I belong to the Woodworkers Club of Houston and our community project is making toys for underprivileged kids and those in the hospital for extended time. At this time, we use a mixture of mineral oil and beeswax to finish the toys. Is this a good finish or should we use something else? The main reason we use this finish is to bring out the grain of the wood. Your comments to this question will be appreciated. Thanks. – Bill Harris
Chris Marshall: All of the common topcoats including shellacs, lacquers, varnishes and wipe-on finishes that your club is using, Bill, are non-toxic when they are fully cured. So really, in terms of other “safe” finish for kids’ toys, the options are wide open! But, maybe what you’re after here are other options that make the wood look equally good and are quick and easy to apply. If the oil/wax finish brings out the grain of the wood in a way that meets your approval, I say stick with it. These days, I really like water-based varnish, because it dries fast, looks great and is easy to brush or spray. De-waxed shellac is another fast-drying finish that brings out the grain beautifully, too. Either of these options can be waxed to give the finish a velvety feel. Good luck with your toy-making! What a wonderful effort that is for others.
Tim Inman: Accenting the wood’s appearance is always an important aspect of finishing. Wood can just look so much better