Cutting boards are an essential part of any good cook’s kitchen. But what once was simply a utilitarian tool in the culinary enthusiast’s arsenal, devoted to protecting the valuable countertop, has now quickly become a piece of aesthetic focus in its own right. More and more, the cutting board serves not just as a means to chop, dice and mince delicious ingredients into a savory meal. It also can serve as a stunning focal point to display appetizers, cheese selections, and other delicacies on.
A beautiful wooden cutting board is quickly becoming the chef’s favorite place to arrange everything and show it to its best advantage. The more we fall in love with rustic presentation that has risen in popularity, the more popular these roughly hewn displays become.
But buying an elegant wooden cutting board isn’t necessarily cheap. Artisan-crafted boards large enough for a pleasing display might run you hundreds of dollars. The good news is that with some basic hobby tools, you can craft your own stunning wooden cutting board. The best part? You’ll be able to take full credit for how beautifully your recipes are presented atop your handcrafted board.
In order to fashion a cutting board, you’ll first need to get the tools and materials together. If you already have a workshop, all the better, since that means you’ll likely have all the tools at your disposal, and probably even the materials for the board. If not, you can work around this by renting the tools needed or visiting a local wood shop (or friend) with the right machines.
Materials you will need:
- Scrap wood
- Wood glue (waterproof is best, since cutting boards get washed frequently)
- A non-toxic finish like mineral oil or beeswax
Tools you will need:
- Clamps and clamping cauls
- Miter Saw
When choosing wood scraps, it’s a good idea to pick some in contrasting grains. We’ll be making a cutting board with strips of wood assembled together, and the more contrast, the fancier your board will appear. The first thing you’ll need to do once you’ve chosen your wood is cut it to length. The length will of course be determined by your shortest piece. Use the miter saw to cut each piece to length but setting the stop block using your shortest piece to measure.
Now that you have your pieces cut to length, lay them out together. You’ve just given yourself a rough preview of what your cutting board will look like! If you’ve picked a few different types of wood, now is the time to get creative and play around with the contrasting grains. A high contrast board will look exceptional once finished, so take your time choosing how you want the board to look.
Once you’ve picked the order of the pieces, it’s time to make them all the same width. Using your table saw, set the measurement that you’ve chosen and take all the pieces individually down to that size, making sure that it is sufficient thickness to avoid warping since this board is likely to spend plenty of time exposed to damp foods or being rinsed off. About three quarters of an inch should be enough to avoid warp.
Now that your pieces are all the right length and width it’s time to get them smooth enough for the application of the wood glue. Using your planer, plane each piece on both sides that will have glue applied. These are the sides that are touching each other when your board is laid out in order. This smoothness will allow the glue to fuse tightly, creating a bond as tough as the wood grain itself. Once the planing is finished, you’re ready to clamp your pieces together.
Lay the pieces out planed sides touching on your clamps, making sure you use clamping cauls on the end pieces to avoid indents on the edges of your cutting board. Once by one, apply your chosen wood glue to the pieces and set them back together. Once all the pieces are glued, tighten the clamp, adjusting the pieces manually as they shift. Once it’s set tight, wipe down the surfaces of the board with a lightly dampened cloth to remove the glue that is sure to seep out from between the cracks.
Once the glue has set to a suitable time according to the manufacturer, take the board out of the clamp. Now it is time for the finishing touches to your cutting board, but we still have a ways to go. We once again need to plane the board, now as a whole, to ensure that the surface is smooth. Put the board through the planer on both surfaces until the board is smooth to the touch. Then trim the ends with your table saw. Your board is now fully shaped!
The last stages are what will bring out the beauty of your new cutting board. It’s time to sand and finish. Sand the board with your sander or sandpaper, working your way from the roughest grit to the finest. To ensure your board is smooth to the touch after this stage, spray it with water in order to raise the grain for sanding. You’ll want to take special care that there are no remnants of glue remaining after the wood has been planed.
Once this is done, you’ll be ready for your last step: applying the finish. Using the non-toxic food safe finish or stain of your choice, apply it liberally and watch the grains of your wood pieces start to ‘pop’. This is definitely the most satisfying stage, as the beauty of the wood grains start to show through.
Once you have rubbed the whole board with oil or beeswax, allow it to dry. Your board is finished and ready for use. Now time to whip up something delicious to serve on top of it.