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With the right tools, a cutting board can be one of the simplest and most rewarding projects a woodworker can tackle. It requires flat and square wood, so without a table saw and jointer or planer, it’s extremely difficult.
There is some disagreement about whether an edge grain or end grain cutting board is better. Here are the commonly repeated pros and cons for each:
- Easier to make
- More durable
- Looks better
- More sanitary
- Harder on knives
- Scratches easier
- Takes longer to make
- Juices can get trapped down in the grain
- Easier on knives
- Less prone to scratching
I’ve made and used many of each type of cutting board and it seems like each of them get scratched about the same. It’s thought that end-grain will absorb the cuts of the knife scratching less and not being so hard on your knives. I’m not sure how true this is, but I don’t think it’s a big enough deal to influence the type of cutting board you make.
Washing the board with soap and water immediately after each use will also negate any issue with raw meat juices seeping into the wood and spoiling.
I’m going to show you how to make my favorite kind of cutting board – and the one I think looks much better – a walnut and maple edge grain board.
As with most projects, I start out by cutting the walnut and maple 2 inches longer than the final length at the miter saw.
After getting a flat edge on the jointer, I rip the wood into 1 inch strips on the table saw.
The strips are rotated so that the cutting board will be 1 inch thick and arranged into a desirable pattern. Take your time and experiment with different arrangements. You might stumble upon a unique pattern that’s interesting.
I apply plenty of glue to each strip and clamp the cutting board to let it dry overnight. Don’t over tighten the clamps, but you do want to see some glue squeeze out.
I scrape the dried glue from each side of the cutting board and then a few light passes thru the thickness planer evens the top and bottom. This is hardwood so I make sure to only take about 1/32” – 1/16” off on each pass.
Using a miter gauge I square the ends of the cutting board at the table saw.
I use the random orbit sander to first sand the cutting board with 100 grit sandpaper and then 220 grit. I don’t linger in one spot too long and make slow, even passes.
At the router table I cut a chamfer into the bottom of the cutting board and a slight roundover on the top. I like the way a chamfer takes some of the bulk from the board. These touches give the project a professional look.
I follow-up with hand sanding to remove burn marks and finish breaking the edges.
The finish is a butcher block conditioner made up of beeswax and mineral oil. I apply 3 coats letting each coat dry for about an hour. This cutting board will need to be washed with soap and water after every use and finish reapplied about once every 6 months.
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