Turning Archive 2005

An expert's take on food-safe finishes

Peter Teubel
>An excerpt from "Flexner on Finishing" from the June 2005 issue of Popular Woodworking:

"Salad bowl finish is simply a wiping varnish. The implication in the name is that it is safe for contact with food and for small children who might chew on the finished wood. It is safe, of course, once it has cured, but so are all the other available varnishes and wiping varnishes."

"The safety concern is the metallic driers used to speed up the drying of the finish. Lead was once used and it isn’t safe. But lead isn’t used anymore. It takes several driers to replace the lead, and there are only a few driers available. So all varnishes use essentially the same driers. There is no difference in the safety factor of any of these dryers. All are safe."

"It’s amazing to me how the food-safe myth continues to be repeated in woodworking circles. And more amazing still that salad bowl finish in considered safe while the other wiping varnishes aren’t! Food safety is a non-issue. All finishes currently available to woodworkers are safe to eat off of or chew on once the finish has fully cured. Curing occurs faster the thinner the film and the warmer the surrounding air. Press your nose up against the hardened finish and take a whiff. If you can smell anything, the finish is not cured. Give it some more time.”

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