Yet Another Unoriginal Bandwagon Jumper

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Project by CyBorge posted 05-08-2010 02:39 AM 2649 views 1 time favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I made this Wood Whisperer inspired, end grain cutting board for my wife’s birthday. This marks my first indoor (non-shop) project, my first “real wood” project, and my first non-paint finish.

I chose maple, purpleheart, and walnut for the woods. I bought the wood pre-surfaced because I don’t have the “big boy toys” yet. That includes a table saw, so my size/layout options were a bit limited as well. I started by clamping the three boards together, and then cutting all three at once with a miter saw. In hindsight, gluing the boards together first would have saved me a lot of grief, because after twenty cuts I found myself with sixty little blocks of wood to glue together instead of twenty.

After way too many separate glue-ups, made only more complicated by an absence of long clamps, I finally had a nice, big slab. This board was originally going to be the tired-old rectangle shape that’s been done to death, but a gap between some of the pieces (not to mention the somewhat imposing weight) convinced me to cut the top corners out and make a handle instead. It worked out as well as can be expected, though I had some serious trouble making those curves. A rough cut with my jigsaw worked out well enough, and I decided to clean it up with my new router table.

This is when I discovered just how much softer walnut is than purpleheart and maple. Every time the router blade moved from one of the harder woods to the walnut, it wanted to yank the board in and eat it for breakfast. This made it difficult to make a nice, neat, consistent cut. That was very frustrating, and left the final shape a whole lot less smooth than originally intended. Plus it’s not very symmetrical. Still, as it turns out both my wife and I actually like the “chunky feel” better, so that turned out alright.

Then came the flattening process, which had me crying “uncle!” Between a poorly sharpened card scraper, a random orbital sander, a hand sanding block, and many hours of effort I managed to get it reasonably flat. Next time I will pay a whole lot more attention when gluing pieces together; end grain is a whole lot tougher to sand down than I expected, and this board could definitely use a little more work in that department.

For the finish I used Howard butcher block conditioner. It is basically mineral oil with beeswax and carnauba wax. After heating the bottle in a pot of water to melt/soften the wax, I applied as much as the board could absorb, wiped it off a few minutes later as directed, and then applied additional coats every day for the next few days. You can see in one of the pictures how much of the original 12 ounce bottle is left (a little over half).

This stuff sure changed the appearance of the wood! I included samples of the original woods in some of the pictures so you can see the before and after. The purpleheart looks great when the light shines on it just right, but the walnut darkened up too much for my taste. I’m not very happy with the weak contrast between these two woods. Next time I might try salad bowl finish, but more than likely I won’t use these two woods together again without something in place to better accentuate the differences.

Edit: One thing I neglected to mention is that during the glue-up process I found myself with three long rows of blocks, none of which had clean enough edges to glue together side-to-side. I remedied that situation by jointing them on my router table using a two-inch top and bottom pattern bit. The bearings weren’t used; it was just the only bit I had that was long enough to cut through the entire thing in one pass.

-- "How can I be lost if I've got nowhere to go?"

14 comments so far

View Joe Weaver's profile

Joe Weaver

518 posts in 3985 days

#1 posted 05-08-2010 02:56 AM

great looking job

-- Joe, Ga

View CreekWoodworker's profile


409 posts in 3597 days

#2 posted 05-08-2010 03:05 AM

Wow, the love that went into that piece really shows. I bet your wife really loves it.

-- Mike ...Success is often the result of taking a misstep in the right direction

View Chelios's profile


568 posts in 3365 days

#3 posted 05-08-2010 04:24 AM

Now this is my kind of board. Good job! I am going to be making me one soon.

View degoose's profile


7252 posts in 3653 days

#4 posted 05-08-2010 09:35 AM

FWIW.. just my opinion… but the pattern may have been improved with an up and down set up..the first and third block in line.. with the 2nd above…giving it a more symmetrical appearance.. that said.. what a great board with limited resources.. well done.. look forward to more original takes on what is an Iconic Design.

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View mahadevwood's profile


415 posts in 3318 days

#5 posted 05-08-2010 10:02 AM

superb, very very nice creation

View dustbunny's profile


1149 posts in 3594 days

#6 posted 05-08-2010 12:04 PM

Well done !!
I love the Howards Butcher Block Conditioner too.
I buy it direct from the company by the case.
Every cutting board I sell, I give the remaining conditioner
with the board, so the owner can keep up the care of the board.
This board sure is pretty : )


-- Imagination rules the world. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte ~

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

22134 posts in 3404 days

#7 posted 05-08-2010 03:28 PM

Nice looking cutting board. I think it came out rathere well considering what you had to work with. That finish really makes the colors more vivid. You almost hate to use it for cutting board!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 3349 days

#8 posted 05-08-2010 04:09 PM

If you don’t feel the contrast between the purpleheart and walnut is enough for you, maybe use more maple next time so that it goes: maple, purpleheart, maple, walnut, maple, purpleheart, maple, walnut, etc….

In my opinion this turned out nicely, and wow that’s a lot of work with the tools you have! Time for more and larger clamps, and maybe a tablesaw?

Bummer about having to glue up all those individual pieces. Next time will be easier.

What are the dimensions of the finished board?

Thanks for telling us about the trials and tribulations of your journey.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2543 posts in 4256 days

#9 posted 05-08-2010 04:13 PM

I like it! It’s nice…
If you want to save money, buy mineral oil at the grocery store, and a block of pure beeswax at Woodcraft, and make your own butcher block oil. I just put some mineral oil in a mason jar and shave a decent quantity of the beeswax into the oil then put the mason jar in a pot of warm water and heat on a very low heat slowly till the beeswax melts. The warm oil opens the pores of the wood and helps the absorption.


View mtkate's profile


2049 posts in 3624 days

#10 posted 05-08-2010 06:09 PM

Yup, these boards are real oil suckers…

View Dusty56's profile


11834 posts in 3987 days

#11 posted 05-08-2010 06:20 PM

Now this is an awesome pattern and board design : ) I may have to try to make a similar piece if you don’t mind . Putting it into my favorites : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View DragonLady's profile


298 posts in 3306 days

#12 posted 05-09-2010 04:02 AM

I see what you mean about the walnut darkening up so much. Still, it’s a nice board. I’d use it!

-- A woman's work is never done-but power tools help!

View Robsshop's profile


909 posts in 3274 days

#13 posted 05-10-2010 05:12 AM

Nice thing about these cutting boards is that they look great and they serve a much needed purpose. Yours has a great look to it and the color combination is very eye catching. For this being your first real project and mostly basic tools in which to work with it has turned out great and should offer many years of service. I am quite sure Your wife is very pleased with her gift and it should be something You are proud of! Hope to see more projects in the future and welcome to L J’s .

-- Rob,Gaithersburg,MD,One mans trash is another mans wood shop treasure ! ;-)

View CyBorge's profile


79 posts in 3474 days

#14 posted 05-11-2010 09:14 PM

Thanks for the kind words, everybody!

Jonathan, the cutting area is about 10” by 10”, with a total length just under 15”. The thickness is somewhere around 1.25”. I’d have to retrieve it from my wife (and risk losing a finger in the process) to take exact measurements.

Degoose, small modifications could have definitely helped mask the sub-standard symmetry. Heck, the whole thing could have probably been rotated so that none of the individual block edges were parallel with the board’s edges. I didn’t stray from the original rectangle standard (which is far easier to maintain symmetry on) until after the gluing was already done, though, so by the time the issue started showing up it was too late. Oh well, next time I will do better. If I can get a decent table put together for my drill press, I wonder if a sanding drum would be easier to deal with than the router.

-- "How can I be lost if I've got nowhere to go?"

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