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

3 responses to “The Things New Cutting Board Makers Always Ask: The Finishing

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  1. I wanted to say thank you very much for taking the time to write this blog. I have been reading your blogs (most anyways) for about 6-months, and I find them both entertaining and extremely educational. You may have become the “Gold Standard” of the cutting board maker…

  2. Pingback: The Things New Cutting Board Makers Always Ask: The Making | MowryJournal.com

  3. Very interesting read! I appreciate your explaining about the different types of wood you use.

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