Love at first cutting board. Woodworker, Carpenter, Artisan…. you name it! I’ve always been fascinated by making things with your hands. As a child I loved legos and all the different creative ways you could use them. As I got older I volunteered to build anything that came out of a box (usually IKEA furniture). Yes I know pretty much all of you have made stuff with legos and probably put together some IKEA furniture.
I wanted to do more but my circumstances weren’t right. I didn’t live in a house with a ton of tools. I’m not saying my dad wasn’t a DIY guy but we just didn’t have a table saw or miter saw or any of the type of tools you need to make a piece of wood into something beautiful! Since graduating college I’d always been on the hunt to take some woodworking classes, but either the area I lived in didn’t have any or it was just too much money.
Luckily for me, when I moved just outside of Baltimore there was the perfect place called Station North Tool Library. It’s a community hub that lends tools and hosts public workshops. I signed up immediately and took a few basic classes where I learned how to use tools like the table saw, miter saw, jig saw, drill saws, jointers, planers and routers.
While it was fun learning everything, I had my eye on one class – How to Make a Cutting Board! What better way to combine my new love of woodworking and existing one of food. The process of making the cutting board is actually quite easy. The class itself took two days with three hours each day of learning from the instructor. Sadly as I mentioned previously, I did not document it as I was just focused on learning and making my first cutting board. However I can share the basics and will have step-by-step instructions down the road with pictures. Probably the biggest issue with cutting boards is you need quite a few tools to be able to make a legit one, so either you need to have the tools below or be a member of a shop. However I have other projects where you need less tools.
- Hardwood (Oak, Walnut, Maple, Cherry)
- Titebond III wood glue
- 80, 150, 220 grit sandpaper
- Cutting board oil (I use Howard)
When making a cutting board, you want to use hardwood as it can take the abuse of the knife since you are actually cutting on it! The main types of hardwood used for cutting boards are oak, walnut, maple and cherry with maple probably being the most popular. I purposely am not telling you the size of cuts you need for the wood as that’s all on you for the size of the cutting board. Just for reference my individual strips of wood were each 14 inches in length and about one inch wide, however they weren’t all exactly that the same.
The best time to make a cutting board is when you have leftover strips of wood that you can either strip down more or just use as is. And that’s exactly what we did in our woodworking class. We just used leftover pieces of wood. All that a cutting board is, is multiple strips of wood glued together and sanded down. So in order to make it where you can actually glue the wood together, you have to put each strip of wood through the jointer on two sides. A jointer is used to create flat, smooth services on the wood. You can do all four sides along the jointer but found it easier to move to table saw after first two sides were smooth.
After each piece has been through the jointer you need to have the wood go through the table saw to get the exact width you want (Note – make sure you put the two sides that were put through joiner on and against the table saw). You do not need to worry about having the top of wood smooth as the planer will take care of that.
Once you have three sides of however many strips of wood you are using, it’s time to glue! The beauty of a homemade cutting board using different strips of wood is every single one will be different. Before actually gluing together, put all the strips of wood together and clamp down to make sure there are no gaps. If there are, then put back through jointer to make sure it’s smooth and even against the next strip of wood. Spread the glue evenly across the strips of wood and clamp down. Make sure it doesn’t bow as you clamp down. There will be some excess glue that you simply just wipe off with a wet towel. To be safe you should leave clamped for 24 hours.
Once the cutting board has been unclamped it’s time for the planer. A planer cuts wood into the desired thickness, while creating perfectly parallel surfaces. So basically it’s perfect for a cutting board. Keep running through the planer until you have your desired thickness and both surfaces are smooth. You do not want to sand down too much otherwise it will bow overtime when getting wet. It’s optimal to leave at least .75 inches thick.
Now is the time to decide if you want a perfect square or rounded or curved sides. With the cutting board I made I wanted rounded, curved corners and sides. To get the rounded corners you just run a sander against the corner back and forth until you reach the desired effect. The next tool on deck is a router if you want some curvature on the sides. Pictures are best to explain here but you just push the piece of wood and slide against the router and it will chip away the section you want (depending on the router bit you use) and create a curved side.
Now all thats left is sanding! Since you want a smooth service you have to sand quite a bit. The trick is to use a pencil and draw some lines across the cutting board. Now pick up your hand sander with 80 grit sandpaper and go back and forth using different motions (circular, horizontal, vertical) until you don’t see the pencil marks. Repeat with 150 grit sandpaper and 220 grit sandpaper. Don’t forget the sides as well!
You might think you’re done but the first time you run your wood under water it will become rough again. To avoid this issue, wipe the wood with a wet towel and it will raise the grain. At this point you just need to repeat the sanding steps above and start with 80 grit sandpaper.
With the cutting board officially complete, now it’s time to make it shine and protect it. Wipe with some cutting board oil and what was already a great looking cutting board becomes gorgeous! At this point it is ready to use! And yes using a wood cutting board is food safe, in case you were wondering. To keep the life of the cutting board up, make sure to put the oil on it daily for the first week, then once a week for a few weeks, then once a month.
I know I know. Pictures would make everything better. I promise I’ll make another cutting board down the road and share pictures for step-by-step instructions. In the meantime go make yourself a cutting board or just wait till I do it again!