Food-safe finish for pallet wood

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Forum topic by PSUmike posted 02-04-2013 01:57 AM 5727 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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31 posts in 2405 days

02-04-2013 01:57 AM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing rustic question pallet food food-safe

Hello all,

I’ve been gathering and busting apart recycled pallets for use in a future fence project, as well as smaller “country junk” projects. My wife recently spotted the food cart picture below and had to have one. I’ve been trying to select some nicer oak pieces for the top. Even though it won’t be used as a cutting board, I’m sure some food will come in contact with it. My plan is to sand/joint the tops surfaces down to get to the more pristine wood inside, but what type(s) of finish should I use to add a little color and to seal the wood? Obviously the finish itself should be safe, but it should also help contain any trace chemicals that may be in the wood.

-Mike, Engineer/Novice Woodworker

Credit for the Photo here.

11 replies so far

View ChuckC's profile


843 posts in 3172 days

#1 posted 02-04-2013 02:29 AM

The problem with pallets is that you don’t know where they came from and where they have been. Wood is porous and pallets can be exposed to all kinds of chemicals, oil ..etc. I’d be hesitant to use it in the kitchen.

View RonInOhio's profile


721 posts in 3101 days

#2 posted 02-04-2013 02:39 AM

Ditto what ChuckC said. I thought the same thing when I read the title.

The rustic look is nice.

Perhaps you could build a BB top for it or purchase a food safe cutting board to sit on top.

Sorry,not much help on finish.

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2801 days

#3 posted 02-04-2013 03:12 AM

+1 for caution. I remember awhile back reading a pallet convo here and someone lambasted anyone who’d consider using pallets for anything other than warehouseing…wonder what he’d say about this

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2486 days

#4 posted 02-04-2013 04:06 AM

I’ve been around many industrial settings. You couldn’t pay me enough to eat anything off of a pallet unless there is a REALLY thick coat of epoxy between me and the wood.

Edit - this article has some good facts


View bondogaposis's profile


5151 posts in 2589 days

#5 posted 02-04-2013 04:10 PM

Are you aware that some pallets are treated w/ chemicals to prevent rot? I wouldn’t want one in my kitchen. You could still make that cart from some rough cut lumber. I just wouldn’t use pallet wood.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View PSUmike's profile


31 posts in 2405 days

#6 posted 02-04-2013 11:59 PM

Valid points. Maybe I’ll just use rough lumber for the top like you suggest. Thank you all.

View GeneR's profile


151 posts in 2175 days

#7 posted 02-05-2013 12:09 AM

I completely agree with everyone on not using pallets for a food prep usage. However tnat being said just about every finish is food safe providing that it is completely cured. Some finishes can take a month or more to ure and some oilsnever fully cure. Most commonly used is sherllac which is even used on candy coatings. I strongly recommend reading Bob Flexners book “Flexner on Finishing” it has everything you will ever need to know about finishes and thensome.
I would not recommend lead paint as a finish no matter how tastey it may be. :-)

-- Failure is always an option. :-)

View 9FINGERTIM's profile


54 posts in 2178 days

#8 posted 02-05-2013 11:24 AM

I do love the variety of wood you find in pallets but truly hate the spiral nails they are put together with when i worked in a warehouse i used to use a pallet jack to break boards loose but also splintered a lot of boards. i used to work with a fellow who sawed them up between the nails and made beautiful clocks out of the wood,having seen so many toxic substances shipped on pallets i woudent risk using the wood near food(its kinda ironic that the same pallet that was loaded with pesticide might well be loaded next time with cloth sacks of food product no one ever keeps track of course and some pallets may have traveled around the world 3 times.


View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

3703 posts in 2489 days

#9 posted 02-05-2013 02:46 PM

Would a piece of clear lexan or plexiglass allay concerns of food contact with any preservatives in the pallet wood? I also like the idea of clear epoxy coating over the top.

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View JesseTutt's profile


854 posts in 2348 days

#10 posted 02-05-2013 02:51 PM

If the wood has absorbed various chemicals, could it prevent a finish from properly adhering?

-- Jesse, Saint Louis, Missouri

View GeneR's profile


151 posts in 2175 days

#11 posted 02-05-2013 03:30 PM

Possibly if the chemicals are oil or wax based andd not fully dry. But coating it with shellac should help.

-- Failure is always an option. :-)

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