In Finishing

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Cutting Boards

The best finish for a cutting board is no finish.

A seemingly never-ending question concerns how to finish cutting boards.

You don’t need any finish on a cutting board. Water won’t hurt it and no finish will keep water out anyway, after a few knife cuts. Nor will the finish continue to look nice after numerous knife cuts. If the cutting board begins to warp due to the water contact on just one side, turn it over and it will slowly flatten out.

If you are selling cutting boards and want them to look nice, apply wax or some type of oil finish. You don’t want a film-building finish because chips of finish will be cut away and get into the food.

Mineral oil will work fine but will leave the wood looking dull. A drying oil such as boiled linseed oil or a blend of oil and varnish (“Danish Oil”) can be made to look shinier and nicer with several coats. But be aware that if you make the cutting boards look too nice people won’t buy them because they won’t want to cut on them and mess them up…I know this from experience. One of my first projects was making cutting boards and selling them at a craft show. Countless people told me the boards looked too nice to cut on so sales were slow.

You don’t need to worry about the safety of any finish for food contact. This is a myth that refuses to die. All finishes are totally safe to eat off of and even to ingest in small amounts once they have totally cured. But if you are selling the cutting boards, the people you sell to might be concerned. So the best policy is probably to finish the boards with wax or mineral oil and promote the finish as food-safe.
 — Bob Flexner


flexner_on_finishing_500Want to learn more about finishing from Bob Flexner?
Check out his book “Flexner on Finishing,” at

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Showing 3 comments
  • bpdean

    I’ve gone to Flaxseed Oil (aka linseed oil without the driers) from the grocery store as a completely worry free, drying, buildable, food safe finish. It’s relatively expensive but any leftovers can go on a salad.

  • bruce.desertrat

    Absolutely spot on: no finish needed.

    I’ve had a cutting board for about 30 years that was part of the butcher-block top of a dishwasher that was probably just about as old when it was decommissioned (they *really* don’t make ’em like they used to!) 1½” maple if I had to guess. It had some beat up shiny finish on it that I sanded off, then I wiped on a couple coats of mineral oil and left it alone (on the advice of the friend who gave it to me).

    I used to have a horrible problem with it warping after getting wet. The solution was to attach four rubber feet with some screws into the bottom to give some air flow across the bottom. (not too tall, they’re maybe 1/8″ high, swiped from the bottom of an old desktop computer!) Hasn’t warped once since and it softens the sound of pounding out chicken scallopini considerably.

    I have a little bottle of mineral oil in the kitchen and wipe it down occasionally (very occasionally, that 8oz bottle has lasted a decade or more, and I use it on our wooden utensils, too…) but it is in daily use, and is good for another 30 or 60 years, easy.

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