Serving tray

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Forum topic by dariks posted 03-10-2009 12:43 AM 1393 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 3531 days

03-10-2009 12:43 AM

Topic tags/keywords: serving tray rabbet finish

I’m making a 16”X24” serving tray out of walnut and white oak. The front and sides of the serving tray are 1/2” thick. I’ve got most of it done, but I’ve got a couple of questions.

On the corners I’m using a rabbet joint but I’m not sure if the joint itself (with glue of course) will be strong enough or if I need to reinforce it with some finishing nails or dowels.

For the bottom of the tray I plan to only put a little glue (1/4”-1/2” strip?) on the long sides. No glue on the ends.

I’m also looking for some suggestions on finish. I don’t think I need to worry too much about having a food safe finish since the food won’t be directly on the wood.

4 replies so far

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Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3844 days

#1 posted 03-10-2009 02:10 AM

Using dowels of contrasting wood would add a nice detail to the tray and provide nice support for the joints.

As far as finishes go, if the piece it not going to be used as a cutting board then any topcoat will work just fine. Any finish, varnish, polyurethane, shellac, etc, is “food safe” once it cures. The toxic elements of the finish are the mineral spirits and other petroleum byproducts in which the topcoat is dissolved. Once these evaporate off the material that is left behind is completely non-toxic. The concern I would have over using poly, shellac or varnish if the tray is going to be used for cutting is that the abrasive action of the knifes will mar and chip the finish leading to frequent repairs. A salad bowl finish will also work but it is not protective as varnishes and shellac.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4149 days

#2 posted 03-10-2009 04:04 AM

Scott says, “Any finish, varnish, polyurethane, shellac, etc, is “food safe” once it cures”.

That often repeated opinion but it is not completely true.

Federal law (USA) requires that a food safe finish must be approved and labeled as such.
While toxic solvents may be removed by evaporation, inedible and toxic additives may remain in the dried or cured finish. These additives can include heavy metals, drying agents, inedible stains, flattening agents, leveling agents and anything the manufacturer wishes to include. While toxic chemicals must be revealed in the MSDS documentation, it may not be entirely clear how much remains in the final “cured” finish. If anything, non-evaporative components will be concentrated in the final finish.

While most common finishes may not be particularly toxic, they are not food safe unless they are tested and/or certified as such. This is a government requirement. In the USA, this requires FDA approval. Other countries have similar requirements.

Here’s a quote on one type of finish,” Today most products labeled as “boiled linseed oil” are a combination of raw linseed oil, petroleum-based solvent and metallic dryers. The use of metallic dryers makes boiled linseed oil inedible.”

Unless a finish is approved as food safe and properly labeled, there is no restriction on the manufacturer to use and maintain food safe ingredients and practices. Dirt, manufacturing debris, and even bacterial contamination (especially in water borne products) are not regulated in finishing products that are not approved as food safe.

Another common problem is that woodworkers often use a combination on finishing products and think that if the top coat is “food safe” then the entire finish is “food safe.” Also, they may mix additives with a finishing product that renders it not food safe, e.g. Japan Drier, which contains heavy metals.

That’s my opinion, based upon my experience as a Clinical Chemist/Toxicologist and consultant to various types of chemical product industries including paint and wood finish manufacturers. Today, I’m more interested in woodworking.<grin>

While most common woodworking finishing products are relatively safe when handled properly, they are not automatically “food safe.”

Take care.

-- 温故知新

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801 posts in 3702 days

#3 posted 03-10-2009 04:52 AM

All that GOOD info aside, since it’s been stated that it won’t come in contact with food directly, I’ll tell you that on my serving tray I only used tung oil, and it’s held up quite well. I did use 3 coats, so that probably helped.

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4149 days

#4 posted 03-10-2009 04:00 PM

Your serving tray looks great.

Which brand of tung oil?

-- 温故知新

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