So how did I mess up a mineral oil cutting board finish?

Tom Williams

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I recently completed a couple of maple cutting boards. I decided to use mineral oil for a finish. I applied a liberal coat of oil and let it set over night. Applied a second coat and let it sit over night. Then I melted bees wax into the oil, applied to the board and let it sit over night. The board was allowed to set for 2 days (another set for 10 days) before use. When the boards were rinsed off in the sink, the mineral oil was gone and the grain raised substantially. Any input on what I could have done wrong?
 

Vaughn McMillan

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Tom, the only thing I can suggest is raising the grain (and sanding it off) before oiling the board. The amount of grain raising varies depending on whether the board surface is face, edge, or end grain. I've had similar experiences after washing a new board if I didn't knock the grain down before oiling. Typically, I've sanded to 400 grit or so, spritz the board with water, let it dry, re-sand lightly with 400 grit, then oil. That seems to handle it.

In the case of your current boards, I'd re-sand them lightly now then hit them with oil again. (You might be surprised how much oil is still in the wood. Your sandpaper will likely clog pretty quickly.) As they get used, cutting boards will never be quite as soft to the touch as when new, but you can reduce the grain-raising if you handle it before oiling.

I hope this helps.

(And where are the pics, man? We like pics.) :D
 
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Charlotte, NC
Tom, welcome to FWW...
Just wanted to second what Vaughn said. I've had the same thing happen and his advice is right on. Before sanding an already oiled board you might want to try a sharp scraper first. Sandpaper will clog very quickly.

FYI - When the time comes to clean my boards with soap & water, I scrub them hard with the green rough side of a two sided sponge. Spray the soap off and dry immediately with a paper towel. This gets it very clean, minimizes the time it contacts water and keeps them smooooth.

Attached is my latest...end grain Walnut Cherry & Maple 2" thick.
 

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Brent Dowell

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I find that a 4-1 mix of mineral oil and parafin wax makes a nice finish for cutting boards. Straight mineral oil disappears too quickly, and the wax helps to keep it looking good and resist stains. (I probably just made that last part up).

Basically, it turns into a thick liquid, depending on the temperature and the mixture.

BTW, Buying mineral oil at the grocery store or pharmacy always cracks me up. Prints out on the receipt as 'Laxative'... :rofl:
 

Vaughn McMillan

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...BTW, Buying mineral oil at the grocery store or pharmacy always cracks me up. Prints out on the receipt as 'Laxative'... :rofl:
Back when I was making a lot of cutting boards, I used to get real sympathetic looks from folks when I'd show up at the checkout counter with 5 or 6 bottles of mineral oil. :rolleyes:

Nice job on your latest board, John. I sure wish 8/4 hardwood wasn't so darned expensive out here.
 

Bill Simpson

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I agree with everything previously said. The problem may have come from you Not raising the grain before applying the finish. Brent's 4-1 mixture may be right, I use a bottle of "laxative" and a chunk of Canning Wax I melt the wax into the Oil (not sure what the ratio amounts to) and get the same results. As was also stated, raising the grain at this point is futile so scraping might provide the answer.

Over the eons I used cutting boards in my classroom as fill-in projects, I never encountered a fuzz after oiling. :huh: Even with the poor quality some students produced. Unless..... Power sanding sometimes puts a glaze on the surface and folds down the wood fibers, sealing the pores (the reason for raising the grain) perhaps this is what happened, In your haste to make a super smooth cutting board you over did the sander and maybe over extended the life of the grit making more of a buffing or polish than a smooth surface. That would account for the grain raising and the oil not penitrating.
 

Tom Williams

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Grove City, Ohio
Thanks for the responses.
I scraped the first coats off and used a card scraper to take off the raised grain. I then wet sanded with 320 grit and mineral oil as a lubricant. Next day I repeated the wet sanding with 600 grit and mineral oil. I then applied several coats allowing them to soak in. They are now ready for a test.

Here is a picture of the finished boards. They were supposed to be a quick project so the cooks in the family could use them. Anyway they are sitting on the wenge counter top I made for the kitchen remodel (still in progress)
 

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Wenge counter top??? :eek: I'd call that a stealth gloat.
Looks very nice.:thumb:

Your boards look good too and should handle veggie juice and wash water better this time around.
 

Brent Dowell

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The more I think about it, the more I think you probably didn't screw anything up in the first place.

One of the first cutting boards I 'made' was just a chunk of 8/4 maple 12"x24". I loved it, but it warped so badly, it really just didn't set on the counter right. But there was something neat about a big thick chunk-o-wood on the counter.

The point is, the more scrubbed it and oiled it and used it, the better it looked. Well, except for the time I picked up a rocket hot lodge cast iron pan with my bare hand and had to set it down really quick and set it on the board. Got a really nice woodburned Lodge Cast Iron logo on the cutting board... Only a slight burn on my hand :doh:

Since then, I've made a number of edge and end grain boards and both seem to get better looking over time with the application of the oil and wax. At first, they always seemed to be dry, and would look funny. But the more oil and wax, the better they would look. I don't think it's necessarily something that can be reproduced at will. I think it takes time. Time to cut, and clean, and scrub, and oil...

So what I'm saying is that you've made a couple of really nice cutting boards, and I'll bet they just get better looking over time...
 

Vaughn McMillan

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Brent beat me to it. They will improve in looks over time. Those are great-looking boards, and as users, they'll get a nice patina after awhile that might not be quite as smooth as when they're new, but it'll be richer in character.
 

Bill Simpson

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Loverly boards and very loverly counter tops (I think that was a sly way of Gloating on the counter tops , too) Anyway they are nice and proud that you could have them...
I thinks maybe that 600 is a bit far in the sanding grit for a cutting board. Perhaps that is the key to your first problem. If you went that far in your prep before you finished, I am sure that you buffed and polished the surface of the wood and did not allow for any of the pores to be open and thus did not penetrate with the oil.

Sometimes we make a mistake of over preping our projects. 600 sanding is not sanding, it is polishing. Remember this is a wood finish not a car finish. Although some feel I am in error, I can't remember ever seeing a woods Craftsman using 600 paper to finish a project. I been at it over 40 years and yet...?

Lathe projects, sure, we polish and spin a great surface but a flat works job such as a cutting board... :dunno: I have used 300 and 400 on finishes to smooth and prepare for rubbing down with pumice and oil or Rotten stone and oil but for a cutting board that is going to be sliced and diced and thrown in the dishwasher... :dunno:

Not that I don't commend you for your efforts but there is a place to draw the line and decide smooth is smooth enough.
 

Vaughn McMillan

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...Sometimes we make a mistake of over preping our projects. 600 sanding is not sanding, it is polishing. Remember this is a wood finish not a car finish...
Even though I'm someone who has sanded quite a few "cutting boards" down to 600 grit, a lot of the fancier boards I made (curly maple and such) weren't intended for real use other than the occasional serving of cheese and crackers, so those did get extra sanding. I fully agree with you on not oversanding a cutting board intended for real use. For a cutting board I plan to use in the kitchen...220, maybe 320 grit tops. (Just to contradict myself though, I've done a few end grain boards that were intended for use. I still sanded them down to 600 grit because they were made as gifts, and they just feel so nice that way when new.)

You do bring up a very good point about how the smooth polished surface doesn't absorb the oil like a 220 to 320 grit surface. :thumb:
 

Stuart Ablett

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Good points Bill.

I've always thought that anything past #320 on flat work is an exception to the rule, not the norm, in fact, most stuff that I do flat work usually I only go to #240. Now once the finish is on, and cured, I might buff it, or use the #800 scrubby pad things to remove any nibs in the finish, but not on the bare wood.

Cheers!
 
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