Our Food Safe Wood Finishes: A Commitment to Beauty, Function, and Sustainability

white oak wood bowls

It’s important to us that our work be functional as well as beautiful. To achieve that goal, we use only all natural, food safe wood finishes, so that you can use our boards and bowls with confidence (although they stand on their own as a display piece, too!).

In this post, we’ll guide you through the array of food safe finishes we use on our bowls and salad tossers, including our pearl, driftwood, and ebonized black finishes. We’ll also show you how to care for your wooden boards, bowls, and tossers so that you can enjoy them for decades.

Using all natural, 100% percent food safe wood finishes is just one way we show our commitment to sustainability. All of our products are handcrafted at our workshops in Western Massachusetts with locally sourced, upcycled logs that would otherwise be chipped, burned, or tossed.

Instead, we give them a second life, turning them into lasting pieces of functional art that will serve you for years. Through this process, nothing goes to waste–we even use our wood scraps to heat our Gill, MA workshop!

We specialize in working with hard-to-find woods like spalted maple, ambrosia maple, and burls. These rare materials make every piece one-of-a-kind, which is why we also use food safe wood finishes that allow the grain of the wood to show through.

What is a Food Safe Wood Finish?

Generally speaking, wood finishes protect wood products and help them last. Of course, not every wood finish is food safe, or needs to be. But when it comes to kitchenware, wood finishes need to be food safe so that these pieces can be used for their intended purpose without creating a hazard.

Food safe wood finishes help wooden kitchenware last and give it a shiny, glossy appearance. Depending on the finish, different curing times may be necessary to ensure that the finish is in fact food safe. 

There are a number of food safe wood finishes on the market. Here are a few common ones used across the woodworking industry:

  • Beeswax: sourced from (you guessed it!) bees.
  • Carnauba Wax: from the Brazilian palm tree.
  • Shellac: sourced from the lac beetle.
  • Tung Oil: pressed from the seeds of the tung tree.
  • Raw Linseed Oil: not to be confused with boiled linseed oil, which is considered toxic.
  • Mineral Oil: odorless, colorless, tasteless, derived from petroleum.
  • Walnut Oil: pressed from walnuts, not suitable for anyone with a tree nut allergy, of course.

Our Food Safe Wood Finishes

At Spencer Peterman, we’ve perfected the use of our unique, food safe wood finishes–some have taken years to get just right.

The different tones in the wood we work with, combined with our finishes, bring out a range of hues in our finished product. We love the subtle variations. And of course, all of our finishes allow the natural grain of the wood to shine through.

White Pearl and Driftwood

Our white pearl and driftwood bowls and tossers are created using 100% food safe, all natural paint washes, which give our pieces a classic white finish and beachy gray finish, respectively. 

(Side note: did you know that our classic round driftwood bowls were named one of Oprah’s favorite things several years running?).

We love these classic, understated pops of color, and think these finishes look fantastic as a set or when mixed and matched with an all-natural look, or our ebonized black finish for contrast.


white pearl wood finish harvest bowl spencer peterman
Harvest Bowl in White Pearl


driftwood finish oprah's favorite things
Classic Round Bowls in Driftwood

Ebonized Black

We get a lot of questions about our ebonized black bowls and tossers. Namely, how do we achieve that intense, dark color?

The answer might surprise you.

Our ebonized black bowls and tossers are darkened with a food safe stain made from steel wool and vinegar. That’s right, simple items found in almost every kitchen. This solution oxidizes the wood, creating an aged effect in a short amount of time.

ebonized black wood finish
Classic Round Bowls in Ebonized Black

Our Unique Blend of Oils

Of course, we leave no pieces ‘unfinished.’ We treat our boards, bowls, and tossers with a proprietary mix of all natural, food-safe oils. This recipe has taken us years to perfect and adds a beautiful, lustrous, and protective coating.

food safe wood finish spalted maple
Classic Round Spalted Maple Bowl

This finish is a blend of tung and citrus oils. The tung oil coats and seals the wood, while the citrus oils act as a drying agent to help the tung oil dry faster–and give your new kitchenware a fresh, citrus-y scent.

Wood Care: How to Make Your Bowls, Boards, and Tossers Last

With the proper care, including regular conditioning, our handcrafted kitchenware can last for decades.

Caring for your wooden boards, bowls, and tossers is easy, and in the same way we’ve perfected our own recipes for food safe wood finishes, we’ve also created our own set of wood conditioners.

We have two conditioners to choose from: our black walnut wood conditioner, which is vegan, and our beeswax wood conditioner.

spencer peterman food safe beeswax wood conditioner
Our Beeswax Wood Conditioner
black walnut wood conditioner spencer peterman
Our Black Walnut Wood Conditioner

We recommend a monthly application of the conditioner of your choice to keep your bowl in pristine shape. Conditioning will prevent your boards, bowls, and tossers both from drying out and from absorbing too much moisture, and will maintain the natural beauty of the wood.

An important note on these conditioners: They are appropriate for all of our products EXCEPT our Driftwood, White Pearl, and Sea Glass bowls and tossers–the food safe finish on these products should not be oiled.

Other wood care tips to make your boards, bowls, and tossers last:

  • Always hand wash (no dishwashers!) and towel dry after use. Leaving our wood products wet after washing or submerged in water can lead to cracking. 
  • Take care not to allow fruit to rot in our bowls, as this can lead to staining.
  • Do not put our boards or bowls in the oven, this will dry them out.

Come See Our Food Safe Wood Finishes in Person!

We’re proud of our food safe wood finishes and our commitment to creating beautiful, functional, and lasting handmade wooden kitchenware for your home. Our finishes add color and shine to our work and ensure that you can use our products safely–and for years to come.

You can see our finished pieces in person at our showroom in Gill, MA or our Boston Public Market stall. Wherever you are, you can shop our products and view our range of food safe wood finishes right here in our online shop.

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