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
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
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.
I'll 2nd the mineral oil thing... used it on both knife blocks and cutting
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..
Please remove splinters before emailing
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.
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
I understand that will be those that say; "Yes, but, just to be sure..." I
urge the naysayers to read the whole article.
"One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is
the belief that one's work is terribly important."
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.
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.
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
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.
Jim Weisgram wrote:
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