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I have recently finished cutting spoons for my toddler son to use, made from Pinus Sylvestris. The results are great. When showing them to my pal, he warned me that pine is toxic, and I should've considered trees toxicity before choosing the wood type.

After doing a little research online such as this forum, I found that people do recommmend choosing non-toxic wood varieties. While I understand that this should be the preferred choice, I however am still not entirely convinced whether or not the harm is significant enough to decide not to give these spoons to my son. Note that the spoons are properly cleaned, dried, polished, seasoned.

My gut feeling is that the release of toxic elements will be small enough to ignore, but I would like to hear the opinion of someone who has more knowledge on this subject than I do.

Thanks in advance for your answers.

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    I would ask for data regarding wood toxicity - and not from the state of california! you will find if you go to a site like wood-database.com/wood-articles/wood-allergies-and-toxicity that pretty much any species you look up has some hazard associated with it - including beech, birch, and maple, which are WIDELY used for food handling. There is very little risk from scots pine. – aaron Aug 24 '18 at 19:16
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    Finishing the utensils with a food-grade finish (no paywall key points) could be a good idea, too. I’ve used the mineral oil + beeswax combo myself in the past and like it very much. – Jason C Aug 25 '18 at 15:17
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    @jasonc, the jury is in, there are no non food-safe finishes. I've quoted Bob Flexner's piece on this a couple of times recently with a link to one or other of the original sources (he's written the same for Pop Woodworking as well as in one or more of his books). – Graphus Aug 25 '18 at 18:14
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You won't be able to get a definitive answer on this because there isn't a single standard for toxic/safe. Bottom line really is that everyone makes their own determination of acceptable risk, what's safe and what's not (here, as with just about everything).

Pines in general do contain some known toxic chemical compounds, but this is also true of other woods that are not uncommonly used in products that see direct food contact (although not specifically spoons for infants, which must be an important detail). As you might or might not have discovered already two things of definite concern here are terpenes and hexanal which are both unquestionably toxic chemicals.

But as a very old saying goes "the dose determines the poison", and this is still a central tenet of toxicology. There are a great number of toxic compounds routinely inhaled and ingested in daily life, and often without ill effects simply because the amounts are too low.

On the plus side, pine resins have been eaten for a very long time and an extract from the needles — "pine needle tea" — is still drunk in some places, and both are very likely to contain terpenes and various aldehydes in addition to hexanal. This suggests the toxicity of these compounds, in the levels found in these small quantities, is of little or no concern.

On the negative side, these are spoons for an infant, and we need to go back to "the dose determines the poison". A great many things that don't make adults and even older children ill are not safe for babies1.

Other reasons to prefer spoons made from different woods
Pinus sylvestris may not be hard enough to wear well. While Scots pine is tougher and more resilient than some other common pines it's still a fairly typical softwood in that is has soft earlywood (the pale stripes in the grain) and harder latewood (the darker stripes).

I would prefer to use a wood of even density myself, just to make something that wears more uniformly and predictably. Good choices would be birch, maple (including soft maple, this is plenty hard enough), sycamore in the UK, beech, and apple or other fruitwoods, including hawthorn and blackthorn if available2.

Bottom line though is that you're the one who has to make the call.


1 Including honey of all things!

2 Do note though that if you're not working these woods green (unseasoned) but are instead shaping them after drying some of these are much much harder than the pine!

  • Thank you very much for taking the time to write this extensive answer. This and the other replies made me decide to not worry about the toxins since you strengthened my belief that the effects are too little for our bodies to handle, even with toddlers; Another gut feeling theory I get now is that small children's livers should be very strong and able to easily break down small doses of toxin because all children in nature have been putting unknown (toxic) plants in their mouths since forever. – Hacktisch Aug 26 '18 at 4:37

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