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How to Make a Wood Cutting Board

Woodworking projects can be intimidating, but this project is actually easier than you may think, requiring basic shop materials and dense, hardwood boards to create a chef-worthy cutting board any foodie will love.

Marian Parsons, Mustard Seed Interiors

Materials Needed:

  • precisely cut 3/4" dense hardwood with a closed grain (for ends: 2 pieces 16-1/8" x 3" and for center: 2 pieces 16" x 4-3/4", 1 piece 16" x 6-3/4")
  • parchment paper
  • scrap wood
  • wood glue (waterproof and mildew-, solvent- and heat-resistant)
  • rag
  • 2 3-foot pipe clamps
  • 4 12-inch bar clamps
  • 1" chisel
  • orbital sander
  • 80-, 120- and 220-grit sanding pads
  • food-safe finish like mineral oil, walnut oil or beeswax

Assemble Wood

First, make sure wood isn't warped, is cut precisely and is smooth and square on all sides. Set two pieces of scrap wood (both the same size) on work surface. Place pieces of parchment paper over scrap wood to prevent cutting board pieces from sticking to scraps when glued. Place 16" x 6-3/4" piece in center with two 16" x 4-3/4" pieces on either side. Make sure to alternate the end grain to minimize warping; for example, the arc of the grain on the center piece should face up and the grain on the two end pieces should point down. Tip: Purchase wood boards from a mill or cabinet shop (rather than a hardware store) to ensure wood has been cut precisely.

Glue Board Center Together

Apply a bead of glue along one side of center piece of wood (Image 1). Quickly spread glue with a fingertip then lay it flat and butt against right-side piece (Image 2). Apply glue to right side of left piece, spread with fingertip and butt against left side of center piece (Image 3). Make sure edges are lined up.

Clamp Boards

Clamp boards in place using two pipe clamps to press them together and four bar clamps to make sure joints are straight (Image 1). Use small pieces of parchment paper when using clamps on a seam to prevent clamps from sticking to glue (Image 2). Using a damp rag, wipe away any glue that squeezes out. Allow the board to remain clamped for several hours or overnight.

Scrape Off Excess Glue

Once glue has dried, remove the cutting board from clamps. Scrape off excess dried glue with a chisel, working gently to avoid marring the wood. Repeat this on all seams. Tip: It is important to remove all traces of excess glue from wood before the food-safe finish is applied in the final step.

Glue End Pieces

Line up end pieces along end grain of center pieces. Repeat steps 2 and 3.

Finish Board

Once glue has dried, remove the cutting board from clamps. Scrape off any excess dried glue gently with a chisel. Using an orbital sander fitted with an 80-grit sanding pad, sand both sides of the board and edges to soften corners. Repeat sanding process with 120-grit, then 220-grit sandpaper. Make sure all dried glue is sanded off surface prior to finishing. Rub entire cutting board with several coats of a food-safe finish like mineral oil, walnut oil or beeswax, allowing oil to fully absorb into the wood. Allow cutting board to dry overnight before use. Tip: Most food-safe finishes need to be reapplied regularly. If giving this board as a gift, also present the recipient with a bottle of oil as a companion gift along with care instructions.

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