Introduction: Shou Sugi Ban Pine Cutting Board
I previously worked in a furniture factory the management of which was thrilled with us spending a few hours per day with our own projects, especially if we used their wood and did it in the night or weekend shift when they weren't there and didn't know; so our wives ended up owning more jewelry boxes than jewelries, had more picture frames per square feet than the Louvre (fewer paintings unfortunately) and there is no known number for how many cutting boards we made.
After a while I started making cabinets for the cutting boards, then we moved to a bigger house so we could fit more cabinets, still we couldn't keep up: if the table was rocking we used a cutting board to put under the leg, if the kid was misbehaving we slapped him with a cutting board, we even threw cutting boards at the birds that were eating our cherries.
Then we started giving them away, wedding gift: cutting board, Christmas present: cutting board, we even buried uncle John with 23 cutting boards; whenever we visited friends or family we brought a small gift:
- Look honey, a cutting board, how sweet! Just put it in the collection with the others - wink wink - you know, by the fireplace!
Gradually people stopped inviting us over, even worse, they stopped letting us in, when we showed up anyway, so we had to leave the cutting boards on their porch and run away.
But the factory eventually went bust, for unrelated reasons of course, and regardless of how much we tried to spare them over the years since, we're slowly but surely running out of cutting boards and our last chance is: 焼杉板.
I don't always get carried away on an introductory text, but when I do... on a serious note from now on:
If you had ever used a cutting board made out of pine wood you surely noticed that it's cheap for a reason: it's far inferior to those made of hardwood (or plastic) in regards of durability and hygiene. The main problem is that the wood being so soft it wears away easily, and even worse, it can quickly absorb a lot of moisture and besides bending, warping and cracking this poses serious health hazards due to the fact that it's impossible to properly clean and dry. Moisture and food residue are the perfect breeding ground for the nastiest bacteria, but wait, before you throw out your cutting boards, there's a simple and inexpensive solution: Shou Sugi Ban.
Shou Sugi Ban is an ancient Japanese wood preservation technique that consists of charring, cleaning and finishing the wood with natural oil. It's mostly used for exterior projects but it also works wonders on cutting boards (soft and hard wood alike) because: the surface becomes tougher, waterproof and if you finish it with beeswax it will have antifungal and antimicrobial properties; so without further ado, let's get to it:
Tools and Materials:
- Cutting board
- Propane torch
- Wire brush
- Lint free cloth
Step 1: Charring and Cleaning the Wood
It's best to do this outside or in a well ventilated place (with no smoke alarms) because it involves a fair amount of smoke.
Start by charring the wood with the propane torch until you completely burn the entire surface, welder's gloves are a good idea at this point as you need to handle hot wood.
After the board has cooled take the wire brush, ideally a medium-hard one, and brush off all the top layer of brittle charcoal, then use one side of the lint free cloth to thoroughly clean off all the fine dust, use a dust mask, maybe.
You may even wash the board with water at this point, but then you'd have to wait until the wood completely dries off, which can take longer than a day and ain't nobody got time for that!
Step 2: Applying the Finish
As a personal preference, I finished the cutting board with beeswax, mostly because I don't feel comfortable with mineral oil, natural oils may go rancid over time and beeswax is 100% edible, natural and has scientifically proven antimicrobial properties; I'm going to eat off of it, so why not?
You need to gently melt one side of the beeswax block over the propane torch and smear the molten wax over the whole surface of the cutting board.
As the wax cools it hardens in place so you'll need to use the torch to melt it again, hold the torch further and gently hover over the board, try to keep the wax liquid for a couple of minutes so that the wood can absorb the maximum amount.
Then use the clean side of the lint free cloth to wipe off all the wax you can - while heating with the torch, there shouldn't be any white spots (a.k.a. hardened wax) left on the board and you're done.
Maintenance wise: you can reapply the wax anytime you see fit.