Tumbling block cutting board with design modifications...DOH! I mean coaster set!!

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Project by jfk4032 posted 10-21-2013 11:58 PM 8217 views 19 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

After browsing beautiful examples of tumbling block cutting boards, I wanted to make some. I researched many Lumberjock posts and Youtube clips and I felt pretty comfortable venturing into these. I bought a Wixie digital angle gauge for very accurate cutting and slapped together a miter sled complete with (3) toggle hold down clamps. I tested a few boards, sanded them all down to the exact thickness and ripped them to the correct 30 degree angle. I had perfectly cut a diamond shape that 3 fit together to form a hexagon pattern when holding them together by hand. So, just to make sure I ramped up the learning curve I followed through further and glued the three different color diamond blanks (maple, black walnut and cherry) up using about a dozen thick rubber bands to serve as clamps every couple of inches. Everything went well and I had a single log about 2 feet long. I sliced it up into blocks and I was on my way to making my first tumbling block cutting board.

Now that I was confident in what I was doing, I went into production mode and ripped the rest of the wood, (12) 30” lengths, (4) of each wood type. After making all of the cuts, I noticed that they didn’t fit together that well. I followed the same steps and procedures I did on the test log but I wound up wasting a lot of wood and time as somehow the angles were off a degree or two. I used my drum sander to make sure all of the side miter widths were the same, but it was back to the angles being off. After racking my brain, trying to figure out what I did wrong, I think it came down to the position on the toggle clamps on the miter sled being too close to the sloped bank the wood rests against. By clamping down too close, I think it pinched the wood away from the sloped bank and caused the angle to be off. See photo with arrows. Afterwards, when I moved the clamps over left to the edge of the flat top of the blank so that the downward pressure is directly above the flat surface below, it didn’t seemed to pinch out the wood at the sloped bank. I also think I’ll work with shorter lengths of logs, back to 20” or so instead of 30”. Now, off to buy more wood and try this again. I was still left with that one perfect laminated log.

As most of us woodworkers do, we make design modifications to work with our mistakes and miscues, right Ron? With that one 20” length log I really couldn’t make a small cheese cutting board that I would be happy with. So I came up with the idea of making a set of coasters with a matching base/holder.

I glued up all of the coasters into the 7 piece pattern that is the same as the coaster base picture (2 on top of 3 on top of 2). I then sanded the (8) coasters to the same thickness with my drum sander. I made a circle shape template with my circle sanding jig on my 12” disc sander and then was able to lay that template over the 7 piece tumbling block shape and with a pattern cutting bit, cut them all precisely to circles on my router table. After doing that, they looked great, but they needed something else design-wise.

I decided to put a border around them made out of Paduak. This was to be long grain glued next to the end grain tumbling block pattern so I don’t know if I’m breaking any basic woodworking rules that I’ll later regret, but so be it. Since I had a perfect circle to work with I first tried to make a border template with a router circle cutting jig, but the size I needed was in the dead zone of that jig, so I couldn’t use it. I then turned to my lathe…no pun intended. I wound up taping a roughly round 4/4 blank to a waste block and turned the outside edge to a true circle and then carefully cut the inner circle to snugly fit the tumbling block circles. I then resawed the paduak border bands into 1/3’s and did that two more times to yield the (8) borders I needed. I then glued the borders to the tumbling block centers. For all of the gluing I used Titebond III as most of you LJ’ers endorsed that glue for cutting boards and pieces subject to water and cleaning up with water.

With the majority of surface area being end grain, it left some pesky tooling marks running through my drum sander to get the surfaces totally flat. That required much further sanding with a random orbital sander up through 220 to eliminate the scratches and get to a nice surface. I finished the sanding with a mop sander to sand/polish the coasters and to easily sand the endgrain edge of the paduak borders.

I had 4 tumbling block pieces leftover that I resawed in half to create the pieces for the base/holder. The same 2 on top of 3 on top of 2 pattern used on the coasters, but I left all of the corners intact leaving some real estate to attach the holders. I cut, sanded, rounded over the top and polished 5 pieces of brass bar to serve as holders for the coasters. I carefully drilled the holes to house those and used CA to affix them in place. I finished the coasters with a light coat of Tung oil and then sealed it in with several coats of Ren wax. I applied a felt bottom to the base/holder to prevent scratching my tables, and 4 rubber buttons on each coaster to prevent them from slipping when used.

I’m happy with how the coaster set came out, but now I need to make a matching cutting board which I originally intended to use with this wood. Hopefully this time Plan A will come through with no more design modifications!

-- ---Joel; Central MD...rookie empter nester and getting back into woodworking!

15 comments so far

View ksubenny's profile


74 posts in 3319 days

#1 posted 10-22-2013 12:20 AM

The coasters look great and excellent save on the one piece! I’ve been thinking about trying one of these cutting boards and this would be a good way to get my feet wet on them….might have to give these coasters a try

View cajunpen's profile


14577 posts in 5527 days

#2 posted 10-22-2013 01:30 AM

Joel those are awesome looking. Your really hit a home run on this one.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 3516 days

#3 posted 10-22-2013 01:35 AM

love it!

-- Joel

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30678 posts in 3800 days

#4 posted 10-22-2013 01:41 AM

Those are really cool!

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View luv2learn's profile


3158 posts in 3764 days

#5 posted 10-22-2013 01:53 AM

Joel, thinking on your feet is a definite sign of a seasoned woodworker. These a great looking coasters and you can say you planed it that way :).

-- Lee - Northern idaho~"If the women don't find you handsome, at least they ought to find you handy"~ Red Green

View deon's profile


2522 posts in 4487 days

#6 posted 10-22-2013 05:10 AM

Fine work, they look great

-- Dreaming patterns

View Ken90712's profile


18113 posts in 4650 days

#7 posted 10-22-2013 08:21 AM

Great job, Love the boarder on this really takes it to the bext level… I like leaving the base odd shaped as well…. Great work.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View zzzzdoc's profile


576 posts in 4465 days

#8 posted 10-22-2013 10:04 AM

Fantastic. Awesome looking coasters, and a nice save to boot.

-- Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

View Melman's profile


34 posts in 3272 days

#9 posted 10-22-2013 05:34 PM

Joel, thank you so much for sharing. You taught me a valuable lesson with respect to the board length and toggle clamps.

In my first cutting board project, I learned the lesson of having contrasting endgrain. My maple and cherry were too closely matched after I finished them with mineral oil. So, my cutting board was called “space invaders” because the alder stood out, while the maple and cherry washed each other out. If you want a good laugh, check mine out…but you have to read the comments, they’re priceless.

-- "All good stories cost you blood or money" - Pat Finney

View jfk4032's profile


384 posts in 3988 days

#10 posted 10-22-2013 05:45 PM


You really need a light shade of maple and a darker shade of cherry as both of those species can vary in their brightness. So wood selection is important. Black walnut (the heartwood of course) really sets off the shadow colors well. Nice to see I’m not the only one making “design modifications” on cutting boards, which one would seem should be pretty easy projects.

-- ---Joel; Central MD...rookie empter nester and getting back into woodworking!

View degoose's profile


7287 posts in 4816 days

#11 posted 10-22-2013 08:28 PM

I like the border… and as you know I love the Louis Cube aka tumbling blocks pattern…

-- Be safe.

View jfk4032's profile


384 posts in 3988 days

#12 posted 10-22-2013 08:39 PM

Thanks degoose…you were a source of inspiration and know how for me trying the cubes…buying the Wixie device was your idea for me as well.

-- ---Joel; Central MD...rookie empter nester and getting back into woodworking!

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 4384 days

#13 posted 10-22-2013 11:41 PM

Beautifully made! If you like some variations, I am happy to let you see some of them I’ve done. I like also to let you continue the addiction. Keep it up.

-- Bert

View Ron Ford's profile

Ron Ford

218 posts in 3194 days

#14 posted 10-23-2013 01:33 AM

“Design modifications” often produce excellent results – this is a classic example! Besides, if it isn’t a design modification, it could only be a mistake – and woodworkers NEVER make mistakes, right? ;-)

Beautiful work, pal. You always inspire me.


-- Once in awhile I make something really great. Most days I just make sawdust.

View Ivan's profile


17284 posts in 4329 days

#15 posted 10-23-2013 03:53 AM

Awsome project, perfect present for someone.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

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