How to Choose the Best Food Grade Wood Sealer

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This is How to Choose Best Food Grade Wood Sealer, your guide to sealing your woodworking projects, including examples and plenty of tips and tricks. If you are looking for a food safe finish and how to pick the best, you are in the right place. Enjoy.

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Why Use a Food Grade Wood Sealer?

how-to-choose-the-best-food-grade-wood-sealerThere are occasions in woodworking where you have to consider that your project might be used in ways that are a lot different than a normal project. One of those ways might be that the project makes contact with food on a regular basis.

At that point, you need to have a way of sealing the wood surface so that way it doesn’t absorb any of the liquids from the food, but also doesn’t contaminate the food. You need both in order for the sealer to work properly.

The first part is the protection for your piece. Could you imagine if every single time some food touched the wood that it would leave a stain? Could you also imagine if you got sick every time you ate that food?

Since none of these options are very appealing, you need to find a nice food grade sealer that you can use on some of your projects.

See Also: 10 Step Guide to Wood Finishing

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Store Bought Sealers

There are a couple of different options for store-bought sealers that are safe for intermittent contact with cold foods. One of the primary is called Salad Bowl Finish, and it’s made by General Finishes.

This is a finish that has been tested, and rated to work well to seal the wood surface and yet still make contact with food. It’s meant to be light contact, and not high temperature, so bear that in mind.

This is a hand applied finish that you transfer to the surface of your project with a clean cloth, and then allow it to dry following the manufacturers directions. Once it’s fully cured, the food safety rating is effective.

See Also: How to Pick the Best Respirator for Wood Finishing

Fully Curing the Sealer

Let’s revisit the phrase fully cured from the previous section. There’s a big difference between a finish that’s dry to the touch, and finish that’s fully cured. The difference is important especially when it comes to food safety.

For example, both of these conditions resulting to finish that is dry when handled, and doesn’t appear to still be wet at all. Under closer examination however, the finish is still drying because there are still chemicals in the layer.

When a finish is fully cured, all of the solvents that are meant to evaporator are fully removed from the finish layer. At that point all that remains are solids, and those are the only thing that’s rated to be safe for contact with food.

See Also: The Best Time to Learn About Wood Finishing as a Beginner

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Making Your Own Sealer Product

If you don’t want to use the store-bought product, perhaps you don’t want to use chemicals in your mix, you can make your own sealer product. After all, food has touched wood for thousands of years before we came up with modern finishing.

If you mix shellac flakes with grain alcohol, you can create a mixture that will help seal your woodworking projects without causing any food safety issues. Shellac is commonly sprayed on food already to make it shiny in the grocery store.

Another thing you can do is use a coat of beeswax on the wood, which is again a completely edible substance, and natural too. The only difficulty is in getting the hard beeswax to lay out flat on the surface.

This is where a thinner like mineral oil can be helpful. Yes, this is a petroleum distillate, but it’s also an edible substance that’s sold in the drugstore for different medicinal reasons. You can use it to thin your beeswax, and it’ll be easier to apply.

There are a number of sets of directions for this online, but the basic version is that you warm up the mineral oil, and slowly add beeswax until it turns a nice amber color. You then let the mixture cool down, and it turns into a paste.

You apply the paste by hand with a rag, and buff it out like any other paste wax, except it’s homemade. Be very careful though if you’re making your own finishes. It’s a very dangerous operation, and you really need to have some experience and understand the risks.

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See Also: 9 Unbelievable Wood Finishing Myths for Beginners

Pick a Brand You Trust

No matter what’s the other product you’re using, if you’re going to do anything that involves food, and the safety of people enjoying your woodworking projects, you definitely don’t want to trust that to just anyone making a product.

Instead of taking a chance, make sure to use a product from the brand that you trust. This can also be a brand that has a long track record of success, and that has been in the industry for a long time.

This is usually a good indicator of getting a nice product. Companies tend to stick around when they serve their customers well, and making good products that are safe for the users is just one way of serving them as such.

See Also: The Secret to Wood Finishing

Look at What the Professionals are Using

If you’re completely brand new to the world of woodworking and wood finishing, and you have absolutely no idea what company you should trust, and I recommend you find another woodworker that you trust.

This can be me, and I’m flattered if it is, but it can also be a lot of other people who are in the space, and have been making things for a long time. Woodworkers in general love to share what they do, and you can learn quite a bit from that.

Odds are if you find a food safe finishing product that is good enough for someone who’s been woodworking for a long time, it can also be good enough for you. This way, you get to skip to the head of the line without all the experimentation.

See Also: 7 Ways to Get Better at Finishing

Food Safe Finishes in General

This wouldn’t be a complete article without talking about food safe sealers and finishes in general, and what it actually means to be one or the other. Food safe doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe, and in 100% of circumstances.

For example, if you put really hot pasta sauce on your food safe sealer, it may end up pulling some of it off and into your recipe. Depending on what that sealer is made of, it may not be the most appetizing thing to put your body.

While this may not get you sick, and that’s a really good thing, I still wouldn’t call eating bits of my finish to be totally safe. Again, pay attention to the fine print when you’re looking at a food safe product, and know what the limitations are.

Another example is that most food safe products are not compatible with alcohols. This means it’s hard to pour a beer or a shot into a cup you make for that purpose. The reason is the alcohol is a solvent itself, and will start to break down the finish.

See Also: Understanding Wood Finishing

Food Grade Sealer Tips and Tricks

Here are some tips and tricks to get you started on the right path with your food safe sealer products:

  • If you like simplicity, just buy a product that has a good track record and is ready to use right out of the can.
  • If you would rather control what’s in your finishes and sealers, then look for a good recipe online, and make one yourself. Just be super careful, because lots of things are flammable.
  • A lot of food grade clear products don’t offer the same protection as a chemical filled product, so you’ll have to treat them a little nicer.
  • Remember that the product isn’t considered food grade until it’s 100% cured and all the solvents have evaporated off.
  • Also, food safe doesn’t mean safe or anything that you could eat. This includes hot foods, and foods or drinks with alcohol in them.

Your Action Assignment

Now that you know several ways to pick out a food grade sealer and you have all of this great information, it’s time to take action on what you’ve read. Do you have a product that’s going to be touching food that needs to be finished?

Do you feel like having a little fun and making something for food contact just to enjoy learning about the different sealer products? If either of those sounds like you, then it’s time to plan a project and get it started.

If you have any questions on it using food grade products to seal your woodworking projects and surfaces, please post a question and a Q&A forum and I’m glad to answer them. Happy building.

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brian forbes westfarthing woodworks llc owner

  • 20 Years Experience in Woodworking
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