Considering that cutting boards get a lot of frequent use in every home, making a cutting board can be one of the best woodworking projects, especially if you have been running out of ideas.
As cutting boards aren’t too complex to make either, it can easily be a fun little weekend project that will be a fine addition to your home that you will use for many years to come.
One of the most vital parts of a cutting board project is the material you will be using to finish it, which especially requires care as food safety is a significant concern for such a project.
As natural oils are the first thing that comes to mind when food safety is the topic, we will analyze one of the most popular natural oils in the woodworking space, tung oil, and decide whether it’s suitable for a cutting board.
So, can you use tung oil to finish a cutting board?
You can safely use pure tung oil to finish a cutting board (or any other food-related project) as it’s completely natural and food-safe.
Tung oil has many other benefits alongside being food-safe, such as being very easy to apply, protecting the wood from scratches, and waterproofing the wood.
Moving on, we will be taking a deeper look into what makes tung oil a great choice to finish a cutting board with, choosing the right tung oil for your cutting board, and how you can apply tung oil to your cutting board correctly.
Can You Use Tung Oil to Finish a Cutting Board?
Tung oil is a natural oil that has been around for thousands of years and still is one of the most widely used finishes in the woodworking world due to the many qualities it brings.
As pure tung oil is entirely natural with no processing or chemicals involved, it’s food safe and suitable for usage on a cutting board or any other project that may come into contact with food.
The most vital thing to be aware of when purchasing tung oil to use on your cutting board is to ensure that the tung oil is pure.
Unfortunately, the bulk of the products on the market with tung oil labels contain minuscule amounts of pure tung oil, with chemicals making up the rest of the product. As you can imagine, such products are far from natural and food-safe and certainly not suitable for a cutting board.
To ensure that the tung oil you buy is pure, buy the product from a brand you trust, and ensure that the packaging mentions that it’s completely pure and food-safe. Refrain from using any product that doesn’t mention being pure or food-safe on your cutting board.
While the primary factor that makes pure tung oil one of the best choices for a cutting board is food safety, pure tung oil comes with plenty of other strengths that your cutting board will benefit from in various ways.
Without further ado, let’s take a quick look at the benefits pure tung oil will bring to your cutting board project.
- Water-resistant – Finishing your cutting board with tung oil will give it a fair amount of water resistance, which can come in quite handy with a project such as a cutting board that will be frequently exposed to water.
- Scratch-resistant – Tung oil forms a protective layer that will protect your cutting board from scratches, dents, and cracks, allowing you to use your cutting board for many years to come.
- Aesthetically pleasing – While tung oil is transparent and does not yellow over time as some other finishes do, it also comes with a gloss that will make your cutting board absolutely beautiful.
- Easy to apply – Tung oil is easy to apply and reapply, which brings a decent amount of convenience to your project.
With that, let’s move onto how you can apply tung oil to your cutting board.
How to Apply Tung Oil to a Cutting Board?
Applying tung oil to a cutting board is a very straightforward process, thanks to how easy tung oil is to use in general.
Here are the steps we recommend taking for applying tung oil to your cutting board.
- Start by cleaning the surface of the wood. The surface should not have any other coating on it and should be completely clean and smooth. If you don’t think the surface is smooth enough, you should also sand it before moving forward with the application.
- Apply the first layer with a rag. As the wood should fully absorb the tung oil, feel free to use large amounts of it and make sure that you apply it evenly throughout the surface.
- Wait for the wood to absorb the first coat. This process can take roughly 40 minutes to an hour, which is why it’s best to set a timer and do other things in the meanwhile.
- Keep applying coats until the wood won’t absorb the oil anymore. If the surface looks glossy and oily after the waiting period, it means that the wood has absorbed the maximum amount of oil it can, meaning that you should move to the next step. On average, it takes four to five coats for the wood to become completely saturated.
- Wipe off the excess oil. As the excess oil shouldn’t cure on the surface of the wood, thoroughly wipe it off with a rag until there is no more oil left.
- Wait for the tung oil to cure. While the oil will harden in a couple of days, it can require up to a whole month to fully cure.
How Often Should I Reapply Tung Oil to a Cutting Board?
Reapplication is a vital part of achieving the perfect finish with tung oil, which is why it’s a good idea to note the date you have finished your cutting board to serve as a reminder.
The rule of thumb for reapplying tung oil is once a week for a month, once a month for a year, and then once per year moving forward, which also applies to cutting boards as it’s no different than any other woodworking project in essence.
As not reapplying the tung oil on time will cause it to weaken, we highly recommend being mindful of the schedule and not delaying the reapplication process.
Is Tung Oil Waterproof?
While not as effective as a finish such as an oil-based varnish for water resistance, tung oil is still one of the most water-resistant finishes, especially among natural finishes.
As it’s not possible to use non-natural finishes on a cutting board due to food safety reasons, tung oil is the best option for water resistance in such a scenario.
Best Oils to Use on a Cutting Board
While tung oil is definitely one of the best oils to finish a cutting board, here are some alternatives that will work just as well if you don’t have access to pure tung oil.
- Raw linseed oil – Raw linseed oil is the closest alternative as it’s a natural drying oil, just like pure tung oil. That being said, raw linseed oil can take a very long time to cure, making it slightly less desirable.
- Fractionated (distilled) coconut oil – Fractionated coconut oil isn’t exactly a finish as it’s a non-drying oil, but it’s a fantastic treatment that moisturizes the wood and is completely odorless and tasteless.
- Food-grade mineral oil – Food-grade mineral oil is very similar to fractionated coconut oil as it’s also odorless, tasteless, and doesn’t cure. While it requires regular reapplication, it’s a great treatment to increase the durability of the wood.
You can safely use tung oil on a cutting board, but only if it’s pure. Since pure tung oil is natural and food-safe, it’s one of the best finishes for any food-related woodworking project, without a doubt.
As so many tung oil products on the market are not pure, finding pure tung oil may be a challenge, but it’s also extremely vital as a tung oil product that isn’t pure is not food safe; and should not be applied to a cutting board.