A noob question about wood for a cutting board...


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Obviously I am new to the world of working with wood. The first project I plan on making would be a cutting board for my wife to use at home and perhaps another to give to my mom during the holidays.

Today during lunch I ran over to HD to just look around and what lumber they had. Now, having done plenty of reading on this forum, (and others as well), plus watching a bunch of videos  I have heard many times that you shouldn't use oak for cutting boards. Is that correct? Also, does it apply for all species of oak or are there some that are ok to use? At this particular HD they had some red oak and also some poplar.

The poplar looked really nice but not sure if that is something that can be used in a cutting board. It seems that everything else they had was pine. I know HD is probably not the best place to source wood from and there is a place here in Houston that does sell all kinds of wood, (slabs and milled), from all over the place. I just haven't had the chance to go by there yet.

For my noob project cutting boards I am looking to use at least 2 types of wood, preferably one that is darker and color and then of course a lighter one. Perhaps in a "checker board" pattern or long "stripes" that run the length of the board. I'm still in the planning phase and of course I have MANY things to learn. I look forward to any input you guys are willing to share.

 

Thanks!

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Oak is no good for cutting boards. Very open pores. I doubt youll have any luck finding a good species of wood for cutting boards at Home Depot. Poplar is probably too soft. You need to find a hardwood dealer that has Maple, Cherry, and/or Walnut (which is open pored also, but not nearly so much as oak). 

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1 minute ago, woodbutcher said:

Oak is no good for cutting boards. Very open pores. I doubt youll have any luck finding a good species of wood for cutting boards at Home Depot. Poplar is probably too soft. You need to find a hardwood dealer that has Maple, Cherry, and/or Walnut (which is open pored also, but not nearly so much as oak). 

Thanks for the quick reply woodbutcher. Guess I need to make it a point to swing by the other shop I mentioned. I went to his website and he has all kinds of stuff imported from everywhere. Just looked at his site and he has all 3 that you have mentioned plus MANY more.

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59 minutes ago, s1rGr1nG0 said:

Thanks for the quick reply woodbutcher. Guess I need to make it a point to swing by the other shop I mentioned. I went to his website and he has all kinds of stuff imported from everywhere. Just looked at his site and he has all 3 that you have mentioned plus MANY more.

There you go :D

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Where do you live?

Perhaps there are either woodworking shops (like Woodcraft) nearby that have a selection of smaller pieces that can be cut down for your use. Or maybe a lumber yard where you can get larger or smaller pieces (though they might require some drying time).

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1 hour ago, s1rGr1nG0 said:

Thanks for the quick reply woodbutcher. Guess I need to make it a point to swing by the other shop I mentioned. I went to his website and he has all kinds of stuff imported from everywhere. Just looked at his site and he has all 3 that you have mentioned plus MANY more.

There are some exotics that are commonly used as well but for cutting boards it's pretty safe to stick with domestics. Birch is another domestic that I've used on cutting boards. It's not quite as white as maple. I don't know why you couldn't use poplar, it's on the softer side so it will show knife marks faster. Stay away from red oak and ash. With the tyloses i could make an argument that white oak would be ok but I'm sure there are a lot of people that would be uncomfortable with that due to it still having a larger pore size. Also Iffy would be elm and hickory/pecan.

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4 minutes ago, collinb said:

Where do you live?

Perhaps there are either woodworking shops (like Woodcraft) nearby that have a selection of smaller pieces that can be cut down for your use. Or maybe a lumber yard where you can get larger or smaller pieces (though they might require some drying time).

I live in Katy, TX about 25 miles west of Houston. I have found this place, http://www.clarkshardwood.com/ , and he looks to have some very nice stuff. It also looks to be spendy but of course those are for big slabs and exotics that are waaaaay out of my league for the time being. I'll probably go by there this weekend to see if he has some scraps or smaller pieces they can sell to a new guy just getting started.

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7 minutes ago, s1rGr1nG0 said:

I live in Katy, TX about 25 miles west of Houston. I have found this place, http://www.clarkshardwood.com/ , and he looks to have some very nice stuff. It also looks to be spendy but of course those are for big slabs and exotics that are waaaaay out of my league for the time being. I'll probably go by there this weekend to see if he has some scraps or smaller pieces they can sell to a new guy just getting started.

That place should serve you well. I'm not sure what you have for tooling to process the material but the S4S is going to cost more than the S2S1E but will be less work. Figure out what you need and go prepared. Worst comes to worst your not obligated to buy anything and can always leave. Good Luck.

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16 minutes ago, Chestnut said:

That place should serve you well. I'm not sure what you have for tooling to process the material but the S4S is going to cost more than the S2S1E but will be less work. Figure out what you need and go prepared. Worst comes to worst your not obligated to buy anything and can always leave. Good Luck.

True.

As for tools, I just bought a new planer, (Wen 6550), last night and it should arrive on Friday. I have access to a table saw and a pretty hefty Dewalt Miter saw. I also have a few inexpensive chisels I picked up from Harbor Freight but I don't expect them to last. Just something to get me going in the right direction.

 

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The tools you have or have access to will work for your first cutting board. You will also want some clamps, 4 would be nice. Pipe clamps are cheap and strong. You will also want a random orbit sander as well.

My two cents regarding wood species is this, the go-to species are cherry, maple, and Walnut. Acceptable species also include purple heart and various mahogany. Though the latter two are not as good because they are harder on knives. Anything else you should double and triple check before using.

The next thing to consider is the purpose of this cutting board. If you actually plan to use it for cooking it needs to be big enough to be useful. Anything under 15" long is not a useful size. 18+ is really where you want to be at with at least 12+ inches of width. If you want it to be really nice for cooking you will want it to be end grain not edge grain. Then comes considerations for thickness. You will want it to be at least 1" thick for stability and 2" makes it look spiffy. But a 2" thick end grain cutting board 15x12 minimum size is heavy. So you will want to leave it in place which means you should consider putting feet on one side to keep it out of pooling water. Make sure you have a place to keep it in your kitchen before making it, or it won't get used much. 

My first project was a Walnut end grain cutting board. I made it years ago and I use it every day multiple times a day and love it. Great way to get into this hobby. 

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2 minutes ago, minorhero said:

The tools you have or have access to will work for your first cutting board. You will also want some clamps, 4 would be nice. Pipe clamps are cheap and strong. You will also want a random orbit sander as well.

My two cents regarding wood species is this, the go-to species are cherry, maple, and Walnut. Acceptable species also include purple heart and various mahogany. Though the latter two are not as good because they are harder on knives. Anything else you should double and triple check before using.

The next thing to consider is the purpose of this cutting board. If you actually plan to use it for cooking it needs to be big enough to be useful. Anything under 15" long is not a useful size. 18+ is really where you want to be at with at least 12+ inches of width. If you want it to be really nice for cooking you will want it to be end grain not edge grain. Then comes considerations for thickness. You will want it to be at least 1" thick for stability and 2" makes it look spiffy. But a 2" thick end grain cutting board 15x12 minimum size is heavy. So you will want to leave it in place which means you should consider putting feet on one side to keep it out of pooling water. Make sure you have a place to keep it in your kitchen before making it, or it won't get used much. 

My first project was a Walnut end grain cutting board. I made it years ago and I use it every day multiple times a day and love it. Great way to get into this hobby. 

Yep, the board I make for our house will definitely be used quite a bit. My wife is already giving  directions on what she wants it to have. Has to be large and she wants some "handles" routed into the ends. That works for me because then that means I also get to buy a router! :)

I forgot to mention that we do have a sander but it's a small B&D palm sander. My step dad also has a Skil belt sander but I don't like it because the front roller already has some of the rubber coming off.

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4 hours ago, s1rGr1nG0 said:

True.

As for tools, I just bought a new planer, (Wen 6550), last night and it should arrive on Friday. I have access to a table saw and a pretty hefty Dewalt Miter saw. I also have a few inexpensive chisels I picked up from Harbor Freight but I don't expect them to last. Just something to get me going in the right direction.

 

A coupe guys at work in the shop have the HF chisel sets, and they have performed remarkably well for such a cheap set.  Granted we have a Tormek sharpening station for our chisels, so a home sharpening setup might skew the results.  But I would expect them to last until you are ready to upgrade to a better set. 

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OP, welcome bud. You have several choices for hardwood here in Houston. HD and Lowe’s are best left for lawnmowers, rakes and nails. The Clarks you mentioned is one of my sources. They are a tad expensive but have a great selection of lumber, both milled and rough sawn. And since you have a planer, you save money with rs. Another source and a little closer to you is Hardwoods of Houston, on 34th, off of 290. Their prices are about 20% less than Clark’s and they have the basics ( walnut, cherry and maple) and others. Last resort due to pricing is Rockler and Woodcraft. I would imagine, due to not having a drum sander, that you will be making long grain as opposed to end grain cutting boards? If you get to the point of where you want to make an end grain board, let me know and we can smooth that sucker out on my drum sander. 

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The HD around me do sell S4S pre-milled walnut and I think maple. Obviously you pay a premium for it, but the wood is fine and if you don't have a planer, jointer, etc. I think you could likely pick some of the better boards, rip them on a table saw and be on your way to making a serviceable cutting board. 

Speaking of chisels, I noticed these on Amazon the other day. They are using Chrome Vanadium Steel and actually listing the hardness between 58 and 62 RC, and the price is right. Only a few reviews, but they seem positive. I'm not looking to buy chisels aright now, but might be a competitor for the Narex crowd. 

https://www.amazon.com/Honed-Products-Craftsman-Woodworking-Ergonomic/dp/B01MYFSKK8/ref=sr_1_77?ie=UTF8&qid=1510798677&sr=8-77&keywords=chisels

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1 hour ago, Marmotjr said:

A coupe guys at work in the shop have the HF chisel sets, and they have performed remarkably well for such a cheap set.  Granted we have a Tormek sharpening station for our chisels, so a home sharpening setup might skew the results.  But I would expect them to last until you are ready to upgrade to a better set. 

Are those the plastic-handled ones, or the wood handled 'Windsor Design' chisels? 

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20 hours ago, wtnhighlander said:

Are those the plastic-handled ones, or the wood handled 'Windsor Design' chisels? 

Wooden handle ones.  I wouldn't call them a quality set by any means, but its one of those "it'll work well enough until I need a primo set" tools, as opposed to a "well this is just crap" HF tool.  

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I just kind of started making my own cutting boards. To date I have made a few checkerboard yellow and purple heart end grain boards and some striped maple and walnut side grain boards. Both styles came out pretty awesome in my opinion. I was reading above about taking into account how much of the wood disappears as you start cutting it to size and I came across this http://lumberjocks.com/projects/136098 a while back. This is a cutting board designer which gives you board options and you can even add custom boards with custom shading, but you start adding layers and there are options to see every other board reversed which is the exact way you make a checkerboard pattern. There are tons of neat things you can create with that app and in the end, it gives you all the info you need; board feet, width per cut, length per cut and so on. Then, you can print it out and have a paper copy to reference.  Good luck 

new checkerboard with side cutouts.jpg

maple and walnut.jpg

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56 minutes ago, sapling111276 said:

I just kind of started making my own cutting boards. To date I have made a few checkerboard yellow and purple heart end grain boards and some striped maple and walnut side grain boards. Both styles came out pretty awesome in my opinion. I was reading above about taking into account how much of the wood disappears as you start cutting it to size and I came across this http://lumberjocks.com/projects/136098 a while back. This is a cutting board designer which gives you board options and you can even add custom boards with custom shading, but you start adding layers and there are options to see every other board reversed which is the exact way you make a checkerboard pattern. There are tons of neat things you can create with that app and in the end, it gives you all the info you need; board feet, width per cut, length per cut and so on. Then, you can print it out and have a paper copy to reference.  Good luck 

new checkerboard with side cutouts.jpg

maple and walnut.jpg

Those look fantastic! Thanks for sharing.

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2 hours ago, Just Bob said:

A word of caution....Many years ago I set out to make Christmas gift cutting boards for my wife and daughter, had them done by Dec 3rd, and I was so happy I was done with Christmas early.  I went to work on the 4th, came home and found out they had snuck into the shop and looked at the boards.  My wife informed me that  1. The boards were beautiful and 2. She had a list of a "few" more people that needed them.  After working everyday, and spending my off hours in the shop, I was done on Dec 24th, with 17 more boards.  I haven't made any since.  Be careful....there will always be "just one more".

LMAO! I can easily see my wife doing that as well.

 

WTS: All my woodworking stuff. Make offer. :lol:

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On 11/19/2017 at 12:03 PM, Just Bob said:

A word of caution....Many years ago I set out to make Christmas gift cutting boards for my wife and daughter, had them done by Dec 3rd, and I was so happy I was done with Christmas early.  I went to work on the 4th, came home and found out they had snuck into the shop and looked at the boards.  My wife informed me that  1. The boards were beautiful and 2. She had a list of a "few" more people that needed them.  After working everyday, and spending my off hours in the shop, I was done on Dec 24th, with 17 more boards.  I haven't made any since.  Be careful....there will always be "just one more".

Yeah, I gave my mother a pen that I turned for her a few months ago.  The first thing she said was, "It's beautiful!" The next words out of her mouth were, "I need you to make me 10 more to give out for Christmas gifts!"

I love my mother... :unsure:

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14 minutes ago, SirNot said:

Yeah, I gave my mother a pen that I turned for her a few months ago.  The first thing she said was, "It's beautiful!" The next words out of her mouth were, "I need you to make me 10 more to give out for Christmas gifts!"

I love my mother... :unsure:

LMAO! Thanks mom.... :)

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Last year I made a couple cutting boards out of scrap.   Nothing complex, just some scraps of walnut/maple/cherry that I edge glued together to make small boards.  I gave them to my wife and her mother and I don't know what happened to them.   I think they decided they looked too nice to use and put them in a box somewhere.

I'm going to make a couple more this year... just using hard maple.   No point in trying to be decorative. :-)

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