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I have just created my first cutting board and coated it with some salad bowl finish. My question is what is the process for finishing the project? How many coats of finish do I need to put on it and at what point is it safe to eat off of, at what point is it safe to wash with soap and water etc etc.

  • Many finishes are pretty food-safe after they have cured. – keshlam May 10 '16 at 5:13
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I have just created my first cutting board and coated it with some salad bowl finish. My question is what is the process for finishing the project?

If you like you just completed the finishing since how much to, or even whether to, finish a board is totally up to the individual.

In the distant past boards almost certainly went unfinished, and anyway the care process meant than any finish that might have been applied would be worn off in no time. In the recent past boards, if finished, were invariably coated in vegetable oils or oil/wax blends. These days mineral oil (UK: liquid paraffin) is nearly ubiquitous although a small subset of the rest of board makers use a finish such as the one you've used, either bought or homemade.

How many coats of finish do I need to put on it

Depends on:

  • The wood(s) and how absorbent it is or they are.
  • The exact nature of the wood piece or pieces (flat-sawn, quarter-sawn, end grain, softwood or hardwood, if hardwood whether open-pored or close-grained).
  • How much use the board will see and to a degree with what type of knives (plain edge or serrated).
  • What exactly you'll use the board for (bread, veg only, meat and veg, mostly meat).
  • How much time you're willing to put into finishing it. Given approximately one day drying time between coats (assuming I'm thinking of the right 'salad bowl finish' {stupid product name!}} if you want to put on four or five coats it'll take you most of the rest of the week, followed by the requisite wait period for the finish to cure.
  • How much finish you think it needs. This is probably the most important single factor actually.

and at what point is it safe to eat off

Just to mention, it was safe to eat off when you completed the work on the wood :-)

It's safe after one coat of finish and it'll be safe if you put on five or ten more coats once the finish is cured. This may take a couple of weeks, or a month or so depending on a few variables (mainly the temp and humidity which most directly affect the drying time of varnish).

at what point is it safe to wash with soap and water etc etc.

After the finish is fully cured.


Quick tip: dry the board on its edge or supported by small blocks or something, not sitting flat on a surface. Never let a board dry flat if you can manage it.

  • Never let a board dry flat if you can manage it. Does this advice apply to end-grain cutting boards too? – grfrazee May 11 '16 at 17:43
  • @grfrazee, oh yes, absolutely — Wood Whisperer link. – Graphus May 13 '16 at 7:23
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Kitchen worktop oils are usually food safe, though some make this clearer than others. Certainly pure linseed oil is actually edible if you want to take it to extremes.

I would allow extra curing time per coat and plenty of coats, really trying to let the early coats soak in, if it's too be immersed in water for washing.

Cutting boards will need frequent retreatment as the surface will get damaged in use. The only wooden board I have is for bread, so only needs wiping, rinsing and drying at most, meaning the wood doesn't have time to soak in. Butcher blocks are at the other extreme.

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