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Forum topic by wannadoitall posted 11-05-2010 08:38 AM 1511 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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56 posts in 2763 days

11-05-2010 08:38 AM

Hi LJ’s,

Quick question for you…

I am wondering if it is possible to make a coffee/tea cup completely out of wood (no insert) and have it stand up to heavy use with very hot (boiling) liquids. What are the dynamics of effects that the water and heat will have on the wood, especially the constant cycle of expanding and shrinking that would go along with drying and being soaked again and again? What kind of sealant/finish would be necessary if there is such a thing, and would that be safe for the user of the cup? Would the sealant/finish become toxic or meet up with any other unforeseen effects from the heat/water?

Thanks everyone!

-- -Angela, "Christos Anesti!"

12 replies so far

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3019 days

#1 posted 11-05-2010 10:47 AM


Years ago, Wood Magazine did an article on turning a coffee cup of osage orange complete with handle out of one piece of wood. Or maybe it was American wOODWORKER. I have it, but can’t find it. At any rate, it seems that the right wood will hold up quite well. Ash and beech would be other possibilities.

As far as finishes go, any finish is food safe when completely cured. For something like this, I would try polyurethane (spar varnish maybe?) or epoxy. Keep in mind they would have to cure for a month or so. When they waken from their slumber, perhaps the other L-Js will have some intelligent ideas. I’m afraid this is all the damage I can do. Hope it helps.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View Kjuly's profile


308 posts in 3254 days

#2 posted 11-05-2010 02:45 PM

Hi Angela,
Steve is right on…completely cured finishes are food safe. Although I am not sure if epoxy is considered a wood finish. I would be concerned the hot liquid would eventually crack the finish. Chips of finish floating in my morning tea could ruin the day. :>)
Thinking along the lines of cutting boards, I think mineral oil would be a better(and tasteless) finish for any type of food contact dish. It would have to be reapplied often to maintain any type of protection.

This cool mug looks like wood but it’s plastic coated.

-- Keith, Charlotte, MI

View lew's profile


12019 posts in 3723 days

#3 posted 11-05-2010 03:54 PM

I noticed most of these came from the middle east and used sugar palm wood. I don’t know the characteristics of this species but surely someone her will be able to help

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5621 posts in 3681 days

#4 posted 11-20-2010 04:51 PM

I’ve read here that many turners use ‘super glue’ for finishing (I can’t remember the specific name now…its on the tip of my tongue…). I would not recommend this as a finish for a cup as my Dad used super glue to fix his tea cup and the first sip of hot tea in the newly repaired (and fully cured glue) was awful, apparently enough of the glue transfers to the hot tea to make it taste horrible (don’t know about the toxicity of it).

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View BobG's profile


172 posts in 2930 days

#5 posted 11-20-2010 04:58 PM

You can probably make a coffee cup out of anything. My first wife’s father made coffee that would melt wood though! Of course they make cups out of plastic laced with lead, and we use them, so any finish should be safe in that light!

-- BobG, Lowell, Arkansas--------My goal in life is to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am! Make more saw dust!!

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Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2818 days

#6 posted 11-20-2010 05:33 PM

I’m thinking history. Archeologically, vessels are usually clay or some form of earthenware. Seldom wood. Sounds like you’ve got an interesting challenge, but the results may have been forecast through time.

-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View wannadoitall's profile


56 posts in 2763 days

#7 posted 11-20-2010 08:17 PM

Yes, I see your points. I better stick with some other way of doing it, perhaps I’ll settle for a liner after all. :(

The coffee lover I was going to make it for may just as well appreciate a wooden jar for holding his ground beans or such too. Or perhaps saucers.

Thanks guys for the advice – greatly appreciated!!

-- -Angela, "Christos Anesti!"

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3083 days

#8 posted 11-20-2010 08:30 PM

there has been a few on L J that has made beercups out of wood and they seems to hold on pretty good
but I cant remember if and what they have sealed the end grain on the bottom with

try a surch on beercanns / beercup / beermug or simular and I sure you will find the info
here on L J and when you do then please ceep us updated :-)

take care

View wannadoitall's profile


56 posts in 2763 days

#9 posted 11-20-2010 11:03 PM

OK, will do, thanks!

-- -Angela, "Christos Anesti!"

View sras's profile


4790 posts in 3097 days

#10 posted 11-20-2010 11:18 PM

You can always make one as an experiment. Fill it the first few times over the sink! If you end up happy with it, then it works.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1283 posts in 3705 days

#11 posted 11-21-2010 04:00 AM

Here is a coffee cup and saucer from palm coconut wood: It is the only wood product I can find that will work with coffee. I have a bow & arrow set that I brought back from Brazil some time back that is made of palm. THe stuff is really rugged. I will do some more research on my trip down south.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View wannadoitall's profile


56 posts in 2763 days

#12 posted 11-21-2010 07:22 AM

sras – that is true! trial and error never hurt anyone :)

John Ormsby – that is a beautiful set! I wish I could know how they finished them. Maybe there’s a way to ask the seller if I buy a set. Worth a try.

Thanks guys!

-- -Angela, "Christos Anesti!"

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