open grain wood.
Those pores are dirt catchers.
Maple is much easier to keep clean.

JC
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post #16 of 17 Old 10-21-2014, 10:49 AM
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Oh did I open the can. I'm running for popcorn.

My guess is a true cutting board is end grain built. That would be far more "open" than any type of open grain wood don't you think. Shoot it's a wonder we lived.

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post #17 of 17 Old 10-21-2014, 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Al B Thayer View Post
Oh did I open the can. I'm running for popcorn.

My guess is a true cutting board is end grain built. That would be far more "open" than any type of open grain wood don't you think. Shoot it's a wonder we lived.

Al
Yes, Hardwood end grain boards are the easiest on knife edges, and least likely to warp.
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