What Finish to Use on Turned Wooden Bowls


Turned wooden bowls show off the beauty in the wood, and, if cared for properly will last a long time. Rock maple and beech are wood species that are historically used for food bearing products. Wood turned bowls that will be used in the kitchen will be washed and need to be oiled again to maintain the life and quality of the bowl.

Film Forming Finishes

  • Film-forming finishes, such as varnish, lacquer, or shellac, coat the bowl and preserve it by shedding moisture and slowing the absorption of moisture into the wood. The film will chip or crack as it ages. Film-forming finishes can contain petroleum-based solvent and drying agents that are not suitable for consumption and not recommended for use inside a wood turned bowl that will be used for food.

Penetrating Finishes

  • The other type of finish is one that penetrates the wood. These are drying oils and nondrying oils. Drying oils are known as wood sealers. They penetrate the wood and harden the material. Drying oils are diluted varnish, tung, and linseed. The drying oils make the bowl easy to clean and give the wood the ability to resist scratches. Nondrying oils penetrate the wood and include vegetable or mineral oils, or a combination of both. The vegetable oils are best for the inside of wood bowls because they are edible. Examples of vegetable oils include olive, corn, peanut, safflower, and walnut. Peanut oil and walnut oil should not be used for people with food sensitivity to nuts. Mineral oil is a nondrying oil that penetrates the wood.

The Top Two Choices

  • Take note whether the product is recommended for use with food or is listed as food grade. Do not use baby oil as it is not a food grade product. Olive oil and walnut oil are the favorite finishes for the inside of wood bowls that will be used to hold food. Turned bowls that are used for food will last several years, if properly cared for through good cleaning and occasional reapplication of a thin coating of oil.

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