In 2017 the Woodshop 101 Podcast hosted it's first annual cutting board build off. It was a huge hit and there were over 50 entries. Many of those entries came from people who never made a cutting board before. Cutting boards can be as basic or as complex as you want to make it. They can be very intimidating for someone that has never made one before because you have to make sure your wood is truly square, you have to pick the right species that will hold up in a kitchen environment and won't harbor bacteria, and you have to make sure you finish it off correctly with a food safe finish. There are many companies that help take some of the complications out of it. They offer what is commonly known as "cutting board kits". These kits generally have a few different species of wood, they come pre-milled, and some already come cut to length while others require a little shaping. Some of the most popular companies carry these kits like Woodcraft, Rockler, and even Bell Forest Products. I am going to show you how to build the Bell Forest Products Paddle Cutting Board however if you decide you want to use a different kit the same basic principles still apply.
1: Is choosing which kit you want to build or in my case get them all. These kits from Bell Forest Products come pre-milled and ready for glue up. But in some cases you might need to do some light jointing of the glue edge to get the tightest seam.
2: A paper template and a piece of MDF is provided with every kit so you can create your own router template. If you are like me and don't mind spending a extra few dollars then you can purchase one of their templates that is pre-cut to the paddle shape.
3. This is where I generally get to the most questions. If you do not use the right type of glue then your cutting board will not last. You want to use something that will hold up to moisture. I use Tite-bond II but you can use any water resistant wood glue. The specifications you should look for are ANSI Type II water-resistance. That is the standard to which water resistant wood glue should meet.
You want to apply enough glue that you will fill the joint and have some squeeze out once clamped together. However, too much glue and you can create a mess for yourself to clean up. Make sure you spread the glue around so you cover all the surfaces you want joined together.
Apply just enough clamping pressure to bring the joint together and get squeeze out. You don't need a ton of pressure here. If you are having to really clamp down to get the joint to close then your pieces are probably not square and may eventually open back up.
5: I like to wait 4-6 hours for the glue to dry but that is based off my environment and the humidity level. Yours may dry faster depending on your shop environment. Once it is dry I run it through the planer to ensure my pieces are flat and even with each other. But this can be done using Belt Sander or even hand planes.
6: I trace my template on the cutting board to give me reference lines to cut to. If you decide not to use a template then draw your desired shape here.
8: Take your template and use double sided tape to temporarily hold your template down to your cutting board blank. Take your blank to a router table and use a flush trim bit to bring the cutting board blank down to the exact same size as your template. This is where you want to make sure you are taking small bits with the router bit as taking heavy passes could cause the router bit to grab your piece and throw it or cause heavy tear out. If your bit isn't cutting smooth then it is likely to be dull. Either sharpen the bit or replace it.
9: Another area where I get people asking questions is the finish. One of the easiest ways to finish a cutting board is with a food safe oil. You can use a "special" cutting board oil but all that really contains is a mineral oil. For a fraction of the cost you can go to your local drug store or the pharmacy section of your grocery store and pick up a bottle of mineral oil out of the laxative section.
I apply a generous amount of oil and let it sit. The wood will drink up the first few coats. As it starts to look dry I will apply a little more. Once the wood looks like it stops pulling it in then you are good to wipe off the excess. I generally apply several coats over the course of a few days letting it set several hours between coats.
10: This step is completely optional as mineral oil will provide adequate protection.
The final step I take is to add a layer of mineral oil and bees wax mixture. The wax will provide a little more protection against water than just mineral oil. I use a product called Howard's Butcher Block Conditioner. I like to warm up it up slightly to melt the wax as this helps it flow a little better. I apply 1 coat to all surfaces and let it dry. When the wax has hazed up then it is time to buff it off. I apply this to the cutting board about once every few months or when the cutting board starts to look dry.
You can find my cutting board care instructions here.
And that's it! Go enjoy your hard work and show it off. Now that you know how to make a cutting board from a kit; try to make one from scratch. There are endless possibilities for cutting boards. You have options to add juice grooves, handholds, feet, knife magnets, etc.
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