Q: I am currently in the process of building a baby doll cradle for my wife’s young cousin. What would be the best finish to use on this? I don’t want to put any finish on the cradle that may harm her in any way, being that she will be handling this a lot. Also, it would be nice if whatever finish I use is also durable as I am sure this cradle will take some abuse.
A: Common wood finishes, once they have dried and cured, are not harmful to either an adult or a child handling them. Hence, you are free to coat the cradle with whatever you choose. For durability, I’d go with oil-based polyurethane, the same thing I normally suggest for a heavily used dining or kitchen table. Another option is shellac, a substance used more often to coat candy and pharmaceuticals than wood, and the clear winner in the safest finish contest. While not as durable as oil-based polyurethane, it is certainly adequate for a doll cradle. Another interesting option that sits firmly on the safety side of the aisle is salad bowl finish.