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
Want to learn more about finishing from Bob Flexner?
Check out his book “Flexner on Finishing,” at shopwoodworking.com