cutting board sealer

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This topic contains 14 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by Avatar Charlie James 4 months, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #10086
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    Roger Schroeder
    Participant

    Hi,
    My wife asked me to make her a cutting board, but having little experience, I’m clueless when it comes to sealing it with something that won’t be harmful to food preparation.
    All suggestions will be taken seriously!
    Roger Schroeder

  • #10087
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    Charlie James
    Participant

    Roger, good to hear from you, it’s been a while. I use 1/4 sawn hard Maple, titebond II and don’t treat it at all. You can use mineral oil, I used to use it on my Mother’s cutting boards. It just makes it look nice, doesn’t really protect the wood (well, maybe just a bit). I’ve made more than a few over the years for myself and for others as gifts. For my home I made a large one about 5 years ago and it is starting to cup and there’s a few small splits starting along the glue line. Same with some smaller ones I made at the same time for others. Heavy use on all of them, lot’s of soapy water used on them to clean. They don’t last forever and I don’t make them that way, it’s not furniture after all. They don’t owe me a thing!

  • #10091
    Daryl Rosenblatt
    Daryl Rosenblatt
    Participant

    Yes Roger, good to hear from you. The only thing I can add to Charlie’s excellent points, is what wood to use. Any closed pore hardwood, so that let’s out white oak, mahogany or walnut. Red oak is also opened pored and like birch, doesn’t like getting wet. My cutting boards are made of cherry, because I like it more than maple, which is the standard, probably because it’s cheaper than cherry. I made on from osage orange for my Aunt and Uncle years ago…it’s a great wood for cutting boards, but it’s a mess to work with, you get orange dust and shavings everywhere. Plus it was pretty expensive then, I haven’t even seen it mentioned in years.

    We also just use soap and water on them. Mine are pretty thick, about 1 1/2″. One is a carving board I always use, and one is a cutting board with a built in removable little steel bowl (good for sweeping things like chopped garlic into it), which I think I use maybe once a year. Nice gimmick, but really not necessary. Neither has finish on it. The one time I used mineral spirits on a board, it lasted only a few days then I had to keep oiling it, so don’t bother doing that. I think they do that for store bought only because it looks so nice until you actually use it. I used Titebond III, but I happened to have it.

    Mine haven’t cupped yet, but I also cut them into very small (maybe 1 inch wide) boards, the rotated the grain to get something with a good looking top surface (the Frank Klausz method, don’t alternate grain, just make the top surface the best looking), so if they cup, it’s not going to be apparent for a long time. But it does increase the number of glue joints a lot.

  • #10092
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    Charlie James
    Participant

    Daryl, you’re right, absolutely any closed pored hardwood works well. I have a lot ( I mean a lot!) of hard Maple. I had bought it for a project and changed plans so I’m going to keep making Maple cutting boards for quite a while!! As for the cupping, my board is about 15″ wide and maybe 5/8″ thick so unless I placed battens underneath there’s no way to stop it and it’s only a cutting board. Reading these forums or FB posts can lead to learning experiences. I had bought Titebond III when it came out but preferred II because it was less expensive and I didn’t need the water resistance. I researched a little after reading your post and found out two things about III. It has a longer open time and if you use it in furniture be careful as it leaves a darker glue line.

  • #10093
    Daryl Rosenblatt
    Daryl Rosenblatt
    Participant

    I guess I would have noticed the darker glue line if I it was in maple, but I do much of my work in cherry. I prefer II for model building (that and Bob Urso keeping me stocked for life with CA), since II will bond many metals to wood, and neither I or III does.

    The only maple I have a lot of is spalted, and I’m not going to use that for a cutting board, at least not for me. If you have any enemies though…….

  • #10094
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    Charlie James
    Participant

    I didn’t realize II would bond to metal. The things ya don’t know!!

  • #10095

    Back to Roger’s original question: what finish should be used on cutting boards? Charlie and Daryl have both opted for no finish. Other woodworking experts have categorically stated that almost any clear finish is food-safe if given sufficient time to cure (from several to 30 days). See http://www.woodcentral.com/articles/finishing/articles_497a.shtml. The cited article quotes Bob Flexner, the “Guru” of finishing. Bob cites logic and the FDA. I have tried several finishes and have had great success with General Finishes Arm-R-Seal.

  • #10096
    Avatar
    Charlie James
    Participant

    Mike, I agree, Flexner is the go to guy pro for any finishing questions. I opt for no finish because it’s just another step that I don’t think adds much to the boards lifetime. As I mentioned I used to use Mineral oil for my Mom’s cutting boards, they looked really good but ultimately I ended up making new ones every 5 years or so. It’s really because of the abuse they take, plus lots of soap and water. If it was a bowl or plate, maybe I would do a little research. If there was a finish that actually got into the pores and made it last another 5 years, I’d do it for sure…

  • #10097
    Michael Luciano
    Michael Luciano
    Participant

    I have used Howard’s products for several years and it makes the boards look pretty. People, I have gifted, tell me the conditioner keeps the boards looking nice. Several boards are 10 years old. The conditioner is a mixture of beeswax and mineral oil.

  • #10098
    Joe Bottigliere
    Joe Bottigliere
    Participant

    Hey Roger et al,
    I mostly agree with Charlie. I used to apply mineral oil but it only washes off. So now, if it is a gift, I want to make it presentable. I sand it a bit higher, raise the grain and sand again. Then, I give it a couple coats of paste wax. It too is only temporary, but it looks really nice. Recently, I have been making serving boards which will most likely never see a knife’s edge. These I add a couple coats of Watco oil to seal it, then wax to top it off. That helps keep it clean and I direct users not to soak it in water.

  • #10099
    Avatar
    Charlie James
    Participant

    Ha, Joe and I agreeing? Must be a trick!

  • #10104
    Daryl Rosenblatt
    Daryl Rosenblatt
    Participant

    Almost any finish, once it cures, is “food safe.” It also has more meaning in things like salad bowls, with little cutting use. Cutting boards are used differently. Once you start chopping into a board, any finish you then reapply will amplify any damage. I recall Frank Klausz comments on cutting boards years ago (the guru of gurus), keep them simple. If you want a display board for cheeses and whatever else, then finish it, but if it’s for carving and cutting, then you are better off with nothing. Even if a product is food safe, you are still going to cut up small shards of it and put it in the food you are serving. So I still think the best finish for a cutting board is no finish at all.

  • #10140
    Ben Nawrath
    Ben Nawrath
    Participant

    My main formula is closed pore wood, titebond 3 (yes I know it’s darker, but it’s specifically made to be water proof), and mineral oil. And lots of it.

    Per Don’s suggested I’ve recently tried Clark’s cutting board finish (I think… I can check). It’s basically a mix of mineral oil, bees wax, and car Nuba wax, with some citrus mojo worked in. Real nice. I think there’s merit to filling the pores of the wood with something, be it oil, or oil and wax. I’m considering getting some bees wax flakes and mineral oil and making my own. Putting it some tins and giving it away when I make one as a gift. Here’s a video on the subject.

    Bottom line for me, I’d give mineral oil a shot.

  • #10141
    Ben Nawrath
    Ben Nawrath
    Participant

    PS, good to hear from you, Roger!

  • #10142
    Avatar
    Charlie James
    Participant

    Many years ago, I was teaching kids in my local school how to make a simple, small box. I brought all the parts in because I was worried they might cut themselves (not a lot of time either). I just showed them the steps it took to get to that point. I had cut all the parts, they just had to be assembled and we used rubber bands to glue them up. I wanted to teach them a little about glue curing and patience since you need that in woodworking. I was worried about using a finish because they all off gas in some way so the next day I brought in beeswax. Who knew of anyone being allergic to beeswax? Not me, anyway. We took the bands off and waxed the boxes, using the tiniest amount of wax, the last class of the afternoon. That night I got a call from a friend of mine, a Mother of one of the kids. Her daughter had an allergic reaction to the wax! Fumes or touch, I’m nor sure. She was given an antihistamine and thankfully was fine by nightfall. The Dr and the Mother wanted to know what type of finish I used for future reference. From that point on, if I don’t have to finish it, I don’t!

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