A project that just about every woodworker has under their belt is a cutting board. They are simple, can be made from scraps, and make excellent gifts. There are tons of patterns and wood combinations you can put together to make each one unique.
The long grain cutting board is the simplest to make and a great place to start. You can of course purchase lumber to make a cutting board, but I love to use off cuts from past projects, making them extremely economical. The important thing to remember is to always use hardwoods with a closed grain structure. A closed grain structure means that the pores the tree uses to move water are small. The boards are smoother and less susceptible to bacteria. The most common woods used for cutting boards are maple, cherry, and walnut.
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Router -or- block plane
The first step is gathering your wood and determining the dimensions of the cutting board. You can use the following technique to make any size you’d like from a cheese board up to a large chopping block. Just keep in mind the weight of the board as you get into larger sizes. If you want the cutting board to have a uniform look then set the fence of your table saw to the width of the narrowest piece of scrap and rip the remaining pieces to the same width. Remember to always use a push stick when cutting smaller boards, safety first ladies and gents. You can trim the lengths after the glue up.
If you are using multiple species of wood now is the time to determine your pattern. Layout your strips of wood in their desired orientation and then rotate all but the end piece 90 degrees. Since the cutting board will be exposed to water when it is cleaned it’s important to use a waterproof wood glue. My personal preference is Titebond III, not only is it waterproof but according to their website it’s “FDA approved for indirect food contact (cutting boards)”.
Place a line of wood glue on all but the end piece.Use a rubber glue brush or roller to spread the glue evenly, making sure to coat the whole surface. Rotate the pieces back 90 degrees to its original position. When you rotate them all back in the same direction there will always be a pairing of a clean surface with a glue surface. Clamp the boards together and wait for the glue to set, I leave it overnight. You want to see a thin line of glue squeeze out in between the boards to get a proper glue joint. Wait about a half hour for the glue to become tacky, then scrape off the squeeze out to save yourself a headache down the road.
After the glue cures completely, unclamp your board. At this point you can run it through a planer if you have one, or sand the surface smooth. Trim the ends to the desired length on the miter saw, or possibly the table saw with a cross cut sled depending on the width. Use a block plane or router to put a small chamfer on the top edge of each side.
Now start sanding your board. Sand up to 220 grit paper, wet your board to raise the grain and sand again. The last step is oil. Using a butcher block or mineral oil generously coat the board allowing it to sit for a few minutes before you wipe off the excess. Then repeat this step once more the following day. These make beautiful gifts for friends and family over the holiday season that they can enjoy for years to come.