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Rehabilitating a wooden bowl

Wood is a natural, sustainable, dynamic material, that changes colour and texture with time and moisture. Because woodgrain is individual to every single piece of wood, and the handmaking process introduces further variations, every piece of woodcraft you see is an amazing one-of-a-kind. Wood possesses natural anti-bactericidal properties and together with its ability to be shaped  and carved, means that it has been used for food vessels and receptacles for millennia. As well as being beautiful, wood can be very forgiving and even when a wooden vessel has taken a fair bit of abuse, it still can be rehabilitated back to its former glory.

Take for example this fifteen-year-old fruit bowl. It has seen a lot of fruit flies, a lot of squishy bananas and a fair few of those mouldy oranges that you don’t notice until they’ve practically dissolved into liquid. Consequentially, it has been scrubbed many, many times. No surprise then that it is very much the worse for wear. You might think it’s time to throw it out, but the good thing is that this bowl can be rehabilitated back to its former glory without very much effort.

Originally a mid-brown shade, this was never highly polished or very smooth – more of a utilitarian bowl rather than a decorative one. It has a very appealing shape with gently sloped sides and is incredibly useful in the kitchen. This means it is well worth keeping.

Food safe products only should be used on food vessels. Some wood treatment oils may contain turpentine or similar spirits and are not food safe so always check the ingredients. Look for ‘food safe mineral oil’. If it’s hard to find, lemon oil or olive oil are equally suitable.

First, gently clean the bowl using a mild abrasive like rough sea salt and a damp cloth or some fine steel wool. This will get rid of any debris and flakes. Wipe clean and leave to dry. Then work a few drops of oil into the bowl and into the grain and leave to dry. Don’t overdo the oil as it will dry out very patchily. You can always repeat the oiling a second time if necessary. Once dry, buff with a soft cloth.

The whole process, apart form drying time, takes about 5 minutes and the reward is a beautiful bowl that will hopefully last for another 15 years.

Try this on your wooden boards, your wooden spoons and spatulas as well and enjoy the beauty of your natural homewares for a long time to come.

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