As you know by now, I really love to spend time in my kitchen. When I moved into my first apartment more than 20 years ago, I was living on a really tight budget and the only way I was able to stock my kitchen with utensils was to buy cheap ones at the grocery store. When my $1 wooden spoon broke the very first time I used it, I learned that you really get what you pay for.
I managed to make-do for a while, but as soon as I was able, I started replacing the inexpensive wooden spoons with higher quality woods like walnut, cherry, olive, maple, bamboo. Some of these replacements are more than 10 years old so they've been well worth the investment, but I have to confess, I don't baby my wooden utensils at all. As a matter of fact, I totally abuse them. I let them soak overnight in the sink and I regularly run them through the heavy-duty cycle of my dishwasher. I know you're gasping, but it's true. I attribute their longevity to their quality, and to the fact that I spend a few minutes a couple of times a year maintaining and protecting them so they stay in tip-top shape. Here's what I do.
I start with a variety pack of sandpaper. I cut the 9x11-inch sheets into small pieces that are easier for me to handle. The variety pack contains 220, 320, and 400-grit papers.
Before we get started, think of the procedure you might use to file your nails. You start filing with a rough grit emery board, polish with a softer grit, and then buff for a smooth finish.
Same goes here - I'll knock off the rough edges with the 220-grit, polish with the 320, and buff to a satiny finish with the 400.
When the utensils are buffed smooth, I use a damp cloth to remove all traces of sandpaper dust and allow them to dry completely before I move to the next step.
Okay, here's my secret - Mineral Oil. I've used more expensive bees wax/mineral oil blends, but this $4 bottle of plain ole mineral oil works perfectly well.
Just in case you're thinking what I think you're thinking... don't be tempted to use cooking oil - it will eventually turn rancid. Reminds me of the time we were invited to a friend's house for dinner and we were served salad in rancid wooden bowls - it was nauseating. Don't let that happen to you!
Alrighty then, time to schmear a heavy layer of the mineral oil all over the wood. I always start by wiping the oil on with a paper towel, but inevitably I end up scrapping the paper towel so I can use my bare hands to really work the oil into the my utensils. You really want to coat them well.
The two spoons above are both made of black walnut - look how much better the oiled spoon on the right looks.
When all my utensils are well oiled, I let them sit undisturbed in an out-of-the-way place for several hours or overnight so they can absorb as much oil as possible before I wipe away the excess. That's all - they're now ready to endure 6 more months of abuse.
I use mineral oil to condition and protect my wood cutting boards as well, but unlike my utensils, I'd never dream of soaking my boards in the sink or run them through the dishwasher - I'm not crazy, you know.