Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Scrap Wood, Hardwood, End Grain Cutting Board

These are my steps in creating a fancy cutting board out of some scrap wood.

 If you're like me, you try to collect and save every last piece of scrap wood in case you come up with a need for it. I decided that it was time to clean my bucket up, but give a final sift through for any hardwood pieces.

I organized the pieces by wood species, and I cut them to be approximately the same length (5" in my case, because that's what most were)

I organized them into bunches of 3 or 4 different blocks and glued them together with Elmer's Wood Glue Max. I used this glue because it is waterproof (necessary for something needing to be cleaned often), uses wood fibers (less likely to be seen), and has a very strong hold. I held the glued pieces together with rubber bands, which worked well for all except one bunch. The bunch that didn't work as well is because I had too many blocks in it, so it would not sit flat. All it did was make a small gap between two pieces of wood. No biggie here.

Next I cleaned up all of the groups to make sure I had one clean end with a miter saw, and I squared up all of the jagged edges on my table saw. Then I cut them to be 1.5" long pieces.

I organized the pieces into rows just over 10" long that I thought looked pretty neat for a cutting board. Then I glued them, once again with Elmer's Wood Glue Max. Make sure you have the end grain all facing up!!!

I created 6 10" long rows that I would be able to trim to square the edges leaving me with about 1.5" wide strips that are 10" long. I set the pieces against the straight edge to help guarantee two flat, adjacent sides (bottom and side).

So next, as you would guess, I cleaned up the sides to make sure it was completely squared.

I then saw how large of a board this could be, and I found I had a 10.5"x9" board max. I ended up making it 10" x 8.5".

So I glued up these boards again with Wood Glue Max.

Next, I squared up the sides using a miter gauge on the table saw for one adjacent side, then the table saw for the other 3. In hindsight, I would save this step until after routering because I had a fair amount of tearout that I wish I had taken steps to prevent. If you are doing this, don't make the same mistake as me. Scroll down to the router step next and then cut to size.

 I leveled the board with a router with a 3/4" flat bottomed bit attached to a long board, with a 2x4 on either side (with the same thickness to allow a level cut). I have the three pieces sitting on a flat piece of plywood and on a non-slip drawer mat that I picked up from Menards.

Just run the router back and forth over the board until you have covered every piece. The tearout from this step is what made my board less than perfect.

You can see the router still left a fairly rough finish, but it is nearly perfectly level.

So I sand and sand and sand with a high speed orbital sander to clean up the faces and sides, but I give up before it's perfectly smooth. I went back and tried a new method to flatten it, using a card scraper. It did work pretty well. It should still be sanded after the card scraper, but this will speed up the process greatly. But don't forget, you're going to cut on it. I'll resurface it after a while of abusing it.

I stuck a 1/4" roundover bit into the router and rounded the four corners. Then I used a 1/8" roundover bit to put a small bevel on the other edges. Some of the tearout was left past this, unfortunately.

Okay, here's what I thought is a good idea for feet on the bottom. I grabbed a package of those rubbery plastic bumpers for cabinets doors and drawers, used a 1/2" forstner bit to dig a barely deep (1/64" deep approx.) round hole into the bottom, 1.5" in from each round corner. I wetted each hole, and then I stuck a drop of Elmer's Glue-All Max polyurethane glue into the center. Then I had to blot out most of the drop because one drop in each was way too much. I stuck a bumper in each hole, and turned the cutting board back over and set some weight on top for the glue to cure.

When I took the weights off, I was ready to finish the board. I used some mineral oil from my local drug store and rubbed it in with a paper towel, until it would not absorb any more. After that I buffed it with a dry paper towel to give it a nice shine. Mineral oil (usp) is food safe and will not go rancid like some vegetable oils could. Nut oils are also bad because if someone had an allergy to nuts and ate food that was cut on the board, they could have a reaction. Mineral oil is easy to find and just prevents most of these problems.

And here you have it. An elegant cutting board that barely cost anything more than some time. To care for the board, use proper cutting techniques to avoid sawing directly into the surface. Be gentle and it will hide most cut marks. It is also great for knife edges. Wash the board lightly after each use, especially after vegetables. Wash more thoroughly after cutting any meats. The wood is still safe to use for cutting raw meat because wood has shown antibacterial effects that will prevent colonies of germs to grow and thrive inside.  After washing, let it air dry. It has rubber feet holding it up so you don't have to set it on its side or do anything fancy to dry it. I recommend leaving it on the counter to continuously dry. It looks great and you'll get compliments from your guests!

Add a light coating of mineral oil about once a week, and don't forget that you have the ability to take a hand sander to this piece to get rid of the scratches. Mine's 1-3/8" thick so I have plenty of material to sand away before I'd be leery of using. This thing should last forever.


  1. That's cool. I wish I had a bucket of hardwood scraps!

  2. Awesome work. I want to know after cutting the woods any adhesive do you use and tell me which is the best wood adhesive to fix wooden parts?

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