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Cutting Board

A cutting board Overview

End grain hardwood cutting board for heavy kitchen use, 16" by 11" by 1.5".

Process

Hard maple, cut on the table saw, flattened and profiled with router, finished with hemp oil and beeswax blend.

Timeline

Designed and built in February 2024. Estimated 12 hours of work.

Takeaways

I hate sanding and routers; end grain surfaces are not worth the effort.

Intention

The cutting board that I used at home to cook with was an aging IKEA purchase that has long since dried out. I wanted to sand, flatten, and recondition it, but couldn't take it out of commission to do so because I still need to cook every day. I eventually realized that I build furniture, so surely I could make a cutting board, and began this project to replace it's predecessor.

My hope was really for this to be a very quick project completed with some small maple offcuts. I was wrong.

Process

Rough Shaping

First, I took two roughly 3-foot boards of maple with slightly different hues, milled them to 7/8-inch thick, and then cut them into 7/8-inch wide strips. This give me about 14 strips that I glued up in an alternating pattern; one lighter strip, one darker strip, etc.

Once dried, I ran that new glued up panel through the planer to clean up any glue squeeze-out, and then crosscut it on the table saw into 1.5-inch tall strips perpendicular to the stripes.

Now I could stand all of those strips up on end and do the final glue up into the cutting board. To make the checkerboard pattern, every other strip was mirrored to alternate the starting square between light and dark. I laid them all out flat, spread glue on the whole surface, and then stood them up and clamped them together.

Flattening

Unfortunately, it's impossible to get a perfectly flat cutting board out of this glue process, and now I'm left with a bunch of uneven end grain that must be trued. I ended up having to use a router sled jig to effectively "CNC" the board flat, which also chewed up a lot of the end grain.

Then I had a flat surface, but an extremely rough one. I ended up using a very low-grit (~40) handheld belt sander to smooth out the surface, and luckily didn't un-true the surface too much. From there I followed up with some higher grits on an orbital sander, and did the same process on the "top" (cutting surface) side, minus the router. The top didn't need to be totally flat, since it doesn't sit on the counter top.

Finishing

Finally, I added a roundover edge profile by using a sanding disk to round the corners, and a roundover bit on the router to match it on the top and bottom surface perimeters.

Then it was just a matter of conditioning the board with a Hemp Oil + Beeswax mixture that I made for this purpose. I spread it on, let it soak in, buffed it out, hit it with a heat gun, and let it cure over night. I did this every day for about a week, occasionally washing the board with soapy water and then lightly re-sanding with 220 grit sand paper.

Use

I will continue to re-apply the oil/wax mixture at home every once in a while forever (without heat gun and sand paper), and hopefully the cutting board will last for a very long time.

/cutting-board Stream

February 18, 2024

/stream /woodworking /cutting-board

For the past nearly two weeks of my wood shop time, I've been working on an end grain cutting board to replace an aging IKEA cutting board at home. End grain cutting boards are very popular in "pop-woodworking", playing the role of a common project for beginner woodworkers. Knowing this, I jumped into making one thinking it would be an afternoon project. I was wrong.

The main issue is that the strain of woodworking that end grain cutting boards are popular with is the type of suburban dad whose favorite part of being a "DIY guy" is buying power tools. Making an end grain cutting board requires a ton of boring (yet tedious) glue ups, and flattening end grain. In fact, this is the whole process: a mass repetition of cutting boring strips of wood, those tedius glue ups, and then figuring out how to get it flat.

No part of the process was challening or interesting, and the standard way that most people achieve each step is through a heavy application of power tools. It wasn't until I had my final glued cutting board that I realized that I had no idea how to flatten end grain. When I looked it up, I found out that the standard process was either to run it through a planer even though everyone knows it's very dangerous, or to set up this nightmare of a router jig to effectively "CNC" the board flat.

Neither of those options were appealing to me, so I spent a week trying to restore an old hand plane I had in my studio hoping that would help me out. It didn't. I gave up and took the router jig path. While this did end up giving me a flat surface, it also completely chewed it up, collapsing the end grain and tearing out a bunch of divots. I now had a flat surface, but had no idea how to make it smooth. After again pursuing several more human-powered options, I ended up taking a low grit heavy duty handheld belt sander and grinding away until it looked presentable.

In the end, at least I've got a halfway decent looking cutting board. There are still final finishing steps I'd like to take, but overall I look at what I ended up with as a project full of compromises. There's plety of places where I could have "done it right" but didn't, because I hated working on it so much that I just wanted it to be over so that I can get to a different project that was more fulfilling. (I'll post a picture once it's done and oiled.)

The most valuable part of this project was that it gave me so much time to think about what I would rather be doing that it helped crystalize the aspects of woodworking that I love and hate. I love planning and designing furniture, and cutting precise joinery by hand. I hate glue, power tools, and sanding. Tomorrow I'm going to scour ebay for some used japanese hand planes.

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