Cutting Board wood

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Forum topic by DynaBlue posted 12-15-2009 12:38 AM 1958 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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131 posts in 2614 days

12-15-2009 12:38 AM

My wife has decreed that cutting boards should be made for presents this year..oh joy, oh rapture!

From reading I see people making boards from all manner of wood with a small variety in finishing coats. I’m assuming that red/white oak, ash or similarly open grained woods would be bad for a true meat/vegetable cutting board as they would seem to soak up and refuse to release high protein juices (the kind that cause illnesses), especially meats and true cleaning would be a pain if not virtually impossible. As a small aside, I did read a scientific study on cleaning various types of boards and they found that white vinegar was actually more effective at cleaning than soap and water when dealing with wooden boards but still…

My wife had mentioned using walnut on the board but I also seem to remember that walnut is very mildly toxic/irritating, especially the dust. What about the wood itself? I know that we’ve built walnut furniture and gun stocks, etc and the population at large isn’t keeling over dead but this concerns me due to the initimate relationship we have between the food to be consumed and the wood surface. The above items probably aren’t gnawed upon routinely and will probably have some form of film finish applied to seal the wood.

For finish I see recommendations for and against various vegetable oils, olive oil (technically a fruit, I believe), and good ol’ constipation stopping mineral oil. Rancidity seems to be the biggest factor in choosing the finish.

So my questions right now are:

1. Given that I can’t assume that a “bread board” won’t be used to cut up raw chicken, for example, what woods are considered safe to use and alternatively, which are tabboo?
2. I was planning on using mineral oil to saturate the boards, are there better alternatives?

Thanks for reading!


-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

10 replies so far

View Bothus's profile


439 posts in 2599 days

#1 posted 12-15-2009 01:31 AM

Hi Dyna, (can I call ya Dyna?)

We make a fair number of butcher block counter tops for our customers. The preferred wood is maple and we always use a product called Good Stuff for the finish. It can be purchased from Grizzly but we buy it from Home Depot.

Take care,


-- Jerry Boshear, Professional Kitchen Designer, amature woodworker.

View DynaBlue's profile


131 posts in 2614 days

#2 posted 12-15-2009 01:47 AM

Heya Bothus, thanks for your reply. Dyna works just fine. I remember looking at a grandfather clock of yours not too long back if my memory serves; it looked awesome!

I’ve been doing some reading and the National Sanitation Foundation has a publication, P224, which covers residential food preparation devices and utensils but I’m not paying the $100 to get the pdf unless it comes with a complimentary cheese wheel or something to make it worth my while.

In all honesty this is probably something I’m nuking but one of my jobs in the Navy was food sanitation and inspections so that perhaps causes me to ask more questions than I might otherwise.

Here is something from the FDA food code for 2009:

4-101.17 Wood, Use Limitation.
(A) Except as specified in ¶¶ (B), (C), and (D) of this section, wood and wood wicker may not be used as a food-contact surface.
(B) Hard maple or an equivalently hard, close-grained wood may be used for:
(1) Cutting boards; cutting blocks; bakers’ tables; and utensils such as rolling pins, doughnut dowels, salad bowls, and chopsticks; and
(2) Wooden paddles used in confectionery operations for pressure scraping kettles when manually preparing confections at a temperature of 110°C (230°F) or above.

So, hardwood and close grained seems to be the ‘guv’ment’ answer. For grins I wrote NSF and asked for their impressions. Nuking..I know..nuking..

-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

View DynaBlue's profile


131 posts in 2614 days

#3 posted 12-15-2009 02:31 AM

Here is an article addressing the ‘food safe’ finishes:

The Folly Of Food-Safe Finishes

-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

View rickf16's profile


386 posts in 3004 days

#4 posted 12-15-2009 04:36 AM

I like to use tight grain woods, such as maple. I have added other woods such as purple heart,walnut and paduak. Haven’t killed anyone…yet;) As for a finish, I’ve used mineral oil with no problems. The only thing here is after numerous washings, the finish will need to be reapplied. A salad bowl finish will harden up and look great, but with wear and tear, may need to be reapplied also. I made an end grain cutting board for a customer with the salad bowl finish. He loved it and is using the board regularly. Just my 2.

-- Rick

View Glen's profile


109 posts in 2500 days

#5 posted 12-28-2009 04:41 AM

I have made 6 end grain cutting boards so far. All were made with black walnut, cherry and maple. I finish them with butcher block oil that I get at the local Menards home improvement store. The oil soaks in pretty good and it has to be re-applied every so often but it works well and no one has gotten sick from eating food that was cut on any of them.

-- Glen

View CaptainSkully's profile


1408 posts in 2982 days

#6 posted 12-28-2009 06:08 PM

I just use cheap mineral oil. It doesn’t go rancid. My application is several thin coats the first day, another coat once a day for the first week, then a coat once a month for the first year. This guarantees saturation, which translates directly to easy clean-up.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View PurpLev's profile


8523 posts in 3072 days

#7 posted 12-28-2009 06:11 PM

another thing to consider is food allergies. some people are allergic to nuts – making walnut a poor choice for cutting boards for them.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View ghazard's profile


382 posts in 2933 days

#8 posted 12-30-2009 12:14 AM

I have used Mineral Oil, Good Stuff as mentioned by Bothus and Clapham’s Salad Bowl Finish (though only once.)

My verdict is this.

Mineral Oil: The most “natural” finish though requires the most upkeep. I find it messy and not all that convenient to reapply (but that is just me) which means that it will likely not be reapplied nearly enough to make it really do the job.

Good Stuff: I really like this. I’ve applied it once to some boards that are in use at homes and have not had to reapply in just shy of a year. One is at a friends home and I inspect it every time I go over…still looks good to me. However, this is not that convenient to reapply either. Picture putting a varnish on with the small and dry time ect.

Claphams Salad Bowl Finish: I have used this only once so far on a board in my own home…just to try it. I applied it only a few months ago so the verdict is still out. It looks to be holding up pretty well. The beauty here is that it is ridiculously simple and clean to apply with no odor (only a pleasant, sweet smell which goes away pretty fast.) I can apply it then immediately stand it up on the counter in the kitchen. Give it an overnight to dry and your ready to go. If this holds up OK, it will be my cutting board finish of choice.

Hope that helps some.

Have a safe New Year.


-- "Hey, you dang woodchucks! Quit chuckin' my wood!"

View interpim's profile


1158 posts in 2881 days

#9 posted 12-30-2009 12:48 AM

PurpLev: Being allergic to the nuts doesn’t make you allergic to the wood. I am allergic to Walnuts (the nut) but I cut, turn, etc… walnut(the wood) regularly, it’s my favorite wood. I haven’t had a single reaction to it.

When I eat Walnuts, my throat closes, eyes water/redden and I will vomit profusely. My entire face swells and reddens as well. Cutting Walnut is like any other wood to me.

-- San Diego, CA

View JRod's profile


14 posts in 2512 days

#10 posted 12-31-2009 12:14 AM

I read an article where sycamore was used for cutting boards I haven’t made one yet

-- JRod

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