Unfettered by tradition or dogma, woodworking students can have occasional flashes of brilliance. To wit: During a class last week at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking, I noticed that two of the students were using a waterbase finish I’d never seen before.
The finish didn’t add much color, but it didn’t have the blue cast than many modern waterbase finishes do. It was in fact the most “water-white” finish I’d seen. It also was thin enough to be ragged on and had very low odor. Like all waterbase finishes, it cleaned up easily with water.
Downsides: You have to use quite a number of coats before you get any significant build, it raised the grain (of course) and – similar to a linseed oil finish – it has to be renewed regularly. Very regularly.
Another downside: Despite the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS to safety nerds), several of the other students in the class were worried if the finish was food-safe. The MSDS noted traces of chlorine, giardia and (surprisingly) fluoride. So perhaps you should just stick with walnut oil or salad bowl finish to be on the safe side.
And speaking of safety, while the students were applying the finish without nitrile gloves, I think it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Use the nitrile gloves and work in a well-ventilated area. And always dispose of your rags properly.
In any case, it’s another finish you can add to your arsenal, unless you live in California, where woodworkers are worried that the legislature might ban it.
— Christopher Schwarz