Finishing a Cutting Board

Six out of six doctors agree: Use mineral oil. March 9, 2010

I'm a finisher, not much of a woodworker though. I've framed and built my own garage, and designed/framed and built my spray booth. Iíve never made a piece of furniture or anything though - but Iím learning! I want to actually make something for my dad this year for Christmas, and given my lack of woodworking knowledge, Iíll stick to something simple (want to make him a cutting board, he loves cooking).

I can handle the woodworking part of this - building a cutting board isn't that difficult; what I want to know is what kind of finish to put on it. I'm worried about using a stain on a food prep surface, don't know if that's even do-able. How are they finished? What if I wanted to make it black, or even red wine colored? I know this is not exactly what these forums are supposed to be used for, but hoped that some of you fine gentlemen might have some ideas for me nonetheless.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor W:
There shouldn't be any debate about it being food safe. It completely fills the pores, is impervious to food fluids and water, is very easy to clean and can easily be renewed when needed.

From contributor K:
Get some of the oil made for cutting boards and use that. Woodcraft sells it, as do most woodworking stores. Just reapply it ever so often, it works great. I don't think stain is a good idea myself.

From contributor S:
John Boos and Co. sells their oil. Or you can use mineral oil or wax. No stain though.

From contributor Z:
Go down to the super market and get a bottle of mineral oil. Forget the stain if you plan on using it to actually cut on.

From contributor F:
Most of the cutting board oils are actually just mineral oil. So just spend the $5 on a bottle of mineral oil, wipe it on and let it soak in, then wipe it off. Re-apply as needed (give your dad the bottle too). Also works great on salad bowls etc. Wax is another good option, but I think the oil is a little easier to apply and maintain. Do not use a BLO or tung oil. These have usually been modified with metallic dryers so they cure. Do not use olive or vegetable oil as these will go rancid. Stick with mineral oil, wax, or one of the salad bowl/cutting board oils.

From contributor J:
Use the mineral oil. It's sold as a laxative at most grocery and drug stores. I like to brush it on really heavy and leave a heavy coat for 8-24 hours and wipe or wash off the excess. If you don't really let it soak in, it will require much more frequent reapplications. If it will just sit on a wall, this isn't as important. Include a bottle of the oil with the gift because they will need to reapply it if they wash it often.

From contributor G:
As far as the finish goes the mineral oil or bees wax are great. As far as the staining goes I have used food colorants or even some wines to color cutting boards in the past. They seem to work pretty well. I have one from about four or five years ago I did with a dark red wine and it still looks great. Once a month I re-wax it with bees wax.

From contributor D:
Mineral oil is the way to go as mentioned. Why not pick out woods that you wouldn't have to stain and leave them natural? Use a waterproof glue such as Titebone III or epoxy if you glue up. Be sure to let your glue joints cure fully before finishing. I have cutting boards that I made 25 years ago that with a little sanding and mineral oil, look like the day I made them.