by Bob Flexner
We have wood-handled silverware, which gets washed in a dishwasher. In the past, I have refinished the wood using General Finishes Salad Bowl Finish. That worked well in the beginning, but now years later it has totally worn off, and the handles are back to bare wood. The salad bowl finish seems to wear off evenly without flaking. We want something that lasts longer but doesn’t end up flaking off and looking unsightly, maybe a finish that cures in the wood, not on the wood. What finish do you recommend for this application? I was thinking to use boiled linseed oil, or do you think I should just stick with the salad bowl finish and reapply every few years? If nothing holds up to a hot, soapy dishwasher – is there a recommended wood finish that would last longer if I wash by hand? Maybe a two-part epoxy as a finish, or is that not food safe when cured?
Bill Law, Cincinnati, Ohio
I’m surprised the finish lasted as long as it did. Salad Bowl Finish is varnish thinned half with mineral spirits. You’ll get a little build after a few coats. An oil finish won’t build, but I would think it would disappear very quickly in a dishwasher.
You seemed to have good results from what you did previously. I would stay with thinned varnish, and recoat when needed.
The problem I have responding is that you seem to want something close to permanent, and nothing is.
Building a thicker finish will lengthen the time before the finish wears off, but if water can find a way underneath, it will cause the finish to peel and get pretty ugly. Polyurethane would be easier to apply than epoxy. Both will block water penetration as long as they are in good shape, but it’s not the penetration that’s the issue. It’s the wear.
If you’re willing to wash by hand, I would do that and continue using the wiping varnish.
Bob Flexner, contributing editor