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Hi Rand,

I'm wondering if starting with a card scraper might be easier than doing only hand sanding. If you can clamp the rails vertically and position your body as if you were using a spokeshaven I would imagine the finish would come off the curved surfaces pretty quickly. Then it wouldn't take much sanding to make it round again.

Llama breeding? Cool. Only seen it on TV.
 

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I support you building new also, but if you have a lathe, then you might be able to chuck it in and just hold the sandpaper like you were shoe shining it.

All this time I though you weren't willing to take the spindles out.

As far as safe finishes, I hear shellac and linseed oil are safe. Shellac is used to make medicine capsules you ingest. For shellac, use the flakes and use drinkable alcohol (not the 'denatured' stuff) like Everclear. Linseed oil is sold as food, you might know it by its other name: flaxseed oil.

Some ppl recommend tung oil or walnut oil, but I would not use them in case the child has nut allergies. And also some say that food grade mineral oils can be used as a component of a finish, but I prefer not to have distilled from petroleum if possible.

Before you buy anything, checkout the MSDS for the product and it will list the ingredients. Interestingly, this Salad Bowl finish not only has carcinogens, but is even prohibited in California (take a look at it's MSDS). Just like with the food you eat, if you don't recognize the ingredients, don't buy it.

One last note, Woodsmith shop had this nice easy finish which was 1 part each of BLO, beeswax, and turpentine. Until you mentioned it, I never thought this could have been food safe b/c of the turpentine, but I did a little digging and it turns out you can use food grade d-Limonene as a replacement. I haven't tried it, but it's definitely worth a shot.
 

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I kept looking and found this Danish Oil which is FDA-approved for food contact. It also looks like their "Original Wood Finish" is BLO and beeswax. I'm guessing they probably have something like d-limonene as their solvent to dissolve the wax.

It also turns out that not all BLO is the same. Some have metallic dryers to give it the same "effect" as BLO without actually boiling it and apparently the MSDS doesn't have to include them if they are non-toxic.
 
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