Alternative cutting board finish??

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Forum topic by Spacehog posted 10-19-2014 05:52 AM 1413 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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87 posts in 1764 days

10-19-2014 05:52 AM

Topic tags/keywords: shellac finish cutting board tung oil butcher block dewaxed shellac walnut oil

Ahoy there! I had a question about using dewaxed shellac on a cutting board. I read a book on wood finishes that said shellac is considered food safe and is even used to coat some types of candy. Although I found that interesting, I thought I had no use for it. I’ve made my own cutting boards and I use mineral oil and occasionally some beeswax on them. they’ve been holding up great, and I have no intention of changing my finish for my own boards.

Having said that, I have been on the lookout for a different finish for boards that I make as gifts. Some people have no problem with applying mineral oil from time to time, so I give them the board with my usual finish of butcher block. However, there are other people (like my brother) who are incapable of maintaining their cutting board, or anything else for that matter. Part of me wants them to just learn to take care of their stuff, but it isn’t realistic. So with that in mind I’ve been searching for a finish that is longer lasting than butcher block or mineral oil. I’ve tried walnut oil, but I found it to be very similar to mineral oil. I thought about trying tung oil because I know that it would also be food safe, but it might be a bit too pricey and I’m not totally sure it will work. That is what brings me to dewaxed shellac…

Since I know shellac is food safe, I feel like it would be a good one to try. I don’t need the finish to be high gloss, and in fact I don’t want it to be glossy. I haven’t really used dewaxed shellac much except as a sanding sealer. But I suspect that it would be good as a longer lasting finish for cutting boards. Before I actually try it though, I figured I’d ask if anyone here has thoughts or experience that might be useful to me. Thanks in advance!

-- Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might...

8 replies so far

View pintodeluxe's profile


5817 posts in 3052 days

#1 posted 10-19-2014 06:36 AM

Howards butcher block conditioner is amazing. It is a mixture of oil and natural waxes, and dries quickly to a nice satin finish. I started with straight mineral oil, but once I tried Howards I will never go back. Straight mineral oil takes much too long to dry, and always seems to feel oily.
Find it at Home Depot or your local hardware store.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View AlaskaGuy's profile (online now)


4998 posts in 2548 days

#2 posted 10-19-2014 07:25 AM

You don’t want a film finish on something you will be cutting on. Shellac is a film finish.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View Spacehog's profile


87 posts in 1764 days

#3 posted 10-19-2014 07:31 AM

Ah yes, I have tried that exact product and I totally agree with your analysis! Having said that, I am still seeking a finish that lasts longer. I don’t really want or need it for myself because I am thoroughly pleased with the butcher block and mineral oil finishes. But I would like to offer people a finish that is more permanent to people who basically never bother with further care. Perhaps what I’m after doesn’t really exist, but I’m curious to know if people have tried stuff other than mineral oil and/or butcher block.

I don’t want anything that builds film, but I’m open minded to other people’s ideas and experiences. I did track down an article that talked about using diluted varnish as a finish for end grain boards. Since most of my boards fit that description I may give it a shot. But I am a bit frustrated that the article is so vague with its description of finishes. If anyone else has experience with finishes other than mineral oil/butcher block I’d be very appreciative to hear what they have found. If you have a comparison between your finish and how it stacks up to mineral oil/butcher block that would be even better!

-- Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might...

View Spacehog's profile


87 posts in 1764 days

#4 posted 10-19-2014 07:34 AM

Oh yeah, here is the link to the article I was referring to:

If anyone has thoughts on the article I’m all ears. Again, I agree with the principle of not building film on a cutting board. But From my experience dewaxed shellac doesn’t build visible film if only one coat is used. That is why I thought it might be a good option.

-- Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might...

View bondogaposis's profile


5151 posts in 2590 days

#5 posted 10-19-2014 12:59 PM

I would think that shellac being a film finish would not hold up for cutting board use very well. I have had good luck using General Finishes Salad Bowl finish as being a more durable alternative to mineral oil.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1881 posts in 2208 days

#6 posted 10-19-2014 01:22 PM

Tried and True finishes work also. They are also really nice

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View Minorhero's profile


373 posts in 2844 days

#7 posted 10-19-2014 02:27 PM

I would not worry about longevity of the cutting board if it is actually getting normal use. The worst thing that could happen to a cuttingboard (other then being put in a dishwasher) is simply being put away for long periods of time and then only infrequent uses for things that dry out the board.

The best thing to do with a cuttingboard is use it regular for all types of food, especially fatty foods like meat. The natural fats will keep the boards in good shape.

View a1Jim's profile


117417 posts in 3816 days

#8 posted 10-19-2014 02:45 PM

Shellac has very pour water resistance so I would not recommend it. Charles Neil being the best finishing expert I know says there’s nothing wrong with most finishes on cutting boards since the harmful part of finishes are their solvents and the are gone after a finish cures. You don’t apply film finishes to cutting boards so thick that they will chip any way . Take a look at this thread with comments by Charles and myself that includes links about government studies Re finishes.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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