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Serving Board Finishes…and a Dishwasher…

Updated: Oct 16, 2020

First off – it’s the morning before we leave for WorkbenchCon 2020!! Wooo! In 10 hours we’ll be on the road to Atlanta to meet some awesome new people and hang out with those we met last year. If that’s any of you reading this – we’re stoked to see you! Seriously – I’m chugging this coffee in preparation.

If you’ve been following along with our 100 Serving Board series, you know that so far we’ve built 100 serving board/charcuterie boards to sell to realtors as closing gifts. Our business strategy behind that is this:

  1. It’s a one of a kind handmade gift (people LOVE that kind of stuff)

  2. The boards are made in the local area where the buyers just moved to

  3. We can personalize the boards with buyer’s name

  4. We can place realtor contact info on the backs

  5. These are fast to make and can be sold in large quantities

  6. They’re small enough to keep (some) inventory

  7. MOST IMPORTANTLY – we’ll attach a tag with all of our contact/business information and how to find us…and eventually they buy LOADS of furniture from us for their NEW EMPTY HOME

That’s the plan.

But before we could do any of that, we had to figure out how to streamline the process of building and finishing a large batch of boards. This process needs to be efficient, cost effective, repeatable, and yield high quality results. We found that the best way to do this was through a series of small experiments on a couple boards at a time.

We first started by analyzing what grit we wanted to sand each board up to. We wanted a perfectly smooth finish, but didn’t want to waste time going through higher grits if the results were basically negligible…

…because then the customer is just paying for your time when they don’t need to be.

Check out our last 100 Serving Boards blog post for our ideal sanding grit and the video we did on it as well:

But the sanding experiment begged the question: What is the perfect, most cost effective, and efficient FINISH for these boards?!

It was time for a new experiment.

The finish we typically use for serving boards is a 3:1 ratio of mineral oil and beeswax, respectively. It’s guaranteed food safe and can be made in our own kitchen in batch sizes of our choosing. If we’ve engraved any part of the board, we’ll use walrus oil to fill in the crevices of the letters/designs.

This is our 2:1 ratio of mineral oil and beeswax for our serving board finish.

But is that really the best ratio of those 2 ingredients?

What if we did a 2:1 ratio and ended up with a more solidified, waxy substance vs. a more oily one? Would that be faster to apply and last longer than a more oil based finish?

Enter science:

We created 3 categories to test our finishes and placed one serving board in each:

  1. Control group – no finish, just sanded to 220

  2. 2:1 ratio group

  3. 3:1 ratio group

After placing the appropriate finish on each board in the categories above we proceeded to use them like a client might…we placed meats and cheeses on each board and left them covered in food residue. We then washed them off with warm water and a sponge (which is how we HOPE people would clean them rather than dish soap…or worst case scenario…the dishwasher…more on that in a bit).

We tested each serving board by placing ham and cheese on them and washing them.

After about 10 rounds of this, we decided to see how the finish was holding up on each board…and our poor finish-less control board. Honestly…we couldn’t tell any significant difference between the 2:1 and 3:1 finishes! They held up about the same!

We tested different ratios of beeswax and mineral oil as finishes for our serving boards

But we wanted to take it a step further….because let’s be honest…there’s probably a scenario in our near future where a client will put a board in the dishwasher (not knowing, or forgetting that it’s terrible for the finish). We want to be prepared for that!!

How bad of shape does it REALLY put the board in?

Is there any finish at ALL left on the board after that?

So…we did it…we put all 3 boards in the dishwasher…

It felt so wrong…

But it was for science…

That didn’t make me feel much better…

But I got over it…

We put cutting boards in the dishwasher to test different types of finishes.

After one cycle the boards were in rough shape. The control was no longer smooth, and the finish melted off the other 2 boards. The 3:1 board had a litttlllleee bit left, but only because the oil soaked into the grain more than the other 2:1 board (since there was more oil in the 3:1 finish to start with). Either way, both boards would need to be completely re-finished.

BUT! more to come on how to solve this whole dishwasher fiasco in the near future…(#foreshadowing)

Since there was so little difference in the finish types, we decided to go with the 3:1 mineral oil to beeswax ratio…because mineral oil costs less than the beeswax. We can have a quality finish that lasts through multiple uses and washes that also keeps costs down!

All in all, it was a fun experiment that got us one step closer to writing our “Serving Board Checklist” with maximum efficiency!

This post may contain affiliate links for products we used to create this project! If you’d like to check them out, we do get a small percentage of the sale and they are of no extra cost to you! It all goes towards supporting the content creation of Jennie and Davis. BUT – we do not take tool sponsorships and there were no tool endorsements. Just our honest opinions!

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