Projects #1: First Cutting Board Project

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Blog entry by smitty22 posted 04-01-2011 10:31 PM 2839 reads 2 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Projects series Part 2: Practical Project »

Well, like most of my projects, there’s a bit of a twisted tale behind this one, so follow along and I’ll spin it for you:
A friend (I think) for whom I repaired a broken cutting board a while back donated a salvaged commercial board of solid edge-grain hard maple. Asked him if he wanted it repaired and I was grateful when he said, “No, just use the wood for something interesting.” My first thought was that the maple would make very nice glue-up for vise jaws for my new woodworking bench. (Which coincidentally got set back about 3 weeks by this CB project.)

1 1/2” + thick hard maple

So, I started breaking the old board into sections (wasn’t hard, the original glue was almost non-existant) producing wonderful 24” clear hard maple strips about 1 ¾” square. The downside was that the poor old thing was very oil soaked and took a lot of ripping to get to clean wood. Most layers slimmed down quite a bit in this process , had to rip thin sections to produce a clean face on the strips. Unfortunately, I learned that my monster HF dust collector hooked up to the rear TS port wasn’t worth a poop with the table saw being used in this fashion, sort of as a joiner. The rip blade just spewed the oily maple dust right back in my face. Tried it with the blade guard in place, but the dust storm just went under the guard and I ended up with a gummy dusty tummy. BTW, enough of the gummy dust went up into the Wynn 35A DC filter and clogged it so badly that I had to quit, remove the filter, and give it a bath.

This little DC problem produced a detour from the CB project and a trip to Rocklers for some ideas. Of course the friendly Rocker guys were helpful with lots of suggestions, but the winner was a 12×10 dust hood (on sale ½ price… Don’t ya just love it when that happens!). Back to the shop, hood positioned on the TS surface and on the end of a shop vac hose, and wonder of wonders, most of the dust was sucked up, and one section of beautiful maple was produced.

At this point, I had no idea that the maple would end up in another cutting board, but ready now to finish cleaning up the maple, I sliced one strip into a couple of ¾ x 3/8” miter slot runners that I had been needing for a thin-strip ripping jig. Well, that jig is another story, but it took several days to complete, and benefitted greatly from the old maple. Might even add it to the blog later.

It was about then that good ol’ Lumberjocks rose up to bite me again, and one of the beautiful cutting board projects on LJ caught my eye (kind of hard to avoid them, I think). The project author mentioned a feller named Marc out in Phoenix and included a link to an old cutting board project. To make a long story longer, with the Woodwhisperer CB video as my tutor, off I went. (And I’m here to testify, as good as Marc’s video is, it’s not as easy as it looks, and he has Powermatic in his corner!)

Obviously, to produce anything resembling the fancy CB’s that I was now admiring, I needed more than just maple, so off to Rockler’s again. Now armed with a bit of purpleheart (Wow, $8 for 3/4×3x24!), several 2”x2”x4’ sticks of devil wood from the $2.00/lb pile, (later found that this was lignum vitae – heavy stuff, the 3 sticks weighed in at over 10lbs), and my new-from-Christmas Freud glueline rip blade on the TS, proceeded to make the biggest sawdust mess in my woodworking career. The first glue-up pics show the result.

After forgetting to cleanup squeezeout early as instructed (another lesson, pay attention to Marc), I was faced with a sort of rough surface, so hand planed the big board (almost 14×18 x 1½, and very heavy) to get back to a smooth surface. Worked well except where the grain of adjacent pieces layed on opposite directions. Some tearout resulted, so another lesson learned: pay attention to grain direction next time. Next step was to rip the board into the strips for the 2nd glue-up. Following much headscratching about what arrangement to use, I just went with a simple checkerboard for the second glue-up with the purpleheart lined up at the ends. (And I bet you noticed that there are some rows where the corners don’t quite meet, a rookie mistake for sure.)

After the second glue-up, another revelation, don’t try to use a block plane on exposed end grain especially with that rock-hard lignum vitae stuff. Since I didn’t have a planer or drum sander, resorted to several hours of exciting ROS time, 60-220grit. Somewhere during all of this, the board seemed too big (and did I mention heavy?), so just crosscut it into two more manageable albeit junior-size boards. Should be good for smaller food prep, but ndg for turkeys. Each turned out to be about 9” x 14” x 1 ½”, then finished with thinned General Finishes Salad Bowl Finish. (Do they make foodsafe mineral spirits?) May be of interest, but if you can detect that one board has distinctly lighter maple endgrain than the other, it used straight-from-the-can unthinned SBF while the darker one was finished with 50% thinned. Doesn’t make sense to me either.

During all this, I learned much about my table saw, mostly about the intricacies of blade tilt/fence/insert alignment, and the need for a real joiner and planer. (I know, I know, don’t run end grain through the planer.) Anyway, hope I didn’t bore you too much with all this, but I have meandered to the end of another project, mostly without incident, and learned to more fully appreciate the wonderful craftsmanship displayed by the cutting board artists of LJ. Thanks to all, you know who you are!

My friend and his wife liked the CB, and I’m gonna make another or two!

-- Smitty

5 comments so far

View cwdance1's profile


1164 posts in 4424 days

#1 posted 04-01-2011 10:41 PM

You did a fine job on the cutting boards.

One word of caution, the more tools you have the bigger mess you will make.

View Dave's profile


11435 posts in 4005 days

#2 posted 04-03-2011 06:42 AM

Great job. Now you got to scratch it with a knife.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View smitty22's profile


714 posts in 4112 days

#3 posted 04-06-2011 04:39 AM

Thanks CW and Dave, I’ll let my buddy and his wife do the initial cutting!

-- Smitty

View Dave's profile


11435 posts in 4005 days

#4 posted 04-06-2011 04:59 AM

Another couple more squares and I would have got the chess pieces out ;)

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 5089 days

#5 posted 04-28-2011 04:19 AM

Nice job on the cutting boards Smitty, be proud. I know the feeling when you finish your first few projects, very rewarding.

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