Archive for the ‘woodworker’ Tag

Shredded: A Special Edition of The Board Chronicles   4 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.

There I was, settling into a long drive home from the World’s Oldest Rodeo. Prescott, AZ had not been kind to me on this trip (read the event review, here), and I was 400+ miles from home.

I had elected to take the northern route home (I-40 to I-15) instead of the southern route (I-10). The southern route takes me across 50 miles of absolutely nothing desert before I get to the freeway, and I just don’t like the drive. The northern route is about 40 miles longer, but I like the drive more.

So there I was, 30 minutes out of Prescott on Arizona 89 North. It’s a 2 lane blacktop, connecting to I-40.

I felt the trailer fishtail a bit, so I checked the side mirrors.

The semi behind me was flashing his lights.

There was smoke in the right side mirror.

This is bad. Very bad.

I pulled over immediately. Here’s what I saw:

The tire was shredded. When the tire came apart, the flailing rubber pieces caught the aluminum fender and bent it back underneath itself. The white side of the trailer was marked by all of the revolving rubber pieces. The tire totally came apart.

Why? Who knows. Maybe it was a blowout. Maybe I hit something. Maybe the tire was tired of carrying an overloaded trailer and decided to teach me a lesson. I don’t know … but I do know that my spare tire is now required to get me home, and I need help to get it on the trailer. Thank goodness for AAA (which Mrs M insisted we get last year, by the way).

So I call AAA, and am told that 1) my policy doesn’t cover changing a tire on my trailer and 2) the person I called was in California, and I need to talk to an Arizona person. I was told I would have to pay cash to the tow truck driver. Oh, joy. She then transferred me … and I was disconnected.

Strike 1.

I called back, and got a different person that could help me. She had a great deal of difficulty with my location. “What city are you in? What’s your address? Your cross streets?” All very reasonable questions … and I had no answer. I was 21 miles south of I-40 on AZ 89 N. That I knew, from the GPS. Other than that … there was nothing visible but highway, junipers and brown grasses as far as the eye could see.

Nothing else.

I knew I had gone through Chino Valley after leaving Prescott, and knew I’d gone by a post office a while after that. Eventually, the AAA lady decided she knew where I was, and told me help would be there within 3 hours (sigh).

I then got a call from another lady, from the designated tow company out of Flagstaff. She asked me where I was … and, yup, we had to do the whole routine again. She eventually decided that I was outside of their territory, and she told me someone else would be coming to help. Not her territory.

Strike 2.

I noticed it was getting hot, so I decided to get a folding chair out of the trailer and set it up in the shade of a convenient Juniper bush, about 10 yards off of the highway. It was very nice in the shade, but the temperature was only going to go up.

15 minutes later, I got a text that help was on the way.

Then Officer Krumm of the Arizona Highway Patrol stopped by to see if I needed assistance. I told him I was fine – and learned that he and his wife had visited my booth at Prescott Frontier Days! His wife, a seasoned trail cook, he said, really liked my cutting boards! I did ask where I was. Come to find out, there were mile markers on the highway and I was near mile marker 241. Paulden was the nearest community … and the cement plant in Drake was just up the road. I was on the edge of the Coconino National Forest, I’ve since learned.

Pro tip: you can always call 911, and then have them give you the GPS coordinates of the call, which you can then relay to AAA for roadside service … if you should ever find yourself on a remote highway on the edge of a National Forest without a cross street!

I was not lost.

About a half hour later, the tow truck driver showed up. He surveyed the situation, rolled out his mechanic’s jack, and changed my tire. Come to find out, the tread of the tire had wound itself around the axle after it detached from the shreds of the tire still on the rim, so he had a bit of a struggle to clean it all up. No worries: the tire got changed, and in the end, I was back on the road with only a 90 minute delay.

The driver only asked for my signature. I did not have to pay cash for the tire changing service.

Next stop: I went to the next gas station to check the inflation of the trailer’s tires, and the newly mounted spare was indeed low. $1 of air later, I was on my way across the Mojave & back to home in Valencia, CA.

  • I visited my local AAA office, and the clerk there confirmed that I needed “RV” level coverage to get roadside assistance for my cargo trailer. Further, my “classic” level of coverage only provided 7 miles of towing, should that be required … and I know I was way more than 7 miles from a garage on this latest trip. I upgraded to Plus membership as well. Pro-rated, that was $53.09 to upgrade to the additional coverage, good until next February.
  • My tire store carries trailer tires, and I have an appointment tomorrow to get both my old tire & my shredded remnant replaced. The spare will … go back to being a spare. $285.
  • My trailer retailer will inspect the trailer, and I’ve got an appointment Friday for them to replace the broken fender, repair the running light and get the trailer back to good condition. I don’t have an estimate on that cost yet, but I’m certain it’ll be more than a dollar.

More

Wind. Blows: A Special Edition of the Board Chronicles

It’s My Birthday: A Special Edition of The Board Chronicles

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

The Board Chronicles: Prescott Frontier Days 2019   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.

My first trip to Prescott, AZ was for the Faire on the Square event last Labor Day. Nice community … and when I heard that they had a big event in July, I was interested.

Prescott is at altitude, so it’s cooler than most of Arizona. It’s a getaway destination and a retirement community for many. Events there have the ability to appeal to tourists as well as locals. Add in a big attraction, and there’s a real opportunity. I hope.

The World’s Oldest Rodeo? It started in 1888, and has happened every year since! Sounds like a it could be a good one for me. I was tired of our traditional July 4th one day event in Ventura that was good … but not great. And, I hate one day events with our big set-up and tear down. Frontier Days, on the other hand, is a 7 day event. Time to try something new, I think.

New Ideas

  • When I go a-vendoring these days, I frequently state that “This is not my first rodeo.” But …
  • I’ve never had a long-term show before; the longest previously were a couple of long weekend shows. 7 days in one place, with no tear downs in the middle? Sweet.
  • Dirty & dusty. Everything was dirty and dusty. I cleaned daily, and it was a losing cause. I watered the ground to minimize dust in the booth, and that may have helped … but not much.

Observations

  • This is a casual community affair. The organizer, Suzy, has been there and done that. Many of the vendors know each other and have done this event before. I’m the tenderfoot.
  • Suzy greeted me by name as I stepped out of the Jeep … she knew who I had to be. Set up was a breeze. We’re upwind from the livestock, so there is that.
  • As Dad used to say, “Smells like money.”
  • Did not love that my neighbor on one side turned his 12×20 booth into something like 18×24 … totally trampling on my aisle, and sticking 5′ forward from my space. 2 vendors were sharing the space, and I was not impressed.
  • On the other side, it was the Dodge Ram 5th wheel … and a truck was parked in my 5′ aisle on that side … that I paid for. Honestly, I don’t think either incursion affected my sales, but I was not pleased.
  • Rules mean so little to vendors. And how they treat other vendors … I’m not normal, I know that. I’m too polite at events, I think. But in the end, I have to live with me.
  • First person in the booth bought a cutting board. This might work.
  • Second person in the booth really liked my Shakespeare sign. This might work. No sale though.
  • You wouldn’t hear this in LA. Overheard from a 40-something lady: “I don’t think I’ve been in a truck that small before.”
  • I found that me saying that I’ll be back in town for the Labor day event, Faire on the Square … works. I love appointment selling.
  • Live country, bluegrass or even alt country next to my booth every day for 2 hours. This is a good thing.
  • There’s an open bar throughout the event. I could grow to like events like this.
  • Great conversation with a 91-year old woodworker, still active and still making. He loved my work, and I loved hearing about what he did.
  • I think I’m getting truck envy. So, so many pretty Dodge trucks here …
    Dodge Ram is a big sponsor of rodeo.
  • I had a guy ask me about using lemon on a chopping block, and I explained it was an old butcher’s trick. Come to find out, he was an old butcher.
  • He was not the first person at this event that told me I knew what I was talking about. Me, I just wish knowledge paid better.
  • This is one of my most commented on signs:
  • One of the observers looked at me and said, “Your sign is broken. The answer is whiskey, not beer.”
  • Well, OK, then.
  • An advantage of this long term event is that my wounds are healing. One of my most irritating minor injuries of late was a paper cut (!) from a cardboard edge. The cut happened when I picked up a sheet of plywood to move it into the shop and partially grabbed the protective cardboard … that sliced the pad of my index finger. Very happy that wound has now healed with my time away from the shop.
  • Requests were for an Arizona-shaped cutting board (multiple requests, actually, and it’s on my list … my long list), a game board for a marble game I’ve never heard of (sounded like a variation of Wahoo, which I WILL MAKE THIS YEAR), a Chinese checkers board (which I WILL MAKE THIS YEAR), a tray with sides (hmmmm), rolling pins (nope) and plates (maybe … someday).
  • Sunday began with a bus parking behind my booth … with the diesel motor running. It was really harshing my mellow. I called Suzy, and she got it shut down.
  • Love working with a professional.
  • I also had a long conversation about how to treat the wood from a treasured marquetry piece (I believe it was actually intarsia) that the artist left untreated. The owners were properly concerned about how to finish the wood now that they had moved to this very, very dry climate, and I helped them as best I could. They loved the information, thanked me … and walked away. It’s always nice when my free information results in a mercy sale, but ’twas not to be this time.
  • In the end, this event didn’t work for me. Loved the long term set up. Loved the vibe. Didn’t love the lack of sales. At all.
  • Final sale: family of 5 came into the booth. Young mother had 3 small boys, which I commented on. We shared a smile. She wanted to buy a sign for her mother-in-law, but her husband had the money. She returned … and he had given her $5 less than the price. She commented on how much they spent on lemonade and popcorn, and I bet there was no negotiation on those prices. But on the sign for HIS MOTHER, the young man thought negotiation was in order.
  • A fitting end to a frustrating event.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Velda’s spaghetti. Naturally. Leftovers were packaged for me, and I brought them from home in a cooler. Velda stayed at home.
  • Honorable Mention: Velda’s meatloaf. See above.
  • Worst Meal: My first night here, I ended up at a conveniently located Mexican restaurant in Cottonwood, AZ. It was next to the motel. Both were mistakes. Big mistakes.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 1,059
  • Booth cost: $975
  • Food cost: most meals were from home
  • Travel cost: I don’t want to think about this.
  • Total sales: $1,407
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): I lost money on this one. It wasn’t even close.
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: many
  • # transactions: bored. bored. bored.
  • # soap & lotion vendors: none, but there was someone selling natural infusions, I think. Sort of like essential oils … but not. Odd.
  • # woodworking vendors: just me
  • Returning next year? Nope.

Boards sold: 17

  • Cutting Boards: 4
  • Signs: 7
  • Cheese Slicer: 2
  • Cheese Board: 1
  • Trivet: 1
  • Custom Orders: 1
  • Coaster Set: 1

The Board Chronicles: Fun In The Sun Chili Cookoff 2018   1 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.

A brief note about timing: I am BEHIND. This event happened last October; just getting to writing about oh so many events. My apologies to my loyal readers. Draw your own conclusions about why I’m so, so far behind. Meanwhile … from Castaic:

This event is sponsored by our Sherriff’s department, and is a fundraiser for a kid-focused charity.

Community.

Vendor fees help make the event happen, and the funds raised help our community. We’ve done the event 3 times, I believe, and know it well. It’s not a big money maker, but it’s a good thing.

My calendar is open.

I’m in.

New Ideas

  • I’m solo this year, and it’s a Jeep-only set-up. Easy in, easy out.

Observations

  • A question that I’ve never been asked before: “What’s a Foodie?”
  • Uh … read the sign.
  • I want to make spoons. I need to make spoons.
  • This event had more than its fair share of shade stealers. It was a hot October day, I get it … but my shade is provided for my customers. Please.
  • Worse than a shade stealer was the table swipe by a Mom’s Purse … knocking a board onto the ground. Mom didn’t notice.
  • With only the room in the Jeep, inventory was necessarily limited. But I was still frustrated when I was asked for a chess board and a cribbage board. They were at home.
  • I love the energy of this event.  It’s a good day … even if the results were not stellar this year.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 24
  • Booth cost: $25
  • Food cost: $0
  • Travel cost: $11
  • Total sales: $483
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $447
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 0
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 0
  • # transactions: 10
  • # soap & lotion vendors: none
  • # woodworking vendors: Just me
  • Returning next year? Maybe

Boards sold: 14

  • Cheese Boards: 4
  • Heart: 3
  • Individual Coasters: 4
  • Coaster Set: 1
  • Sign: 1
  • Trivet: 1

The Board Chronicles: Trailer Park Holiday Boutique 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.

A brief note about timing: I am BEHIND. This event happened last December, and I’m just now getting to blogs from the 4th quarter. My apologies to my loyal readers. Draw your own conclusions about why I’m so, so far behind. Meanwhile … from Hollywood:

This is an office boutique.

Trailer Park is a company that makes trailers … for movies. Clearly, they have a sense of humor.

After all, they invited me to their holiday boutique.

New Ideas

  • Nope. Did this last year; doing it again.
  • This is a table top event. I have 2 tables, plus a grid I borrowed from my good friend Jan to display a few signs.

Observations

  • Urban events are a pain. Parking. Elevators. Congestion. Nice host, though.
  • Mrs M had an OK day … Mr M didn’t. I sold one sign.
  • Ultimately, this is a low impact, low cost event. The sales were poor though; it wasn’t worth my time in the end.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Pizza take-out for lunch. Winner.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 74
  • Booth cost: $11
  • Food cost: $9
  • Travel cost: $40
  • Total sales: $156
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $96
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: many
  • # transactions: 8
  • # soap & lotion vendors: 2
  • # woodworking vendors: just me
  • Returning next year? nope

Boards sold: 1

 

CNC Sign 18 – 116 Why Limit Happy

I Keep Making New Stuff   Leave a comment

This is a pot pourri of recent boards that made it to the finish line.

The first cutting board was a special order, and it’s the first piece I’m completed that uses Mesquite. Further down in this group is a Lazy Susan that better showcases this wood that’s uncommon in Southern California.

At the bottom of this group are a pair of “Family” signs that are the first of the true 3D carving signs that I’ve gotten to the finish line. Both of these are made from Hard Maple, though one of them is made from a dark wood that’s got some curly figure in it … unusual for Maple.

I got disorganized enough that a few pieces made it out of the shop and to last week’s event … and were sold before I got their pictures. That has not happened before!

I’ve got 4 more Lazy Susans in the shop that just might be finished for this weekend’s event … but I’ve got several custom orders that will be my focus this week.

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   3 comments

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)

 

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.

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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