Welcome! Forums General Woodworking Discussions Spoon Carving – What wood is safe to use?

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    John Phillips

    Hi there! I have been carving a few spoons lately and really enjoy it. I have a couple questions though.

    1. What kinds of wood are food safe? What kind of finish would be good on a spoon that would make it safe to use in cooking and not give off a taste to the food? Also, I have been a little concerned about using Ash because of the Ash boring beetles. I know you can spot them but it made me think about what else might be in wood that could be toxic or left behind by animals/bugs. If the wood hasn’t been in a kiln and is green, is there a process to kill anything unwanted before using a utensil in the kitchen?

    2.Is Silver Maple good for carving spoons? I have a bit of unseasoned silver maple and I was carving it last night. It seemed a bit tricky with the grain and I’m sure also harder to carve because it is much harder than the pine I have been carving. My gouge is very sharp and it did take off nice shavings and smoothed the inside of the spoon well, once I figured out how to go with the grain direction where I could.

    Thanks in advance for your advice!!! 🙂

    Philipp J.

    In general most Fruitwoods are foodsafe Cherry, Plum, Pear and the like, Beech is another very popular wood for cutting boards, spoons and so on. Not certain on Maple but it should be fine.

    Biggest thing to keep in mind is to stay well away from open pored woods like Oak since oils, food residue and so on will collect in the pores and stay there. (which is obviously not what you want.)

    As for finishes there are special Salad Bowl finishes or Cuttingboard oils, i would just use Mineral Oil or even cooking oil (one that doesnt go rancid fast) if it has to have a finish. Most of those special products i’ve seen so far weren’t cheap either.
    Personally i wouldnt use any finish at all, reason being that if you really plan to use the Spoon it will come in contact with all kinda moisture, oils and who knows what, Oils dont last that long as a finish in that case, and in my experience its just not really necessary.

    That is my opinion on the matter, Regards Philipp


    Dave Fisher in the USA has advice on finishing spoons and bowls: http://www.davidffisher.com/usecare — he usually uses flaxseed oil or a blend of that with beeswax.


    I’ve made only a few spatulas, and didn’t use finish in the end…
    I did search a bit and found the same as already said above.

    I just washed mine in the dishwasher as it’s pretty aggressive, even more so than using it while cooking.
    After it had dried, I just sanded it to 400 grit.
    Did that 4 times as I recall, now it stays smooth.
    I used ash as it was taken from firewood logs. A few of my earlier attempts returned to their original purpose….

    HTH Diego

    Debra Jenney

    I kade a mesquite spatula and another out of post oak in a firewood pile. I have some Hackberry and Mexican Ash waiting for the gouge. Also want to try some of this invasive Australian Pine, but it does have big open pores.

    John Phillips

    @kamikazekrieger Thanks! Sorry for the late response! I appreciate your advice and will watch out for the open pore woods.

    John Phillips

    @mechfish Thnx! I’ll definitely check out Dave Fisher! 🙂

    John Phillips

    @alien8 Thnx Diego! Good stuff. The general consensus I’m getting is pretty much what you and Philipp mentioned. I may just go that route. I want to try ash but so much of it around me has been hit hard with the ash bore. So, I have yet to get my hands on ash that hasn’t. Eventually..

    LOL! I definitely understand the first attempts thing……I have a fireplace and put it to good use too! 🙂

    John Phillips

    @djenney awesome! If you remember, let me know how it goes with the Australian Pine. 🙂

    Peter Bernhardt

    The issue with mineral oil is that is a non-hardening oil. IOW, it never dries. That means while it is certainly food-safe, it will not last very long in use. As others have mentioned, any hardening (drying) oil that is free of chemical driers is a better choice. That includes cold-pressed linseed oil (do NOT use boiled linseed oil!). I’ve used pure tung oil, hemp oil and will also try flax as recommended by Dace Fisher (btw, he has a great series on bowl carving up on FWW). I’ve also mixed oil with pure beeswax into a paste as a final finish.

    More here: http://www.woodworkersjournal.com/understanding-oil-wax-finishes/

    Peter Bernhardt
    instagram: peter.bernhardt
    twitter: AWoodworker

    Larry Geib

    I’m sensitized to linseed oil in all forms, even the food grade flaxseed oil sold in the health food stores. ( too many years using it at work, I guess.)
    flaxseed is just another name for linseed.

    I get nice results with Food grade walnut oil and beeswax blend with a touch of carnauba for utensils. It does have to be renewed, but that just takes a minute. I keep a baby food size jar of the mix in the kitchen.

    I can make small batches of it in the microwave. I just fill the jar 1/3 full of beeswax pellets and top off with the the oil. I only microwave at 20-30 seconds at time. It will blend well below the boiling point of water, so a double boiler will also work. If you use solid block wax, the mix is about 1:4 by weight.
    Ignore this if you are a klutz in the kitchen. All you are trying to do is melt beeswax.

    Walnut oil does polimerize, but very slowly. It smells like, well, walnuts.

    I Tend to look for fruitwoods. Trimmed street ornamentals are a good source if you live in a city. Cherry and plum are everywhere here. Both are pretty. Keep your neighbors appraised.
    A landscaper from my pub drops off bits of fruitwoods and Holly ( great for string inlay) she knows what I want. I buy her a beer.

    Oregon Myrtle / California bay laurel is nice. Oregon has a whole wooden ware industry based on the wood. They are not the poisonous Laurels.
    Europeans can make do with the European Bay Laurel, of course.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by Larry Geib.
    Patrick Sadr

    Anyone know how safe it is to use Eastern Hemlock for cutting boards?

    Larry Geib

    Anyone know how safe it is to use Eastern Hemlock for cutting boards?

    It’s considered safe, though as with nearly all wood, some people find working With it a skin irritant.

    Native Americans used it to make tea and medicines for arthritis, rheumatism and colds.

    I think it would make a lousy cutting board because American hemlocks don’t do well in water and splinter easily. It can be sappy.

    You can look up most woods for toxicity in the wood database

    Wood Allergies and Toxicity

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