Picture of Awesome Cutting Boards!
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!
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Step 1: Get your materials

Picture of Get your materials
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

Picture of Getting a square deal
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

Picture of It is not OK to eat varnish
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

Picture of Check your work
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

Picture of Make it go faster
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.
DB832 months ago
This has been a great help!!!
jfloate8 months ago

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)  jfloate4 months ago

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)  jfloate4 months ago

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)  jfloate4 months ago

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.

njones218 months ago

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.

agenerico9 months ago

very very nice!!!!!

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dsalter21 year ago
nice! thanks
dsalter21 year ago
well, got the ears protected but what about your "baby blues"? eye protection is a must for working with any tools!
loywoodwork3 years ago
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)  loywoodwork3 years ago
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.

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)  woodman442 years ago
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.
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.
ebenzle3 years ago
This is great. I can't wait to try it out. Thanks!
PurpleJ3nn3 years ago
It is nice to see someone who instructs us so throughly! I can appreciate such dedication. Thank you.
scott12024 years ago
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.
noahconlay4 years ago
Check this one out I put together in about 30 minutes. Your tutorial was a whole lot of help!
cutting board.jpg
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
snowpenguin5 years ago
sue willman7 years ago
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 willman7 years ago
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!
rupamagic7 years ago
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.
ursus577 years ago
Very excellent, Thanks.
thepez7 years ago
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.
i prefer to use walnut oil, safe, edible and a good finish.
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)
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?
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 Close7 years ago
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.
this looks great, if i had the tools, i would definatly make one, gr8 instructable
meddler7 years ago
Nice, to bad i'm no good at wood working. If my skills were a movie it would be "pinocchio vs the chainsaw.
trebuchet037 years ago
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 :)