Introduction: Awesome Cutting Boards!

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This Instructable details how to make hardwood cutting boards out of maple and cherry scraps. Not only are they beautiful and high quality, they're made from materials that would have been discarded otherwise. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Step 1: Get Your Materials

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For this project, my friend N. graciously provided the materials and his workshop. We used maple balusters removed during a remodel as the main elements of the cutting boards. You can see from the two pieces in the foreground that each piece had a few holes in the ends from where they'd been attached to the stairs/banister. We cut off just enough material to get rid of the holes, not worrying about uniform length.

Step 2: Getting a Square Deal

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After we'd removed the ends, we had to take care of the rounded edges with a quick trim on the table saw.

Step 3: It Is Not OK to Eat Varnish

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Varnish: good for balusters, bad for cutting boards.

Here you can see N. passing them through a planer to take off the outermost layers of varnish and wood so we could get back to clean maple. We passed through each face that glue would be applied to several times to get a nice smooth surface. We left the varnish on the faces that would become the cutting surfaces to be dealt with later. 

Step 4: Check Your Work

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This step is more or less concurrent with the last, you can see that the piece he's measuring (for thickness) still has varnish on two sides.

As a related aside, you can see we were wearing ear protection, which is key.

Hearing is one of those things, like eyeballs and fingers, you want to hang onto for as long as possible.

Step 5: Make It Go Faster

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I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The key to speed lies in the paint job, not what's under the hood. For a spiffy racing stripe, we used a piece of cherry leftover from a desk N. had built. The nice thing about using cherry is that it gets darker the more you use your cutting board. Here you can see N. trimming it down to size so it matches the thickness of our maple pieces.

Step 6: GLUE!

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The important thing is to get an even coat and to make sure there won't be any air pockets lingering after they're pressed together, this is important! A nice, evenly spaced squiggle brushed out smoothly does just the trick.  Also, don't worry too much about getting glue everywhere, because you will.

Even on your face.

Wear a helmet.

EDIT: We used regular Titebond for this project and it's held up fine for me over the past 5 years. In the meantime I've switched to Titebond III which is their waterproof glue. It's more expensive, but I think the added protection/precaution is worth it.

Step 7: Line 'em Up!

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Once you get your glue nice and even, making sure there are no air pockets, you can start to slap the pieces together.

This is a nice shot, because it illustrates some of the things I mentioned earlier. You can see that we left the varnish on two of the surfaces and that we also didn't worry about length at this point.

Don't be mislead by this last statement! For clarification, we'd decided (based on the number of pieces we had) how big and how many of each cutting board we wanted to make. I mean "not worrying about length" in terms of not being ultra-precise about the lengths of the individual pieces PER cutting board. You can see the cherry racing stripe is quite a bit longer (and thinner) than the other pieces.

Step 8: The Clamp Down

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We supported the slats from the top and bottom (we did the same thing on the other end simultaneously) to keep the pieces even as we squished them together with pipe clamps. You should also keep some wood scraps between the clamp faces and where they meet the wood. If you're not careful you can end up damaging your project by leaving a depression if you clamp tightly. After you get the boards clamped from the sides be sure to remove the clamp and wood you used to keep everything in line (pictured), otherwise you'll end up with railings on your cutting board, which most users will find undesirable.

Step 9: Sit Down and Have a Think. or Two.

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So how long did we need to wait for the glue to dry?

24 hrs?

48 hrs?

All it takes is about 30-45 minutes! Different glues cure differently and wood glue cures in the absence of air, which is why you want to be so careful about making sure there aren't any air pockets in your glue job. The pressure from the clamps forces out all of the air in between the slats and so the glue cures very quickly. Just enough time for a pint. ...better make that two pints, just to be sure.

Safety first.

Step 10: Operation "Reverse Clamp Down"

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Once your glue is set, remove your clamps.

Grab a paint scraper and a scrap of something to wipe the glue on (it will still look wet on the surface, don't worry, it's cured between the boards themselves), and get all the excess crud that got squeezed out during the clamp-down. You only want to leave as much glue on the boards as you'd want to send through your planer.

Step 11: The Plane Boss, the Plane!

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Once we'd removed most of the glue, we sent the assembled boards through the planer to get them nice and flat. Each cutting board took several passes to remove the varnish we'd left from before.

Step 12: Tying Up Loose Ends

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N. had made a table-saw sled for cutting big flat things, just like cutting boards! After a quick zip on the saw all the lengths we'd left from before were squared up.

Step 13: Sanding

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Here you can see N. passing one of the cutting boards through the drum sander. Talk about a wonderful machine! If you don't have a drum sander, have fun sanding! Alternatively, if you have a cabinet shop in your area they might be willing to run your assembled boards through for you. It's been my experience that they'll charge you around $2 a minute - this is an incredible bargain - it will only take them about 2 or three minutes to do, versus the 45 min to an hour (or more!) it can take using a palm sander. Really, it just depends on how out of whack the slats are after clamping.

Step 14: The Finishing Touches

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As you can see from this first photo, I've just said something hilarious. Don't be alarmed, it happens all the time.

We added a chamfer (45 degree angle) to the boards giving them gently rounded outside edges and gave them another light sanding by hand to catch all the side-surfaces.

Step 15: Fin.

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We added some tiny cork-feet to keep them from sliding around, but in hindsight this was probably unnecessary.

In terms of protecting your board, use mineral oil, or one of the commercially available products for protecting butcher-blocks. Vegetable oils will go rancid and you'll want to avoid nut oils so you don't send anyone to the hospital with an allergic reaction. Whatever you decide to use, remember that it needs to be food safe.

If your board starts to look dry, just reapply your mineral oil by rubbing it into the surfaces (every side, keep it evenly oiled) with a cloth. You really can't use too much and it probably wouldn't hurt to do it a couple times, i.e. apply oil, let it sit overnight and hit it again the next day.

You don't want to expose these to too much water - do not put them in the dish washer, or let them soak - if you scrub it off with soap and water be sure to dry it immediately. The more you wash it the more often you should apply oil to keep it in good shape.

Happy chopping!


ShyamS80 (author)2017-01-29


josephny (author)2016-02-01

Wonderful instructions and project -- thank you.

I would like to make one, but need a well for juices (like a moat) around the perimeter (maybe an inch or so from the edge. Also, a pouring spout at the corner of the board from that well. Any tips on how to achieve that with a router?

Thank you!

acantine (author)josephny2016-02-01

Glad you like them, the trough around the edge is a nice feature. It's best to do this with a plunge router sub base, but if you don't have a plunge base it's possible to tip in your bit if you're not going too deep and are especially careful. If you want the pouring spout then it will be pretty easy to do without a plunge base, because you'll just come straight in the side, so no need for a continuous outer edge to the trough. There are a couple ways to do it: 1) use a edge guide for your router, these are nice because they often have a port for a vacuum to attach which helps keep the dust down. 2) measure the distance from the edge of your bit to the edge of the router baseplate, taking into how far from the edge of the cutting board you want your trough, and then clamp a board across the face of the cutting board and run your router next to that. Repeat for all four sides of the face. Same principle as the edge guide attachment, but instead of following the outside edge of the cutting board you're placing your guide on the face of the cutting board. There are lots of good tutorials on the net, I'm sure many of them on instructables, just search "router edge guide," or purchase one for your particular router.

Mr. Noack (author)2015-12-02

Great project! A nice way to re-purpose material. As an aside, you mentioned hearing protection in step 4, but neglect eye protection and have no guard on the table saw. Sorry, I teach high school shop and I'm a stickler for safety.

JeffM36 (author)2015-09-09

Great job. I would recommend using Titebond II or III as the original you used is not water resistant.

DB83 (author)2015-01-17

This has been a great help!!!

jfloate (author)2014-07-24

Nice project!! Hey, can you ask "N" what the name and model number of his planer/joiner he has? I'd like to look for one for my shop.

acantine (author)jfloate2014-11-04

Hi jfloate, sorry for the delay in replying. I'm not sure what the model # is, but the make is Hitachi. It's an industrial quality planer/jointer combo made for small shops. I'm not sure if they still make it or not.

acantine (author)jfloate2014-11-04

Hi jfloate, sorry for the delay in replying. I'm not sure what the model # is, but the make is Hitachi. It's an industrial quality planer/jointer combo made for small shops. I'm not sure if they still make it or not.

acantine (author)jfloate2014-11-04

Hi jfloate, sorry for the delay in replying. I'm not sure what the model # is, but the make is Hitachi. It's an industrial quality planer/jointer combo made for small shops. I'm not sure if they still make it or not.

njones21 (author)2014-07-26

I would to make this... The one I have I purchased and only wipe it down after using it. When it starts to look dry I clean it and dry it overnight and then apply mineral oil or my new favorite is virgin coconut oil.

agenerico (author)2014-06-03

very very nice!!!!!

If you want help to manage your projects, you should use ioTaglio for iphone.

Save time, money and brain.

dsalter2 (author)2013-04-07

nice! thanks

dsalter2 (author)2013-04-07

well, got the ears protected but what about your "baby blues"? eye protection is a must for working with any tools!

loywoodwork (author)2012-02-22

Hi, I was wondering are there certain types of wood you need to use for cutting boards or do you coat them with anything because they will have food on them?

acantine (author)loywoodwork2012-02-22

Hi! You'll want to use a fairly hard wood: maple, oak, maybe even walnut, just a good, hard, wood. As far as coating goes, mineral oil works great, or you can get products specifically for butcher blocks/cutting boards, look in the stain aisle in your hardware store. I don't recommend using any sort of plant derived oil because it will rot and make your board smell and nut oils may trigger allergies in people that have them - not a Dr., just a guess. Whatever you use, just be sure you coat both sides and edges, give it 2 or 3 coats over a day or two, don't let it sit in the sink too long when you wash it (be sure to use waterproof glue - titebond III is good), and when it starts to look dry re-coat it.

woodman44 (author)acantine2012-07-22


I just signed up with, however when I went to print out your pdf on your cutting board instructions, I could not open it. Could you please send the pdf to my email at:

Also, I have several pieces of black walnut that vary in size from 4" x 8" to 6" x 10"+ and all are 3/4" thick. Can I glue 2 pieces of cutting board of approximately 10" x 15" x 3/4" to make the finished piece 10" x15" x 1 1/2" thick?

Your suggestions are greatly appreciated,

woodman44 (Ken)

acantine (author)woodman442012-08-30

Hi Ken,
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you - my wife and I just had a baby! Not sure why the pdf won't open, but i don't have anything different than what you would download from Instructables, so I can't be much help there. As for your other question: sure, why not? Give it a try and let me know how it turns out. as long as you get good contact with your glue surfaces everything should be just dandy.

daemonkrog (author)acantine2012-04-26

I wanted to throw my 2 cents in with the great advice in the post above me. I've been using mineral oil for finishing cutting boards for quite a while. The best process I've used by far with mineral oil is to heat it up when applying the first coat. It keeps it's luster and protection for quite a bit longer than without heating it.
-Clean your cutting board and make sure it's free of sawdust, dirt, food (if you're refinishing it).
-Heat up some mineral oil to the point where it starts to bubble just a little bit.
-Use some paper towels folded up so it's nice and thick and dip an edge into the hot mineral oil and spread it over every surface of the cutting board.
-Let it sit for 30 minutes or so to soak into the wood then apply some more and let it sit some more. (You won't really have to heat up the mineral oil again since the first coat sort of sets the process in motion.)
-Let it sit for at least 30 minutes more (overnight is fine) and then wipe it down with a clean dry paper towel till it's fairly dry.
-You can use it now but I usually let it dry up some more overnight.

ebenzle (author)2011-08-29

This is great. I can't wait to try it out. Thanks!

PurpleJ3nn (author)2011-04-04

It is nice to see someone who instructs us so throughly! I can appreciate such dedication. Thank you.

scott1202 (author)2010-09-20

Nice thick chopping boards like this will last ages and look really good. it's easy for using and maintaining the tools to become the hobby, rather than woodwork.

noahconlay (author)2010-06-04

Check this one out I put together in about 30 minutes. Your tutorial was a whole lot of help!

noahconlay (author)noahconlay2010-06-04

Oh and I forgot to add. The dark spot over in the right side is a tearout in a board. I filled the hole in with clear epoxy and it kind of preserved the wood. I thought it was really cool. It's not so pretty but it is cool how it preserves the shards of wood coming out of the strip of wood

snowpenguin (author)2009-05-06


sue willman (author)2008-03-09

I have enjoyed reading your instrutables. We are thinking about doing cutting boards for our VBS craft (4 to 5 days). Could we use one piece - knowing it would maybe warp? What is the cheapest wood ? And could we paint something on one side? if so, would that need a finish ?

acantine (author)sue willman2008-03-11

Hi Sue, I'm not sure what VBS craft means, but I can maybe answer your other questions. -You can use one piece, but I'm pretty sure you'll experience warping/cupping of the board. -The cheapest wood is free wood! If you have a lumber mill nearby (or furniture factory, anyplace that will have scraps of hardwood, coffin factories, etc) you might be able to get pieces from them. Also, I know Menards (Lowes/Home Depot maybe/other lumberyard) will often keep a scrap bucket around, you might be able to find some pieces there. -You'll want to use some sort of hardwood, not pine, cedar, etc. -Another reason for not just using one piece of wood is that the end-grain is much stronger/harder than the face of the board. -I would not paint anything on it, at least not with paint you wouldn't want to eat, because it will chip off eventually. I recommend using a wood burner or router if you want to add some flare (or different colored woods, the one's in this instructable are maple and cherry). -I would put cork feet on one side to keep it out of standing water, especially if you decide to go with the one-piece route. -Experiment, have fun!

rupamagic (author)2008-02-28

Wow, I covet your workshop! Nice instructable, thanks! For those who have no pro woodworking tools, I made some cutting boards years ago by lining up several pre-cut 2x2s from the big hardware place with the orange signs. We first put paper on the wood floor of our warehouse, then nail a 2x4 using 16-penny nails into the floor, glue between the boards, push them flush against the stationary 2x4 and add another one on the other side to shunt them together tightly. Nail down the other 2x4 and wedge some shims in between the future cutting board and the 2x4. Make it tight. Use Titebond II or III waterproof glue. We let them sit for several days, maybe a week. We were lazy. Then we cut then to size (the 2x2s were 4 feet long, so we got 2 cutting boards by using 8 posts) using a friend's table saw. We then hand sanded the surfaces after scraping off the paper and dried glue. They have been in regular service for about 15 years now, no complaints. They don't look quite as perfect but they are still presentable and totally functional.

ursus57 (author)2007-10-06

Very excellent, Thanks.

thepez (author)2007-05-06

I made my first one a couple of months ago for a friend. They needed to replace a custom inset on their countertop. I don't have a drum sander or "timesaver" as it's called in the business but a friend of mine has a large 36" and let me borrow some time on it. Pretty much a requirement if you're going to do these right. I sealed mine with paraffin per recommendations on Just make sure you use low heat. Very effective in sealing. Finishing with some food-safe oil will even out the color. I considered routing the groove on top but didn't trust that I'd be able to do the corners accurately. Probably best done with a CNC setup.

robotatemyface (author)2007-05-03

i prefer to use walnut oil, safe, edible and a good finish.

unjust (author)robotatemyface2007-05-04

and lethal to those of us with nut allergies. from a more practical side, nut oils go rancid in under a year typically and are not hardening oils afaik. you'll get a better more stable finish with linseed, beeswax or mineral oil, all of which are food safe (or can be found as food safe versions, some linseed has nasty things in it)

robotatemyface (author)unjust2007-05-04

under linseed and tung, walnut is the third best of the drying oils. you wont get a shiny finish like the linseed, but i find walnut safe and effective. other nut oils like peanut are non drying and can cause rot, but i never have had problems with the walnut. you may have to eventually reapply. isnt mineral oil a laxative?

unjust (author)robotatemyface2007-05-04

after a bit of poking around you're right. i'd forgotten that it's a oil paint medium. it is however, toxic to some folks. mineral oil can be used as a laxitive, however not in the quantities that might leach from a finished cutting board. it's widely used in a variety of topical uses(baby oil), and is the "traditional" choice for butchers blocks, which do have different oil needs than a cutting board as endgrain is a different animal. personally, i've only ever "finished" wooden cutting boards with a quick wipe of olive oil to give a hint of moisture stabilization. that said, i'm trying to decide if i like the bamboo cutting boards i've been given, they're pretty, and strong, but i feel they may be dullign my blades faster.

knifemakers use linseed oil to finish handles and make them waterproof, put a nice colour on them, etc.

Leon Close (author)2007-05-04

Nice thick chopping boards like this will last ages and look really good. I'll just point out for those who don't know, that you don't need all those specialised machine tools for most woodwork, they generally make repetitive tasks efficient along with more noise and dust than a small set of hand tools which are more versatile. Beware though, it's easy for using and maintaining the tools to become the hobby, rather than woodwork.

"Hearing is one of those things, like eyeballs and fingers, that you want to hang onto for as long as possible. "

Non-cancerous lungs are pretty awesome too, and the flash photography here shows the dust even in a workshop that obviously has proper dust extraction. Using handplanes instead of sanding or routing, and working outside are cheap ways to avoid this.

pyelitegamerro76 (author)2007-05-03

this looks great, if i had the tools, i would definatly make one, gr8 instructable

meddler (author)2007-05-03

Nice, to bad i'm no good at wood working. If my skills were a movie it would be "pinocchio vs the chainsaw.

trebuchet03 (author)2007-05-03

Another nice touch is to route a groove (perhaps .25-.5 inches) around the perimeter to catch any liquids from your food chopping ;) If you screw up... well, you just found which side would be the bottom :p Nice work :)

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