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Finishing a wooden bowl centerpiece - should I urethane it?

netrate's picture

I purchased a bowl on clearance because of a few chips here and there.  It stained up really nice and I cannot even see the chips, they seems to blend now with the stain on it.  The question is - since I am going to be putting fruit or even some food in the center piece bowl, how should I finish it?  I really don't like a glossy poly finish, but I am not sure what else to use to achieve some protection.  Thanks

David amateur

Urethane varnish is pretty (post #207250, reply #1 of 8)

Urethane varnish is pretty inert, and is available in various degrees of gloss, so it would likely be my first choice.  You might consider using a food-safe oil, such as linseed oil, but it's hard to predict how it would interact with your stain.  (Is the stain oil or water-based?)  Don't use tung oil, as it's toxic.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

David (post #207250, reply #2 of 8)

A Great Place for Information, Comraderie, and a Sucker Punch.

Remodeling Contractor just outside the Glass City.


It is Minwax Gel Stain and it (post #207250, reply #3 of 8)

It is Minwax Gel Stain and it says to use Paint Thinner or Mineral Oil to remove, so I am guessing it is oil based?

AND thank you for the link to Food safe products - but the question is : can I use these immediately over the stain or do you use them after the urethane coat?

David amateur

Hey since I have already (post #207250, reply #4 of 8)

Hey since I have already stained this bowl, am I still going to be able to finish it with an oil of some sort?

David amateur

I don't see why not. (post #207250, reply #5 of 8)

The stain is dry, should accept most any sealer of oil or water base.


figure what you're going to use and read the label.

A Great Place for Information, Comraderie, and a Sucker Punch.

Remodeling Contractor just outside the Glass City.


I was wondering because isn't (post #207250, reply #6 of 8)

I was wondering because isn't mineral oil considered a solvent?  Won't it just strip the stain?

David amateur

Not to my knowledge. (post #207250, reply #7 of 8)

It either is absorbed into the unsealed wood or sits on top till it dries out.  Too much oil and it'll be one sticky mess.

To get back to urethane-once it's dry it should be food safe.  Again, read the label for any cautions.


Here's another idea-always like to confuse.............

There's a finish made for butcher blocks.  Usually meant for bare or raw wood or as a spruce up for already finished butcher block tops, cutting boards etc.  However, it will dry, protect and most likely work over that stained finish.

It's certainly food safe (unless you find some bogus chinese brand) .

You may have to reapply if you constantly wipe / clean (not in a sink or dishwasher) this bowl of yours.

A Great Place for Information, Comraderie, and a Sucker Punch.

Remodeling Contractor just outside the Glass City.


The stain is coloring the (post #207250, reply #8 of 8)

The stain is coloring the wood because of minute pigment deposited onto/into the wood surface. Without a surface finish the stain is vulnerable to being rubbed off. Take a damp rag to your stained wood to prove this to yourself. Mineral oil is virtually worthless as a protective film. To prove this, take some on a rag and wipe the surface of the stained wood. The rag will pick up some of the stain. 

You need a protective finish. I would first give your bowl a coat of shellac to seal the surface. Zinser makes a product called Seal Coat. Don't buy their shellac finish because that contains wax which will preclude any other finish being put over it. The shellac will give a glossy sheen... something that you probably don't want. So, topcoat over the shellac with a varnish (poly or otherwise), or any other finish of your choice. A wipe on type finish will produce great results with a low learning curve. Any finish that you can purchase in the store will be food safe within a month of drying. Don't try to use any sort of "penetrating oil" over the top of the shellac because the shellac won't let it penetrate. 

Next time, look into using wood dye instead of stain. Dyes usually will produce a better appearance... less muddy, clearer color. They let the wood figure show more naturally.