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I know black walnut (Juglans nigra) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum) are old favorites, but I'm really looking for a few more colors to work with in end-grain cutting boards. There are plenty of beautiful exotic imports that really aren't very safe. Ideally, I'd like a handful of additional colors to choose from that have properties similar to maple and walnut. Species I'd be interested to find would be at least as non-toxic as walnut/maple, would have similar closed, or very finely open grain (like walnut), would be a solid hardwood (not soft, like poplar, or soft maple), and would have somewhat similar movement rates to walnut and maple so they don't cause the board to pop or pull apart.

Any hope for me? Thanks!

Edit: These project packs are a good list to sort through:
http://www.woodworkerssource.com/3_project_packs.html

It'll take ages to look up toxicity info for all of them, so I'm looking for some help determining what's already known to be food safe enough to use for a cutting board, or other food service item. Thanks again!
 

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In addition to walnut and maple that you mentioned, I love cherry. Its hardness is borderline, but its janka rating it in the ballpark of walnut. Generally I use maple, with alternating dark woods. That way the maple supports the blade and minimizes the penetration into the software walnut or cherry. That said, one of my favorite cutting boards uses alternating cherry and walnut with no maple. I have been abusing one of these for over a year now, and after periodic treatments with a mineral oil/wax blend, it looks like new.

One of my other favorites for cutting boards is red birch. I have a bunch of this that has roughly the color of cherry, and nearly the hardness of maple. If you can get your hands on some darker red birch, you will love it for cutting boards.

I love making these. I made one as a gift about 18 months ago, and since then have built about 50 of them. I even helped my dad start a company where he builds and sells cutting boards as his flagship product. www.vernswoodgoods.com.
 

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I recently did a breadboard (and bread knife) with walnut, maple and padauk. The padauk was only a narrow accent piece that separated the maple and walnut. So far, the recipients are still alive and doing well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for the help, folks!

Jef - I've wanted to use Purpleheart, but wasn't sure if it was toxic. I'll double-check, but it's probably okay. My one concern there is that it seems to turn brown in a few years. If I make imagery out of blocks with brown wood, as well as purpleheart, I'm a little concerned they'll eventually match, and the image will become mostly invisible :) Oak, as Dudley mentioned I'm going to leave out, as it's very open, and the grain can catch a lot of food particles. I suppose I could fill it, or bar-top it, but I'm looking to crank out things here, so the less work the better. I'll have a look into your other suggestions as well. Thanks!

Larry - Yeah, no spalting, pretty as it is :(

dylan - I'll give hickory a look-see. Hadn't occurred to me, as I thought it was pretty open, like oak. Thanks!

pmayer - I think I would like to give cherry a try. I've never used it, and really don't know much about it, besides that it's a great furniture wood, and that it changes color over time with exposure to UV. I don't know that I've seen red birch. I'll have to look around. Is it sort of like a lighter walnut? I've used birch from Home Depot, and they get a lot of heartwood running through it, and it can be quite brown. I quite like it, and if that's what you mean, I agree.

Rich - glad to hear everyone survived, haha. That is another wood I would love to use, especially as the background in many of my designs, but then it will be pretty predominant throughout the board, inside the frame, and around the center art. I'd better do my research and be sure it's not an allergen. I know walnut can actually cause problems for very allergic people, but then, walnut boards are so common, so it must not be too big a deal. I know someone online who made a friend ear plugs (those disc-like earings that go inside your earlobes) out of either bubinga or cocobolo (I think the latter), and he had a very bad reaction to them. Thanks for the suggestion!

Topamax - why are they out? Are they bad for you? I honestly don't know.
 

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There is a website that will give you safe woods for food. I don't have it on my work computer (yes, I have to work to afford my toys!)... but try googling wood safe for foods or something like that. As I recall, most everything is safe… at least everything that I've ever heard of or had access to. Cutting boards are also finished with mineral oil and that is about as safe as you can get!
 

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Ive used the afore mentioned Cherry/Walnut/Maple with much success. This year I added Purpleheart and Bloodwood to the mix. First time working with both. They are very pretty, but don't care to much for Purplehearts chippyness. The Bloodwood work allot like maple and according to a recent LJ survey the redness of the wood doesn't fade severely. Here is a trivet made for someone for Christmas. Its not a cutting board but I am planning on using the rest of the board for one.
 

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Oak, does have open pores, however much like walnut the wood contains tannins, which are natural antibiotics. In otherwords they are your safest as far as bacteria goes. All cutting boards get cuts in them, all cuts allow moisture and food to get in them, plastic cutting boards slightly "heal" the cut trapping said moisture and food, createing a perfect place for bacteria to live and breed. Wood at least dries out, this is good cause bacteria needs moisture and protien to live. Walnut and oaks will actually kill the bacteria as well.
Thought you would like to know.
 

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i use hickory in almost every board. i also finish them like the woodwisper with the general finishes deluted to 50%. the finish soaks in pretty deep and some times wicks out thru the bottom i think this seals the wood
very well on issues as of yet
 
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