Handmade Cutting Board

For Allysa’s birthday last year (2013), I decided to try my hand at a handmade wood cutting board after seeing so many successful projects on http://reddit.com/r/woodworking, and I thought it would be a perfect way to break in my new handplanes.

Finished Cutting Board


I did a bunch of research into what type of hardwood would be good to use for a cutting board.  From my research, I found that the type of wood is extremely important for food safety because woods with open pores (such as common red oak) can retain harmful bacteria and cause cross contamination during food preparation.  Check out this 10x comparison of red and white oak:


Red Oak Open Pores


White Oak Closed Pores

Also, this video is really really cool in explaining the difference (but also I’m nerdy and fascinated by these things):


  • Hardwoods (3/4″)
    • Purpleheart
    • Maple
    • Cherry
    • Mahogany


  • Table saw
  • Hand Planes – No. 7, No. 5, No. 4
  • Random orbit sander
  • Wood glue
  • Various clamps

The Build

I started off by cutting strips of the hardwoods on the table saw.  I just randomly cut them into strips of various widths with the grain.  I then lined them up in a pattern that I liked:


Even though my tablesaw cuts very straight, when they are lined up there are very tiny gaps a few thousands of an inch.  In addition, stress and pressure in the wood is often released when cutting, which causes it to bow or bend and not be perfectly true.  I used my no. 7 and no. 5 hand planes to get the surfaces perfectly level.

This took some time and practice since this was my first time.  If I was going to make more of these, I would probably invest in a jointer to save some time with this step.


A quick shot of my workshop in my parents’ garage along with my new workbench, which is just an old table I had found for free on craigslist.  My dad helped me pick it up with Auntie Donna’s pickup truck, and I couldn’t be happier with it.  It even has a weird little shelf that would make it an awkward dining room table, but makes it a perfect place to store tools and woodworking supplies.



The next step was to glue up the boards.  I used Titebond III and some bar clamps I picked up from Home Depot.



The Real Work Begins

Next came the hardest and most tedious part of the whole project.  The various wood strips were all different heights and there was some bending and warping of the board, so I had to plane it all flat.

Unfortunately, I don’t have my own planer, so I had to plane it by hand.  I didn’t truly understand or appreciate the difference between the various hand planes until this project, and I can now say that there is a big difference between each one.


The first one up was the No. 5, which is a jack plane.  This plane is really the most versatile and can be used to remove a large amount of material relatively quickly.

It was perfect for getting the board level overall and removing all of the high points in the board as well as eliminate the ridges between strips of wood.  However, the plane takes an aggressive angle and cut and therefore is susceptible to tear out, which I got a lot of in the purpleheart due to the irregular grain:


This tear out ended up being a huge pain because it would take forever to sand away.

Fortunately, I had the no. 7 jointer plane to help smooth it out. The no. 7 is a jointer plane, which is extra long (and heavy!).  This helped to get the board extremely flat and also help smooth everything down to fix the tear out.

I then followed up with the No. 4, which ended up being my favorite one because it can remove such a thin shaving of wood so it is very precise.


This was just a fraction of all of the colorful shavings that I made!  I’d estimate I spent ~5 hours on the planing alone, but I learned a lot!


I then used a circular saw to cut off the ends of the board and trim it square.  I used my Dad’s router to ease the edges with a 1/4″ roundover bit.


Sanding & Finishing

Next came the sanding, which was even more tedious than the planing.  Luckily, with the no. 4 plane, I can get a surface that is already quite smooth, so I was able to start with 120 grit.

I then used 220 grit and finished with 400 using my Dad’s random orbit sander.  I believe sanding took another 4 hours or so, but the final product felt really smooth.


Finally, I used some butcher block conditioner that I picked up at Home Depot and applied it using a cotton cloth.  The conditioner is a mixture of beeswax and mineral oil, which will help prevent the wood from drying out, cracking, and penetration by moisture.

Another benefit of the conditioner is that it makes the board look great!  This was the best part as the colors of the wood really came through.


Overall, I really enjoyed this project, but I also got a little burned out because of how tedious the planing and sanding can be.  However, the finished product makes it all worth it.  Alys loved the board, and she’s actually very hesitant to use it, but I’ve convinced her to use it a few times to cut bread, and it has made a really great, decorative breadboard.

Thanks for reading!


Leave Your Response

* Name, Email, Comment are Required