Michael Dresdner

straight talk about wood finishing

Q: What would be the best non toxic finish I could use on jewelry made from wood?
A: I’m not sure what you mean by non-toxic, as that is a term used typically for things we ingest.
If you mean that the finish itself is edible or drinkable in its liquid form, that would include raw linseed oil (but not boiled linseed oil), mineral oil, which is a wood treatment but not a finish, shellac cut into pure ethanol, which is potable but intoxicating, and any plant or animal wax, such as beeswax, with no solvent added to it. None of the above would make particularly good finishes for jewelry, for a variety of reasons.
Of course, pretty much any finish is non-toxic once it cures, since most are simply inert plastics once they dry, and we don’t generally have the ability to digest plastic. Eat it and it will pass right through you.
If, on the other hand, you mean non-reactive, meaning finishes that typically do not cause allergic reactions on the average person’s skin, that varies tremendously with the individual and what he or she is allergic to. Still, except for nut oils near people with nut allergies, I don’t know offhand of any finish that causes skin irritation, but admittedly, there are people allergic to darn near everything out there.
Personally, I would go with an oil based varnish or oil based polyurethane. They are durable, are not affected by skin oils, acids, bases or heat, and will not react or soften in contact with perfumes, skin creams or nail polish remover.


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