Trying out new woodworking techniques is always a highlight. So when one of our friends mentioned that she was looking for a charcuterie board, we jumped at the opportunity to build one since we’ve never made one before. It gave us a chance to make something for our friends that will (hopefully) last a lifetime as well as try out new woodworking techniques.
The three main considerations in cutting board design are shape, material, and grain orientation.
Use your imagination here. The best part of DIY is the ability to customize everything to fit your needs perfectly. Cutting boards can be square, rectangular, triangular, circular, and everything in between. Additionally, the edges can be straight, rounded, or even angled. Every edge can be unique, there are no “rules” on the proper way to design a cutting board. Cutting boards can be thick or thin depending on the desired purpose of the cutting board. Think about how you plan to use the cutting board (showcasing food, cutting meat, etc.) and choose a design with features that fit your needs.
Traditionally cutting boards were made of maple but any hard wood will do well. Stay away from softwoods like pine and cedar since they won’t last long with everyday cutting. The cutting board can be made with all one type of hardwood, or a variety of different hardwoods to form interesting patterns and designs.
Cutting boards can either be “end-grain” or “edge-grain”. End-grain cutting boards allow the knife to go between the wood fibers and will not show knife marks as easily. Conversely, edge-grain cutting boards can be made thinner than end-grain cutting boards. The weaker end-grain structure requires a thicker board to maintain structural integrity.
Based on the intended use of the cutting board (displaying cheese and charcuterie) we decided to make a functional rectangular end-grain cutting board with square edges. The desired dimensions are 8x18x2 and the material is walnut. For the end-grain layout, we wanted to have small squares so the end-grain cutting board is composed of numerous 1x1x2 pieces of walnut.
To determine how much wood is needed, we can break up the three dimensions and compute each one separately.
The length of each small square is determined by the thickness of initial boards after jointing and planing. This means that we want a board thickness of 1 inch before ripping the boards into strips.
The width of each small square is determined by the thickness of the panel comprised of the individual strips after smoothing. This means that we want a panel thickness of 1 inch after smoothing the panel.
The height of the cutting board (and each small square) is determined by the length of each individual panel piece after cross-cutting. This means that each cross-cut piece needs to be 2 inches long before the final glue-up.
Given the size of each small block, we can determine the sizes of each intermediate step. Since the cutting board needs to be 2 inches high and 8 inches wide, the size of the intermediate panel needs to be 16 inches long (plus extra for cutting) in order to obtain 8 pieces that are 2 inches high. The width of the intermediate panel is determined by the desired length of the cutting board (18 inches). The panel is comprised of 18 individual strips 1 inch thick, 1 3/16 inch wide and about 20 inches long. The extra 3/16 inch width allows enough extra material to smooth the panel through the planer. The extra 4 inches of length allows for the saw kerf while cross-cutting.
We start with a single board of walnut from the lumber yard.
Which we cut into shorter pieces to make jointing and planing easier.
After jointing and planing, we rip the boards into 18 thin strips about 3/16 wider than the final desired dimension. The extra width gives us enough extra wood to smooth the surface prior to cross-cutting to expose the end-grain.
Then we glue all of the strips into a single panel. Try and keep the panel as straight and flat as possible. Make sure each strip is oriented properly, the wider dimension should run vertically.
Scrape off the excess glue after clamping for one hour. Then allow the glue to fully dry and cure before flattening on the planer. The final thickness of the panel should be 1 inch.
After the panel is flattened, the dimension of each individual strip (viewed from the end grain) should be 1 inch thick by 1 inch wide by ~20 inches long. Then cross-cut the panel into strips (the desired height of the cutting board).
Try different grain orientations to see what appeals to you the best. Flip the strips left and right, top and bottom, mix them up and experiment to see what looks best.
Glue and clamp the strips together to form the final cutting board.
Scrape off the excess glue after clamping for one hour. Allow the glue to fully dry and cure before sanding. Start with a fairly coarse grit (80-100 grit) then progress through the grits until you get to 220 grit. We like to use a random orbit sander to speed the sanding process up.
After sanding, wipe the entire cutting board with a damp rag to raise the wood grain and sand down the raised grain with a high grit sandpaper (220-320 grit). Raise the grain and sand a second time to ensure that the cutting board will remain smooth after use.
Apply several generous coats of cutting board oil (mineral oil) to fully soak and seal the wood. Allow the wood to fully absorb each coat of oil.
Finish with a couple coats of a butcher block conditioner (mineral oil and wax combination) to seal in the oil and protect the surface.
Do not allow water to sit on the cutting board for extended periods of time. Wipe with a damp cloth after each use. If it needs additional washing, use soap and warm water but make sure to fully dry the board after washing. Set the cutting board on its edge to allow both sides to dry evenly. Depending on use, reapply the butcher block conditioner every month to refresh the cutting board.
If you’d like to commission a charcuterie or cutting board, feel free to contact us for more details at firstname.lastname@example.org.