The Board Chronicles: Lake Havasu Winter fest 2018   Leave a comment

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

Well, faithful readers, I know you’re on pins and needles to see what happened after we were almost blown away.

Didn’t know? Then you should read Wind. Blows: A Special Edition of the Board Chronicles, which tells the story of the devastation wreaked on us at this event. Go ahead, follow the link & read.

I’ll wait.

This post, however, is the story of the event itself: the 33rd Annual Winterfest in Lake Havasu, AZ. This is a “big idea” event for us, so the investment was significant. We got there.

Hope it’s worth it!

New Ideas

  • As stated, this is our first interstate event. We had to register with the state of Arizona, as well as get a business license from Lake Havasu City. Unfortunately, I forgot to do both, so had to scramble at the last minute (and I do mean the last minute) to get both done properly.
  • My inventory is now over 300 pieces, which is a personal record. I’ve got a varied product line, with Hearts back in stock, 3 kinds of finishes on Word Blocks, and Coasters available for the first time.

Observations

  • After I scrambled to get the city license + the state registration, no one checked to make sure that we were following the rules. Which is how it always goes, it seems.
  • We did, however, get our first-ever fire inspection to ensure we had a fire extinguisher in the booth. I thanked the fireman for doing his job.
  • Oh so many lotion vendors there in the small part of the show that we did visit … and they were all making medical claims of one kind or another. I certainly hope these snake oil salesmen had a bad weekend. I mean, does anyone really think that there are potions to prevent Alzheimer’s that you can just buy on the street?
  • He said, picking up a clipboard: “Is this a cutting board?
    • I said: “No. It’s a clipboard.”
  • Another He said, looking at a cutting board for $150: “Is this price right?”
    • I said: “Yes.”
    • Another He said: “You must make these yourself.”
    • What do you say to that, other than, “I do.”
  • Yet Another He asked if I had cribbage boards. I pointed to the one on display.
    • Yet Another He asked: “How much?”
    • I said: “$40.”
    • Yet Another He said: “That’s a fair price.” (and he turned and left)
  • Arriving to find half of our booth destroyed on Sunday morning was not a good time, I assure you. We packed up Mrs M’s stuff, and moved it into the shade on the sidewalk. We decided to not pack up my stuff … we were there, and selling ANYTHING sounded better than sitting in the Jeep for the 5 hour drive and getting more depressed. So, we set Mrs M’s tables back up and moved my extra inventory onto those tables in what was now Mrs M’s open air booth. Of the things we put on display … nothing sold.
  • Luckily, other things did.
  • She said: “$80 for a Pig for me to chop an onion on? Oh, hell no.” (and she turned and left)
  • Requests were for a Jokers & Pegs set (no), a Wisconsin-shaped cribbage board (no), a flybox (He wanted a tool, not a keepsake. I don’t do utility boxes … and rarely do keepsake boxes!) and an RV sink board (2x).

The Food

  • Best Meal: We had a great meal at Azul Agave. I had the macho burrito. It was Sunday, after a horrible morning and an OK sales day. Glad that we got a smile at the end of a very trying day.
  • Honorable Mention: Breakfast at the Black Bear Diner is always a treat for us.
  • Worst Meal: It was about unmet expectations, really. We had dinner at Mario’s, which did not live up to its Yelp rating. The food was OK, but I expected more. We ate there Friday night, before our event, so that meal was a dramatic device called foreshadowing.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 617
  • Booth cost: $300
  • City License cost: $20
  • Food cost: $213
  • Travel cost: $233
  • Total sales: $1,487
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $400
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: none
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: given what happened to us, I’m surprised to say … none
  • Saturday alarm: 4a
  • Sunday alarm: 6:15a
  • # soap & lotion vendors: no clue. We saw about 25% of the vendors there.
  • # woodworking vendors: see above.
  • Returning next year? Totally unclear. I’m leaning pro; Mrs M is leaning no. The canopy … it’s not leaning anymore. It’s trash.

Boards sold: 18

2x Serving Trays

2x Medium Surfboards

2x Magic Bottle Openers

2x Hearts

1x Large Cheese & Cracker Server

1x Cribbage Board

1x Large Cutting Board

1x Coaster

1x Coaster Set

1x Cheese Board

1x Pig Cutting Board

Wind. Blows: A Special Edition Of The Board Chronicles   2 comments

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

It was time to up our game.

Mrs M’s Handmade is now entering our 5th year of vendorhood. We started oh-so-humbly … and we’re still learning at every event. Unfortunately.

This year, we want to expand what we do. It’s our intention to do some bigger shows … and we scheduled ourselves for our first out-of-state event, Winterfest in Lake Havasu, AZ. That event is 300 miles from home, which is almost as far for us to travel as the events we’ve done in the bay area.

California’s a big state, you see. Going to Arizona from LA is closer. But, I digress.

We went to Arizona to go a-vendoring. What could go wrong?

Quoth The Fifth Element, Leeloo, “Wind blows ….”

This is the story of what happened while we slept.

Saturday was what we expected, really, only less. This very large vendor event has a Saturday morning setup, and we were there at 5:15am to line up for the 6am beginning of the process. We did what we do, and set up our booths, # 358 & 360, in the middle of McCulloch Blvd. We were ready for the crowds at 9am. People were there, which was great … but they didn’t buy much, unfortunately. Our vendor friends universally reported sales that were down significantly from last year. We ended Saturday at 5pm with a very, very disappointing sales total and complete exhaustion. We buttoned up the booths, put a table cloth over the soaps, and went to the motel to lick our wounds.

We knew that there was a windstorm forecast to hit at about 11pm, but we didn’t really worry about it. After all, we knew that we were prepared. Our weights were in place, our new Undercover canopies have thick, heavy side walls … we were ready.

We thought.

We were wrong.

We arrived before 8am on Sunday, because I wanted to tweak my display a bit. That’s what I would end up doing, but nothing else went according to plan.

Here’s the first thing I saw when we walked up to the booth:

My first look at the wind damage. No big deal, right?

This is a picture of the back corner of “my” booth (we do a double booth, so Mrs M has her side, and I have my side). See the upended table? That’s the back of my neighbor’s booth. My booth’s walls are what you see on the left side of the photo, and you’ll see that my canopy has shifted forward 3′. The booth did not go airborne, due to the weights that we had in place. However, the wind did push the sail formed by the wall of the booth forward, relentlessly, in spite of the weight. When the canopy was pushed and slid across the asphalt, the wall eventually rode up and over the top of the table. That, in turn, resulted in the boards I had stupidly left on the table getting knocked down. Only 3 pieces hit the pavement. Luckily.

Note that our weight is velcroed in place at the bottom of the canopy leg, just as it’s supposed to be. My neighbor’s booth is also secured, with the orange ratchet strap attached to the roof strut and holding a sandbag. Their booth (no walls) did not move, and did not protect my booth from the wind.

At this point, though, I was relieved. I had already seen canopies that were upended and destroyed in the wind, so I knew we were lucky that it was not worse. It took me a couple of thoughts to realize that the front of the booth – which looked perfect – was not all there. 10′ of our booth was missing. That’s when my focus shifted, and I saw this.

Velda’s booth, crushed by a flying canopy.

Here you see the opposite corner of my booth from the previous picture, and it was the front, center of our double booth. All you can see of Mrs M’s booth is the crumpled wall that’s on the pavement, and the leg and roof struts that have been folded parallel … they are no longer perpendicular. Mrs M’s Booth should be about 9′ tall; now it’s smashed.

Time slowed down. I surveyed the damage and realized that our day had just taken a very significant left turn.

Bad words may have been spoken at this point.

The booth behind Velda and her neighbor (a real estate agent) was a 10’x20′ booth selling dry soup mixes & such. The soup people had 2x 10′ canopies. They had bungeed the roofs together, and then secured the canopies with ratchet straps and DIY weights made from 4″ PVC pipe and, uh, stuff.

More on that later.

During the night, the wind lifted the dry soup canopies up, and then they flipped over and crushed Mrs M’s canopy, as well as that of her neighbor. Both Mrs M’s and the real estate agent’s canopies were properly weighted down and did not move from their spots. They did, however, get crushed by the Flying Dry Soup Canopy.

The Flying Dry Soup Canopy

This is the view from the far side of the real estate booth. That booth had a cheap EZ Up canopy … crushed flat. Note the 2 front center poles of the Flying Dry Soup Canopy: no weights are attached. These poles would have been front & center in the dry soup display, so the vendor did not put unsightly weights there.

Mistake. Big Mistake.

A DIY weight that really isn’t.

This is a picture of one of the weights that didn’t hold down the Flying Dry Soup Canopy. 2 things are wrong here:

  1. The weight itself is not properly secured. The weight should be connected to the ratchet strap through the eye hole mounted on the weight (now facing the pavement). Also, the weight must be secured to the leg itself. Otherwise, the wind will blow, the tent will shake … the weight will start swinging free of the leg, and then the pendulum effect will increase the power of the wind and speed the catastrophic failure of the canopy. As it did in this case!
  2. The weight itself is about 30″ tall. I have made weights somewhat similar to these. When I made my versions, I filled the 4″ PVC with concrete and rock. My DIY PVC weights did weigh 35 pounds when I put them on our bathroom scale. The pictured “weight,” however, was lifted by Velda using one arthritic finger. I estimate it was no more than 20 pounds; she believes it was under 10 pounds. I can guarantee it was not 50 pounds.

What’s important about 50 pounds? Here’s the relevant rule, which was a part of the event application signed by every vendor:

All vendors must have weights for any canopies in use. All four corners must have weights of at least 50lbs attached.

So, if you have 2x 10′ canopies side by side, you actually have 8 corners. When you put 50 pounds on each corner, you need 400 pounds of weight attached. In my opinion, the Flying Dry Soup Canopy did not have half of that.

The back of the Flying Dry Soup Canopy, now upside down and sitting in the middle of Mrs M’s booth. One weight is on the near corner; you can see the orange ratchet strap holding another on the far corner. But the back, middle?

So, we know there’s devastation here. Nothing to do but clean it up. With all of the involved vendors eventually helping, we took apart the offending canopies, untying the bungees and disconnecting the weights. Mrs M’s canopy could then be removed, to finally reveal the remains of her booth:

The top layers of Mrs M’s purpose built display did get pushed onto the ground, but the bottom layer was left alone. Under the tablecloth is the soap, which was totally undamaged. But as the asphalt underneath was revealed….

Amazingly, none of the wooden pieces were broken. Over 100 lotion bars were destroyed, as well as a small number of lotions and a single beard oil.

The saddest thing I saw broken:

So, nothing to do but get to it. Mrs M started cleaning up, and I started picking up.

Clean up, well in hand. 10am.

We cleaned up Mrs M’s booth entirely, and then decided that we should keep my booth open for the day. All of our costs were sunk; her stuff was safe. We would gain nothing by leaving for home, and if we stayed we just might sell a board or two.

That’s the story for the next installment of The Board Chronicles.

Still unknown is what will happen to our financial losses caused by the Flying Dry Soup Canopy. We do have their insurance information, and do expect to be compensated for the losses that we incurred. Will that happen? No clue.

Want to read about an even worse event weekend? The link’s below, When Nature Fights Back….

We expanded “my” booth into Mrs M’s booth space when we finally tweaked my display. There’s still cleanup needed, however.

More

When Nature Fights Back: A Special Edition Of The Board Chronicles

 

 

We All Need More Heart   1 comment

I know these are a good idea … but you can add them to the long list of good ideas that seldom make it out of the garage woodshop.

I have been sold out of hearts for a year – a year! – but I finally found the time to make more.

These hearts each have Bloodwood in them (naturally). They are about 11″ across  and 3/4″ thick. They’re made for 2-sided use; no feet on these.

Because they are hearts.

When you’re making, you have to know what you’re making. And then … make it in a way that is true.

That’s the philosophy.

Here are the hearts.

 

 

 

The 300th Cutting Board   Leave a comment

I am starting 2018 in style.

Never, ever, have I had 300 pieces in inventory before. Last year, I struggled to stay above 200, and finally reached 250. Twice.

Only twice, for about 4 days total.

Now, though, things have changed. The CNC in the shop is allowing me to make different things, and I can complete one process while the CNC is doing another. This week, I was using the planer and the table saw, while the CNC was drilling the MBOs & coasters.

I’ve just about got 2D work mastered. Good thing: I have a big special order to work on this month.

But I digress.

This week, I celebrate the first time ever having 300 pieces in inventory. Not only have I never done that before, I’m doing it with a wide variety of items. I’ve added a new style of Word Blocks, completed heart-shaped cutting boards for the first time in over a year and made coaster sets for the first time ever.

Oh, and I have cutting boards in all sizes and shapes. I am ready for 2018.

This cutting board is pure Jatoba, which is a first for me. After a long search, I finally found some 2″ thick pieces of Jatoba, and I bought a bunch. The lumber is rough, which means I need to plane it smooth before I can use it, but I do believe the results are rather spectacular. I see more Jatoba in my future!

Cutting Board 18 – 301. Jatoba. Edge Grain, Juice Groove. 14″ x 18″ x 1-1/4″.

Detail of 18 – 301. Non-skid rubber foot held on with a stainless steel screw.

Detail of 18-301. Routed Fingerhold.

More

The 250th Cutting Board: Back In The Pig Business (10/13/17)

The 250th Cutting Board (4/8/17)

The 200th Cutting Board, 6th Time ‘Round (2/9/17)

The 200th Cutting Board, 5th Time ‘Round (11/30/16)

The 200th Cutting Board, 4th Time ‘Round (10/7/16)

The 200th Cutting Board, Third Time ‘Round (8/5/16)

The 200th Cutting Board, 8 Months Later (4/9/16)

The 200th Cutting Board (9/18/15)

 

More Magic, Just In Time   Leave a comment

I almost sold out of Magic Bottle Openers last year. I ended the year with only 3 on hand … and since I sell several at every event, I was in trouble for this year.

Did I mention our first event is this weekend?

So, back to the shop.

For the first time, I cut the holes for the magic using the CNC. So, while I was smoothing and shaping the blanks, the CNC was saving me a few steps at the drill press. Now, every hole is perfectly drilled and perfectly placed the same way every time.

It’s not magic, but it is a really good idea!

So, here are new MBOs, just in time. With this batch, though, I’m now out of magic … my shopping list just never ends. That’s a good thing, right?

More

At Long Last, More Magic

Cleaning Up   Leave a comment

I didn’t really accomplish my goal through the holidays: I wanted to clean the shop. I’ve got some shop cabinetry to build. I moved my lumber rack off site (!). And, I needed to use the lumber I had stuffed into every nook & cranny to Make. More. Room.

A lot was done, but not enough. I’m on my way, with a lot more work to do.

However, the flurry of activity this week did allow me to finish over 70 pieces for the first show of our year, in Lake Havasu, AZ. If you’re going to the 33rd Annual Winterfest, please look us up in booths 358 & 360 … and you’ll get to see the stuff I got out of the shop this week.

For a complete schedule of events for Mrs M’s Handmade and Mr M’s Woodshop (11 events are now confirmed for 2018!), you can always click on the tab above for Mr & Mrs M’s Upcoming Events … or just click here.

But, back to the work. I’ve already showcased the Coasters and Word Blocks that were created. Part of shop clean up, though, was finishing odds and ends that got put aside for one reason or another … so here’s a bunch of the things I found when I emptied those nooks & crannies.

A New Twist On Powerful Words   Leave a comment

The “Word Blocks” that I created on the CNC continue to evolve. Here’s my third finishing style.

As you may recall, the original Words were made from Cherry, and then simply oiled. The results were great, I thought, but I was informed that they were very traditional, and that modern decor required things to be less natural & more colorful.

Well, OK, then. Can do.

As I completed these Word Blocks, it took me back to painting sets at the University of Missouri. I worked my way through school doing set building and lighting: it’s where I first used power tools. Mr M’s Woodshop exists because of my experience at Mizzou.

It’s also where I first used a paint sprayer to mix multiple colors and deliver a visually textured surface. Those paint skills had gone dormant, save for a fling with painting our living room 20 years ago. Luckily, I could call upon the experience again to make these Word Blocks. Can’t wait to see how they are received, as compared to the other styles.

More

New: Powerful Words

Powerful Words Can Be Pretty, Too

New: Coasters   2 comments

I use coasters. Don’t you?

I’ve seen other woodworkers make them, but they always bugged me. I think a wooden coaster should do 3 things:

  1. Protect the table underneath.
  2. Catch the condensation from the glass.
  3. Sit there, look pretty.

Many coasters, in my estimation, fail in at least one of these goals. With that in mind, these coasters were designed somewhat differently than my traditional cutting board & serving piece offerings.

For one, the finish on these coasters is a urethane, which could be used on wooden counters or tables. It’s food grade – but not cutting board grade. It does provide more moisture protection for the wood. Because, you know, condensation.

Secondly, I’ve added another wood to these coasters that’s very soft: cork. The round cork inserts provide a soft landing pad for your glass, and the small well around them will contain a few drops of moisture as well. Because, you know, condensation.

These coasters are not small: they are 5″ square, with the cork insert being 4″ round. They are the perfect size for the large drink containers that many favor these days.

I’m offering these coasters in sets of 4, and Mrs M and I have a disagreement about that. She insists that I only sell them in matched sets, but I believe that’s a mistake. Given that I made them, I get the final vote. (For the record, she gets the final vote … on her side of the booth.) I’ll be fine with anyone that wants a matched set of 4 … but I’ll also be fine if they want 4 different wood designs in their set.

Each coaster is $10. Buy 4, and you get a bonus coaster holder. Those holders are currently made from Black Walnut or Jatoba. There are 7 sets plus 3 single coasters in this first batch. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this new product, made possible by my CNC!

The Things New Cutting Board Makers Always Ask: The Finishing   3 comments

This is part 2 in a series of 2 posts, dedicated to helping new cutting board makers do what they want to do. For part 1, go here. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

Once you’ve glued wood together, you need to know how to finish your cutting board. Unfortunately, you’ve got a lot of options on how to make a cutting board, and those options will multiply as you move towards the finish line.

9. How do you finish a cutting board?

The recommended best practice is to apply mineral oil to the raw wood. Some immerse the board in a mineral oil bath for several minutes; others wipe on the oil in one or more applications.

The purpose of the oil is to supplement/replace the natural oils in the wood. Those oils will dry out over time, plus the soap and water used to clean the board will leach out those oils. So, for long life, you need to oil a cutting board. Talk to a chef: commercial kitchens oil their boards every day.

Note that the mineral oil has nothing to do with the anti-bacterial properties of a wooden cutting board.

10. Why mineral oil? Why not (insert other oil here)?

Mineral oil is shelf stable and will not go bad. It is FDA approved for human consumption (it’s a laxative). Oils that are grown, such as canola, coconut or olive oil will all eventually go rancid. They are not recommended for cutting board treatment.

11. How do you seal a cutting board?

You don’t.

You oil the board with mineral oil. If you “seal” the board with a varnish or polyurethane, then that coating will flake off when you carve on the board, and will mix with your food. No one recommends that you eat varnish or poly, so don’t use them on cutting boards.

12. What’s Board Butter?

It’s a mix of beeswax and mineral oil that can be used as a topcoat over a board that’s already treated with mineral oil. The beeswax, also FDA approved, gives another layer of protection to the wood, and will help to repel water. Different woodworkers prefer different formulas for their board butter … but if they include any ingredients not approved for human consumption, like polyurethane, then they would not be good to use.

I prefer a mix of 2 parts mineral oil to one part locally-harvested beeswax, which results in an applesauce-like texture when you apply it. Some like their board butter stiffer, which requires heating it prior to application.

13. Should a cutting board have feet?

Cutting Board 16 – End 029a. Detail of the finger hold on the edge of the board.

Perhaps.

Some prefer their boards to have non-skid feet. Some prefer to leave the board ready for 2-sided use, which means they have to find some way to keep it from sliding during use.

14. Should a cutting board have handles?

Probably. Especially if a board has no feet, it really helps to have a way to easily pick it up. I put routed hand holds – or finger holds – on just about all of my boards.

15. Should a cutting board have a juice groove?

This is another philosophical discussion.

Some prefer juice grooves. In my home, however, the cook says that if you’re properly cooking your meat you really want the juices to stay IN the meat, so if you’re carving the meat and juice is running out, you haven’t let the meat rest long enough. So, in my home, no grooves.

In the booth, however, I sell boards with grooves on them. Really big grooves, sometimes.

16. What should a cutting board cost?

Carving Board – the poultry side. The graduated ribs of the oval are perfect to hold the fowl in place as you carve.

I don’t think there’s a really good answer to this question. Some craftsmen try and hold to a certain cost per square inch (foolish) or cubic inch (better). I find these methods to be a waste of my time. But that’s me.

Hard Maple costs me about $4.25 a board foot. Black Walnut costs me about $9.00 a board foot. Goncalo Alves costs me about $14.00 a board foot. When I’m pricing a board, I think about the cost of the lumber I used … and round up. Then I add in my other costs, for sandpaper, mineral oil & such … and round up. Overhead costs such as electricity, saw blade sharpening and tool purchases have to be factored in. Those are my hard costs.

What’s your time worth? An honest answer to that question will drive you out of the cutting board business rather quickly, I believe.

And all of this is before you consider variable costs such as event fees, transportation costs, insurance….

After you know your costs, you need to come up with a price that works for you, and then find an audience that believes that price works for them as well. When you sell a board, then that’s the price that you agreed on with your customer. Right, wrong or indifferent, that’s how pricing works.

I sell cheese boards (approximately 8″ x 11″ x 5/8″) for $35 – $50 depending on their exact size and wood design. Plain maple boards would be cheaper than boards made with more expensive woods like Bloodwood, Mesquite and Purpleheart.

I sell cutting boards (12″ x 16″ x 1-1/4″) for $75 – $140 depending on their wood design, if they have a juice groove, etc. Large cutting boards (16″ x 21″ x 1-1/2″) sell for $275 and up.

Note that these are my prices as I head into 2018. If wood costs go up, then my prices will as well.

Prices – and wood costs – vary by region. End grain boards will cost more than edge grain boards. Some hobbyists charge less because they can. Some professionals charge more because they must.

What should you charge? I don’t know.

17. Can you make a living selling cutting boards?

Not in my experience. I’m having a lot of fun, but paying the mortgage? Not so much.

 

Cutting Board 16 – End 038. Black Walnut, Yellowheart & Hickory. End Grain, Large Custom Juice Groove. 20″ x 26″ x 1-1/2″. Commissioned Piece.

Cutting Board 15 – 094. Jatoba, Black Walnut, Yellowheart, Jarrah, & Jatoba. 13″ x 19″ x 1-1/2″. Commissioned piece; replacement board fitted in a counter top.

More

The Things New Cutting Board Makers Always Ask: The Making

The Woods In The Woodshop

So You Want To Buy A Cutting Board….

Cutting Boards: What Kind Do You Want?

Cutting Boards: Care & Cleaning

Cutting Boards: Restoration

The Things New Cutting Board Makers Always Ask: The Making   1 comment

This is part 1 in a series of 2 posts, dedicated to helping new cutting board makers do what they want to do. For part 2, there’s a link at the bottom of this post.

Cutting Board 17 – 109. Hard Maple, Edge Grain. 11″ x 14″ x 1-1/8″.

Building a cutting board is a rite of passage for many woodworking hobbyists. Many of those hobbyists ask the very same questions. Here, then, is a complete list of common answers to those common questions.

1. What size should a cutting board be?

The size that the cook wants. That’s the best answer to this all too common question.

Personally, I define a “cutting board” as a board that’s about 12″ x 16″ x 1-1/4″. However, I know that many of my “cheese boards” and “small boards” are purchased to be used as cutting boards, and those boards can be as small as 8″ x 10″ x 5/8″. Big enough to slice a tomato? You bet. Big enough for meal prep to serve a family of 4? Not so much.

I sell the most “cutting boards” at the 12″ x 16″ x 1-1/4″ size, but I sell many more “cheese boards.” Of course, that may be because they cost less than half what a “cutting board” does.

2. What woods should I use in a cutting board?

Cutting Board 17 – 424. Bubinga, Cherry, Purpleheart & Hard Maple. End grain, juice groove. 17″ x 21-1/2″ x 1-1/2″.

Really, just about any wood will be OK. Go to a high school woodshop where they are making cutting boards, and you’ll see that they use whatever they have at hand. That doesn’t mean the boards are good, but the wood is cheap.

A study at the University of Wisconsin – Madison examined the natural anti-bacterial properties of several wood species, and they were found to be comparable. That’s one reason why wood is used to make the very best cutting boards.

The FDA says that commercial cutting boards should be made from Hard Maple or its equivalent. Hard Maple is a close-grained wood (meaning not very porous), that has proven to be an excellent cutting surface for centuries. Butcher blocks are made from Hard Maple. That’s the gold standard.

3. What woods should I NOT use in a cutting board?

Avoid woods that are a lot softer than Hard Maple. Avoid woods that are much more porous than Hard Maple. Always avoid:

  • Used woods … where have they been? What has been sprayed on these woods? Do you want your food prepped on this wood? You don’t know where it’s been.
  • Treated woods, such as wood from pallets or rot-resistant manufactured woods. Poisons are injected into these woods.
  • Laminated woods, like Bamboo. Bamboo is a bulbous grass that when properly harvested and laminated, can make hard lumber. However, the character of this wood is such that it will dull knives. Bamboo is not a good cutting board wood. It’s VERY CHEAP in the countries where it is grown, but it does not make a good cutting board.

4. Can I use Oak in a cutting board?

This is a great philosophical debate in some woodworking circles. Let’s start with a truth: Red Oak and White Oak are not actual species. Rather, they are collections of harvested lumber that are graded by the lumber mill to be in the Red or White Oak category. Red Oak is generally more red (duh), and White Oak has some very distinctive grain patterns made famous in Mission style furniture (there’s a wonderful article about the 2 categories of Oak, on the Wood Database site). However, there is no hard line separating Red & White Oak, and some pieces are difficult to categorize.

Red Oak is an extremely porous wood, so it fails the FDA recommendation to use Hard Maple or its equivalent. White Oak is much less porous (whisky is aged in white oak barrels!), so some argue it’s OK to use (true in the heartwood, but less so in the sapwood).

My recommendation: do not use any Oak in cutting boards. There are better, prettier woods to use.

5. What are the best woods to use?

Cutting Board 16 – End 040. Bubinga, Cherry, Bloodwood, Goncalo Alves, Canarywood, Padauk, Purpleheart, Yellowheart & Hard Maple. 16″ x 21″ x 1-1/2″.

There is something called the Janka hardness scale, that measures how hard wood is. Hard Maple gets a score of 1450. That’s my gold standard.

Some people use much softer Hard Woods in cutting boards, like Cherry (Janka score of 950) or Black Walnut (1010). Some people see nothing wrong with using Alder (590) or Box Elder (720), which are both considered Soft Woods.

6. What glue should I use to make a cutting board?

Glues have come a long way since hide glue was used a hundred years ago.

Most woodworkers use Titebond II or Titebond III. You’ll find both are commonly available; both are approved by the FDA for food contact surfaces. Titebond II is less expensive, somewhat less water resistant, and has a shorter “open” time before it sets. Titebond III costs more, has a bit more water resistance, and has a longer “open” time. Please note that the manufacturer gives these specifications:

  • Clamp the joint for a minimum of 60 minutes.
  • Do not stress the joint for a minimum of 24 hours (so, no machining for a day after a glue up)
  • It is not possible to “starve the joint” by applying too much clamping pressure.

Some woodworkers elect to use all sorts of glues, such as Gorilla Glue.

You’re an adult, you get to choose.

7. Can I glue face grain to edge grain to end grain?

This question frustrates me a lot. Many people are passionate about this topic, and woodworking forums are full of posts from people that love to insult others that don’t have the spectacular insight that they claim to have.

Taylor Swift sang about it: Haters gonna hate.

Cutting Board 17 – 101. Jatoba, Hard Maple, Cherry & Canarywood. Edge Grain with Bread Board Ends. In-counter replacement, commissioned piece. 16″ x 21″ x 3/4″.

Here’s a fact: wood expands & contracts at a greater rate across the grain than it does along the length of the board (“with the grain”). So, when you glue end grain to edge/face grain, you have a potential for the wood to break when those uneven amounts of contraction cause the laminated piece to burst apart. Read an exhaustive explanation, here.

So, gluing end grain to edge grain can end poorly. Putting a frame around a cutting board, gluing the ends of the cutting surface to the edge grain of the frame is a bad idea. Not recommended.

However, it’s also true that cutting boards with bread board ends have been made successfully for decades, and are a part of many kitchens. I recommend bread board ends for cutting boards less than 1″ thick; the cross grain ends help to keep those cutting boards flat.

8. Can I run an end grain cutting board through a planer?

No.

Not safely. No.

I know, I know, you have seen it done on You Tube. You’ve perhaps even done it yourself a time or three, and nothing bad ever happened to you. I have also planed an end grain board, and nothing bad happened.

I was lucky.

The simple truth is that the shearing force of a planer – any kind of planer – does not play well with the very hard but brittle structure of an end grain board. And, wood being wood, some end grain boards will break when sent through a planer. They may crack, and they may break apart rather spectacularly.

Daniel Clement, from Manheim, PA, planed an end grain board on his DeWalt 733 planer. Unfortunately, he had the spectacular happen: “It was scary … the thing shot out at 30-40 mph down my driveway.”

Daniel Clement’s flying missile of a cutting board, after the planer was done with it.

 

Scott Ross had run 80 end grain boards through his 20″ segmented head planer … and then this chaos board broke apart when he planed it.

These common questions take you through the first several steps of designing and making a cutting board. To learn about how to finish your new board, follow the link below.

Cutting Board 17 – 121. Hard Maple, Canarywood & Bloodwood. Edge Grain. 13″ x 17″ x 1-1/8″.

Cutting Board 17 – 108. Goncalo Alves, Black Walnut, Honey Locust, Jatoba & Cherry. Edge Grain. 11″ x 17″ x 1″.

More

The Things New Cutting Board Makers Always Ask: The Finishing

The Woods In The Woodshop

So You Want To Buy A Cutting Board….

Cutting Boards: What Kind Do You Want?

Cutting Boards: Care & Cleaning

Cutting Boards: Restoration

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