Updated: Jan 18
Please read if you intend to buy one of my bowls. My bowl turning process has changed so much in the last 5 or 6 years that I now feel I have to explain my current method to customers. Lets go back to my early finishing methods first. Liquid Paraffin and Danish Oil.
My first bowls were finished with liquid Paraffin (Mineral Oil to US readers) and the finished bowls would be extremely smooth, free from scratches and rubbing marks and these worked well for a while. The problem was that the bowl needed the finish to be reapplied during the year to keep that look even if the bowl is never washed. The bowl would end up looking lifeless after a while. I countered this problem with a mix of Liquid Paraffin and Beeswax which gave a better and slightly longer lasting finish. There is nothing wrong with these finishes and many Woodturners recommend them. I used to find it very therapeutic to re-apply coats.
I went to one of the shops I supply a few years back to check remaining bowl stock and to drop off a few more pieces. What greeted me was four dull looking bowls with paw marks and rain water droplet marks. I was more than a little upset to see that my carefully created pieces ended up looking like this. No wonder they hadn't sold.
I immediately set about experimenting with more permanent solutions. In comes Rustin's Danish Oil which provided a great finish but unfortunately 24 hours between coats. Next I tried Hampshire Sheen Food Safe Danish oil and I ended up going with this due to its easy application and 20 minute between coat intervals. The Danish Oil needed 3 coats with the final coat rubbed with 2,000 grit while wet and the excess gently wiped away. The Danish Oil made sure that bowls kept their shine even after shop handling. Danish Oil protects the wood because it soaks into the fibers and provides a moisture resistant finish.
Care needs to be used in disposing of the application rags as they create heat as they cure and could catch fire.
Water and wood
When you use the bowl for food, things start to change. The introduction of water or liquids will change the finish of the bowl if and when you wash it. The type of detergent you use will also affect the finish. Some detergents contain salt among other things which are abrasive to any finish.
Also, remember a bowl comes from a tree which sole function was to procure and transmit water from the ground to the top of the tree without loss. Wood is dried out completely to stabilize it before it can become something like a salad bowl. You need to be careful how much water you expose the bowl to or it may change shape and or discolour. Check my After Care page if you are unsure of how to treat wood products.
I am constantly looking for great finishes which protect the wood up to the point when a customer buys the product. That way the customer is buying the product in the condition I intended it to be sold. I have found a new Hard Wax Oil that gives a great finish. Please note; There is no such thing as a completely waterproof finish on wood that is 100% food-safe. Wood is constantly moving because of moisture in the air or changes in temperature and this affects the permeability of any finish you apply.