Welcome! Forums General Woodworking Discussions Finishing Food safe finish for large cherry bowl

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    I have a large blank of Wild Cherry that I would like to turn into a fruit bowl.

    What should I put on it, how many coats etc, to ensure a good food safe finish?

    Also, does it matter what kind of sanding sealer I use? I have Cellulose Sanding Sealer, and also some Liberon Spirit Based Sanding Sealer.



    David Perrott

    Check out Bob Flexnor’s work. He has said many times that any fully cured finish is food safe.


    There are 3 types of oil finish which polymerize-harden into a finish. These are tung oil, linseed oil, and walnut oil. For a food bowl I would use walnut oil. It dries/polymerizes slowly, and several wipe on/wipe off coats will be needed, but it is certainly food safe. Mineral oil is sometimes used but it is a petroleum product, and does not harden/polymerize. Olive oil and other vegetable oils do not harden either and can become rancid. An oil finish will be beautiful, but does not provide much moisture protection if the bowl will be expected to hold water, etc. If you need a film finish, several coats of thinned shellac will work-this is the main ingredient in many “sanding sealers” but check your specific brands mentioned. Shellac was once used to coat M&M’s and some enteric coated medicines.


    I’m with David here, if it’s cured it’s fine I think. I personally use Danish oil and beeswax, I’m still alive, so are all those that have bought from me and those I’ve given gifts to.

    What I’m trying to say is please don’t worry overly about the finish you apply. What I always say to myself is if I’d bought it in a shop would I question what the finish was? Probably not 🙂

    Larry Geib

    Spoonmakers often use ‘spoon butter’ a blend of 3 1/2 parts mineral oil to one part beeswax ( by weight) mixed in a double boiler. Get the stuff the pharmacy sells as a laxative.

    If you have an aversion to petroleum products, use coconut oil instead. Is one of the vegetable oils that is is highly resistant to going rancid if you store it in a cool place.

    Coconut oil looks like Crisco but will melt At 76 F, so just apply it with your hands.

    This Spoon Butter blend makes a good chap balm as well, with a nice coconut aroma.

    Google “Spoon Butter ‘ for similar formulas using your oil of choice.


    The UK brand name Danish Oil looks like it is tung oil. In the US products sold as danish oil can be tung oil, linseed, or any of a number of others. Check the ingredients. Be aware that “boiled linseed oil” products may contain heavy metal driers, which speed drying. In keeping with the above, there are a number of great recipes for oil/wax finishes available. The above mentioned Walnut oil can combine with beeswax also-an additional solvent is sometimes needed for these mixtures, “citrus solvent” is an excellent choice for foodware if a solvent is needed. Mineral oil is a petroleum product. It is safe to ingest, used commonly as a laxative, but it does not cure. You want a finish which will cure. The oil/wax combinations can be easily repaired or touched up, using the same finish.


    Of course if you want to guarantee a food safe finish Chestnut sell a finish called “food safe” which is a liquid paraffin based oil (mineral oil) but it seems expensive to me for what seems to be essentially odourless baby oil.

    I may be worried however about using nut based oils in case of nut allergies. I’m acutely aware of this as my wife is allergic.



    Larry Geib

    In your case, Cragglerock, the best choice may be shellac. Food grade flakes are available and if mixed with non-denatured ethyl alcohol ( Vodka) all the ingredients in the finish would have FDA certification as food safe.

    Shellac is the only finish that has such FDA approval.

    It is the coating on hard candy coatings ( melts in your mouth, not in your hands) much of the fruit sold in markets, pharmaceutical tablets, , chocolate from Hershey, Nestle, and Godiva, jelly Bellies, and even coffee beans.

    But then you run into other problems. Talmudic law apparently has a problem with eating bug resin, and it can hardly be called vegan, can it?

    Peter George

    It depends on how the bowl will be used. For salad bowls I will generally use walnut oil, which Bob Flexner refers to as semi-drying. With salad bowls the finish is constantly being renewed by the oils in the salad dressing and no finish will stand up to the constant washing and cleaning of the bowl.

    For other types of bowls, I’ve used a number of finishes. Shellac works well, as do commercially available shellac/wax finishes. I also have used oil based finishes such as Tried and True varnish oil which is food safe. If I want a glossy finish, I’ve used a hard carnauba wax over an oil finish, buffed on to the piece while on the lathe.

    These are finishes that I’ve used and liked, but there are many choices. I generally stay away from the polyurethane finishes, but that’s more an esthetic thing.

    Peter in
    Biggar SK
    "New York is big, but this is Biggar"

    Richard Guggemos

    I’m late to the table but…

    Generally, the FDA says that finishes that form a continuous film are safe for food storage, preparation and serving. See: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?FR=175.300

    And they don’t exempt finishes that include metallic drying agents.

    That said, I wouldn’t expose these finishes to flames or abnormal heat while, or prior to, contacting food. But then I wouldn’t want to expose my wooden objects to those circumstances either.


    Rick G

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