The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Advice for repairing antique wooden kneading bowl- removing wood filler (ouch!)

fixerupper's picture

Advice for repairing antique wooden kneading bowl- removing wood filler (ouch!)

I recently inherited (pinched, I mean) a beautiful antique wooden bread kneading bowl from my mother. I've recently begun to start making bread, so the timing was fortuitous. My mom tells me it's very old, she and dad got it for a wedding gift (40 years ago!). She used it when I was a kid for salad and serving. It's in good condition, without splits or cracks from drying out... except for the worm holes....


The bowl has been in storage for at least 10 years because at some point something burrowed into it and created wormholes... This was before the all-knowing internet, so mom tried to repair it the best way she could. She filled the holes with some kind of wood filler. It didn't work so well. When I got it, the glue was sort of chunky and seperating. I scraped it off the best I could using warm water, vinegar, my fingernails, and the side of a fork (gently).


I'm left with what you see now. It's pretty smooth in texture, but there's a lot of discoloration remaining. Much of the lightness at the bottom is the wood coming through... that's fine and will fade with more use, cleaning, curing. The other lightness is from the glue/filler itself. The worm holes are the distinct squiggly things. The wood flller/glue (of unknown origin) is really hard to get off. Vinegar barely makes a dent. I've scraped off all i can, now i'm just smearing it around. I read that laquer thinner and steel wool will remove it promptly, but I'd like to remove all the glue in a foodsafe fashion. If it comes out of the wormholes that's great (character, you know) or not... whatever! I'd just like to polish it up and use it for whatever i can, even if it's just a centerpeice. Ideas?

Felila's picture

You can repair a crack in a wood bowl by meticulously cutting trapezoid-shaped holes on either side of the crack, then inserting a butterfly-shaped inset that fits into the holes. Native Hawaiians did this with their koa poi containers and kneading bowls. See:

I gather that if the fit was good enough, the bowl was watertight again. Perhaps you can find a local craftsperson who can do this.


DerekL's picture

I'd drop by, flat out the friendliest woodworking community on the web, for advice.

Royall Clark's picture
Royall Clark

I would clean the holes out the best I could and fill with epoxy and sand smooth. I think a dark contrasting epoxy would look nice and tell the story. You'll never get them completely hidden. Just my 2 cents!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

make sure those little worms are dead, including eggs and cocoons.

Vinegar kills lots of things, but so does whiskey and it might work better on any glue.  You can darken the wood with just a few hours in the glaring sun.  Eventually, bread dough will puddy the holes shut so take a little sand paper to any rough surfaces, give it a light coat of mineral oil letting it soak in and then use it.


hansent's picture

Wow that is gorgeous!  What are the dimensions on it? I'd like to try to get my husband to make one...


Tania in Boise