Finishing question (oils, stains, toxicity, etc)

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Forum topic by dbockel2 posted 11-20-2015 09:22 PM 637 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View dbockel2's profile


107 posts in 914 days

11-20-2015 09:22 PM

Hello to all of you,

Quick question (general) on finishing for some projects. I got into woodworking (probably like many) doing the basic end-grain cutting board projects before more recently trying to up my game a bit (currently making a wine barrel lazy susan serving tray for my wife). With the cutting boards I always used butcher block oil or the oil/wax combo stuff. It’s non-toxic, etc., so it’s all good for food to sit on, etc.

That said, I know little to nothing about things like tung oil, danish oil or any other oils or stains out there. Since I will likely be putting things like cheese and crackers on the serving tray, are there any finishing products that I absolutely should NOT use or does it even matter since the project won’t be used until the finish is dried/cured?

Any recommended finishes for “food-related” projects that do a superior job of bringing out the grain/color while adding a nice gloss/semi-gloss finish? Anything to specifically avoid? Thanks for any and all input!


5 replies so far

View OSU55's profile


1630 posts in 1953 days

#1 posted 11-20-2015 10:01 PM

Once cured the typical finishes (lacquer, poly, other varnishes, epoxy, shellac) are safe. Obviously lead paint wouldn’t be a good idea, if you could find it. Since you are new to finishing I recommend
some research into the subject. “Understanding Wood Finishing” by Bob Flexner and “Great Wood Finishes” by Jeff Jewitt are my go to sources. Both are must have books.

There are too many options available to go into. If you want a wipe on finish, regular oil based poly thinned ~50% can be used just like all those tung, Danish, and other expensive “oil finishes” out there, and achieve the same results a lot cheaper.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4949 posts in 2457 days

#2 posted 11-20-2015 10:28 PM

Yep, the books OSU55 recommended are what you need (one or the other, or both if you wish). Flexner has a little blurb about food safe in his, basically the commonly available finishes of today (in this country) are safe…after they dry/cure. So consider other aspects of the finish as well, will it hold up to having the cheese/crackers/whatever placed on it without damage. Also, will folks be cutting into the wood (like your cutting boards), film finishes are a bad idea for that service.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Wildwood's profile


2297 posts in 2098 days

#3 posted 11-20-2015 10:51 PM

Pure Tung Oil about the safest oil finish of those you mentioned. Problem is drying times and number of coats needed to afford any kind of protection. To speed up drying times will see where using solvent/thinner recommended for pure Tung oil and there goes your food safe finish. I still question citrus thinners not sure totally food safe.

Many products claim to contain Tung Oil in them but you are basically buying oil varnish blend.

Cannot tell you how many times have linked this article on various message boards. I use no finish or mineral oil on anything that will have food contact. Scoops, spoons, & rolling pins normally no finish, salad bowls get mineral oil.


This short article by Bob Flexner can tell you little something oil varnishes & wiping varnishes.

To use or not use a finishing product really need to read product label contents and warnings and precautions. If have any doubts check out a product’s MSDS (material safety data sheet) or SDS (safety data sheet

Many woodworkers & wood finishers like to cite F&D CFR, well will not find any wood finish or wood dye listed. Today wood finishes list VOC’s and it is recommended buy product with lowest numbers. Even with low VOC’s or O VOC’s there is a lot of leeway!

-- Bill

View dbockel2's profile


107 posts in 914 days

#4 posted 11-21-2015 12:21 AM

Thank you for out for the info and suggestions!

View Matt Rogers's profile

Matt Rogers

109 posts in 1933 days

#5 posted 11-22-2015 04:39 AM

Tried and True Danish or Varnish Oil. It is food, child, pet safe and contains no hazardous chemicals at all. Made in NY. It is nice to have a finish that does not require a respirator or even gloves to apply.

-- Matt Rogers, and

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