Beginner’s Guide for Making a Cutting Board

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Kayla Russell is a part of the marketing team at KJP Select Hardwoods, your Canadian source for wood and woodworking products. KJP offers a diverse selection of products; their inventory features over 80 species of wood, including domestic and exotic hardwoods.

Every chef needs a cutting board, whether you’re a beginner or an expert. These boards make food prep easy, from chopping vegetables to slicing bread. You can use them to serve meats, fruits, and cheeses. Better yet, they’re easy to clean, too. 

Instead of buying one, why not make your own? But even if you’re skilled in the kitchen, you might be unfamiliar with the world of woodworking. Once you create your cutting board, you can display it on your kitchen island. Leave it in the spotlight rather than stowing it away in a drawer. 

And when your guests ask where you bought it from, you can tell them that you made it yourself! 

There’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to designing your cutting board. You can let your creativity run free. Use the offcuts at your workshop, or purchase a wooden slab specifically for your board. 

If you’re new to the world of woodworking, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve assembled a beginner’s guide for creating a cutting board:

Selecting the Best Wood for A Cutting Board

Cutting boards can be used for many things, but they have one main purpose: chopping up ingredients. You’re going to be slicing these boards with sharp knives fairly often. Naturally, you want to choose a type of wood that’s firm and durable. 

The owner of KJP Select Hardwoods in Ottawa writes, “We almost always use hardwoods when making cutting boards. Softwoods don’t last as long; over time, knives will leave deep grooves in the board. We recommend hardy woods like cherry, maple, and walnut.”

You can choose the wood that compliments or contrasts your kitchen. If buying new wood is out of your budget, try using the scraps you have laying around your shop. 

Designing Your Wood Cutting Board

When you picture your ideal cutting board, what do you see? Is it a sleek and uniform piece of wood? Or is it a checkerboard of different pieces?

The beauty of doing things yourself is that you design how the product looks. You can choose from popular designs like:

  • Face grain: If you’re looking for a low-cost option, this design will be perfect. Keep in mind that face grain boards are slightly thinner, which makes them more prone to breaking. 
  • Edge grain: Wood pieces are assembled in strips, with the long and narrow edge facing up. 
  • End grain: This design creates the classic checkerboard look. Of all the options, it tends to be the most durable (but also the most expensive to make). You might select pieces that have similar tones. Or, go for a bold look by choosing ones that contrast, like dark oak and maple. 
  • Resin-filled: Does the material have any voids or holes? You can use these minor imperfections to your advantage. Fill them in with a clear resin to make a smooth surface. Alternatively, use a brightly colored resin to make a unique and eye-catching design. 

You can also plan minor details. Like, do you want to add a handle to the end of the board? A handle or groove for your fingers makes the board easier to move around. 

Do you want to add detailing along the edges of the board? You might choose to add a “juice groove” to the board, which collects run-off oils and liquids. A router is a great tool to use when adding these grooves.

Tools Needed to Make a Cutting Board

What tools do you need to make a cutting board? The next time you’re at the hardware store, pick up the following:

  • Measuring tape & a pencil
  • Clamps
  • The wood material of your choice
  • Hand saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood glue & brush
  • Eye goggles
  • Hearing protection
  • Dust mask
  • Router & router bits
  • Drop cloth
  • Food-safe finishing oil

If you’re a beginner, you may not have all of these tools at your shop. Buying them outright might be too steep of an expense. Ask around to see if you can borrow them from a friend, or rent them from a shop nearby.

Preparing the Wood

Before you can get to work, the first step is making sure the wood is in good condition. You want the material to be flat and smooth with clean edges. Use sandpaper to make the surface level. You can increase the grit of the sandpaper until the surface reaches your desired smoothness. 

Cutting the Wood

Now it’s time to decide how thick you want the cutting board to be. It may depend on what you plan to use the board for. 

If it’s for slicing meat, a thicker cutting board will be more durable. But if you want to use it as a serving tray, a thinner board will work just fine. 

Next, how big do you want it to be? Small, medium, and large cutting boards all serve a purpose. If you’re short on storage space, a smaller board might be best.

At this point, you can outline your design using a pencil and measuring tape. If you’re making a checkerboard pattern, it will take a bit of time to arrange all the pieces. Go slow and steady during this part; if the pieces don’t line up, your cutting board will turn out uneven. 

Like any woodworking project, your success relies on the precision of your cuts. Each measurement you take needs to be exact—otherwise, you’ll wind up with a cutting board that barely fits together. 

To cut the wood, you can use whatever power tool you prefer. And if you have the tools for it, you can create rounded edges. Use a band saw or a jigsaw to make smooth, circular corners. 

Arranging & Gluing the Pieces

Your cutting board is now ready to assemble. The next step is attaching all the pieces. Once everything is lined up, use your wood glue to put it together. 

To help with the gluing process, you can use clamps. These tools will squeeze the pieces together for a secure fit. 

However, they tend to make a bit of a mess. Lay down newspapers to collect the excess glue. You can remove any overabundance of glue with a damp cloth. 

Once it’s dry, sand the surface until it’s smooth and level.

How to Finish A Cutting Board

Finally, it’s time to apply the finish. This is one of the most satisfying parts of woodworking; it’s when all your hard work comes together. 

When you’re applying a finish, you can’t overlook the importance of good air circulation. A ventilation system can remove hazardous fumes from the air you breathe. If you don’t have one, try opening the windows, using a fan, or working outdoors.

Cutting boards are frequently exposed to moisture. Since they’re made of wood, this may cause rot issues. Seal the cutting board with a finish to prevent moisture damage.

You’ll also want to apply a food-safe finish, considering that you’ll be using this board to prepare ingredients. 

The favorite finish from the Money Family team for cutting boards is a homemade wood butter made from four parts mineral oil to one part beeswax. Just warm the ingredients in a small saucepan and let cool and the wood butter can be used on any project that needs a long-lasting food-safe finish.

Does your cutting board tend to slide around your counter? If so, you can keep it steady by adding small silicon feet to the board. One piece on each corner should do the trick.

Cleaning the Board

After a night in the kitchen, your wooden cutting board isn’t as clean as it used to be. To make it last as long as possible, we’ve put together these care tips:

  • Never soak the wood in water—doing so will cause it to warp. Don’t put your wooden cutting board in the dishwasher, either. 
  • Rinse the cutting board under hot water. Then, use a brush and dish soap to scrub the surface. If any raw meat touches the board, you can sanitize it with a disinfectant. 
  • Whenever the cutting board starts to look a little dry, top it off with another coat of oil. 

And that’s it. You’re all done! Be sure to allow your cutting board to dry completely before using it (which might take a day or two). Once it’s ready, you can host the dinner party of your dreams.

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