Question: I have a kitchen island that has a cutting board top. I have just sanded it and would like to put some kind of finish coat on it. Can you recommend an oil finish that is suitable for a food preparation surface?
FINISH on a cutting board may be a misnomer!
Proper surface treatment however is important to guard against germs or mould growth.
It is important to note that Rockhard Maple and a few other closed grained hardwoods are the only suitable woods for cutting board use. Never use oak, ash, hickory or other open grained woods for a cutting surface as the pores can harbor germs and decaying food particles. Softer closed grained woods deteriorate with knife cuts and usage and become unsanitary and wood splinters or particles wind up in foodstuffs.
A Cutting Board or Butcher Block Surface needs an oil that can be repeatedly applied to fill the wood pores and repel food particles, liquids and oils.
The oil must be an inert oil or otherwise it will turn rancid. Never use vegetable or cooking oils to treat or finish a cutting surface as in time the wood will reek of a rancid spoiled oil odor. For initial treatment and continuing maintenance a Pure Raw Almond or Walnut Oil may be used. Mineral Oil from the drugstore may also be used. Nature Oil, is a proprietary blends of these oils, available in Pint bottles.
On untreated new or freshly sanded raw wood apply several coats of oil wiping away any excess a warm room or warm oil will help penetration. These protective oils never dry or cure and need reapplication frequently. Every time the surface is washed or at least weekly the oil should be reapplied. Wipe an even coat on allow to sit overnight or until the next use and wipe up any oil remaining on the surface.
A cutting board surface is never "Finished" - the oil is a continuing Treatment, not a finish. Another finish that works well is pure Raw Tung Oil (USE ONLY the RAW Tung). This oil is from the nut of the tung tree. Raw Tung Oil dries by oxidation. Several coats will be needed; apply at 24 to 48 hour intervals to allow curing. This finish may be maintained by replication of tung oil monthly or some use a Butcher Block oil such as Nature Oil daily or as needed to maintain the surface.
NON Cutting Surface Butcher Blocks & Wood Tops
For professional spray application: Conversion Varnish is a excellent choice for wood counter tops that will NOT be used as a cutting surface.
For on site brush application: Butcher Block type counter tops, especially those containing a sink or stove top are best protected with a film building finish such as the Behlen Salad Bowl Finish (an FDA approved Urethane finish). Wood counter tops that will NOT be used as a cutting surface may also be finished with Salad Bowl finish. Several coats Must be applied to seal the wood from moisture. The advantage of the “Salad Bowl” finish is an easy to clean stain resistant gloss finish that will retain the new look much longer than an oiled finish.
PERIODS AND STYLE
When we started in business over 12 years ago we were drawn to the furniture made between 1845 and 1915. This was such a dynamic time in the history of the United States. This era witnessed the westward expansion across the continent, rapid industrial growth, civil war, huge migrations of Irish, Italians, and Germans (including many skilled carvers and craftsmen that went to work in the furniture factories), the centennial celebration of 1876, the dawn of rapid mass transportation, and the rise of a very rich entrepreneurial class willing and able to spend lavishly on houses and their furnishings. The era ended with the First World War when suddenly America found out what had long been expected---it was indeed a major world power. All these trends and events influenced a thriving furniture business that was fiercely competitive, superb in quality, and uniquely American.
It never ceases to amaze us that when we go on buying trips throughout the Northeast we seldomly come across the same things. This makes dealing and collecting furniture from this era such a joy and treasure hunt. We are fortunate to be living in the area where the best of the this furniture was produced. Although companies in other locations like New Orleans and Cincinnati made fine furniture, the best and most refined pieces were made in New York and Philadelphia. The two general styles that were made between 1845 and 1915 are referred to as "Victorian" and "Turn-of-the-century". The former has many sub styles the most common being Rococo Revival, Renaissance Revival, Gothic Revival, Egyptian Revival, Aesthetic, and Eastlake. Although we sometimes carry pieces from each of these styles, the first two periods are a Southampton Antiques specialty. A brief description of each of the Victorian sub styles follows:
Rococo Revival (1845-1865): Furniture of the Rococo Revival period was usually made of walnut, mahogany, or rosewood. Parlor pieces seem to be the most available. Parlor tables, chairs, and sofas have cabriole legs and often feature naturalistic carvings of fruit, flowers, and leaves. The table tops are either turtle shaped, round, or oval. The foremost cabinetmaker of this period was John Henry Belter who used a technique of laminating the wood (primarily rosewood) to produce a curved yet durable surface. This process was copied by many of his contempories.
Other pieces of Rococo Revival furniture will also tend to have the naturalistic carvings. The fronts of dressers are oftentimes serpentine shaped and the corners are rounded. Leaf or fruit carved pulls decorate the drawers. The Rococo Revival style is very popular today and is reproduced. It's not difficult, however, to spot the reproduction. The carvings are much flatter and less detailed than the originals and the copies are never made out of black walnut or rosewood.
Renaissance Revival (1860-1880): The style was mostly produced out of walnut but mahogany, chestnut, and rosewood were also frequently used. Attributes of the Renaissance style are turned and fluted legs, raised or inset burled panels, heavily carved finials and crests, inset marble tops, and cookie cut corners. Many pieces are further decorated by black and gold incising, marquetry inlay, and bronze or brass mounts. John Jelliff of Newark, New Jersey was one of the more popular craftsmen of the Renaissance Revival furniture. His parlor sets featured carved heads on the arms and crest, with Sevres painted plaques sometimes in the crests. Many gargantuan pieces of this style were produced with some sideboards or beds exceeding 14' in height. The Renaissance Revival period reached its zenith at the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876 where many of the foremost furniture makers of the period exhibited their proudest accomplishments.
Turn-of-the-century: As it's name would suggest this period of furniture was made between the Spanish American war and World War I. With the sudden scarcity of black walnut and chestnut wood, furniture makers turned to oak as their medium. By cutting it in a special way (called quartering) sawmills of this time produced lumber that had a rich "tiger" type grain. (Because of the difficulty of this cutting method, few lumber yards today produce quartered oak). Borrowing from the prevalent art nouveau style, the better furniture companies made lovely pieces with shaped drawers, curved beveled mirrors, curved legs oftentimes ending in a claw foot, profuse swirly carving, and fancy turned spindles and columns. Drawer pulls were commonly made of fancy cast brass on the better pieces or sometimes pressed sheet brass on the more ordinary ones. While most collectors prize the oak from this period, mahogany was also used and was in fact usually more expensive than the oak when it was originally sold.
No doubt you have a favorite piece of furniture that bears a conspicuous scar from a careless smoker, a guest who didn't use a coaster for his drink, or a pet that doesn't share your appreciation of fine furniture. Every time you see the blemish, it probably rekindles ill will toward the perpetrator and makes you wish you could undo the damage.
In fact, by using the right materials and techniques, you can fix many types of damage without spending a lot of time or money.
You should realize, however, that repairing surface damage on furniture is a balancing act between technology and artistry. Although there are established techniques and materials used to repair finishes, an elevated sense of craft is an important part of achieving a successful result. Without it, a repair may be as noticeable as the damage it was intended to fix. While a restored area may never disappear, it should fall below the average person's threshold of perception.
Typically, most repairs you'll make will be to manufactured household furniture. Nearly all household furniture manufactured since about 1920 was finished with lacquer. Although matching the color and sheen of a lacquer finish can be challenging, it is within reach. On the otherhand, handmade furniture (contemporary or antique) may require repair methods not covered here. And the materials and finishes used for modern office furniture can make repairs impractical.
Star Finishing Products and other manufacturers (see SOURCES) make repair and retouching products that can help you achieve professional results. Keep in mind that this article can only point you to the right supplies and techniques - you'll need to furnish the talent.
Repairing minor damage, such as small scratches and water marks, requires only modest skill using familiar products. Small scratches, such as those produced by a cat's sharp claws, can be easily hidden using paste wax or an oil/varnish blend such as Watco Danish Oil. Always use tinted oil to match the wood color, and be sure to wipe off the excess. A finish that's dull from surface wear can be restored to its original sheen by polishing it with a rubbing lubricant and 0000 steel wool.
You can usually remove cloudy water marks in the finish by rubbing the area with a rag dampened (not wet) with alcohol. Another method is to apply a thick coat of an oily substance such as petroleum jelly or mayonnaise on the mark and let it sit overnight. Generally, the oil will displace the moisture. Most water damage that has darkened the wood or caused the finish to separate from the wood will require stripping and refinishing.
Touch - up markers made by Star, Behlen and Minwax work well for blending larger scratches. Putty sticks, such as Star Easy - Fil, are good for filling scratches, cracks and small dents and gouges. They can also be coated with almost any finish.
More serious surface damage, including missing color (from being rubbed off) and problems caused by heat may require more drastic measures. Heat damage has a cloudy appearance similar to water marks. You can try to redissolve the finish with alcohol, but you'll probably wind up stripping and refinishing the piece. As for missing color, you can use padding lacquer and powdered stains, but more on that later.
Using Burn-In Sticks
Burn - in sticks (also called lacquer sticks), such as Star Nu - Glo, are used to fill larger damaged areas. To use them, the surface around the depression, dent or scratch should be relatively level, smooth and free of dirt. Remove any loose flakes of lacquer or wood fibers with sandpaper or a penknife. Note that it's more difficult to conceal a repair on a tabletop than on vertical surfaces such as legs. That's because color and sheen differences are much more noticeable on horizontal surfaces. Novices may therefore want to tackle something other than a tabletop on their first attempt.
You'll need a burn - in knife (electric, gas or oven - heated) to melt the sticks. The knife's blade should be hot, but not so hot that it discolors the burn - in stick. The stick material should flow like cream without smoking or bubbling.
The depth of the damaged area is a big factor when determining the color of the burn - in stick. Use an opaque color on shallow scratches that just penetrate the bare wood. On more deeply damaged areas where no color is missing, such as dents, use a clear transparent stick. Repairs made with transparent burn - in sticks tend to look good from all angles.
To apply melted burn - in stick, pick up a small amount on the knife. Place the material ahead of the damaged area and pull it into the hole, overfilling slightly. With a little practice you'll develop the technique of dropping the material on the back stroke and pulling it into the hole on the forward stroke. Never stop the knife on the surface while applying or removing and leveling the burn - in area.
Spread a lubricant, such as Nu - Glo Patch Lube, over the damaged area to pick up the excess patch material. Continue the stroke until you've picked up all of the excess or spread it into a very thin film.
Replacing missing color
You can repair areas of finish and stain that are worn through with padding lacquer (a type of shellac) and powdered stains. As always, be sure there's good cross ventilation when using finishing materials. First you'll need to apply the padding lacquer.
Use a 4 - in. x 4 - in. piece of cheesecloth or lint - free cotton cloth to apply the padding lacquer. Fold the cloth in half, then into quarters. Gather the cloth corners at the rear to form a wrinkle - free pad surface.
Moisten the cloth with padding lacquer and apply over the area using a swiping motion - much like a pendulum - making contact only at the bottom of the stroke (see photos, opposite). Don't stop the pad or you'll get a print mark. Confine the material to the smallest possible area around the defect. Continue until the surface is slightly tacky. On areas where bare wood is exposed, you should build up clear finish before adding color.
You can blend powdered stains to obtain a matching color. To apply color, rub the stain powder onto the tacky finished surface with your fingertip. (Note that the padding lacquer will be tacky only for a few seconds after it's applied.) Then pass the tacky pad back and forth quickly to dissolve the powder into the finish. Don't use a pad that's too wet or it will lift the color rather than transfer it to the finish. Alternate between coloring and padding until you obtain the desired effect.
Matching sheen is very difficult. You can attempt to match sheen with a can of aerosol lacquer. Spray the entire surface where you've made the repair. Then rub the surface with steel wool.
To match grain, you can mix stain powders with graining liquid and then apply with a sable graining brush to match the appearance of the wood. Various types of wood will require different stain mixtures - more or less opaque - and brush sizes to match the wood's grain. An alternative method is to use a graining pen to draw grain lines. Mitchell Kohanek teaches Wood and Finishing Technology at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minnesota. Handy also thanks Bob Flexner, author of Understanding Wood Finishing, for contributing to this article, as well as Star Finishing Products for its technical assistance.
Coins should be left in "found" condition. Cleaning makes them less desirable to collectors. Ceramics can be washed with soap and water, but only wipe gently with a damp cloth if they are repaired, damaged, or have cold-painted decorations.
To polish brass make a paste of equal parts of salt, flour and vinegar. Rub on brass with a soft cloth. Rinse completely. Shine with a clean, dry, soft cloth.
Store plastic toys or other plastic items away from the heat, not touching one another.
Don't use plastic bubble wrap to store silver and ceramics. Heat and humidity can cause permanent discolorations.
Rearrange lamps and decorative items on wooden tabletops. If you don't, exposed wood will lighten and unexposed wood will remain dark after time.
Porous pottery and ironstone can be cleaned with wig bleach obtained from a beauty salon.
Clean mildew on wooden furniture with a cloth moistened with one cup water mixed with one tablespoon bleach and one tablespoon liquid dishwashing detergent. Dry with a clean cloth.
To remove unpleasant smell from an old chest of drawers, use baking soda, cat litter, or charcoal chips to absorb the odor.
Tin signs or cans will fade in ultraviolet sunlight, or fluorescent light.
White powder forming on glass or pottery with a lead glaze is poisonous. Remove the item!
Marble sculptures will discolor from pollutants if near a window or an active fireplace. They may scorch or crack near a heater.
Lemon juice will remove the remains of gum, adhesive tape, and other sticky tapes.
If you scorch a textile while ironing, rub a cut onion over the scorch, then soak cloth in cold water for one hour. Rewash and try again.
Do not store foods or beverages in crystal bowls or bottles for long periods of time.
Vinegar, acidic juice, and alcoholic beverages will leach the lead out of the glass.
Do not use olive oil to polish a wooden bowl, or it will turn rancid. Wash and rinse bowl well if using an olive oil salad dressing.
If displaying paper items, remember that light of all kinds (electric and sunlight), will eventually harm paper.
To clean antique ivory, dust with a soft cloth or brush, and use a clean woolen cloth to buff it.
Do not polish dark antique bronze or you will destroy the old patina and lower the value of the piece.
Chlorine in cleaning products products will harm bronze items displayed in a room where these products are used.
When storing old toys remember to remove the batteries first.
When repairing dolls remember that changing the original hair in any way will lower its value.
Glass Christmas ornaments should never be stored in a damp basement. Mildew will cause damage.
Antique clocks must be cleaned and lubricated every five years. To set most clocks, hold the minute hand in the center, turn it clock-wise, wait for each strike. Wind fully each time, but do not over-wind.
To clean glass with an irridescent finish, use cool water and very little mild soap.
Never display grandfather clocks near a heat register or radiator. Be sure to attach them to the wall for safety. Most old grandfather clocks have a small hole for a screw inside on the backboard.
A signature on a piece of cut glass adds at least 25% to the value, but it can be difficult to find.
Clean antique cloth dolls by gently vacuuming through a layer of nylon net. Do not vacuum silk.
Clean andirons using liquid metal polish and 0000-grade steel wool to remove resin caused by smoke.
Polish old carved furniture using paste wax applied with a stenciling brush. Buff using a shoe brush.
If you have any helpful hints that you would like see posted to this page and shared with our visitors, please email me.
Designing and Investing with Antiques
From an article published in Gentry Magazine, 1995
Designing and Investing with Antiques
by Teresa R. Beltramo
Antiques have always been artistic centers of attention as well as keen investments. And with today's emphasis on mass production, the desirability of handcrafted antiques continues to grow.
Classic antique designs have been reproduced in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, attesting to their timeless appeal. Authentic antiques with good design and craftsmanship will always bring lasting beauty and investment value. When you design a room with antiques, it will be in style, regardless of what the current design trends may be.
The flexibility of antiques allows for great freedom in decorating. Designers now use antiques in ways that go beyond their original function. For example, a hand-wrought iron balcony can be made into a decorative table with a glass top, or a buffet deux corps can make a perfect entertainment center. The creative use of antiques can lead to unique and interesting interiors.
An eighteenth century armoire can be both the highlight of an antique-filled room or the focal point of a room with contemporary furnishings. Designers often use large-scale pieces to create a sense of expansiveness. A large piece will make a ceiling appear higher by drawing the eye upward.
Correctly dating and authenticating antiques is a challenge for antique dealers. The large number of fakes on the market makes it especially important to have a trained eye. A good dealer will be able to tell if the piece is hand-planed, hand-doweled and hand-dovetailed. And, for a piece from a given era and origin, the experienced dealer knows what the correct proportions should be, which woods would typically be used, and how much shrinkage and patina the wood should exhibit. Dealers will also judge the consistency of the wood through the entire piece to determine whether the piece has been 'put together' with old wood.
To protect yourself from buying a fake, only purchase from reputable dealers, and make sure that the age of the piece is written on the invoice.
Enjoy the adventure of bringing treasures into your client's homes.
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