Thrifty Thursday 13: Refreshing Vintage Wooden Bowls

If the workers at my local Salvation Armies know anything about me, they know that I'm the girl who buys all of the vintage wooden bowls. I love the way they look, the different shapes that they come in, and the different uses they can have. I use mine for snack sets, change bowls, jewelry catchers, and general drop zones for small items.

It seems that these were a big thing during the late 50's-60's, usually coming from the Phillipines, Thailand, or Taiwan. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and uses; think salad sets, serving bowls, separated snack platters, or pieces shaped like pineapples, leaves, or peapods (pineapples are my favorite!!).


While teak is definitely my favorite for its color, grain, and durability, I also don't hesitate on pieces composed of monkeypod or walnut.

Often times when I find a good wooden bowl or set, it looks to be in rough shape. Usually they look dried out, grease stained, and in need of some serious help. Before I knew how to safely refresh them, I can't tell you how many amazing sets I passed up in the store because they looked to be abused. But then I came across this bowl.


I loved the simple shape it had. I just had to figure out how to restore it without using stain or any other non-food safe materials.

After a little bit of research, I found out that there were two food-safe options:
  • nut oil could be used, as long as the pieces weren't going to sit unused for a long period of time (or else the oil could go rancid and make them smell terribly). This was the cheaper option, but could cause some health risks if anyone were to use the bowl who suffered from a nut allergy
  • mineral spirits (found in the pharmacy section) could also be used for a food & allergy safe restoration
Since I was most likely going to be the only one using these, and mineral oil wasn't quite as cheap as the walnut oil I was able to find, I chose to try the walnut oil. I got this bottle at Target for about $7.00. I also found more bowls in the meantime...


HOLY COW, you guys. The difference it made was incredible, and it was super easy! First, I hand-wash the bowls & let them air dry over the next 24 hours. Then I just use a paper towel lightly dampened with the oil & rub the surface of each bowl... 5 minutes later, they go from this...




to this!



Totally worth the $0.99 bowl & the $7 for the oil, I'd say!

You can really see the difference in this shot, where one bowl is oiled & one is not. Some areas of the bowls may be "thirstier" than others, so be sure to let them fully dry between coats! You'll easily see where they need more, like the larger bowl here.



Also keep in mind that some of those darker marks will show through. I noticed that the dark marks closely related to a harsh line in the grain were more likely to stick around. I don't mind the extra character it gives the bowls, but you may want to take it into consideration if you're planning on reselling or gifting these. For example, this line here ended up coming out quite dark once it was oiled.



Now hopefully when you see a thirsty set of wooden bowls, a dried up cutting board, or a sad pair of salad tongs, you won't hesitate to give them a new home & restore them to their former beauty :) I have plenty of them these days, so I won't be looking to purchase any more for my personal collection, but I always keep an eye out for them to gift to friends & family.




And for you resellers out there, I've had really good luck selling these sets for a decent profit- sometimes 5x what I paid initially! Usually the bigger bowls are priced for less than $3 around here, and the small ones $1 or less, and you can easily sell a complete set (one large serving bowl, 4 smaller snack bowls) for $30 ;)

I no longer sell, but if you are interested in having a set for yourself, let me know! I'll keep you in mind while I'm out thrifting & I'll send them to you for the thrift cost + shipping :)


What will you use yours for?

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