How to Make a Wooden Cutting Board
A wooden cutting board is as essential to a working kitchen as a chef's knife. And, just like the chef's knife, the quality of the tool is of utmost importance. Three factors will control the overall quality of a DIY cutting board: material, design, and build quality. This tutorial will not only walk you through the process of building a cutting board but also explain which materials are best and how you should design your cutting board to best suit your use.
Before You Begin
Before you buy your materials and start constructing your cutting board, there are a few things to consider.
The Best Wood for a Cutting Board
As you might've guessed, the most important mark of a wooden cutting board's quality is the type of wood. We've laid out the top five cutting board wood types below.
A perfect wooden cutting board is hard but not so hard that it dulls a knife, has a tight grain for minimizing water absorption and bacteria growth, and has a low shrinking tendency to minimize conditioning frequency. Each wood type below qualifies, so this table will focus only on the subtle differences while highlighting some pros and cons to consider.
|Cutting Board Wood Types|
|Hardness (Janka rating)||1450||1300||1070||1010||950|
|Scratch and Impact Resistance||High||High||Medium||Medium||Low|
End Grain vs. Edge Grain vs. Face Grain
Second in importance to the type of wood is the layout of the wood—three options being edge grain, face grain, and end grain. Think of edge grain as the short side of a board, with face grain being the wider top, and end grain being the rough end of a board. Face grain is typically reserved for smaller cutting boards and boards used for food display rather than prep, so you'll most likely want to choose between edge grain and end grain.
The main advantage of an end grain board is its self-healing properties and protection of knife edges. Because of the more open layout of the grain, a knife's motion is cutting into the grain rather than against it, which prevents the edge from dulling as quickly. However, with this open-grain layout, much more moisture is absorbed, requiring more frequent conditioning. Additionally, the construction of an end grain board is much more involved and can be fairly complex. Unless you're using professional-grade knives and regularly sharpening them, end grain isn't necessarily better than edge grain.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Miter saw
- Table saw
- Chamfer bit
- 3 Pipe clamps
- Paint scraper
- Orbital sander
- Measuring tape
- 2x6 x 6' hard maple board
- Waterproof wood glue
- 120-, 220-, 320-grit sanding pads
- Mineral oil
- Cutting board wax
- Scrap boards
How to Build a Wooden Cutting Board
The steps below will outline how to build a cutting board with an edge grain layout.
Cut the Board
Using a miter saw, cut the board into four pieces measuring 18 inches in length.
Rip the Boards
Use a table saw to rip the boards into 1-inch-thick strips. Each 18-inch board should yield five strips.
Sand the Joints
Each 1-1/2-inch side of the strips will serve as a joining surface, so it's important that they're as smooth and straight as possible. Sand the surface to remove any marks left by the saw, being careful not to alter the shape of the wood.
Glue the Boards
Place your clamps on the work surface with the cutting board strips on top, lined side by side with scrap boards at each end to protect the edges. Apply an even layer of waterproof wood glue to each side of each joint, then turn the strips up and press the boards together. Adjust the boards until they're even and flat, then tightly clamp in place and wipe away the excess glue.
Remove the Clamps
Once the glue has dried according to the manufacturer's instructions, remove the clamps. Scrape away any excess glue with a paint scraper.
Sand the Board
Sand the entire cutting board with 120-grit sandpaper, then 220-grit, then 320-grit for a smooth finish.
Rout the Edges
Rather than ornate handles, this cutting board will feature routed edges that aid in picking it up off the countertop. Use a chamfer bit to add a 1/2-inch chamfer around the entire perimeter of both sides of the board. To prevent burning, make multiple, incrementally deeper passes.
Sand the Edges
Sand the routed edges once more until smooth.
Finish the Cutting Board
Flood the cutting board with mineral oil and let it sit for 12 to 24 hours. As the oil is absorbed, apply more oil to the dry spots. Once the allotted time has passed, wipe off the excess oil. Follow the oil with cutting board wax, applying and buffing according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Optional Wooden Cutting Board Accessories
This simple cutting board can easily be customized to suit your needs. Consider adding a juice groove around the perimeter, insetting handles on each side, or even adding feet to the bottom of the cutting board. Remember that some accessories will limit the cutting board to only one usable side.
How to Maintain Your Wooden Cutting Board
To ensure your DIY wooden cutting board lasts for years to come, always wipe clean with a damp cloth and thoroughly dry after use. Frequently reapply mineral oil to prevent bacteria growth and occasionally wax the board to create a water barrier.