View Full Version : Acceptable oil for kitchen knife handles

04-28-2004, 09:58 PM
I have a whole set of kitchen knives with wooden handles, and the handles are in need of re-seasoning. What kind of oil are you supposed to use for this? Looking around the hardware at products for wood, none of them strike me as food safe. Do I have to go to a kitchen specialty store to find something.



04-28-2004, 10:44 PM
Nothing special required. Go to the pharmacy and get mineral oil. It is sterile and will protect your handles. It is also what you should use to treat your wood cutting boards after you sterilize them.

04-28-2004, 10:54 PM
Chicago Cutlery sells mineral oil which is safe enough to take internally so I use it to treat my cutting boards. This keeps the wood from completely drying out when it's frequently scrubbed and dried. I don't think it's that great for knife handles as it doesn't ever dry and it doesn't seem to protect the wood as well when the knives are washed. FYI I wash my knves by hand, never leaving them soaking in water and never in the dishwasher.

Caveat Emptor, YMMV and al that jazz but I use boiled linseed oil on my knife handles. I am aware of the metallic drying agents but I don't think residue is an issue once the oil is cured and the handle isn't in contact with the food. I'll keep you posted if I turn all rancid and clotty from it.

If you want to be extra careful use pure tung or pure linseed oil with no dryers. Be warned it will take much longer to cure. You can also get food safe salad bowl finishes at better woodworking stores.

04-28-2004, 11:29 PM
Mineral oil would be safe and effective, but it may not enhance the grain and look of your wood handles (if that matters). What kind of lumber are the handles made from? If they are walnut, consider purchasing pricey French walnut oil from a gourmet shop. Apply several coats to the handles over 3-5 days and they will look real nice.

Another approach would be to purchase salad bowl oil from a fine woodworking store such as Rockler or Woodcraft. This dries with a nice satin sheen and seems a little harder than mineral oil. When dry it is safe.

04-29-2004, 05:39 AM
You can also get a food grade mineral oil at Bed Bath and Beyond (and other such stores). It's the oil you use to season wooden cutting boards, it should be prominently displayed in the cutting board section. I think I used tung oil for one of my wooden handles, soaked it deeply and dried it well, it's lasted a very long time and gave a great color to the wood. I haven't noticed any residue coming off of the handle.

04-29-2004, 07:39 AM
Mineral oil...why didn't I think of that!

Thanks for coming through for me guys -- as always.


04-29-2004, 09:08 AM
I have a knife set with rosewood handles. Is mineral oil the best choice for my knives?

04-29-2004, 09:21 AM
IMHO territory but mineral oil will probably be okay. Note that mineral oil doesn't polymerize, that is it doesn't dry. Mineral oil will be more easily washed from the pores in the wood and you'll have to reapply it more often. If you are more concerned with a food safe finish then use pure tung oil, pure linseed oil or one of the salad bowl finishes available.

Note that some things sold as tung oil are nothing of the sort. Minwax tung oil finish is in fact a mixture of boiled linseed oil and varnish. It can make a nice finish but it isn't what the label says it is. If I wasn't clear before boiled linseed oil contains metallic compounds that can be toxix. The finish is pretty safe when cured but even I would not use it for a cutting board.

I'm glad this thread came up, reminds me I need to replane and refinish my own cutting boards.

04-29-2004, 10:29 AM
I've always used olive oil.
I don't know why you'd consider something that is not an edible oil.
I use it on our cutting board also.
I made that cutting board some 28 years ago and it has given us no problems.

04-29-2004, 12:51 PM
I will second walnut oil as a good product for this. I use it on all my wooden cooking utensils (my knives don't have wooden handles). Also remember to keep your knives out of the dishwasher and avoid soaking the handles in the sink.

04-29-2004, 12:57 PM
Just out or curiosity, is there anything I can use for my knives? They have been getting machine washed and such for a few years now, and the handles look like butt.

Is it possible to salvage them at this point?

04-29-2004, 01:50 PM
If the wood has cracked, shrunk and warped from washing there is not much that will change that but any oil finish will be an improvement. Oil is a penetrating finish as opposed to say varshing which makes a surface coat. Oil will make the wood fibers somewhat translucent which gives "depth" to the appearance of the grain.

If they're that bad just get a bottle of mineral oil and soak the handles overnight in a jar. You won't make things worse and will probably improve things a bit.

I do not suggest using an actual food oil for finishing wood. Rancid cooking oils can smell pretty bad. I'd stick with a non-reactive oil like mineral or a polymerizing oil like tung and pure linseed.

I'd be hesitant to use walnut oil as there are people who have sensitive and deadly allergies to it but I can't say it happens with dried oil.

04-29-2004, 11:29 PM
Another no go on olive oil. As it gets rancid it gets sticky and smelly--just what you don't want on your (or your guest's) hands when food is being handled.

A good book for learning about wood finishes is
Understanding Wood Finishing by Bob Flexner (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0762101911/qid=1083299232/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/002-6562341-9616052?v=glance&s=books)

09-25-2014, 02:15 PM
[ Walnut oil is pressed from a walnut nut, but rosewood oil is distilled from actual rosewood branches, so I would think that rosewood oil, an essential oil available from hundreds of online retailers, would be a logical oil to use on a rosewood handle. It has a pleasant fragrance and has natural antibacterial qualities.

09-25-2014, 02:39 PM
After 10 years, he's probably purchased new knives. Also, 10 ml of rosewood oil for $5-$10, versus 16 ounces of walnut oil for $8 is pretty much a deal breaker.

09-25-2014, 08:19 PM
After 10 years, he's probably purchased new knives.

You've never met my mother...she is still using stuff her mother bought. :)

Thanks, John.

Jeff Lichtman
09-26-2014, 03:58 AM
Safflower oil is a drying oil, and it's cheap.

09-26-2014, 11:43 AM
I've always used mineral oil on my wooden kitchen implements (including cutting boards). I guy the cheap stuff you get in drug stores, where it's generally sold for its benefits as a laxative so I don't have any concerns about safety.

Inner Stickler
09-26-2014, 12:04 PM
Oils? Sterilizing? Great, another arena I'm a failure in without even knowing it.

09-26-2014, 12:18 PM
flaxseed oil is food grade linseed oil if your looking for a food safe drying oil. I use it on my cast iron.