Does a knife block need a "food safe" finish?


I've been Googling on the subject and am still not sure if a knife block needs a "food safe" finish like mineral oil. I want to make one with walnut and maple. I'd like to use a mat finish yet give the wood some protection from moisture. Should I just slather on BLO and be done with it and forgo moisture resistance? Polymerized tung oil will leave a gloss finish, correct? Would a satin lacquer be a no-no?
If it need not be "food safe" then I presume the lacquer finish would be ideal.
Dave
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You'll get some disagreement but Poly, Lacquer and Varnish are all safe for food contact once the solvents have fully gassed out.
Regardless, there is a food safe varnish available from General Finishes called Salad Bowl Finish. It's esentially a wipe on Poly I think. It is available at Woodcraft and elsewhere.
If you go with a standard finish, Poly or Varnish would be better than Lacquer in my opinion. Lacquer is a bit brittle and the constant contact with knives and banging around the kitchen will really ding up Lacquer pretty quick.
I think Mineral Oil would actually be best. It works great on cutting boards and is totally food safe. It is even ingestable. It is prescribed as a stool softner and used in the composition of gel caps, etc. Also, design the knive slots so they have drainage and airflow if possible.
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Thanks! I've got mineral oil on hand for keeping our stainless steel looking good and refreshing our Monkey Pod salad bowls. I'll put some on the 2 woods before I make the block and give it a few days to see how it appears. I've also thought that when the tips of the knives miss their slots that a hard finish is going to look dinged up in short order.
I've also considered poly'ing the slots before assembly to give some water resistance when wet knives are inserted.
Dave
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I think your mineral oil will give you all the water resistance that you need, David.. and it will probably penetrate deeper than poly??
mac
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I'll 2nd the mineral oil thing... used it on both knife blocks and cutting board... food safe, renewable, cheap, impossible to screw up with brush marks and you can "wet sand" using the same mineral oil to keep dust down, etc..
mac
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David wrote:

<snip>
I don't know if it is food safe but more than 30 years ago, built a knife rack using walnut, cherry and maple.
Heated up some boiled linseed oil in a pan on the stove and soaked the block in it, turning as required for maybe 30 minutes.
Removed from pan, wiped dry and put it in service.
Still in service and everybody is still living.
Lew
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Take a look at Popular Woodworking, July 2005 issue titled "FINISHING & REFINISHING." In this issue is an article written by Bob Flexner, who knows a thing or two about finishes; "The Folly of Food-safe finishes. (actually he wrote most of this issue of PW.)
Two quick excerpts from the article:
1. "The issue of food safeness in finishes is a classic case of the concept "validation by repetition." Consistent, long-term repetition in woodworking magazines of a food-safeness issue, despite the complete lack of supporting evidence, has lead to a widely held belief in the woodworking community that food safeness is an issue."
2. "But, based on FDA regulations, the way finishes are made, the complete lack of any evidence to the contrary, and the countless other untested objects food and children come in contact with, there's no reasonable argument for avoiding the use on any finish."
I know that Flexner has a decent reputation in the finishing world. He has sold me.
I understand that will be those that say; "Yes, but, just to be sure..." I urge the naysayers to read the whole article.
Jack Flatley Jacksonville, FL
-- "One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important." --Bertr and Russell

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Do baby cribs have a "food safe" finish? Considering how many babies cut their teeth on crib sides, headboards, etc., I tend to agree with Flexner. I personally think once almost any finish, whether it's lacquer, urethane, etc. is completely dry, it would be fine. I would hesitate in using tung oil or Watco on anything food would contact directly, or that a kid would chew on, but a knife block doesn't fall into that category, imho.
Will

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It needs a food safe finish. These days it's damned difficult to find any finish that _isn't_ food safe once dry.
If it's an enclosed design (i.e. block with slots) then worry about the festering crumbs in the bottom long before worrying about the finish.
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You might consider walnut oil if you don't mind reapplication now and then. Mineral oil is OK of course.
I doubt BLO is that harmful since it doesn't leave much on the surface, but it has driers in that you don't want to ingest. I'd look elsewhere.
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Jim, does that caveat extend to Formby's Tung Oil? I picked up some yesterday on the off chance that would work; it'll keep for another project in the future if it's a no-no on this one.
Dave
Jim Weisgram wrote:

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