Cutting (floor) Board




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Cutting boards are a valuable, and, at times, under-appreciated kitchen accessory.  In this plastic age, we have been overrun with sick, milky-white slabs of questionable origin, claiming to be safe and clean.  After a few weeks, you end up with a scarred, savaged scrap, un-saveable, collecting crud in all those crevices.  The alternative?  A solid, reclaimed hardwood cutting board made from old flooring, hand-rubbed with tung oil to a high, non-toxic sheen.  In a pinch, it's solid enough to chock the tires on your inlaw's RV, or knock a kitchen intruder unconscious.  It's also cheap (nearly free!), beautiful, and can be continually refinished, lasting for generations.  

I put this cutting board together with oak and maple floorboards pulled from old Chicago bungalows.  Save what you can from alleys, building sites, and salvage shops, get some good glue, and set aside an afternoon.  If you are lacking some of the heavier equipment needed -- thickness planer, pipe clamps, router -- you could laminate it together using the technique found in this table I did a few years ago:

You will need these materials:

Reclaimed hardwood (not laminate of any kind!) flooring
Waterproof wood glue
Tung oil
Mineral oil

You will need these tools:

Table saw
Chop saw
Thickness planer
Orbital Sander

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Step 1: Preparation

The first step, key to safety throughout this project, is to thoroughly de-nail the floorboards.  One nail can chip teeth off of a table saw blade, ruin a planer cutterhead, or fly up and take an eye out.  Go over the boards carefully and remove all nails and staples.  If you have a metal detector, use it.  Zircon, maker of stud finders, makes a handy pocket-size metal detector that is handy for this sort of thing, as well as finding wires in walls, rebar in slabs, etc.  

Step 2: Tongues and Grooves

Slice off all the tongues and grooves on the boards with a table saw.  The best way to do this is set the saw to one width, run all the boards through once, then set to your second width and run all the boards through again, cutting the other side.  Now the boards are de-tongued and de-grooved as well as cut to the same exact width.  This will help get the cutting board flat and even later.  

Step 3: Surface Preparation

The old finish on the tops of the floorboards will interfere with the glue adhering properly.  I ran the boards through a jointer to remove it.  That said, you could use a belt sander, a chemical stripper, or a product like Gorilla Glue that is less affected by non-porous surfaces.  

To remove the channels routed in the underside of the floorboards, run them through a thickness planer.  Yous hould now have a pile of clean stock, with no tongues, no grooves, no channels, and no varnish.  

Step 4: Lamination

Spread waterproof wood glue evenly over the flat surfaces of the boards, then clamp them together with heavy-duty pipe or bar clamps.  Alternate the clamps over and under the stock so it doesn't bow or bend.  Once the glue has dried a little bit, use a putty knife or razor to scrape up all the glue boogers.  If you don't have the heavy-duty clamps required, you could pre-drill, counter-sink, and screw each layer to the next with galvanized screws along with the glue.  This is more laborious, but perhaps cheaper.  I wouldn't be super-psyched about the long-term stability of that system, but it might work for awhile.  

I glued together the broad sides of the stock, leaving the narrow edges exposed, because the narrow edges are essentially quarter-sawn, meaning a stronger edge of the grain is exposed.  This will make the surface stand up better to your knife.  Secondly, gluing the broad sides puts a lot more surface area in contact with glue and one another, making for a much stronger, more stable board over years of expansion and contraction with changes in weather and humidity.  

Step 5: Surfacing

Run the finished board through a planer, and then sand with 80, 100, and 120 grit sandpaper to get it flat, smooth, and even.  Then, put the whole thing on the chop saw and cut into blocks.  My original slab was about five feet long and a foot wide, leaving me with four decent-sized cutting boards.  

Step 6: Routing and Finishing

To round over the edges, run the boards through a router table with a generous-sized roundover bit, or use a hand-held router, clamping down the board as you go.  

To make the juice channel around the edge, make a simple jig for the router.  Depending on how your router is set up, you may be able to simply clamp and adjust a guide that allows you to run straight lines parallel to the edge of the board.  If not, simple screw a few pieces of scrap onto the baseplate, as show, to make a simple guide.  Put in a channel-shaped bit and set it to about 3/16" deep.  Mark a line around the edges of the cutting board, one inch in from each side.  As shown in the video, drop in at a corner, run down to the next corner, tip up, rotate to the next side, and continue.  Finish it out with hand-sanding.

I finished my board with a base coat of tung oil, to bring out the grain.  Tung oil is non-toxic, all-natural product.  Look for a brand that uses natural citrus driers and thinners instead of petroleum distillates, so it's food safe.  Once that coat has dried, saturate the surface with mineral oil, a clear topcoat you can get in the stomach-remedy aisle of any drugstore.  Rub the oil in, buff it out, and let dry for several days before your first use.  

When you wash the board, dry immediately with a towel.  Don't let it sit in water.  After years of use, when the surface is heavily marked up, just sand down and re-oil.


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    20 Discussions

    Great effort! The joy of seeing your efforts and, also the humor I consider high quality and enjoyable, keep at it!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Fantastic!! I make these occassionaly. I look for old broken kitchen tables, legs, side tables, in dumpsters or throw aways from salvation army. I cut them in 1 inch strips and glue them with Elmers white glue, sand and veg. oil them. Yesterday I found a broken oak chair, I will be cutting in strips.


    7 years ago on Step 6

    nice instructable! however, you should be protecting those baby blues while using the equipment!


    7 years ago on Step 5

    How nice - and I wish I'd had such a nice workshop...;-)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Doesn't he say that it's made of floorboards pulled from old Chicago bungalows. Does that mean that these cutting boards were once trampled on by people's feet over the span of years??
    Would that mean that it would be completely saturated with nasty gross bacteria of the hostile kind that no amount of soaking in straight bleach will completely permeate and erase??

    I think the concept is awesome, the idea of using used floorboards for my food is definitely not.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    the wood has been cut, planed, and sanded. it is essentially new again, reborn, fresh as can be.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    A comment about sanitation. As a former food safety manager for a chain of food services sanitation of cutting boards was a serious consideration. Extensive research by various agencies in San Diego, following a serious food born infection outbreak, was made into all types of cutting boards and cleaning methods. Properly sanitised, wood boards were superior in food safety, especially ones with NO coating other than mineral oil and that are made with the end grain as the cutting surface. Yes, bacteria ran into the cracks but so did cleaning and sanitising solutions. One of the best is a tablespoon of chlorine bleach in a quart of water. Cutting boards are cut by knife blades which also pushed bacteria and biological media into the cut. Plastic closes over entrapping the bacteria and growth media protecting it from sanitising solutions. After the bacteria multiplies many millions of times a knife cut through the entrapped colony will contaminate the knife and the food you are slicing. End grain wood (the benefits were discussed earlier) will also close-up BUT NOT water/sanitiser and oxygen tight. Thus sanitiser and oxygen (also a sanitiser) remains for many minutes in the cuts before evaporating while killing the bacteria and preventing growth colonies from being established. PS-Don't try to make a cleaning sanitiser by mixing chlorine bleach with soap or detergent, they decompose each other and you don't have the benefit of either. Use them separately and rinse soap thoroughly before applying bleach solution.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Have you looked for a local makerspace/hackspace or tool collective? I know we have one here in London (I'm a member). They often have many of these tools, probably a stock of wood and other stuff too. They generally have websites so shoudl be easy to search out. The same goes for HollyHarken.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    thanks for a good idea and presentation! .. a handy way to pass an afternoon, and theN to guzzle down a few watching the oil dry for a few days!
    I do suggest tho that you not have long-sleeves while using your great collection of major tools!
    Eye-wear, of course, but dont forget the ability of clothing to become entangled with rotating devices!!!
    One other thing, as an engineer it would seem to me that this quote is perhaps not so true:
    "...If you don't have the heavy-duty clamps required, you could pre-drill, counter-sink, and screw each layer to the next with galvanized screws along with the glue. This is more laborious, but perhaps cheaper. I wouldn't be super-psyched about the long-term stability of that system, but it might work for awhile."
    We note that with no screws the board is glued.
    but *with* screws it is both glued aND screwed!
    I'd also suggest stainless countersunk screws too, .. i never knew a galvanized fastener to staY galvanized for long, certainly not for the generations of family that your design is clearly providing!
    Again, excellent 'structable!!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Beautiful job! I wish that I had access to your tools. Perhaps it is time to sign up for a wood working class at my local high school adult education program in order to have access to the kinds of tools you have. I would love to make something like this some day. My Grandfather was a meat cutter and grocer. He never had a problem with contamination. This was back in the 40's thru 60's. I think our meat supply was cleaner then than it is now. No factory farms back then.

    I would love to own a beautiful cutting board like the one that you made!


    7 years ago on Step 2

    Good cutting boards should be made with the wood cut on end, so that the knife scratches the wood between wood fibers, not cutting them. This way:

    * Fibers will not dull the knife's edge. Wood is hard cellulose and it will do that, and

    * As fibers are cut, they tend to separate from the board, creating splinters.

    * When cut on end, wood will be easier to resurface every few months, and will better absorb the mineral oil.

    Your design is beautiful, but this minor change will significantly enhance your finished product. Great Job.

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    another guy who doesn't care much about his eyes on video #2…
    I would wear goggles !!¡…


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Extremely. The following quote is directly from the link. Please read the whole article for more information.

    "Research has shown that when bacteria were inoculated on both wooden and polymer boards, bacterial recoveries from wooden boards generally were less than those from plastic boards, regardless of new or used status (Ak et al., 1994a)."


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    it's sanitary. i wouldn't cut raw meat or fish on it, but hardwood, with sufficiently dense grain, and a penetrative oil finish will prevent anything from seeping in and living in there. people have cut on butcher block for hundreds of years. those cheap plastic boards, once roughed up enough from a lot of small knife slices, have the potential to harbor a lot of bacteria. secondly, all those microscopic bits of plastic end up in your food.