To be safe, you should probably use food-grade mineral oil. If you
have any feed stores or tack shops in your area (for livestock), you
can usually pick up food-grade mineral oil, as it's often fed to
horses. I'm sure there are plenty of human-food places where you could
get it too, but I don't think they have it at the grocery store. It's
about $3 for a gallon of it at Tractor Supply.
The advantage of mineral oil over nut oil, olive oil, etc. is that it
doesn't go rancid. The others do. It's true that oil can eventually
absorb odors, but untreated wood does so much more readily.
Oil darkens the wood and gives it that "wet" look, about like it would
look if you took a piece of plain wood and rubbed it with a wet sponge.
It gets abosbed by the wood a lot in the beginning and tends to
evaporate eventually, so you'll have to reapply coats several times
fairly frequently at first and occasionally for ever. It takes all of
30 seconds to apply the oil with a paper towel.
As far as the end grain thing goes, a true butcher-block surface is
comprised of a whole bunch of wood pieces standing on end and glued
together side-by-side. The big advantage of this is that if you
inadvertently cut into the wood with a knife, it won't really show and
it tends to "heal" itself as the grain re-swells. One disadvantage is
that the much more porous surface tends to absorb odors, etc. much more
readily than wood oriented so that you're cutting on side-grain (like a
typical table-top). That's a big reason why extremely tight-grained
woods like hard maple are usually used for butcher blocks, rather than
oak or ash or other large-pored species.
Cutting boards (as opposed to butcher-blocks) are often built with the
grain oriented sideways. This is certainly easier to build and doesn't
suffer as badly from the absorbed-odors problem, but it will tend to
show the knife-marks more. Personally, I don't think this is a big
deal; it's a cutting board after all. Besides, you can resand the
surface and apply another coat of mineral oil any time you want.
As far as the x-no-archive flag goes, people just don't like to feel
like they're wasting their time. It's not that your questions aren't
valid or that the people here aren't helpful or even downright
friendly. It's just MUCH more worthwhile to take the time to answer a
question when you know that the thread will be there forever for the
world to read so that the same questions don't pop up over and over.
The spirit of the Usenet is such that it's supposed to be a permanent
record of these discussions. Using it like a chat room is against the
grain of this forum (no pun intended), and it tends to piss people off.
Btw, if you suspect you have ADD, I would think you of all people would
want to have a record of the questions you've asked and answers you've
received. I don't think I have it, but I have to admit that I've
searched the archives of this group in the past and found the perfect
thread to answer my question, only to realize that it was ME who
initiated the thread before asking about the same damned question. I
felt like an idiot; I was just glad I had searched the archives and not
just blindly posted the question. How embarassing would that be?
Mineral oil is not food. It's indigestible. Stuff sold as laxitive is USP
Absolutely incorrect on both counts. Rancidity is incomplete oxidation.
Keep your board open to fresh air instead of confining it or covering it,
and it'll be great.
Oil doesn't "eventually" absorb odors, which, where food is concerned, are
normally organic non-polar molecules. They dissolve readily in oil, not in
water. That's why the board still smells even after you wipe it. If it
didn't have the oil to protect it from dispersing rapidly into the air or
from being mechanically rinsed away, different matter. Sort of like
bacterial cell walls, which have the hydrophobic (lypophilic) side out, and
stay a long time in oil when a good submersion in water would lyse the cell.
Ever notice that all the domestic stinkbombs they sell are based on oil or
No kidding, George. That's why I didn't say "food". I said
"food-grade". DOGS for it and you'll find a thousand different sources
for it. Food-grade means that it can be used to lubricate machinery
which will come in contact with food. It's often fed to horses
precisely because it's non-digestible and, therefore, works well to
lubricate their GI tracts to lessen the risk of an impaction collic.
Rancidity is NOT incomplete oxidation. Rancidity is the presense of
acids like acetic, butyric, isovaleric, etc. which happen to be
breakdown byproducts of many foods and vegetable-derived oils.
Complete oxidation is one way to eliminate these acids, but to use your
own words, it is "absolutely incorrect" to say that rancidity is
defined as incomplete oxidation. That's like defining dirt as not
That being said, I agree 100% that keeping your board open to fresh air
would more quickly oxidize any rancid food particles or oils (either
from the food or as a result of oil you applied to the board) and
prohibit growth of stinky anaerobic bacteria. That's the main reason
why I don't oil my own cutting boards either. However, I still believe
that an oiled board will be less likely to absorb food particles (not
molecules) which are often suspended (not dissolved) in water. The
particles will get dragged into the pores as the water diffuses in.
They won't be chemically bound there or anything, just somewhat
difficult to remove unless you scrub really well. Oiling the board
isn't going to prevent this from happening, but it will slow it down
significantly. An unoiled board will absorb onion juice a lot faster
than an oiled one. Hence I said that an unoiled board will absorb
odors much more readily; I failed to mention that the unoiled board
would be rid of those odors much, much more quickly.
Give me a break; I was answering a question for Stryped, for crying out
loud. Did you actually expect me to talk about dissolution in
non-polar solvents? Of course those molecules dissolve rapidly in oil,
but it generally takes a while for enough to be dissolved that it is
readily apparent to the average person smelling it - not because it
dissolves slowly - just because the average person doesn't chop enough
smelly food at one time to saturate it. Oiled boards I've had in the
past tend to get stinkier and stinkier over the coarse of months.
Hence, I "eventually" switched to nonoiled boards.
I was under the impression that stinkbombs are usually based on either
hydrogen sulfide or some sort of mercaptan (e.g. methyl mercaptan). As
far as I know, H2S and most mercaptans are both oil- and water-soluble.
By the way, as I mentioned above, I DON'T oil my cutting boards. I
agree with you that they smell better in the long run when they're not
oiled. I was merely answering Stryped's question given that he was
already planning on oiling the board. Mineral oil may still dissolve
(and prevent oxidation of) rancidity acids, but its presence will not
CREATE any of those acids. Most vegetable- and nut-derived oils will.
Smell notwithstanding, an unoiled board will develop cracks and checks
much sooner than an oiled one, and people often prefer the look of an
oiled board. Personally, I prefer practicality, smell, and hygiene to
good looks and longevity.
Oh, I don't know... think about:
lactose + Oxy <=> CO2 + H20
lactose + Oxy <=> lactic acid
One's a complete oxidation, the other is not, but results in a
"Rancid" food is usually characterized by lots of acidic degradation
products like you say, but which all arise from the partial oxidation of
the chemicals common to foods. They aren't "byproducts" so much as
stable intermediates in the oxidation process.
Behlen makes a salad bowl oil finish which will work quite well for that
purpose ... but you can also readily do without.
Definitely use _end_ grain as the cutting surface, not the face. That way it
will be like chopping into a broom from the end, instead of across.
Yes it is acceptable. It is non toxic and will not turn rancid like
some vegetable oils will.
I recently refinished a wood island countertop and used walnut oil
until it wouldn't accept any more then finished with a coat of walnut
oil mixed with beeswax. Gave it a nice golden glow.
Just a comment about Butcher Blocks. A little bit of memory.
When I was a young man at 16, about 56 years ago, I worked in a grocery
store which also had a meat counter. There was NO finish put on it, but
Every day, at the end of the day when closing, the Butcher would use a
very stiff wire brush to work down the surface, scraping it away with
the brush until all the blood was gone, then we would sanitize both the
butcher block and all of the enclosed meat counter with Ammonia. Boy did
that ever clean up the blood. Now that was Pure Ammonia, NOT Sudsy
Ammonia that grocery stores sell today.
Back then, you never saw the top of any butcher block that had a flat
surface on the top, and that was because of the way that it was cleaned,
the top soon became waive. Now those were true butcher blocks, about 3
feet square and 2 to 2 1/2 feet thick, end grain up, supported on heavy
4 X 4 legs at each corner. I have no idea how much they weighed, but I
never saw one moved while they were working on it. I would take it that
the end grain actually made it easier to clean, and that is why they
made them that way.
That's most common. Next most common is edge-grain up. Why not actually look
at a few cutting boards and see for yourself?
Not true at all. Far too often, you ask questions that you could answer on
your own with only a minimal effort at experimentation or observation. Example
above: what does [mineral oil] make the wood look like?
Likewise, you frequently ask the same questions over and over. Why? Hoping for
a different answer?
Lots of people have been yelling at him. This is unfortunate, because he
doesn't care, and the complaints won't change his behavior. Some of us still
have hopes that you may change yours.
Here's why it bothers people: this group is, as you suggest below, for helping
people (among other purposes). That purpose is defeated, or at least
diminished, when posters deliberately prevent their posts from being archived.
On top of that, it's just plain pointless: even if your original post is not
archived, if just one person quotes it in response... guess what happens.
I have ADD, too, but I manage to cope with it. Perhaps you need to try a
different medication. Caffeine works surprisingly well for many people. If you
don't already drink coffee, give it a try; if you do, try more.
Perhaps the time spent on woodworking (and Usenet posting) would be more
productively spent in resolving those family and work issues.
Just a suggestion.
Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.
If nobody reads your posts, then you'll not receive answers to your questions
The kind of help you're looking for is the kind of help that a lot of
third-graders look for with their homework: to have their parents do it for
The "crap" you have received is uniformly and universally in response to your
failure to make even the slightest attempt to find out anything on your own.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
I routinely use virgin olive oil for wooden food utensils. That's another oil
that does not get sticky/resinous with age. For the first coat or two I usually
thin the olive oil with vegetable turps to help it travel into the grain.
firstname dot lastname at gmail fullstop com
The end of a board is made up of open pores that work like a bunch of
straws. End grain up is better for knife blades. They don't dull as
Question for everyone...
I've got an old maple cutting board about 16" x 28" that is side cut
strips (1-34" square). It has finally started separating, but the wood
is solid. I'd like to rip the 16" lengths apart and re-cut them into
1-1/2" blocks to make into two end-grain cutting boards.
What's the best way to cut and make these pieces square?
I'm limited on tools, so all suggestions appreciated.
You have a saw? :)
There will be many options. I'd possibly try the following:
1. Since you are cutting it up, no harm in making a first cut between
two center pieces [to allow use of 12" planer ...you have a planer?]
I sometimes tack a 1" straight edge [1/4" precut hardboard strip will
do] with a glue gun. That is a guide along the fence, on top of the
wood of course, and easily removed after the cut.
2. Run the two pieces through the planer to get at least top/bottom
level and parallel. You might have to shim and tack it to a bit of
MDF [glue gun again] to get the first surface. Remove for the last
piece, of course.
3. Back to the TS, and make lengthwise cuts. What I've done is to cut
carefully enough to not have blade shimmer make a mess if the cut is
tough and stressed, then recut [later] taking off just a hair ...no
stress, and an even cut.
etc.... Worked for me repairing stuff for friends and family.
I would use two tools for this: a thicknesser and a radial arm saw.
Put the old chopping boards through a thicknesser until both top and bottom are
clean (smooth)and parallel - that's your jointing done.
Get a radial arm saw set up as near to perfect as you can, clamp a stop to the
fence that will determine the future thickness of the board. You can just feed
the old board in from one side and cut strips off which you can turn through 90
degrees and glue back together.
If you haven't the tools, try a local joiner or the school woodwork shop
(nightclasses?). This is by far the best, as well as easiest method i.m.o.
firstname dot lastname at gmail fullstop com
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