Cutting Board: How To's #1: Zig Zag Cutting Board - How To:

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Blog entry by McLeanVA posted 10-04-2010 11:38 PM 101539 reads 398 times favorited 68 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Cutting Board: How To's series Part 2: Zig Zag Cutting Board Patterns - Inspirational »

For those of you who asked me for a tutorial on how to make the zig zag legless vegetable death table (cutting board), here is my best shot. I am far too impatient to take photos when I work, so I decided to illustrate the process using some good old Adobe PhotoShop. I hope you find this useful and informative.

I will outline the process in 10 steps below. I have assumed that when viewing these steps that basic woodworking skills are familiar to you. If you have questions, or run into snags, PM me and I’ll do my best to help out.

If you want to see what these boards look like, take a look at my projects. There are a few in there.

Keep in mind that because these are endgrain boards, you should ideally chose the original boards with interesting endgrain. Makes sense right?

I typically measure all of my initial boards and add a few inches. I’d rather end up with scrap pieces, then a scrapped piece. I went big on the 26” length, but after you do a few of these you can create your own ideal measurements. I also try to start out with boards of thicknesses larger than 3/4”, but it was easier math for the illustration to use 3/4” thickness.

You can make boards of all sizes. I’m limited to a 12” thickness planer, so that’s why I am illustrating 7 sticks of each species. Again, experiment with different sizes, so long as the individual sticks are twice as wide as they are thick.

I can’t stress enough the importance of only mating two sticks at a time. No three sticks should be mated with glue. Use your preferred clamping methods, but make sure these are nice and tight. You don’t want any gaps for bacteria to hide in.

After these sticks dry, pull them out of the clamps. They are ready to be planed down a bit to make sure they are all even and dimensional. I tape them all (squeeze-out side up) together and run them through the planer.

After these are planed, it’s important to pull them apart and make sure they are dimensional (as wide as they are tall). If they differ, run them through the planer individually until they are square.

In order to get the zig zag pattern, you have to cut the original sticks in half so that you can make two sets of patterns. This is the tricky part that I was never able to show folks without illustrations. We’ll call them Set A and Set B for this demo.

Now, the reason I went with 26” as the original length is so that this next step allows you to be creative. You can make a very long (two maybe) board that is thin, or make a very heavy-duty board. Thickness is up to you.

Now you are ready for your final glue-up. Take your time and really see this board for what it will become. Look at the end grains and make sure they are uniform. I have flipped boards upside down and noticed this too late. And remember “ENDGRAINS UP!” Maybe I’ll make a TShirt with that phrase on it one day.

After the glue dries, you should be left with a not-square-yet board.

Trim edges using any method you prefer. I run mine across my crosscut sled to make sure they are as true as possible.

I hope this tutorial was helpful and that you are inspired to try one of these boards out.

UPDATE: I have created an additional blog entry with some patterns to try out using the techniques listed above. Check out Zig Zag Cutting Board Patterns - Inspirational

-- Measure, cut, curse, repeat.

68 comments so far

View degoose's profile


7281 posts in 4469 days

#1 posted 10-04-2010 11:44 PM

Very well detailed and explained… even I can follow this…

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View McLeanVA's profile


493 posts in 4549 days

#2 posted 10-04-2010 11:50 PM

Thanks Larry.

-- Measure, cut, curse, repeat.

View SASmith               's profile


1850 posts in 4102 days

#3 posted 10-05-2010 12:32 AM

This looks to be one of the easiest to follow how to blogs I have seen. I will have to try this again. My first attempt at this pattern, (third pic) , did not turn out like this. I realised I had a problem after the 1st glue up and went another direction. I will have to give this another shot. Thanks.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View Woodwrecker's profile


4240 posts in 4690 days

#4 posted 10-05-2010 12:36 AM

Your Zig-Zag board is awesome, and if “Board Master Larry” thinks the blog is good, that is like having Sam Maloof like your rocker!
I’m putting this in my favorites for future use.

View mike5753's profile


23 posts in 3996 days

#5 posted 10-05-2010 12:40 AM

Thank you great detail

-- Mike, Illinois,

View Porosky's profile


619 posts in 4479 days

#6 posted 10-05-2010 01:50 AM

A very clear how to and much needed. Here is how I messed up my attempt pic #5 still not sure where I went wrong…. I’ll get it right next time… Thanks

-- There's many a slip betwixt a cup and a lip.--Scott

View robert triplett's profile

robert triplett

1566 posts in 4220 days

#7 posted 10-05-2010 01:56 AM

Thanks. I printed this and will keep in handy in the shop. I have 9 different boards ready to cut for some cutting boards. This will be a design to try.

-- Robert, so much inspiration here, and now time to work!!!

View blackcherry's profile


3346 posts in 4938 days

#8 posted 10-05-2010 02:43 AM

Thanks for being a sharing LJ, bet we see some beauty soon. Nice blog well explained…BC

View FirehouseWoodworking's profile


787 posts in 4388 days

#9 posted 10-05-2010 02:47 AM

That was VERY WELL done! Thanks for taking the time and effort to lay that out for us. I know I’m keeping a copy in my file!

-- Dave; Lansing, Kansas

View GaryD's profile


623 posts in 4484 days

#10 posted 10-05-2010 03:02 AM

Pictures…..who needs stinkin pictures. Okay this is my shot at humor. This is very well done. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I like others will be keeping it for the future. Thanks again.

-- Gary, Little River,SC I've Learned that the Lord didn't do it all in one day and neither can I

View CaptainSkully's profile


1615 posts in 4673 days

#11 posted 10-05-2010 03:51 AM

Excellent! Can you glue the whole boards together first before cutting them into 7 sticks? That way you only have to align two boards during the glue-up instead of 14. Once they’re glued, can’t you just cut the lamination into 7 strips? I’m under the gun to make a cutting board for the monster-in-law, so your info is greatly appreciated.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 4937 days

#12 posted 10-05-2010 03:51 AM

This is a nice tutorial that even I can follow. I definately will have to favorite this blog as this looks like something I would like to try.

The only comment that I would have on this is that I, personally, would be hesitant to remove dried glue beads with my planer. I have tried that once with my jointer many years ago and succeeded in nicking all three knives. I would opt to remove the dried glue with scraping and sanding before using the planer to thickness the board.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View McLeanVA's profile


493 posts in 4549 days

#13 posted 10-05-2010 04:28 AM

Wow. I’m glad I put this together then. Thank you all for the comments. Replies to a few below.

CaptainSkully – yes you can, great point. You can totally glue the two original boards together. I haven’t tried that but it sure makes a lot of sense. I tend to do something one way and never waiver. My only comment on that is that i haven’t been able to get my hands on extra wide boards, so typically I’m not starting with two boards.usually a few cuts of the same board. Good luck on your board. Make sure to post it.

Scott Bryan – any method you prefer to use on glue. I don’t claim to know a whole lot about planer blades, and that’s probably the reason my blades are looking rough these days. I put all my tools through the ringer. Again, I am a very impatient woodworker. I have precious few hours in my shop between my crazy day job and little kids. You have an excellent point that should be noted. Thanks for the tip. I need to invest in a scraper.

As you can see from the comments above, there are most likely ways to improve the methods. Please keep the comments coming. Were paving a great path together for all LJs who stumble across this blog and are inspired to give this board a shot.

Thanks guys.

-- Measure, cut, curse, repeat.

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 4133 days

#14 posted 10-05-2010 05:13 AM

This is a very good tutorial! Concise and clearly explained. Thanks for posting. I favorited this post.

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View fernandoindia's profile


1081 posts in 4058 days

#15 posted 10-05-2010 05:16 AM

Thanks for taking the time to put this together. Great job on both the board and the tutorial.

For me is easier taking photos than editing this kind of stuff. I will need 100 tutorials on Photoshop to get something of this sort out !! LOL

-- Back home. Fernando

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