Introduction: Wood Slab Serving Boards
Live edge serving boards are really popular right now, and for good reason! The natural edge of the board provides just a touch of rustic, without going too far. I was asked to come up with a serving board design for an upscale restaurant. They wanted something that allows them to serve alcohol, particularly for taste tests, but also have enough space for assorted Italian meats and cheeses. This project will show you how to make your own, straight from a wood slab!
Here is a list of tools and materials that I used during this project:
- Walnut slab
- Microjig Grr-ripper
- Festool Random Orbit Sander
- Forrest Woodworker II Saw Blade
- Starrett 6” combination square
- Jet Table Saw
- Eye protection
- Hearing Protection
- Rikon 14" Bandsaw
- Makita Circular Saw
- Dewalt planer
- Jet 8” Jointer
- Makita Cordless Compact Router
- Router Guide Bushings
- 1/8 router bit
Step 1: Break Down the Slab Into Pieces
I’m making a large batch of serving boards so I will use an entire slab for my project. However, if you only need one board then you can potentially use only a portion or cut-off of a slab. I’m using air-dried walnut because I love the color of the grain.
My serving boards are approximately 1”T x 15”L x 6”W. I can cut my slab into pieces using the circular saw. Each piece will give me four boards because I will cut it in half, and then I’ll slice them using the bandsaw. From a safety standpoint, it’s much safer to use a jigsaw for this operation. However, my jig saw blades are not long enough to cut all the way through the slab.
Step 2: Cut the Boards in Half
With the slab parts cut into manageable pieces, I can use the bandsaw to safely break them down further. I measured approximately 8 inches from the edge and marked a line. I then cut all of my walnut pieces this way. In some cases, I had extra material in the middle that I saved for future projects.
Step 3: Remove the Bark
I removed the bark from all of the pieces. This is a pretty simple step, yet can be time consuming. If your tree was cut down during the spring then the bark would have probably fell off on its own. But since this tree was cut during the winter, I have to manually remove it.
I’m simply using a chisel and a mallet to knock off the bark. A draw knife would make quick work with project. Since I don’t have one, a chisel works just fine.
After scraping the bark off, I used a random orbit sander with 80 grit sandpaper to remove the remaining remnants. I want to see the natural, wavy edge of the slab, but I don’t want any of the bark or underlying marks on the boards.
Step 4: Mill the Pieces
My wood slab has a rough surface and hasn’t been milled or sanded. I want to slice the pieces in half, but to do that I need to mill the boards so that both sides are flat.
I ran each piece across the jointer until the surface was flat. After the bottom is flattened, I turn the board on its side to flatten one edge. Due to some the boards being wider than my jointer, I had to remove the safety guard. Please be careful if you make this cut.
I then ran each piece through the planer, with the jointed face down. I only take off enough material to ensure both sides are flat.
Step 5: Resaw the Boards in Half
Now that we have one flat edge and two flat faces, I can resaw the boards in half using the bandsaw. I marked the center point of the board and aligned my bandsaw fence so that the mark lines up with the saw blade. I pushed the boards slowly through the blade. These cuts have to be slow and steady so that the saw blade doesn’t veer and the cut stays true.
After each piece is sliced in half, I ran the pieces through the planer one more time, removing material from the side that had the saw marks.
Step 6: Cut the Boards to Final Width
Due to the natural edge of each board, after slicing them on the bandsaw I have to trim them to final size on the table saw that each board is approximately 6 inches wide.
Step 7: Sand the Boards
Using a random orbit sander, I sanded each board up to 180 grit. I only sanded the surfaces and not the edges at this point. I will be carving out holes to hold glasses and will need to sand inside the holes. I will wait to sand the edges at that time.
Step 8: Cut the Boards to Final Length
Each board needs to be approximately 15” long. I will cut them on the table saw using a sled. I set a stop block on the left side of the sled. I trimmed the left end of the board, and then butted that end against the stop block and cut the right side.
Step 9: Route Out the Holes for Glasses
I want each board to hold five glasses. To do this, I’m using a router and guide bushing. I made a template using 1/4” thick plywood. The holes in my templates are slightly larger than what I want the holes to be. I used a laser cutter to make my template, but this can easily be made using a drill press and large forstner bit.
I used double sided tape on the back of the template and pressed it onto the board. I put a 1/8” diameter bit in my palm router, along with a 5/16” diameter guide bushing.
I want the holes to be 1/4" deep. I routed these holes in two passes. I cut out all the holes, and then lowered the bit and rerouted them. Doing it this way helps to reduce the pressure on the router bit.
An alternative way to do this is to drill out the holes using a drill press. For many people, this would be a much easier solution. This my boards are for a restaurant, I wanted the bottom of the hole to be clean and not have a divot in the center, which is caused by using a forstner bit.
Step 10: Cut Side Bevels
I set my table saw blade to 45 degrees so I can cut bevels on the underside of each board. Having these bevels will make the boards much easier to pick up and set down. I set my table saw fence to the desired distance from the blade and made each cut.
Note, this is an advanced level cut. Running the board width-wise along the table saw fence can potentially cause kickback if the board shifts. In order to make this cut safer, I butted the board against a piece of sacrificial material. This increases the surface area of the board and helps to make the cut much safer.
Step 11: Engrave and Sand the Boards
I’m engraving the boards so that they are personalized. To do this I’m using my Glowforge laser.
After the boards are engraved, I did a final sanding. I sanded the top of the boards again. I also hand sanded inside the circles, along the edges of the boards, and broke all of the corners with sandpaper so they weren’t sharp.
Step 12: Apply Finish
I finished the boards with multiple coats of a food safe finish. These were a super fun project to make! I hope that this Instructable was helpful. If you like this sort of content, you can find my work at the following links: