Introduction: How to Make a Cutting Board
This instructable will show you how to make a very simple and beautiful cutting board that will accent your kitchen perfectly. The woods I chose were curly maple, walnut, and purpleheart. You need to select a hardwood that's fairly closed grain and non-toxic. Be careful with exotic woods and make sure you've researched their toxicity before using.
As with all my instructables, I assume you have all the correct personal protective equipment---safety glasses, dust mask, ear plugs, etc. I also assume that you have some basic experience or training with woodworking and the associated tools. Make sure you read the operating instructions of the tools you use, so you understand how to operate them safely and effectively.
Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools
I went to a lumber store to purchase my hardwood. I selected and bought boards that were the same thickness dimensionally. In other words, they had already been planed. All in all, I purchased $50 worth of wood and that amount produced three cutting boards.
Also, you will need to have a square, some Titebond III glue, a bandsaw or jig saw, parallel bar clamps, an orbital sander, and a belt sander. You will also need a tablesaw to cut the wood into strips. Finally, you will need food-grade mineral oil for treating the cutting board.
Step 2: Decide Your Dimensions
Decide what you want to be the dimensions for your cutting board. You don't need to overanalyze here. Pick a size that works for you. Think about where you will store it and adjust the dimensions accordingly. I decided to make my cutting board 1.5 inches thick which might be thicker than the average sized cutting board. Take a look at cutting boards you buy in the store to get some ideas. Overall dimensions are 1.5 inches thick by 14 inches long, by 12 inches wide.
Incidently, the cutting surface for my board will be the side grain of my lumber. I'll be cutting the boards from the store into 1.5 inch strips and glueing them together face to face. The face-to-face surfaces were already planed and therefore, don't need sanding or planing.
Step 3: Cut the Boards
I used a tablesaw to cut my boards to the same dimension---1.5 inches. Don't worry about the length of the boards at this point. When I bought my boards some were 3 feet long and some 2.5 feet. And, as I already stated, I purchased boards that were identical in thickness. In this step we're just concerned about the 1.5 inch dimension. This will be the overall thickness of the cutting board after the boards are glued together. You could easily reduce this to 1 inch if you like.
Read the operating instructions that come with your table saw to understand all the safety features and recommendations. Wear your safety glasses and use some kind of push block or aide to move the wood through the saw. Be constantly aware of where you place your fingers.
Step 4: Glue Boards Together
I used a couple of long parallel bar clamps I purchased from Home Depot. I like these because they lay flat on the bench. I took some painter's tape and applied it to the runners of the clamp just to give it some protection from any glue setting up.
Before you glue the boards, decide on the pattern or arrangement of the boards. You can google cutting boards to get several ideas.
Use Titebond III glue because it is waterproof. Lay some newspapers down under the clamps. Apply the glue liberally to the face of each board and then clamp them together. Excess glue will get squeezed out and go everywhere. I recommend taking a damp rag and wiping the excess glue off the boards. This will make the clean-up and sanding step a lot easier later. Hopefullly, the newspaper will catch a lot of the glue and keep it from getting on your work surface. Make sure the boards are all resting as level as possible on the clamp rails. They won't be perfectly even across the bottom or top surface. This problem will be solved when we get to the sanding step.
The last picture shows a different cutting board I was working on, but just wanted to show you what it looks like in the clamps once you press everything together tight. See how all the glue is spilling on top of my workbench? That's why I recommend laying down some newspaper.
Step 5: Square Up the Cutting Board
I allowed the Titebond III glue to set up overnight. The first two pictures show a different cutting board I was working on previously. This shows how I ran the glued-up cutting board through my tablesaw and squared up the board. You can use a square to check your cuts and make sure they're 90 degrees. The last 3 pictures show the in-progress cutting board for this instructable.
Step 6: Cut Off the Corners
This step is optional, but I thought making the corners curved would give the cutting board an added touch. I used a cup and a pencil to make some marks for my cuts. You can use any round object to make these curved marks.
I used a bandsaw to make my cuts. You could also use a jig saw. Read the operating instructions for your cutting tools and make sure the blades are sharp and everything is in good working order.
Step 7: Sand the Cutting Board
When you read other tutorials for cutting boards, many use a planer to get their board level across the cutting surface. However, a planer is $300 plus, and I don't own one. So, I decided to use a belt sander instead. It may take a little more work, but works just as well as the planer.
I own a portable Black & Decker belt sander (first picture) and a Ryobi belt / disc sander that rests on my bench. Both are inexpensive. The Black & Decker sander was only $50. For the cutting board in this instructable, I used the Ryobi belt/disc sander.
I prefer to do this sanding step outside. So, I pulled out my portable Workmate workbench and rested the belt/disc sander on it. It also helps if you have a fan that you can run to blow the dust away from you or use a dust collector if you have one.
Put on your safety glasses and dust mask and sand away. Initially, you want to get rid of cut marks and make everything smooth and level. After you accomplish the rough sanding, go back over it with an orbital sander. Use 120 grit, 220 grit, and 320 grit sandpaper. I like to take a paper towel and denatured acohol and rub that on the wood between sandings. It helps to clean away excess dust and raise the grain for subsequent sanding.
Step 8: Use Router to Round Off Edges
This step is optional, but I wanted the edges of the cutting board to have a nice roundness. To do that I used my portable router with a rounding bit. If you don't have a router, you may elect not to do this step. Or, as another option, you could sand the edges. Whatever works best for you and your budget. For my cutting board, I rounded the edges on just the top surface of the board.
If you have a router and decide to use it, make sure you read the operating instructions and know how to use it.
Step 9: Finish Sanding
If you performed the router step, you will probably need to go back over the board with your orbital sander and eliminate any cut marks left from the router bit. Get the board as smooth as you possibly can, but don't get too carried away. Remember---it is going to be a cutting board.
Step 10: Apply Mineral Oil
After you have completed the sanding in the previous step, wipe the board clean with either a damp rag or denatured alcohol. Allow board to completely dry. Once it's dry, take another rag and apply some food-safe mineral oil. You can purchase this from Home Depot or Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Apply a liberal amount and allow 30 minutes for it to absorb into the wood. Perform this step 2 or 3 more times or until the wood will not soak up any more oil.
Go ahead and wipe away the excess oil and your board is finished. I would recommend letting the board set overnight before the first use. The mineral oil will help protect the board over time. I love how it really makes the woods' colors pop.
Step 11: Caring for Your Cutting Board
Your cutting board should last for years. There are a few things you can do to keep your board in tip-top shape. For cleaning, you can run the board through soapy water. Just don't allow it to soak in soapy water. After a few uses, you can apply more mineral oil.
As the board gets cut up with longer use, you may elect to take it out to the sander and repeat the sanding steps from this tutorial. That will eliminate the cut marks and make your board like new.
Another option is to leave one surface alone. That way you always have an unmarred surface that you can display in your kitchen.
Good luck on making your own cutting board! I hope this instructable was helpful!