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Wood Salad Bowl Quality- How durable can they be?

I recently received a wood salad bowl as a gift that, unfortunately, was cracked in two when it arrived. When I took it back to the store, the cashier happily took it back and told me they would send me another one. The second arrived with a crack, also, though it was not split completely in two. I am inclined to return the bowl for cash or credit which we could put towards a higher-end serving bowl, but this is a gift from someone who will be dining in our home with some regularity, and my fiance thinks we should keep it. He insists that when he was growing up, his family went through several wood salad bowls, and none of them, regardless of price point or how well you care for them (not putting them in water, proper oiling, etc.), are meant to last forever. I've never had one before and I have no idea if this is true. I generally prefer quality to quantity; our kitchen is sparse but I enjoy everything in it. However, I understand that if a product has a limited shelf life regardless of quality, it makes more sense to not throw more money at the purchase. Looking at some of the reviews on the W-S website makes me think that even if we put more money towards this bowl than the giver did (it was $50), in addition to the cash we'd get from the return, we might still not have the bowl in a couple of months. Has anyone had a wood salad bowl they use regularly? How long have you had it? Is it really high maintenance? Has anyone had problems with these bowls?

For whatever it's worth, this is the bowl we received:

This is the series I would probably replace it with if we decide it's worth it, only because the reviews are generally positive:

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  1. My family has never in our lives had to replace a wooden salad bowl. My grandmothers, my mother and myself all use our original bowl. I think that there might be something defective with the kind he has purchased or is used to.

    2 Replies
    1. re: melpy

      Do you mind if I ask how much yours was (and when you bought it, for the sake of adjusting)? I am finding very expensive ones that get good reviews but I had no idea salad bowls could cost $250 and up! Any other information, in terms of type of wood, what brand it is, where you purchased it, would also be helpful.

      1. re: HungryHoya

        Three I am referring to we're bought in the 1950s, 1970s and 1990s and I was not the purchaser. One was bought a couple years ago at a wood market in Vermont for approximately $45.

    2. I have had two wooden salad bowls. both were bought at Thrift stores for about $5 so don't know original price. First one was fine, but ended up being too small for good tossing. Drilled a hole in the bottom, filled with soil and then herbs and turned into an outdoor planter two years ago--still in perfect shape. Bought a second larger one which we use almost daily. Wash in warm, soapy water, wipe dry and put back on the shelf. Never had a problem with cracking, splitting or the like. Maybe your problem is just that particular brand of bowl.

      1. A well made wooden salad bowl can last longer than the owner if properly cared for.
        Teak, olive wood and acacia are all good choices. I'm sure there are others too. A lathe turned bowl made from a solid piece of good wood is the best choice structurally.

        The laminated set would make me nervous. There are just too many joins that could potentially fail over time.

        My Mother has a teak bowl from the '60's which had 25 years of almost daily use when she was feeding a family. Since then it has had regular weekly use and is in perfect shape.

        I picked up a teak bowl (obviously much used) of similar age from a thrift store. I have used it frequently for 15 years with no issues.

        1. Got an olive wood one that we must have had nigh on 30 years.

          1. I have my mother's wooden salad bowl from the 1960s and one my husband made by hand years ago in high school. They are both still in perfect condition, no cracks. I think quality is the issue.

            1. We've decided to return it for cash and look for another one, either thrifted or new, but it seems to be worth looking for something made of one piece of wood. Thanks, everyone!

              1 Reply
              1. re: HungryHoya

                All of mine are one piece of wood. This sounds like a smart move.

              2. The type of wood and the manner the wood blank was cut before turning greatly affects te propensity of the wood to split. Look for a heavy bowl with tight grain. As old growth wood is so expensive now, you would probably be better off looking in antique and thrift shops

                1. Very simply but yet truthful answer: it really depends on the wood. Some wooden bowls can last a very long time, potentially longer than than many ceramic bowls because ceramic bowls can easily shattered when dropped.

                  I don't have a wooden bowl now, but I had a few when I was younger, and I believe they were tossed out during moves, not because they were broken.

                  1. The bowl I turned into an outdoor planter is pieces of wood not a single carved piece. Basically damp for one year and still holding strong.

                    1 Reply
                    1. Hey, HH:

                      Let me join the choir: I have a bowl from my family that is more than 100 years old, used for many things. While it has warped in a wild, wonderful way, it has never checked or cracked.

                      With respect to your friend and donor, a bowl that W-S is selling for $50 probably cost <$20 to produce. I would be dubious about the wood, the joinery, and the turning. A qualified turner who specializes in bowls would probably charge a minimum of 5x that asking price, and I think you would notice a difference.

                      IMO, a good wooden bowl is a joy that no glass, metal or ceramic one can replicate. I suggest you not give up, but find one of quality that speaks to you.


                      1. Good wood, with proper care will last generations.

                        We have a huge one piece teak bowl that is exactly 33 years old (wedding gift). It is perfectly seasoned (used at least 4x per week) and zero defects. The teak has absorbed oils over the years and darkened quite a bit but there is nothing so pleasant as a well shaped, salad friendly bowl.

                        I also have an olive wood bowl, quite a bit smaller, that was part of my grandmother's hope chest reportedly given to her by an elderly aunt which makes the bowl at least 120 years. It was retired from use a couple decades ago and became slightly lopsided over the years but no cracks or checks that would have put it out of commission.

                        1. I still have and use a set of Monkey Pod salad and serving bowls I bought at Baguio in the Philippines in 1964. We use them all the time. I wish I had bought more when I had the chance.

                          1. I have an olive wood salad bowl that I bought for $90 at Zingerman's in Ann Arbor Michigan. My sister piled it high with tomatoes from the garden. I warned her that the bottom ones would rot because it was too crowded and I should have taken matters into my own hands. But a lot was going on and I let it slide. Sure enough, when I went to throw out the tomatoes she had not used, there was nasty, nasty black rot and juices on the bottom of the bowl. Sally wanted to throw the bowl out. I objected! We washed it but it looks terrible. Will it help to sand out the damaged wood?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Willa

                              You might try bleach, there is some risk, but that's about your only shot at bringing the bowl back to reasonable looks. How well this works will depend on a couple of factors, how long it was in there (how deep the stain went) and what kind of wood it is. I wouldn't let it soak for very long and you will want to rince it very well, but it's your best shot for now.

                            2. I have had some wood bowls for 15 years or so. The only one that ever split was the one I let water soak in. Once dried I could not tell where the split was. Mine are not fancy or pretty. Not sure the wood, but it is light golden, and fairly light in weight. They are all made of one solid piece of wood. I baught them as a 3 piece set from Lehman's non electric catalog. I think all 3 was a little over 100.00. I have another I baught from an antique store that is made of walnut. It too, is one solid piece and plane looking. No carvings or decorative shapeing. So the splitting could be due to the kind of wood and the fact it is pieced together. I love wood bowls. A warning to you. Do NOT use vegetable oils for seasoning. They will make a mess of your bowl. Turns smelly rancid and sticky/gummy. I did this. :o(

                              1. I think the issue in the end is construction. A pieced-together bowl won't last as long as a well-crafted and cared-for single piece bowl. For example, I had a bowl like this ( http://www.amazon.com/Gibson-3-Piece-... ) that cracked after a few uses. I can only surmised that the glue joints were impacted by the salad dressing, because I gave it the old mineral oil treatment, and never left it sit wet (except for the dressing that was tossed into it. On the other hand, I have a 14" version of this ( http://www.bestofvermont.com/products... ) that has seen regular use and given me no problem. If you want something even a bit more elaborate than a plain bowl, check out Spencer Peterman's bowls. ( http://www.spencerpeterman.com ) I have one of his walnut ovals that I use as a fruit bowl, and I love it! I expect both of these to last generations.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: jljohn

                                  ( http://www.bestofvermont.com/products... )

                                  This one looks just like the 3 bowls (various sizes) that I baught as a set from Lehmans. They no longer sell them. Thanks for the link, I love these bowls. I wish I could find a really big one (that I can afford) My biggest one is about 14 or 15 inches, I think.
                                  I don't often use them for salads, but use them to serve bread, or rise dough, and best of all, they make great popcorn bowls.

                                2. If the bowl was made from one solid piece of wood, then in my experience, you might expect the bowl to warp a bit and possibly to crack as it is used. I have 2 of these sort of bowls which I purchased secondhand. One has developed a crack. I also have a large old salad bowl, circa fifties or sixties, I think, that has warped out of shape, but I love the old bowl as it is with all its finish worn off.

                                  I also have a large walnut bowl, made in a MO barrel company that is made from several pieces of walnut. I believe the bowl was made by layering successive round circles of wood together, gluing and planing down. This bowl, and its brother which I no longer have, never cracked for me, and I received them quite a number of years ago. Perhaps 20 or so.

                                  I think the imported newer imported bowls must have a shorter lifespan. If the bowl arrived with a crack, you should be on notice that this item has a short lifespan. Honestly, I'd return it. I've had gifts I've given in similar circumstances returned, and I've survived. You can honestly say, if asked, I had to return two of them because they were defective. You can then tell your friend what you finally bought instead.

                                  1. Probably made overseas with questionable workmanship. A good bowl should outlast you.

                                    1. If the wood and the manufacturing process are correct, the bowl shouldn't crack. If the wood is not properly dried prior to hollowing out a bowl, a crack is inevetable. Laminated bowls are turned all the time and with modern glue, they should hold up just fine. I've been working wood for a long time and cracking and splits typically happen for a reason. Either poor (wet) wood or poor technique.

                                      1. we've had a hideous one from lillian vernon since our wedding 14 years ago. the only reason I'm ditching it is because I hate looking at it. and because I've replaced it with a gorgeous, rustic, square salad bowl that is carved from one piece of acacia and will double as a deadly weapon if ever needed. :-D