Massive Walnut Cutting Board

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Introduction: Massive Walnut Cutting Board

I love making all kinds of things, with a bent toward woodworking. I do projects for clients, imp...

You might have seen how to make a cutting board at this point, but have you seen ways to be efficient at making multiple cutting boards at once?

I'll show you some of the ways I'm able to save time while making 8 cutting boards at the same time.

This project is all about performing batch actions to create multiple cutting boards for a customer order. Follow along with the video, or keep reading for more details.

Step 1: TOOLS & MATERIALS

(These are affiliate links...clicking on them & purchasing anything on amazon helps me create more content at no cost to you)

Miter saw - https://amzn.to/2uC092T

Table saw - https://amzn.to/2mzmXvG

Planer - https://amzn.to/2NCAqyh

Jointer - https://amzn.to/2NCAqyh (Mine is a Grizzly, but couldn't find a link for it)

Clamps - https://amzn.to/2NCAqyh

Wood glue - https://amzn.to/2NCAqyh

Black Walnut

White Oak

Maple

Step 2: BACKGROUND

I sell a decent amount of physical items locally, and some of the most popular items are cutting boards. There are a couple of sizes that I typically sell: 8"x12" and 12"x18". I have used any number of hardwoods in the past, but my favorites to use are some of the domestic hardwoods like walnut, maple and cherry. Some will say that oak is not a good choice for cutting boards, but I have used it some, and in this project, I used some white oak that turned out great.

Step 3: USING SCRAPS

Even scraps can be used for many of these applications. So, the board you have is not thick enough to create the cutting board you want? That's fine. Just set your table saw to make cuts the size of the ultimate thickness you want your finished cutting board to be.

Then, after you've made the cuts, you can stand the pieces up 90 degrees, and you have the thickness you desire.

Step 4: WALNUT, WHITE OAK & MAPLE

For the smaller boards, I'm using white oak. This particular white oak has a lot of interesting grain, and made for a great look when all of the pieces were glued together.

The larger boards were primarily made from solid black walnut, but I also added in some maple accents just for a little contrast. I started out with some four quarter (1" thick) boards and some nine quarter (a little over 2" thick) boards. These were rough from the mill, so I had to do some flattening and squaring. I usually start breaking down the rough stock at the miter saw. Check out this other project to see more about that milling process.

Step 5: CUTTING THICK HARDWOOD AT THE TABLE SAW

I have found, with my saw at least, I can get a much cleaner cut if I cut through thick hardwoods in multiple passes, rather than trying to cut all the way through it at once. I will have the blade about halfway up, make a cut, raise the blade the rest of the way, and then cut all of the way through the board. This prevents too much binding by the blade, and I just feel like it is safer for the saw that I have. Some of the larger table saws would not have a problem cutting through a board this thick in one pass.

Step 6: BATCHING ACTIONS

Looking for ways to get more done in the shop?

Batching actions can be just the thing you need. Do things like flatten all of the boards you will need at once...for multiple finished cutting boards. Since the white oak cutting boards were going to be a smaller size, I batched all of those at the same time.

Having all of the pieces and arranging them into the 4 finished cutting boards at once saves a lot of time too. You already have your work surface occupied, so go ahead and utilize that space fully. Much of the time that you spend making things is spent setting up your tools. Once a particular tool is setup, like the table saw, cutting the proper width pieces, go ahead and cut all of the boards needed at once. Not only will the pieces be more accurate with each other, you will save a lot of time going back and forth between tools and setting up everything.

Step 7: BOARDS MEETING PERFECTLY

Are you getting your boards perfectly flat?

One of the paramount things about making cutting boards well is getting really good glue lines.

Some of this has to do with the amount of glue used and how you clamp the boards, but it all starts with how flat your mating surfaces are. I have tried many different ways to arrive at the same end result: flat mating surfaces so there are no gaps in the cutting boards. Many people will fully mill all of their boards before they cut the strips at the table saw. Then, they'll take them straight from the table saw and glue them together. I've never been quite happy with doing this, and I always find that they need a bit more touch-up before gluing up. Because of that, I typically get the boards flat enough for them to register properly at the table saw, but I leave the final flattening for the jointer, a tool that is built very specifically for this job.

In the above photo, you see me laying out each cutting board, making sure I like how the grain looks. After I get this finalized, I will take each board over to the jointer and take a couple of extremely light passes, ensuring a dead flat surface. I'm probably cutting less than 1/32" with each pass. Yes, it does use up a little more of the material, but I have had great results with this method, and keep coming back to it.

Be sure to use some push blocks at the jointer. Don't try to hold those with just your hands...these pieces are far too small at this point for that. So, how do you check to see if the surfaces are perfectly flat? One great way to check for perfectly flat mating surfaces is to take your two boards, put them together with light pressure as if they were in clamps, and hold them up to the light. Move them around a bit, and if you can't see any light through the seam, you've got a great joint!

Step 8: TIME FOR GLUE

Now that you've got all of the boards perfectly flat, it is time to glue up your cutting boards.

I like to use parallel clamps for this. I find that they provide the most even clamping pressure of any clamp I've used. That way, I have less of a chance of the cutting board bowing up or misaligning somehow.

Here is another instance where doing multiple things at once can really save time. I will usually glue up at least 2 boards at once. It uses the same number of clamps, but I can at least double what I get accomplished with not much more time involved.

Is glue getting all over your work surface?

Visit my website article for some tips on how to help with this. I've tried many things out over the years, and I'll give you some ways you can do it too....for cheap or free!

I like to use some strips of it to protect my clamps.

Why do you need to protect your clamps?

Especially with these parallel clamps that I've linked above, The way they work is that the ridges on the main bar provide grip for the clamp to apply pressure. If glue gets all over the bar and these grooves, your clamp will not perform nearly as well. Ask me how I know.

So, it is very easy to just roll out a bit of waxed paper to cover where the cutting boards will be. But don't stop there. Take some scissors and rip the waxed paper in half. You can fold this over your clamp bars, and it is plenty of coverage against the glue. You will save a ton of waxed paper, and this will be a really cheap solution to keep your expensive clamps going for years to come.

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Once you have your boards perfectly flat, it is time to glue everything together. Take each strip, and rotate it 90 degrees. That is the surface you want to add glue to. Add a generous amount of glue to each strip.

You can use a number of things to spread the glue out: your finger, a cheap spatula (like you see me using), an actual glue brush that some companies sell or even just a cheap silicone basting brush will work. Be sure the glue is evenly spread on each of the surfaces, rotate the pieces back 90 degrees, and put them together.

As you bring the clamps in, be sure the boards are not sliding around or popping up, misaligning your cutting boards. Go nice and slow so that the pressure is even, and you'll typically have no problems.

Step 9: SUCCESSFUL GLUE INDICATORS

How do you know if you used enough glue, or if the coverage is plenty?

Look at your boards after you've glued them up. So you see glue squeezing out between each of the individual boards? If so, you've done it right. Many times, you will not see a continuous line of glue between each of them, but rather some kind of dots where the glue is coming out all along each seam.

Great job! You've done it!

Step 10: REFINING THE SHAPE

Once the glue has dried (I usually try to let these sit overnight. It is very humid where I live, and glue tends to take longer to dry here.), I take the cutting boards out of the clamps, scrap off as much excess glue as possible, and then run them through the planer a few times. Usually, I've done a good enough job while gluing them all up that they will remain very straight and flat after using the planer.

Then, I take them over to my table saw where I use the cross cut sled to refine the shape. For these particular boards, I just want them to have square corners and straight sides. This sled I made is very accurate, and I can bring them back into square with just a few small cuts.

For the smaller cutting boards, I added a thumb hole for decoration and function. I use a forstner bit to drill out the hole at my drill press.

Step 11: EDGE TREATMENT

For most of my cutting boards, I like a simple 1/8" roundover. This is nice to the touch, and I accomplish it by using a handheld router. I go over all of the edges, including the thumb holes I drilled out, with the router.

Step 12: RAISING THE GRAIN

You may have heard people say they are "raising the grain" of a cutting board.

But why do we need to raise the grain?

Many cutting boards will come into contact with water and moisture at some point in their lives. As soon as water is put onto a board that previously felt very smooth, it is suddenly not smooth to the touch any longer. This is because the fibers of the wood actually react with the moisture and kind of stand up. I used a quirt bottle with some water in it to mist the boards, wiping off any excess with a paper towel. I let them dry and then do a final sanding with 220 grit sandpaper. Now, when the client gets the board wet at all, it will still feel as smooth as the day I gave it to them.

Step 13: PROTECT THE BOARD

I typically use mineral oil for the treatment on my cutting boards. This is a food safe finish, and is readily available. I have some tricks I've learned over the years of making many boards, and I've tried out a lot of oils and finishes, but I keep coming back to mineral oil.

I'm not going to go into that here in this post, but I will probably do an entire post in the future about my cutting board finishing process.

Step 14: ADDING FEET

I like to add non-stick feet to the larger cutting boards that I make.

This does limit how you use the board, since that pretty much eliminates one side, but I just think it looks nicer. Plus, many people that purchase these large ones keep them out on the counter as part of their kitchen decor. They don't want this particular one to have to put away each time they use it. I don't typically add feet to the smaller ones, since they're the type of board that gets pulled out, used quickly, and put away. This also allows both sides of this small board to be utilized.

The feet I use are in my materials list above. They are Everbilt from Home Depot, and they're my favorite. They are white, and rubber, and very high quality. To add the feet, I use a combination square and measure out a set distance from two of the the sides. I mark that spot, and drill out a tiny bit of the material, making room for the screw so the wood won't split. Then, I just add the screw to hold the rubber foot on, and the cutting boards are done!

Step 15: CONCLUSION

This was a big project, making 8 cutting boards in total; 4 of the smaller ones and 4 of the massive walnut ones. It was fun to kind of figure out ways that batch actions to save time.

Be sure to watch my video of how I made these if you haven't already. You might catch some things in there that I didn't include here.

Let me know what you think of this project. Please leave me a comment below! Thanks for following along and I'll see you back here really soon!

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    11 Discussions

    What is the cost of the large boards you make and sell? Do you have a website?

    2 replies

    I realized I didn't tell you the cost of the large cutting boards. Most of the cutting boards I sell are solid maple cutting boards. I sell those for $100 plus shipping.

    Hey Chris! Thanks for checking out the project! My website is www.bruceaulrich.com. Drop me a message there and we can chat about what needs you have for a custom board if you would like.

    Walnut is probably a bad idea for cutting boards. It's horribly toxic to many animals, some people react badly to it immediately and there is some debate it's general toxicity to humans (the compound is thought to have been isolated but on it's own it does not test that toxic). I know, not very conclusive but anything that makes some people react badly and is suspected toxic is not a great choice for a cutting board.

    3 replies

    Thanks for checking out the project! Yeah, I've read some things about not using walnut for cutting boards. Most of it seems to be pretty inconclusive from what I've seen. Anyway, I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

    Bruce, you mention selling these things. I'm sure nothing looks like oiled walnut but in today's society, you have one person come back with "I've felt horribly ill the last few months and it's all your fault," and if they take it as far as to sue you, even if they can't prove it/make the connection, just getting a lawyer and defending yourself will likely cost you more than you've made making these things, unless you've made tens of thousands.

    Awesome tutorial. Lot of great tips I hadn't come across before. Looking forward to your write up on finishing with mineral oil. I am making a walnut farmhouse table and this guide will be helpful with the details.

    1 reply

    Thanks so much! Appreciate you checking out the project. That table project sounds like a cool one. I would probably not go with mineral oil as a finish for a table. It is just not durable enough. I might just use regular polyurethane. Plus, that polyurethane would really make the grain of the walnut show off!

    There's a difference among the oaks. White oak is great for projects like this, (and shows fantastic sidegrain patterns when quartersawn). It's used to make storage/ageing barrels for
    liquids such as wine, water, brandy and so on.

    Red oak, on the other hand is extremely porous, to the extent that in some circles it's known as
    'Holey Wood'. Even when apparently sealed, there's too much chance for bacteria and other nasties
    to accumulate and grow, so it is not suitable for cutting boards and such.

    1 reply

    Yeah, good points. I have used some red oak for cutting boards, but I keep those. Plus, we usually just cut fruit on them.