cocobolo countertop... some way to do it safely???

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Forum topic by theAlaskan posted 01-02-2014 03:26 PM 2240 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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8 posts in 1636 days

01-02-2014 03:26 PM

hi all, So this is my first post here on lumberjocks! haha… and I’m sure this topic will stir some people up.

I had the idea to make a nice end grain cutting board, and a small section of countertop for our island out of a beautiful wood. The first wood I found that fit my vision is cocobolo.

Long story short, I found out its not the best choice for a cutting board, so I scratched it for the EG cutting board. BUUUT…. could I still use it for the countertop portion, the part that won’t be cut on? That part will be face grain, not end grain. Can I just mineral oil the snot out of it and beeswax finish it to seal in the oils? Or is this still a bad idea? is there ANY way I could use this for a countertop? Or should I just choose a different wood altogether?

I’m bummed because cocobolo is so beautiful, yet dangerous… I have yet to work with it but plan to in the near future. Just plan to be REAL careful.

thanks in advance for all the help and advice,

6 replies so far

View hydro's profile


208 posts in 1780 days

#1 posted 01-02-2014 07:43 PM

For the price of cocobolo you could almost make that countertop out of solid gold. That in itself should decide this one. As far as the oils in the wood go, they would most likely have no effect on you or what you put into contact with it. I’ve cut a bunch of it over the years and have not noticed any ill effects on me personally.

Also, wood of any type is a lousy choice for a countertop that is in constant contact with water. It will be destroyed by the water in short order, no matter what you put on it to attempt to seal the water out. There is a reason that granite is such a popular countertop choice these days.

-- Minnesota Woodworkers Guild, Past President, Lifetime member.

View cdarney's profile


104 posts in 3059 days

#2 posted 01-02-2014 07:49 PM

I don’t know how big an area you’re intending to use the cocobolo on but it’s pretty expensive…at least where I live. I don’t know why it would work as an end grain CB except that you would be losing the beautiful figure and color of the face grain.

Be careful working it. I don’t know that it’s toxic if ingested but if you’re not sensitive/allergic to it now, you will be by the time you’re done. Get a respirator to work with it.

I think you’ll find the wood is already pretty oily. It’s one of those woods that you really need to wipe down with mineral spirits/alcohol to get a good glue up. It’s very dense and hard.

When you work it expect the dust to contaminate EVERYTHING. Clothes, skin, shop, other wood. The dustr will be oily as well and it really sticks. Use different sandpaper, rags and tools, if possible for the cocobolo if you’re going going to be using other wood at the same time. You’ll find, for example, that maple will pick up a distinctive yellow/red coloring (ask me how I know THAT!) if it’s worked anywhere near the cocobolo.

I don’t mean to discourage you from using it but after I built a coffee table using cocobolo I decided I would never try another large project with it.


View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3677 days

#3 posted 01-02-2014 07:49 PM

for a counter top you should not use mineral oil or wax as those are not a ‘finish’ per se. and create no protective film on top of the wood which would result in the countertop potentially shortening it’s lifespan. instead you should finish the countertop with a protective finish such as polyurethane or laquer. once cured, they create a film on top of the wood, so anything placed on the countertop does not come in direct contact with the wood and vice versa (protects both ways).

as mentioned – that will be quite an expensive countertop, but a remarkable one if done correctly.

make sure you finish both sides of the countertop (not only the top) or it will cup/twist due to difference in moisture absorption on both sides

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

View theAlaskan's profile


8 posts in 1636 days

#4 posted 01-02-2014 07:58 PM

Hahaha… True, it’s not cheap. But I found some online that is VERY reasonably priced. Also, it’s a small island away from the sink, so water shouldn’t be much of an issue. And only a part of the counter will be cocobolo. I didn’t want to use it for the end grain BECAUSE you lose the beautiful patterns, and it’s a waste of that wood there. And it wouldn’t be the primary cutting surface, just a small section of an already small prep area. The whole counter/cutting board will be about 15” X 34”

I was more concerned with protecting myself and wife from the oils, and protecting the board from me :). I hope it turns out like I’m hoping… It’ll be stunning if it works right.

View chrisstef's profile


17429 posts in 3035 days

#5 posted 01-02-2014 08:04 PM

I just finished up some walnut countertops and they’ve been in use for a little more than 2 weeks. I used Arm-R-Seal as the finish So far, and I know its been a very short time period, any water that’s hit the tops has beaded right up. We keep a dishrag handy and make sure that we clean up any spills or water droplets fairly quickly. Beeswax and mineral oil would not work for a finish if any water would come in contact in my opinion. I don’t see why you couldn’t use cocobolo for a countertop if properly sealed. It will make one hell of a mess in your shop as stated above though.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View BigYin's profile


418 posts in 2445 days

#6 posted 01-02-2014 09:04 PM

Theres two kinds of people, ones who are alergic to cocobolo and ones who will be alergic to cocobolo.

Usually its dust is the problem, but suggest another wood might be easier both to live with and to pay for.
hows bout wenge, walnut, oak, beach, english sycamore, maple, jarra, bubinga, cherry etc

ive never seen enough cocobolo to make a cutting board never mind counter top.

-- ... Never Apologise For Being Right ...

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