Best way to finish Kitchen cart?

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Forum topic by RCW posted 12-12-2019 01:05 PM 262 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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25 posts in 193 days

12-12-2019 01:05 PM

Topic tags/keywords: maple top coat finish

Hello, I’m a pretty new memeber on here, i’m hoping to get some advice. I recently built a ktichen cart with fold up Maple top to expand the surface area. The customers now want a darker color than the maple, and they said they plan to use the top to chop veggies every now and then. I’m not sure how to accomplish this with the finish, Can I stain the maple a darker color and still make the top food safe? if so what do I use on top of the stain. If I cant’ would lacquer be acceptable? I’m assuming it won’t chip or flake off like Poly but maybe i’m wrong. any help would be GREATLY appreciated.
Thanks in advance.

11 replies so far

View Tony1212's profile


375 posts in 2343 days

#1 posted 12-12-2019 01:54 PM

Pretty much every finish is foodsafe after it fully cures.

The real problem you’ll have is them cutting through both the finish and the stain when they chop food directly on the surface. Slicing only one onion will leave visible bare wood on the top.

The only real resolution is to re-make the top of the cart with a darker wood, like walnut or cherry or something.

-- Tony, SW Chicago Suburbs

View OSU55's profile


2507 posts in 2598 days

#2 posted 12-12-2019 02:16 PM

^ Agree. Never tried this, and the top is probably too large, but putting it under vacuum and using dye might get enough color penetration to last a while. Best to replace with another darker wood. Any film forming finish will get cut up by a knife.

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile (online now)


711 posts in 156 days

#3 posted 12-12-2019 02:40 PM

Just off the top of my head, could you make another top that fits over the existing one, one that can be stained the right color, oiled, and then they can chop whatever, whenever, however. When it is done-for, they can have you make a new one???

-- Wildwood by Brian Johns: If you tell the truth, you dont have to remember anything (S. Clemens) Edit: Now where is that darn pencil/ tape measure!

View pottz's profile


7705 posts in 1593 days

#4 posted 12-12-2019 02:44 PM

yeah i dont think the stain is gonna work,after being used for awhile it’s gonna get blotchy and uneven color,unless they dont use osu55 said your gonna need to make a new top from the wood they want like cherry or walnut.i definitely would not finish with a finish like poly it wont hold up to cutting and chopping and will need to be refinished soon.

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

View RCW's profile


25 posts in 193 days

#5 posted 12-12-2019 03:07 PM

Thanks for all the replys…certainly not what i was hoping to hear. Do any of the oils like tung oil or teak oil have pigments in them that will darken the wood? although not as much as a stain but maybe I can get it dark enough to satisfy. another thought of mine would be: (1) stain the wood darker (2) put on a seal coat like bullseye (3) then either use paste wax or bees wax to top coat. Thoughts?

View pottz's profile


7705 posts in 1593 days

#6 posted 12-12-2019 03:52 PM

cutting boards take a lot of abuse my wife re oils ours at least once or twice a month depending on use any film finish is not gonna last and will look pretty bad real soon making for a very unhappy customer.

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

View OSU55's profile


2507 posts in 2598 days

#7 posted 12-12-2019 10:04 PM

I’ll assume some things, but if the customer didnt specify to begin with then said I want it darker after you have used time and material, they are responsible for your time, matls, and profit for a darker color (as well as what you have done to this point). Just say the original price was $300. Your cost + profit for a different color top is $75. Customer cost becomes $375. Its called a change order. Dont be eager to please without protecting yourself.

You can color and finish the existing top any way you want. A knife is going through it and gonna show the original wood color. You might suggest a cutting board, that you make and charge for, and do whatever color on the original top. Explain the issue with cutting on colored wood to the customer, along with the options and costs, and let them decide.

You dont want to use a film forming finish, shellac, tung oil, lacquer, poly, etc on a surface knives and forks are used on. They cut and scratch and look like crap.

View LesB's profile


2318 posts in 4051 days

#8 posted 12-12-2019 10:58 PM

I’m skeptical about being able to stain a maple cutting board dark. The maple is just too dense to absorb the stain and a surface colorant (ie. colored varnish or poly) is going to be quickly damaged when used for cutting food. If the client is insistent on a dark color you will have to build a new top with dark wood.

One other possible problem is that people using wood cutting boards usually sanitize them periodically and usually with chlorine bleach. This type of treatment will alter the color of any stain or dark wood. Maybe you could explain this to them and they will be satisfied with the maple; if only for hygiene purposes.

As for a “oil” treatment of the cutting surface I’m a fan of heat treated walnut oil (Mahoney’s is one). Unlike mineral oil (with or with out wax), it cures to a dry finish and is easy to re-apply as needed. The heat processing breaks down any allergens so nut allergies are not a problem. It does not however darken the wood any more than mineral, tung, boiled linseed oil, or teak oil would. Boiled linseed oil and tung oil also “eventually” cure to a dry finish but in my experience they take a lot longer than walnut oil.

-- Les B, Oregon

View therealSteveN's profile


4655 posts in 1182 days

#9 posted 12-13-2019 06:13 AM

The cart itself I’d leave it whatever color the wood is, and just put poly on it. Poly will dry hard, and resist constant touching, liquids, grease, and oil.

If there is a cutting board top on it, then food safe Mineral oil is the best you can do. Add some wax in a heated pan of the oil, and it will give it some legs. Keep the Poly away from the cutting board, unless you like the taste of poly toothpicks mixed with the foods you cut up.

-- Think safe, be safe

View CaptainKlutz's profile


2257 posts in 2103 days

#10 posted 12-13-2019 07:33 AM

+1 stain doesn’t work on cutting board surface.
Would never agree to stain any food prep surface used for cutting/chopping. Will look perfect until they slice through the color, then no one is happy, especially after they clean the cuts with bleach.

Hindsight is always 20-20, but: appears your customer didn’t know what color maple wood was at start?
After discussing design, and before discussing price on my potential commissions, we have a show-n-tell with natural wood color .vs. color matched staining.

IMHO – If someone wants dark wood cutting surface, then use end grain walnut or IPE for the top. End grain cherry also works for light duty cutting boards, but it’s too soft for chopping.

Best Luck.

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

View RCW's profile


25 posts in 193 days

#11 posted 12-13-2019 03:41 PM

Great discussion! thanks for all the replys. After a quick chat with the customer we’ve come up with a solution that works for both of us. As the guy building the cart and knowing more about the process then the customer i’ll take responsibilty for not explaining the color/type of wood they choose for the top. That being said with no clear way to remedy the situation without building a new top i’ve agreed to build them a dedicated cutting board at cost to use so they WILL NOT be cutting on the top of the cart. So i’ll be staining the Maple and sealing it for protection and they will use a nice faily thick walnut cutting board to chop on.

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