While woodworking can be intimidating, making a cutting board is a great entry level woodworking project. It wasn’t my first wood project, but it was the first project I did at my new shop. It was a great way to kickstart a series of ideas from that point.
With basic shop materials and dense hardwood, which is the best wood for cutting boards, you’ll be able to create a chef-worthy chopping accessory that any foodie would love.
This project is also a foundation into creating other crafts like Cheese cutting boards, bottle cap openers and serving trays. I will create new articles on these but the cutting board is definitely a great starting point.
There are many safety tips to mention with each and every power tool used. Please refer to the manual for complete safety guidelines for your specific power tool.
We will mention a few “Use and Safety Tips” that apply directly to our project. Always wear appropriate safety gear and adhere to all shop safety rules.
“’I read recipes the same way I read science fiction. I get to the end and say to myself well, that’s not going to happen’”
Making a cutting board has 6 main parts: wood patterns and assembly, glue up, wood plane/trimming, sanding and coating.
This will be included in the Cheat-cheat checklist with more tips. Let’s do a deeper dive now and go through the process.
- (x) 14″ 4×4 (Length can be custom)
- Wood Patterns and Assembly
This will be the longest part of the project, but the most crucial one. What you do here will determine the end result so spend extra time visualizing and sketching out your board.
First, make sure wood isn ‘t warped, is cut precisely and is smooth and square on all sides. If you buy the board pieces already cut up, this will be much easier. If not, just cut the wood to length as you need it.
Cut the pieces of lumber to size using a compound miter saw(a.k.a.Chop Saw).Ours were 14 ” long. Set up the chop saw with a stop at 14″ from the blade using a board and a clamp.
Remember to determine the length and width of your finished product.The width may be contingent upon the size of the planer you’ ll be using.
Lay them all our on your workstation and start playing around with the patterns.Check out our gallery for some inspiration, but remember, this is your cutting board.
Get creative and oddities are highly desired.
General Tip(s): Use hardwoods! Refer to our cheat – sheet for recommended woods below.
Use and Safety Tips: When using a compound miter saw please refer to the manual for safety guidelines. For our project, we reviewed the following…unlock the arm, bring the blade up and out towards you to the outer edge of the board.
Start the blade, then enter the outer edge of the board with the blade spinning, push and saw through.
Allow the blade to completely stop spinning before you lift the blade and put it back into place in the resting position. Listen to the sound of the saw, if the wood begins to pinch, the sound of the saw will change.
- Glue Up and Clamps
Set up the parallel clamps. Place the cut pieces flat on the clamps with the first piece flipped on edge against the stationary end of the clamps.With the first piece of wood in place, put glue on the second piece which is lying flat. Squiggle a line of glue from end to end, flip the wood on its edge and press and wiggle against the first piece of wood already in place.
Continue to quickly‘ squiggle and wiggle’ the glue onto each piece and flip into place until all the pieces are glued together.
Try to keep the edges neat and aligned and the surface level as you are gluing.When finished, use a scrap board to press flush against the edge to realign the edges if needed. Clamp the pieces together until the glue squeezes out.
Check for gaps and tighten the clamps to close the gaps. Fill any gaps you cannot press together with glue.Don’ t over tighten the clamps and squeeze out all of the glue.Wipe off the excess glue with a wet cloth. Wipe the top, bottom and edges. It is okay to flip the board over while in the clamps.Setting time is 10 – 30 minutes, depending on temperature and moisture of wood for Titebond ll.
Allow 24 hours for full strength bond before unclamping the board.We now actually have a piece we can call a cutting board.
Use and Safety Tips: Set up the clamps side by side. Use Titebond II or Titebond III Glue, which are both non-toxic and water resistant. Have a wet cloth ready. The glue will not stick to the aluminum clamps: no worries.
- To the Planer!
Day 2 or 24 hours later… begin by unclamping the cutting board. Use a scraper to delicately remove the excess without gouging the wood.Just remover the big chunks of glue that pooled under the clamps. Once that is accomplished, move to the planer.
The planer will make the top and bottom smooth by removing material that is raised.The board goes into the planer with the grain. Use the elevation crank(a.k.a handle or dial.) to adjust the thickness to meet the top of the board. Run the board through once.Lower the thickness by turning the elevation crank to the right.(If you think of the dial as a clock face, change the dial by 10 minute increments).
Run the board through the planer again. Continue this process until the cutting board surface is smooth and even.
After a few trips through the planer the next step is back to the table saw to trim up the edges / end grain.
The intent is not to remove a lot of material; just trim to make it square.This process requires a miter gauge with a fence. The fence is a piece of wood attached to the miter gauge. The fence has a cut through it to show where the saw blade will make contact.
Align the front edge of the cutting board with saw teeth, but not touching the blade. Align the back end of the cutting board(nearest you) with the edge just covering the saw cut in the fence.Hold onto the cutting board with your left hand on the outside left edge and push the cutting board forward through the saw blade using the handle on the miter gauge with your right hand.Going too slowly will cause burn marks; nice and steady.
Use and Safety Tips: The board goes into the planer with the grain; not against the grain. It is helpful to have a person on the opposite side catch the outbound material unless you have an extended outfeed table or rollers.
I start at 100 grit and work my way through 150, 180 and 220.
At 220 I spray the whole cutting board down with water and wipe it off.I hate hand sanding, it is slow and monotonous… that’s why I acquired an electric hand sander which makes it easy, fast and fun. The sander hooks into a vacuum so there is virtually no dust at all.
This is known as“ raising the grain”, and basically you are making the cut wood fibers stand up so you can knock them down for a smooth feel.
If you don’ t do this then the first time you wash your cutting board it will feel very rough.
After the cutting board dries, hand sand it lightly with 220 until it feels smooth again. Wet the cutting board one more time and hand sand with 220 again. Now when you wet the board after use it will still feel smooth to the touch.
Sand the roundover or chamfer edges by hand.
Extra Mile: Finish it off by sanding with 320 grit and 400 grit by hand for an ultra smooth cutting board.
- Finish it!
And now for everyone’s favorite part of making a cutting board, applying the finish.
I usually finish the cutting board using either Butcher Block Oil. To apply Butcher Block Oil simply flood the surface, allow the oil to penetrate, then wipe off the excess. Re-apply when surface shows wear.
The ButcherBlock Oil will darken and bring out the contrast in the wood.
This is non – toxic and food safe when dry.It is also highly resistant to water and food stains.
Extra Care: For extra care I top my boards with a beeswax and mineral oil blend that helps with extra water protection and lets you buff your DIY cutting board to a nice sheen.
I hope you enjoyed this simple tutorial on how to make a cutting board. I have quite a few other how-to articles and tutorials on this site, so check around.
Let me know what you think and if you have any questions in the comment box below.