An end grain cutting board is something that lasts for many generations, costs quite a bit if you buy them pre-made. Depending on how fancy you want your wood to be, it still ends up costing a decent amount, but well worth the time and effort!
Got together with some friends to build 5 cutting boards. More people involved means more people who know people with tools.
Things you should think about before you get started:
Figure out the best place to get quality hard wood. Call around, ask for specifications.
Figure out the best kinds of wood to get based on porosity, food safety and aesthetic qualities (color, grain...)
You can get away with a very nice board using a single type of wood. It will likely be a much cheaper and easier project!
Step 1: Gather Materials
Raw Materials (for 5 boards):
- Jatoba 42$
- Cherry 72$
- Purpleheart 40$
- Padouk 10$
- Glue: Gorilla Glue (type II food safe wood glue) 8$ per bottle
- Table Saw
- Compound Sliding Miter Saw
- Vice Clamps: The more the better. You'll want about one clamp every 6 inches.
Step 2: Cut Your Wood
This step is only necessary if you want to cut your wood into smaller bits.
The size of your pieces will affect the size of the "pixels" for the end grain.
Take it slow, measure 3 times, cut once, keep your cuts as smooth as possible to minimize loss.
Note that every slice has to be the same size at the end of the day.
Use a planer to smooth the edges of the board. Glue works best on a smooth surface. Any bubble or uneven surface will be a weak spot in the board and could lead to the board breaking in half in the future.
Step 3: What Not to Do
Oh yeah, lets glue everything at once in one go. Sounded like a great idea at the time.
We attempted (and failed) to glue 12 pieces of wood, 7 feet long.
Surprisingly it didn't work!
The board was springing up, we had to stand on the wood to keep it from exploding. After a while we decided it was better to try and save the wood and restart. Amazing game time decision. We would have lost all our wood.
Step 4: Use the Right Tools. It's Worth It.
Find a jointer and planner. It will make your wood perfectly flat.
ANOTHER OPTION WORTH CONSIDERING:
buy your wood precut. You can buy (more expensive) wood that has already been cut to exact dimensions with perfect 90 degree cuts.
The jointer does two sides at a perfect 90 degree angle. The planner will then do the third side and the table saw can do the final side. (down to the lowest common denominator)
For the last side, you should look at all your pieces and cut them all down to the smallest common denominator.
Step 5: Clamp and Glue
At this point, if you're doing a fancy pattern (like we did), you'll need to organize your planks and think twice before gluing. If you mess up the order of one of the pieces you could ruin your board!
A few words about clamping strength: those dinky little 30lbs clamp won't do diddly-squat.
we used vice clamps because they can reach up to ~600PSI. We also added a clamp every 6". You can also calculate clamping strength and distance based on PSI.
The thought behind the high pressure argument is to minimize the gap between wood pieces (where air bubbles can cause weakness), so avoid the bond being from wood to glue then glue to wood, but rather wood to wood where the fibres are polymerized together by the glue. This strengthens the bonds, and assures uniformity si that it holds up to cutting and planing.
In short, ideally what you want is a continuation of wood across the bond instead of it "filling the gaps".
Step 6: Re-Plane Your Glued Boards
After gluing all your boards together, before chopping them up, you'll want them to be exactly flat.
Once you've done that you can now chop up the board into a million small pieces! We used a table saw for this step.
The width of these slices determines the width of the board! Make sure you double check your math before slicing.
Step 7: Figure Out Your Pattern and Glue
Take some time to pick a pattern you'll like.
Glue the pieces bit by bit making sure you are lining up the boards a closely as possible.
Pro tip: it helps to clamp several pieces down to your reference board BEFORE putting pressure in the wood/glue dimension. This will help stabilize the wobble you get from slightly offset clamps. If you clamps are off by a little bit, they'll tend to drag the wood in the direction of the offset. So if you pre-clamp the pieces down, then you'll get a lot less wobble.
Step 8: Sand and Oil
You're almost done!
use a belt sander with caution, it will create a dent in your board if you're not careful.
You MUST remove ALL glue from the board before oiling. It helps to add some water to the board to see which sections are not absorbing. (those are the spots with residual glue)
Be sure to properly clean your board BEFORE oiling. Just to be sure you get rid of all the saw dust leftover from the sanding.
There are many different oils out there, and many posts about which oil is the best so I won't go too much into detail here. For butcher boards, some people like a bee wax and mineral oil blend, you can either buy a premixed butcher's block oil mix, mix it yourself or simply use mineral oil and nothing else. DO NOT USE VEGETABLE OIL or any cooking oil as it will go rancid.
Don't worry if your board has some wobble to it!!!! i.e. when lying flat it not all four corners touch the table. I added some feet to by board, and when doing so, i added a couple washers to one corner and now it fits perfectly. To figure out how many washers are needed, check to see how many are needed BEFORE screwing in the feet. i.e. place 1 or 2 washers under one corner to see if that solves your problem. If so, then use that many washers when screwing in your feet. (adding washer to a not flat board is only a worst-case scenario that we're doing cause we weren't able to plane the final board)