How to get a wooden salad bowl made
October 2, 2009 2:24 AM   Subscribe

Which woods are good for making a salad bowl, and what preparation would the newly-made bowl need before being used?

We need a new salad bowl and a friend is learning wood-turning. I am tempted to try to commission him to make us one, but I don't know what sort of wood to start with and how to treat it once the bowl is made. Maybe his wood-turning teacher would help with all this anyway, but I'd like to be better informed myself.

I suppose an alternative answer might be that it is too ambitious and I should just go and buy one! What do you think? Thanks!
posted by vogel to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Some ideas for finishing.

Some ideas for suitable woods.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:39 AM on October 2, 2009

Olive is traditional for salad bowls and not difficult to source if in USA.
posted by adamvasco at 3:13 AM on October 2, 2009

People do use all kinds of woods, but the most common for functional bowls (in the eastern US) are maple, beech, and sycamore (but any closed-cell species could work). I'd potentially be more worried about the finish sealant than the wood itself. Beeswax and mineral oil are what's usually used, though; both should be fine.
posted by Red Loop at 3:22 AM on October 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks very much for the useful answers so far. Just to clarify, I am in the UK, but I imagine we could get most woods short of true exotica. I don't see maple, beech or sycamore being a problem, nor olive.

(For example, at home we have the most beautiful swamp kauri bowl which I bought in NZ. Salad is going in that one over my dead body! (er...) And I don't think you can exactly pop round to the local timber merchant and pick up a few cu. ft. of kauri!)

Thanks again.
posted by vogel at 3:46 AM on October 2, 2009

My folks have a walnut salad bowl which has been used almost daily for 25 years and still looks amazing, they just wipe the bowl clean after use so olive oil salad dressing has been the only treatment it's had.
posted by protorp at 3:50 AM on October 2, 2009

There's a risk of miscommunication here, because the wood called "sycamore" in the UK would be called "maple" in the USA (or so I was told in woodworking school). Doesn't really matter since either would work.

It's probably easiest to use a chunk of a locally felled tree rather than going to a lumber yard. Any hard, fine-grained wood would work. Avoid species like oak, ash and hickory, which have larger pores that would make the surface rougher and hard to clean, and potentially absorbent of stuff you don't want absorbed.

As Red Loop said, oil or oil-and-wax finishes are typical. Avoid film finishes (varnish, lacquer) which can peel off and end up in the food.
posted by jon1270 at 4:21 AM on October 2, 2009

Food grade mineral oil is the traditional finish, but I have used olive oil on cutting boards that I have made and it works fine. It will not turn rancid in the wood and you will not be coating your wood with petroleum products.
posted by caddis at 7:24 AM on October 2, 2009

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