Ahem. So. Remember our little reno project, the one where I was desperate for better kitchen feng shui? Remember the hole in my kitchen wall, the cabinet space voided? What began back in April took a nice 2-month hiatus as we waited for our Ikea countertop to re-stock in Cincinnati, and I’m happy to say that we are so, so very close to a finished kitchen. Tiling is underway, then we just lack shelves. And a paint color (on that subject, let’s just say I am infamous for having Tim paint a dining room wall in our last house with ELEVEN different sample colors — each time, he painted the entire wall which I gazed upon for a few days before deciding it just wasn’t right — so don’t hold your breath for those “after” pics just yet. And no, my husband will not be doing that again. So far we’re at color sample number 4. I figure, like Little Bunny FooFoo, I get just one more chance before he lops off my head).
But our countertop. We only replaced a portion of it — our budget on this project is about what some women might spend on a nice dress, and I conveniently didn’t want a whole kitchen of butcher-block. But this counter, I could sing to it in the morning. It is warm, soft, heavy, and handsome. It welcomes with grace and humility both dough work and the elbows of kids and guests sitting at the bar. It brightens the whole room, I’d swear it radiates some sort of transcendent light.
As with anything in my kitchen I love with questionable intensity, I wanted to care for it well. Protect it, give it longevity, but with no chemicals. Nothing that wasn’t food-safe (as in, not sort-of food safe as claimed by a chemical company, but food safe so you could actually eat it). I didn’t need a completely waterproof finish, didn’t want it to look hard or glossy. After some nice, obsessive online research, I landed on spoon oil.
A paste of beeswax and mineral oil, spoon oil can be used to treat all of your wooden kitchen utensils, from spoons (hence the name) to cutting boards to salad bowls. I hesitated, using mineral oil, since it is petroleum-based and we avoid petroleum in almost all other products — but it seemed the consensus among wood-workers that vegetable-based oils go rancid, and that can be disastrous in wood. So I’m chalking this up to minimal exposure, while welcoming better ideas.
The counter arrived minimally finished, just enough to give it a slightly-golden hue. I applied the thick goop with my hands, wiping with the grain, covering the entire surface area. If you have a particularly thirsty surface, the oil might soak in quickly — but after about 7 hours on my counter, the oil had only absorbed slightly, and I figured it had had its chance.
I used paper towels to wipe up the excess, then buffed with a cotton rag. The result left a deeper golden hue, with a dull sheen. The mineral oil conditions the wood, and the beeswax helps with water resistance. Water and burns are the primary threats to the surface — that, and the ball-point pen that my 5-year old scrawled on the counter while drawing a picture. But that sanded right out, and then a re-application of spoon oil fully erased the transgression (lucky him).
If you have a stack of cutting boards or a crock of spoons that are looking dry and depressed, try this salve. Feel free to make a smaller amount using the same ratios — though once mixed it should keep indefinitely. I picked up one-ounce bricks of beeswax at my local health-food store, and the mineral oil can be purchased at any pharmacy (look in the laxatives section). The materials cost about $8, and this jar should coat my countertop about 3 times over, with my spoons and cutting boards getting a dose or two in-between.
- 4 ounces beeswax, chopped into small chunks (you can order from Amazon!)
- 16-oz bottle mineral oil
Bring water to simmer in a large saucepan. Place beeswax in a quart-sized canning jar, and carefully lower into a pot of simmering water (add water, if necessary, so level comes halfway up the side of the jar). Using a wooden spoon, stir beeswax occasionally, until fully melted. Set aside.
Pour the mineral oil into a separate canning jar, and lower into the simmering water, just until heated through.
Pour the warm mineral oil into the beeswax, and stir. Place back into the simmering water, stirring until fully incorporated. Remove to a counter, and let cool completely.
Once cool, apply with hands to unfinished wooden surfaces. Let soak in for several hours or overnight, then wipe away excess and buff with a cotton cloth. Store extra spoon oil in a lidded jar in a cool place.
This post was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday, via GNOWFGLINS.