Salad Bowl Finish – Food Safe? Surprise – 3 Safe Options

Salad Bowl Finish Food Safe Main Image

If you’re like me, you think the term “salad bowl finish” seems pretty straightforward and understandable. However, the truth about salad bowl finish is much murkier.

As a turner of wood bowls, I want to find the best truly food-safe salad bowl finish for my bowls and for my customers, period. I do not want to apply a questionable finish on a beautiful bowl that I or someone else will eat from, ever!

The reason I’m writing this article is to express my concerns that some apparent food safe wood finishes may or may not be as safe as they lead us to believe.

This is a common question…

“I just turned a beautiful salad bowl, what is the best finish to apply?”

That’s a great question, and it should be easy, but there are several factors to understand first.

What is a salad bowl finish?

Salad bowl finish is a food-safe finish that can be applied to salad bowls and other wood products that come in contact with food.

Well, that is the ideal, common-sense definition of salad bowl finish. What I’ve discovered when doing research for this article is that there is some muddying of the waters around the idea of a food-safe wood finishing product.

What is food safe?

Food safe means just that, safe to be in contact with food. Food may touch, rest, sit and be in contact with something that is finished with a food-safe finish, without any concerns for the food becoming contaminated in any way.

Again, that is my idealized common-sense definition for what food-safe means. That is what I want to deliver to a customer first and foremost, without exception or excuses.

Unfortunately, my definition of “food safe” does not seem to be anyway near that clear when you begin reading the fine print.

Reading the Label

Let’s face it, we read labels and know what ingredients are in the foods we consume. Isn’t it enough to read the term “food safe” and assume everything is okay? Hm?

Just like a food product that says “All Natural,” we can sometimes look at the label details and see ingredients that are not the greatest for us, but technically it is “natural.”

We have to keep in mind that the amount of scrutiny that applies to the labeling of food products does not apply the same way outside the food industry, including things that come into contact with food.

What wood finishing product companies put in their products does not necessarily need to be labeled or explained fully. And many times it is not clear, under the guise of “propitery informaotin.’

Food Safe To The Extreme

When I talk with other turners and hear different points of view about a good wood bowl finish, the answers run the gamut.

I have heard from several sources the following statement, “any wood finish is food safe once it is cured.” Hm? That makes me wonder.

So, based on that statement, the most toxic liquid finish you can find is completely fine to be tossing your leafy greens against, just as long as it’s sat around long enough.

I don’t know about you, but that just doesn’t sit well with me.

Why So Skeptical?

Some might question why I’m so picky about this. I have to ask, why are they not being so picky about the finish on their food-used wood bowls?

We try to make wise choices to eat the best food possible and be safe whenever we can, there’s no need to stop that thinking when applying finish to bowls we intend to use with food.

There’s a great quote I heard recently, and I can’t remember where I heard it exactly. The quote went something like this, “I know I’m going to die eventually. I just don’t want to be contributing to the reason.”

Government Protection

The FDA and various other organizations regulate and have guidelines that control what is considered safe for food contact, not necessaryily “food-safe”.

Here is a link to the FDA’s Indirect Food Additives page which covers various coatings on items that come into contact with food.

Interestingly enough, nowhere on this page does the FDA use the term “food safe.” And also, the FDA has no regulations regarding what is and isn’t food safe.

California Prop 65

In 1986 California passed Proposition 65 which ”…protects the state’s drinking water sources from being contaminated with chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm…” Here’s a link to the full California Proposition 65.

So, perhaps it’s safe to say that a wood finish product that has a California Prop 65 warning is toxic at least in its liquid state.

The question then is, how do we know that same toxic liquid wood finishing product transforms from unsafe, by California’s recognition, to a safe product because of the process of drying and curing?

Remember when cars didn’t have seatbelts, mercury filled cavities, smoking was cool, and sitting under a table with a newspaper over your head was the best way to protect against a nuclear attack? Well, those were all before my time, but don’t they seem odd now?

Okay, call me skeptical, but I don’t think the status quo or collective intelligence is necessarily always the best path to wise decision making.

UPDATE – Not So Fast with Prop 65

As it turns out, I was informed by a finishing products manufacturer (my favorite wood finish manufacturer) that the Prop 65 labeling has another story.

The manufacturer’s of ALL wood finishing products must include a California Prop 65 warning on their label.

Why? Because the act of working with wood creates dust which is not safe to breathe.

Can you believe that?!

So a company that makes an unbelievably simple, safe, and environmentally responsible wood finishing product with only the ingredients of linseed oil and beeswax must include a Prop 65 warning.

I completely agree that wood dust is unsafe. That’s why I wear this filtered air respirator most of the time as I work.

However, when I’m reading labels of wood finishing products, I’m looking for what may or may not be harmful with that particular product.

This makes me wonder how many other Prop 65 warnings have nothing to do with the actual product, but rather an ancillary cause not even contained in the product?

Prop 65 seems to be a case of government oversight run out of control.

I don’t know about you, but I will no longer see a Prop 65 warning label the same way.

Personal Responsibility

If you’ve read my about page, you may have read that I believe in personal responsibility, and I do.

I don’t think this should all be about having more stringent standards or regulations on wood finishing products, although some consumer warning labeling does seem necessary.

I think we should be informed customers and use our knowledge to best meet our needs. This is about us making wise choices for ourselves and others by being informed and promoting or demoting products with the vote of our pocketbook.

Setting A Standard

It is up to us to establish the minimum standard for the wood finishes that we accept and apply to a bowl we make and that will be used with food.

The term “food safe,” for what I want as a finish on my bowls, means, to me, 100% pure and free from anything that may cause any harm whatsoever.

I don’t think that’s asking too much, is it?

Salad Bowl Finish Food Safe Surprise 3 Options Detail Photo

Salad Bowl Finish Confusion

Much of the confusion about salad bowl finish, I feel, stems from the use of that term, “salad bowl finish” as the product name.

By reading that product name aren’t we led to believe that the product is safe for salads and by extension it is also food safe.

The name sounds like it’s the perfect match for our turned salad bowl, right?

But wait!

Salad Bowl Finish, The Brand

The manufacturer, General Finishes has recently changed the name of their previously labeled “Salad Bowl Finish” to “Wood Bowl Finish.”

Why, you might be asking?

Based on the research I’ve done, it seems that the Wood Bowl Finish (previously known as Salad Bowl Finish) creates a urethane film coating. This film coating can be chipped and can crack.

When a film coating finish over wood is cut, nicked or chipped, wood is then exposed. If the wood surface is in contact with moisture and food, bacteria can form in those cracked areas.

This is where the confusion comes into play.

Apparently, the old named “Salad Bowl Finish” did have that ubiquitously assumed status as being “food safe.” Because it was generally assumed to be food safe, it was used by woodworkers for many other food-related items, in particular, cutting boards.

Well, cutting boards will most likely acquire their fair share of cuts, nicks, and scrapes. All of which is not good or safe for a urethane film finish like the old “Salad Bowl Finish.”

I Can Not Recommend Salad Bowl Finish

I can not recommend Salad Bowl Finish by General Finishes, not just because it doesn’t exist under that name anymore, but because it is not food safe for use with salad bowls.

Here is a link to the General Finishes’ Wood Bowl Finish product and you’re welcome to investigate for yourself. Also be sure to look at all the warnings and cautions (including the California Prop 65 warning) on the Wood Bowl Finish SDS PDF, linked here

The newly named “Wood Bowl Finish” is the same old urethane filming wood finish, that was deemed unsafe for cutting boards because it can be cut or chipped.

Um, hey guys, we turn wood bowls that are designed to be “used” as well. Salad tongs and various utensils go into our salad bowls as they are lovingly used on a daily basis.

Guess what those utensils do?

They will scratch, scrape and cut the film finish of the General Finishes Wood Bowl Finish and allow bacterial growth in those openings.

Besides all the hazards and warnings this product presents in its liquid state, this finish to me does not seem food safe on many levels.

This is only my opinion, please take a look for yourself.

Mineral Oil Salad Bowl Finish

Mineral oil is a quick answer that comes from many sources as being a “good” wood finish that is safe for food contact, not only on wood bowls but also cutting boards.

Mineral oil is derived from the petroleum oil refining process.

Um, is it just me or are you also thinking “gasoline, motor oil, asphalt, etc. on my wood bowl?”

Don’t worry, you can buy “food grade” mineral oil which is known as white oil or liquid paraffin. It’s colorless and odorless too.

This food grade mineral oil is even used as a laxative. Yes, you can drink this stuff.

But wait, hold on. According to the website there are a few side effects and warnings about consuming mineral oil:

Anal Itching
Delayed Healing
Rectal Leakage


Who Should Avoid Taking Mineral Oil?
Children 6 years old and younger
Elderly, bedridden patients
Pregnant women
Patients with esophageal or gastric retention, dysphagia, or a hiatal hernia
Patients diagnosed with swallowing abnormalities
People taking certain types of medications like blood thinners should consult their doctor before using mineral oil as a laxative

“In addition to those side effects and long-term issues associated with ingesting mineral oil, if you continually inhale its vapors while you’re taking it orally, you could develop lipid pneumonitis or lung inflammation. This condition is more likely to develop if you take your dose at bedtime or if you are older and confined to bed rest.”

Um? Call me crazy, but I don’t want my food in contact with a substance that has that many warnings.

The Ideal Food Safe Salad Bowl Finish

I don’t know that toxic chemicals become safe after curing, just like I don’t know that petroleum by-products are also safe to be in contact with my food.

I’m not a doctor or a chemist, nor do I want to pretend to be even on TV. However, I do know when the hair on the back of my neck stands up that I should pay attention.

So what kind of finish will I use?

Perhaps I’m on the other end of the extreme spectrum. I want a wood bowl finish product that is food safe both in its liquid form and after it is dry and cured, period.

And guess what, there are several products available that fit this bill.

The finish I use on my food-used wooden bowls is plant-based and is not forced to be labeled with a California Prop 65 warning.

Before I share with you what finish I use the most, let’s look at a few other options that are commonly considered.

What About Cooking Oils As Salad Bowl Finish?

Most oils used in the kitchen are not suitable for use as salad bowl finishes because they will become rancid.

Because of the quick oxidation time for most kitchen oils like olive oil, corn oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil they are not good options as a wood finish. When these oils oxidize, they become rancid.

Any oil that stays liquid at room temperature can turn rancid over time.

Some exceptions to this rule, although not necessarily a cooking oil, are almond and walnut oil. Walnut oil is a popular wood finishing oil. But be aware that nut allergies can be an issue when using any nut based oil as a wood finish.

Coconut Oil Salad Bowl Finish

Coconut oil is an edible oil extract from the coconut, and in its raw form stays solid at room temperature.

Because of the high saturated fat content of coconut oil, it resists turning rancid and makes a good wood bowl finish that is edible and 100% food safe.

If you’d like to try a coconut based “food safe” wood bowl finish I recommend trying JS Bartow and Sons Salad Bowl Finish.

This coconut based wood finish oil contains no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and has no fumes. It is designed to penetrate into and protect the wood bowl surface.

I really wish this company called this product something other than generic “Salad Bowl Finish” to avoid confusion.

However, the JS Bartow and Sons version of the “Salad Bowl Finish” is non-toxic both in liquid form and after curing.

One word of caution, because it is nut-based, there is a risk that people with nut allergies could have issues with this finish.

My Favorite Salad Bowl Finish

As I’ve mentioned in my article titled, My Favorite Food-Safe Wood Finish, a wood finish needs to be all-around food safe if I’m going to use it on a food-used wood bowl.

I prefer the Tried and True Original Wood finish because it contains two natural ingredients; linseed oil and beeswax. The linseed oil penetrates and protects the wood as the beeswax seals and makes the wood water resistant.

Linseed oil comes from flax seed, a natural highly saturated fat source that has been used as a wood finish for a long time.

The other reason I like the Tried and True Original Wood Finish is that it’s easy to apply, looks good and creates a surface that is easy to wipe clean after use.

Back to the standard I’d like to keep with the quality of salad bowl finish I use on my food-used wood bowls, Tried and True meets that definition. Not only are the two ingredients both non-toxic, but they are also not altered with additional ingredients during the production process.

Some manufacturers use linseed oil but also include drying agents, metallic additives and other chemicals that further distance the purity of the main components. Tried and True does not add any additional elements to their finish.

To learn more about Tried and True Original Wood Finish, including how it’s best applied, read this article.

Tried and True Danish Oil

I also use Tried and True Danish Oil which is precisely the same as the Tried and True Original Wood Finish minus the beeswax.

When I apply the original finish with the beeswax, I like to follow the directions and buff the bowl surface after 24-hours as the instructions indict.

If I have a bowl that can’t be returned to the lathe, then the buffing process is a bit more difficult, I will use the Tried and True Danish Oil instead.

Also, if I have an older wooden bowl that appears particularly dry, the Tried and True Danish Oil soaks in and can be applied in multiple coats easily to rejuvenate the wood surface.

If any bowl that was finished with Tried and True Original Wood Finish begins to look a bit dull, a quick thin coat of Tried and True Danish Oil wiped on restores a fresh finish.

Full Disclaimer

An extension of personal responsibility is to declare that I have no way of proving or disproving any of the toxicity levels of any of these products.

Everything I’m expressing here is my opinion based on knowledge from various sources and my personal experience. Likewise, you need to do what’s best for you based on what you learn.

Salad Bowl Finish Food Safe Surprise

Salad Bowl Finish Conclusion

On this website, I want to provide you with the best information about all aspects of making and turning wood bowls.

Wood finishing products cover a vast and sometimes confusing landscape of ideas and issues.

The “Salad Bowl Finish” product issue has never been very clear, and I hope this article helps clarify some of that confusion.

My opinion is just that, my opinion. I may or may not be comfortable with using a particular finish that other turners are completely content using regularly.

This article is designed to inform you and help you make up your own mind about the finish you genuinely want to use on your wood bowls.

What finish you use on your turned wooden bowls is up to you.

I know what finish I prefer and by the way, the photo at the top of this article is my salad waiting for me to eat.

Time for lunch!

Please leave a comment below and tell me what you think.

Here are other finishing articles you may want to see next:

Happy Turning (and Finishing),

53 Responses

  1. Hi Kent,
    I’m making small cups for grape juice (communion cups) and the question of staining has come-up. If staining would not be a concern I would use T&T Danish and maybe a wax overcoat. I made a set using 3 coats of the Mohawk FDA approved “Salad Bowl Finish”, thinking it to be more stain resistant but is this overkill?
    What is your experience on stain resistance and Tried & True Original (with beeswax)?

    1. Ken,
      Interesting question. I really haven’t had any issues with staining. Although, I’ve never used grape juice. I’d say do some testing. That’s probably the only way to find out.
      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  2. Kent,

    Per your recommendation I’ve tried the T&T finishes and really like them. If you have a spalted salad bowl, would you use something else? Put T&T one one and can’t get any sheen at all no matter what I try. Looks muddied a bit. Ideas?

    1. David,
      I would use T&T on all food service pieces. You might need to sand the surface a bit more. I find that a slightly non-smooth surface will keep absorbing oil and rarely builds up to a sheen. I hope that helps.
      Happy Turning!

  3. I have a question with the tried and true original. First, is it normal that it is very thick? It is winter now and it’s sort of cold, but even if I keep it in my warm bedroom it still is pretty thick. I just bought it after watching the video on it not long ago so it’s not old. Is that normal? If I heat it up, it melts though.
    Next question, what would your care instructions be? I’ve been giving lots of bowls. Some people use them with there soup and things. Im not sure how good that is. I use wipe on poly and tried and true original. I know you shouldn’t use the dishwasher and things, but is it ok to wash with hot water and soap, then eat soup out of?

    Thanks in advance! Your site has really boosted me in my turning journey!
    Asher, a 15yr old newby.

    1. Asher,

      Thank you for writing and sharing!

      Yes, T&T Original is very thick. That’s normal. Only a thin coat is needed when applying. I use two fingers to form a squeegee to remove all access from a small piece of old cotton t-shirt.

      As for care, warm soapy water hand washed and immediately toweled dried—also no dishwater or microwave. If the finish dulls, reapplication can be made.

      Hope that helps.
      Happy Turning!

  4. Thanks for the great info. I have been using tried and true danish oil for my salad bowls. Then I saw a utube article on a combination of beeswax-mineral oil- and diatomaceous earth. It turned into a,finish paste that I used after sanding to 400 grit. It left a very smooth surface but I didn’t think that my next step of danish oil was penetrating the wood. So should I drop my homemade paste? Or maybe switch to tried and true orginal? Thanks

    1. Ted,
      I know many woodworkers swear by finish paste. I’m sure it’s great but I’ve never used it myself. I say go without, but that’s just my opinion.
      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  5. Hi Kent,
    I’m not a wood turner, yet. I bought a set of wood bowls that were used. I want to refinish them and use them as “soup bowls”. I have read your wonderful article and (I believe) I understand the best product to use is “Tried & True”. I respect your research. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel…I just want to reinvent this salad bowl set into a soup bowl set. Is there a problem using this product with hot soup? Thanking you in advance for your response.

    1. Nikki,
      It should be fine, but the heat over time my reduce the finish. If so it can be reapplied. Check with Tried and True direct to confirm.
      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  6. Kent, I just found your recent video about thin walled bowls finished with Tried and True. I have a question about the durability.

    The oil soaks into the wood and that’s good. The beeswax will form a protective and attractive layer over it. Beeswax is probably the softest wax commonly used in woodturning. How long will the beeswax stand up washing and drying and contact with acidic salad dressings?

    Thanks for your help.

    1. Jim,

      Good question. It lasts a very long time. However, if it dulls you can easily add a quick thin coat and restore it back to new.

      Happy Turning!

  7. Watching your videos recently I was reminded that I have had a small can of Tried and True for quite a long time that I never opened/used. SO recently I opened it and it is almost like a gel finish now. Looking on their website about thinning it saw to use another of their products (which is kind of expensive). Do you know if I get some pure linseed oil can that be used to make it thin again?
    If I was going to do what they recommend I would just buy another can of Tried and True, think it would be less money.
    Enjoy your videos; learn a lot. Though being a seated turner have to figure out how to do things diffferently.

    1. Terry,

      If the finish is in a gel state it is not useable. And there’s a good chance unless you using Tried and True Danish (Linseed) oil, any linseed oil you find is not “pure.” I’d just get a new small can of the finish you want to use. That will save potential headaches down the road.

      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  8. Hello. I am new to woodturning and after going through your site (thank you!) I decided on the Tried and True Original to finish my bowls. However, it darkened my wood quite a lot, giving them an almost reddish tone and I much prefer the lighter tones to the wood.

    Is there something you would recommend that keeps the natural colour of the wood that is food safe?

    Thank you again!

    1. You might want to try mineral oil. However, I know of no finish that won’t change the color of the wood at least a little. Happy Turning!

  9. Reading one TAWB article leads to another…to another…to another. There went my morning. But thank you! Yours has been an informative, essential, fascinating graduate course on turning. I’m loving it all, even the sanding.

    My question is whether, after having applied a single coat of mineral oil (prior to reading above), I can follow up with an application of Tried & True? Or should I stick with the mineral oil on this salsa bowl and learn my lesson?

    Happy turning to you!

    1. Pat,

      Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you’re enjoying this site.

      You should be able to add the Tried and True over the mineral oil, although I haven’t done this before. Perhaps experiment with a scrap piece of wood.

      All the best to you!

      Happy Turning,

      1. Took the T&T oil plunge after sanding with steel wool. OooohhhHH, it’s beautiful! Thanks again.

  10. A beautiful dark walnut salad bowl was a wedding gift 60 years ago. Several years ago some salad was left in it and the finish bubbled. I no longer used it. Recently I asked a woodworking group to sand it down and I would refinish it so I could again use it.
    It was returned to me partially sanded and told that was how they thought best. I am thinking I should sand the rest of the finish off down to the bare wood and then start over as a raw wood bowl and apply a finish . I am thinking of using a drill with fine sandpaper and wearing masks and goggles. Do you have any guidance? I have not found anyone to do it for me. The Tried and True
    Original sounds ideal. I want to pass this bowl on with instructions for maintenance. It was from my Godmother and I would like to pass it to my Goddaughter. She remembers making our favorite salad with me using that bowl. Can you help?

    1. Hi Mary,

      It sounds like you are on the right path. I would definitely sand the entire bowl to bare wood and then apply the Tried and True Original Finish. Be sure to follow the instructions. It’s not hard, but the times and thicknesses are important to get a great finish. As for sanding, this is how we do it with a new bowl You won’t have the benefit of doing this while the bowl is attached to the lathe, but the steps are still the same. You can do this by hand or with power tools, either way, will work well.

      I’m sure you’re going to return that bowl back to its special state!

      All the best to you.


  11. In your opinion, where does Carnauba Wax and Shallac come in as being “food safe”?



    1. I don’t know enough about Carnauba wax, but it probably is ok since it can be found in many food products.

  12. It should be mentioned that those wishing to use just straight linseed oil should never use “raw” linseed oil as it, like vegetable oils, never dries and turns rancid. Linseed oil should always be “double boiled”.

  13. Regarding milk paint, is this refering to their finishing oils? If so, which one? Pure tung oil, or their half-and-half seem to be reasonable options for a finishing oil that is in contact with food. Comments appreciated!

    1. Steve,

      Thanks for the question.

      I have used the Tried and True products over milk paint with great results. The Tried and True Original has beeswax and linseed oil and makes a water-resistant coating. The Danish Oil (made of just linseed) also does great.

      Let me know if you try them.

      Happy Turning,

    2. General finishes “bowl finish” has apparently changed some raw materials in their product. The last qt. I bought has a green tint instead of the old amber tint. It takes days for it to dry enough to recoat. As a result I am looking for a new finish.

      1. Joe,

        Yeah, those brands, I think, have all kinds of stuff in them.

        That’s why I stick with Tried and True brand oils.

        They are all-natural!

        Happy Turning,

  14. Kent, I too pretty much exclusively use Tried and True due to it’s ease of use and food safeness, as well as not having to ingest the chemicals evaporating. One point to consider though. As I was recently demonstrating how to properly apply it in my club, I was informed by a nurse that there are people who have allergic reactions to flaxseed oil? After extensive research I found this to be true. Something to consider.

    Great site and info,


    1. Tim,

      Thanks for sharing.

      This is so strange, I was just reading Beads of Courage finish recommendations and they mentioned not to use linseed oil because of its off-gas. At first read, I don’t think off-gassing of linseed oil is an issue, unless it is a product mixed with various other toxic elements. On the other hand, I can imagine there are people who have reactions to pure linseed oil.

      Great info, thanks for sharing.

  15. Your comments regarding California Prop 65 do not match my experience. In my opinion, Prop 65 was working as intended for a long time, until attorneys “weaponized” it. Once that started, many businesses were targeted for shakedowns, including small and large hardware and woodworking supply businesses.

    After one hardware/woodworking business underwent a costly lawsuit related to wood dust, the other companies in the field reacted swiftly to apply Prop 65 warning stickers to all products that contact wood. It was cheaper and easier than defending a costly shakedown lawsuit. The employees at our local hardware/woodworking stores spent extra hours applying Prop 65 stickers to everything. They were instructed that it was critically important not to miss anything, because the attorneys had hired people to do surreptitious audits, searching for accidentally unlabeled items on the shelves.

    The larger sellers went back to the manufacturers and had them add Prop 65 warnings to their packaging.

    The problem is not limited to California. I have seen many of the small businesses in my community shaken down by outside attorneys based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Even if the issue is minor and the business moves to correct it immediately, the law doesn’t give the business a grace period after notification. The attorney already has its hooks into the business for thousands of dollars to settle. If the extorted business attempts to protest, fight, or stall, the settlement costs skyrocket, so the businesses either settle immediately or close, hurting our community, including the disabled. The attorneys don’t care. The Prop 65 extortions follow the same model.

    The law as originally intended and applied was working fine, until attorneys found loopholes to exploit it in ways that were never intended. It is the “Why can’t we have nice things anymore?” problem. A few bad apples ruined it for the rest of us.

    1. Hello Emory,

      Thanks for the detailed information regarding this issue.

      I’m sure what you’re explaining is absolutely correct. Either way, at the end of the day, we still have this wonderful product, that’s completely non-toxic not labeled as such based on government and legal interventions. Shrug.

      Thanks again for sharing all these details!

      Happy Turning,

  16. I am seeing a lot of cutting boards, serving trays, and bowls sealed or decorated with resin. Resin has the same problem with chipping but is it toxic? I am extremely allergic to resin and wonder what you think?

    1. Deborah,

      I would say if you’re allergic to resin avoid it either way.

      Currently, I’m doing research for some upcoming resin articles and I will keep your question in mind.

      Stay tuned and thanks for writing.


  17. What is a good food safe Sealer – I am making these wooden stove covers and I am decorating them with a non-toxic chalk paste but need to seal it so the design doesn’t get washed off – I would probably need a food safer Sealer for it is intended to give extra counter space for prep work

  18. While I would like to have access to some scientific data pointing to an absolute “food-safe” wood finish, I’ve yet to find it and therefore am inclined to err on the side of safety. After a considerable amount of research I have begun using a homemade finish mage entirely of flaxseed oil and food grade beeswax. I still use mineral oil and beeswax for display pieces but prefer the flaxseed formula for any pieces associated with food service. For those that think this is unreasonable they are free to use whatever strikes their fancy. This is still a free country as of this writing. Love the web site, please keep adding to it.

    1. Chris,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I love that you are experimenting with your own finishing mixes-very cool.

      I agree fully with your attitude. Do what you’d like and what works for you.

      And perhaps we should add, have an open mind to new ideas and possibilities.

      Thanks again and Happy Turning,

    2. Who ever wrote this doesn’t know anything about science or medicine. I know about both. Just about everything in the article is either false or misleading.

  19. Sorry, but this article is a crock of (edited expletive). All of your reservations and warnings about finishes and what is food-safe are based on what makes “the hair on the back of your neck stand up.” Since I don’t personally have your hair on the back of my neck, I would prefer some *science-based* information on what’s safe and what isn’t.

    A list of the poisonous volatile ingredients in a finish doesn’t say anything about whether that finish is poisonous in its cured state. “Volatile” means these ingredients evaporate. You can’t quench a thirst with an empty glass that once contained water which has since evaporated, and likewise you can’t poison yourself with chemicals that have evaporated and gone away.

    I haven’t been able to find any research that indicates that ingesting cured polyurethane is harmful. In one study, rats that ingested the equivalent of 7.5 grams of polyurethane foam per kg body weight showed no signs of toxicity. Have you found any studies that showed toxicity, or are you just relying on those “neck hairs”?

    A list of possible side effects from ingesting mineral oil by the tablespoon on a daily basis doesn’t say anything about the safety of eating a salad that has been in a bowl treated with mineral oil. Dosage matters, as people who have died from drinking too much water (it happens) will tell you. (Or they would, if they weren’t dead.)

    Coconuts aren’t related to tree nuts, so coconut oil won’t trigger a tree-nut allergy reaction. (And BTW, since coconut oil is a laxative, drinking large doses of it will undoubtedly have many or all of the same side effects you listed for mineral oil.)

    Unscientific thinking coupled with health-related paranoia is exactly the sort of mindset that leads people to the deadly stupidity of anti-vaxxers. Please stop trusting that hair on the back of your neck and do some actual research using reliable sources.

    1. Karl,

      While I respect your opinion, your choice to use foul language speaks volumes.

      Science is great but look at all of the once scientifically believed “proven” concepts that were later discovered to be completely wrong. Science is people studying particular topics and sharing their information. Every idea, condition, and circumstance has not been explored and studied by science. Science is not all knowing and it is not absolute Truth.

      Use the finishing products you are comfortable with using and I will do the same.

      Thanks for leaving a comment,

    2. Hi,
      I am looking to purchase a wood salad bowl that servers 5-8. That gas a safe finish. Please tell me the names of companies that sell these. Thank you

      1. As stated earlier by a couple people… You need to look at more than just the ingredient, as EVERYTHING in the world is toxic at a certain dose — even water.

        You can question everything and worry about everything and probably do more harm from the stress involved than any additional time saved from avoiding”toxic” ingredients…

        At some point, unless you’re a chemist who understands how all of these separate ingredients interacts, it’s probably best to save yourself the stress and just trust a company that specifies it’s “food safe”. You’d ingest such a small amount of a wood bowl’s finish that even if it was toxic, it wouldn’t likely be enough of the toxic substance to cause any real harm.

  20. I was checking your bowls and noticed that some are coated with milk paint. Do you make your own milk paint or use a commercially available one? The reason I ask is that borax may be used commercially and that is a questionable chemical in regards to food safety.
    I have been around woodturning a long time with my grandfather being a cabinet maker and turner and my dad a professional hobbyist as he called himself. I have just started even though I am mid 50’s now and totally agree with your thoughts on food safe finishes. I am trying pure cocount oil made by a friend, I live in Belize so its plentiful.
    I have just recently come across your site and have enjoyed reading the articles I have managed to check. Keep them coming.

    1. Hello Ian,

      Thanks for your comments and for following this site.

      I do use milk paint and will have articles about that in the future. I usually use the milk paint on bowls that are intended to be more decorative and not used with direct food contact. I have used these bowls for things like fruits and vegetables. I’m not too concerned with milk paint contacting foods that will be cleaned or peeled before eating, but you bring up a good point. I’ll have to check into that more.

      Thanks for posting your comment and feel free to ask more questions whenever they pop up.

      Happy Turning,

      1. I appreciate your cautiousness about potential harm from products used in your bowls. I share your concern but I am also concerned about the durability of the finish I apply to my turned products. After experimenting with most of the “food safe” products mentioned in your article I have been unimpressed with the long-term durability of those products. Your suggestion that the owner of the bowl apply another coat of finish seems unworkable for most bowl owners, unless they are provided with the finish and instructions for applying it. I think that most owners would just live with the degraded finish and, perhaps, blame the maker of the bowl. If my name is on the bowl, I want the most durable finish that’s acceptable to the FDA. For me that finish is polyurethane, regardless of the extra time needed to apply it.

        1. Jeff,
          Thank you for writing and sharing! I completely understand.
          Reapplying oil is not for everyone. I even have bowls I use daily that need refinishing. LOL When it comes to finishes there are many trade offs.
          The “durability” of urethanes is traded for the inability to touch up the finish later. If there is a knick or scratch down the road, touching up the urethane will leave a raised edge around the scratch. On the other hand, adding more oil is a fluid even coating and that’s why I like to stick with oils. Neither is right or wrong. Do what you enjoy the most.

          All the best to you and Happy Turning!

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Kent Weakley-Turn A Wood Bowl-About
Hi, I’m Kent

Hi! I’m Kent, a husband, dad, papa, graphic designer, photographer, artist, traveler, birder, dark chocolate lover and I’m addicted to turning wood bowls! Learn more about me, see the online courses I made for you, and join our group on Facebook. Ready for your wood bowl adventure? Click here to Get Started

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