Introduction: Make a Plaid Cutting Board
Want a cutting board that is as much of a show piece as it is functional? Try making a plaid end grain cutting board. It’s made from easy to obtain domestic wood species. By following the below steps, you’ll end up with a beautiful cutting board that people will gawk over!
- 15 strips of oak – approximately 20”L x 7/8”W x 7/8”T
- 8 strips of cherry – approximately 20”L x 7/8”W x 7/8”T
- 7 strips of maple – approximately 20”L x 7/8”W x 7/8”T
- Walnut (amount depends on the size of your cutting board)
- Titebond III glue
- Forrest Woodworker II Saw Blade
- Microjig Grr-ripper
- Starrett 6” combination square
- Jet Table Saw
- Dewalt planer
- Jet jointer
- General Finishes Wood Bowl Finish
- Butcher Block oil
- Festool random orbit sander
Step 1: Cut Strips of Wood
My cutting board is approximately 16”L x 12”W x 1.5”T. You can make your board any size that you want. You only need to change the dimensions or number of strips that you use if you want a different size cutting board.
I needed 15 strips of oak, 8 strips of cherry, and 7 strips of maple in order to make my board. My strips are roughly 20” long. I milled the wood down to about 7/8” thick, and then I cut them on the table saw just slightly wider than 7/8”. This gives me a bit more material thickness that will help me in step 2.
Step 2: Glue the Panels Together
I glued together the wood strips into two panels. I alternated between maple and oak strips, gluing them together with Titebond III glue. I made sure that the strips had the thicker side facing up. I also glued together a panel of alternating strips of cherry and oak. Once these two panels were dry, I planed them down to 7/8” thick, giving me perfect squares when I look at the ends.
Step 3: Cut the Panels Into Strips
This step takes our two panels and turns them into an end grain cutting board. I want my cutting board to be about 1.5” thick. Using the table saw, I crosscut my panels into 1-3/4” strips. I turned these pieces up on their edges (end grain facing up and down), giving me a 1-3/4” thick cutting board. But the board will have to be flattened after each glue up in the subsequent steps, and that 1/4” extra will be taken away throughout that process.
To help with alignment, I made a quick jig that helps to ensure my squares all line up. Check out the video above to see it in action. In essence, it’s a sheet of particle board with an attached wood fence. This gives me a reference surface to ensure that all of my strips are glued up as flat as possible, and in alignment with one another.
I glued up my strips, alternating between types. One strip of maple/oak, and then one of cherry/oak, and so on. This resulted in cutting board that is approximately 16” long x 12” wide x 1-3/4” thick. After the glue was dry, it was time to flatten the board.
Step 4: Flatten the Cutting Board
Once the glue is dry, the cutting board needs to be flattened. I never advocate using a jointer and planer to flatten an end grain cutting board. It’s simply not the safest method and the board could break in the tool. Instead, I recommend one of many alternative processes. One is using a router and a sled. This is the same process that I use when I flatten wood slabs. The most common method is simply using a sander and some heavy grit sand paper. I chose to use my CNC, mainly because it’s a new tool and I wanted to play with it!
Step 5: Add Long Walnut Strips
Now we get to the part that causes the most tension - cutting up the board. After some careful measuring, I used the table saw to slice my cutting board in the dead center of each maple/oak section. My saw blade is 1/8” thick so I made some walnut pieces that are the same thickness. This results in those squares staying the same size when I glue everything back together.
Using my same glue-up jig, I glued the board together, with walnut in between each piece. Once the glue was dry, I flattened both sides of the board again.
Step 6: Add Short Walnut Stripes
Just like we did to add the long walnut stripes, I applied the same process to make stripes that run across the width of the cutting board. I sliced the board into sections, cutting in the middle of each maple/oak strip. The board was, once again, glued together with walnut placed between each section. This is the last glue-up. Once it was dry, I flattened it on the CNC.
Step 7: Make It Look Pretty
The cutting board is essentially done at this point, but I wanted to make it pretty. I sliced the edges of each side off, and I cut off the both ends, leaving a half square around the entire perimeter. Then, I set the table saw blade at 45 degrees and cut a bevel on the bottom so it’s easier to pick up.
Step 8: Apply Finish to the Cutting Board
I didn’t use the commonly applied mineral oil finish to this cutting board. Instead, I went an entirely different way and used wood bowl finish. In the latter half of the video, I show the step by step how to apply this finish to make a well protected cutting board that doesn’t build up a film and doesn’t weep mineral oil like regular boards.
I decided to use salad bowl finish. This is a finish that is food safe once it dries, but also builds a film. That’s something that you don’t want on a cutting board because it can break as you chop. In my case, this was actually a perfect finish because it’s an end grain cutting board. End grain is like a series of straws running up and down. It soaks up finish, whether that’s salad bowl finish or mineral oil. My goal was to get the board to soak up as much finish as possible, but not leave a film at the top. I thinned my finish with mineral spirits. Before you yell as me for using mineral spirits, hear me out. I did do my research. I pulled up the MSDS sheet on salad bowl finish and found that one of its main components is mineral spirits. The spirits evaporates, leaving the item food safe.
I thinned down my finish and applied it using a foam brush. I added enough until I saw it bleeding through the bottom, at which point, I set the board on its edge and let it dry. The next day, I sanded the entire board thoroughly using 220 grit sandpaper. I applied another coat of finish. After three coats of finish and a final sanding, I applied a thin layer of wax on the surface of the board. I’m left with a durable finish that is food safe, repels water, and doesn’t weep mineral oil.
Step 9: Enjoy Your Cutting Board!
I think this cutting board turned out so cool! I hope that you enjoyed this Instructable and that you give this project a try. If you like this sort of content, you can find my work at the following links: