Cutting board construction

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Forum topic by Jeremymcon posted 07-02-2017 01:58 PM 1308 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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414 posts in 1451 days

07-02-2017 01:58 PM

I have been thinking about picking up some hard maple to make some cutting boards from. All of the cutting boards I have ever used have been glued up from thin pieces, but I wonder why that is the case? Most older wooden cutting boards I’ve seen that were made this way also have a glue joint or two that are failing. If I have wide, clear stock, is there any good reason to rip it down only to glue it back together?

Another thing I’ve been thinking about is attaching battens underneath the board to help to keep it flat. This is another thing that I don’t see done much, and I wonder why? I’m thinking either sliding dovetail battens (only glued on one end to allow for movement), or maybe simply screwed to the bottom of the board (stainless screws, slotted screw holes to allow for movement). My grandfather has a maple cutting board made with screwed on battens, but his weren’t attached with slotted holes, plus it is glued up from lots of thin strips, so naturally some of the glue lines are failing. However, it is still nice and flat even though it is only 3/4” thick.

13 replies so far

View jonah's profile


2119 posts in 4070 days

#1 posted 07-02-2017 02:28 PM

If I’m going through the effort to make a cutting board, it’s going to be an end grain board. So yes, it’s worth it for me to cut it apart and glue it back together, but I’m not gluing it in the same orientation.

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1644 posts in 3621 days

#2 posted 07-02-2017 02:29 PM

If I m going through the effort to make a cutting board, it s going to be an end grain board.
- jonah

Yep, end grain is the best cutting board out there

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

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245 posts in 1790 days

#3 posted 07-02-2017 02:31 PM

end grains is a big reason to rip down. End grains can make a cutting board an heirloom instead of a 4-5 year item.

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414 posts in 1451 days

#4 posted 07-02-2017 02:52 PM

I was planning to make these edge-grain rather than end-grain, mostly because I have heard that an improperly-cared-for end grain board can self-destruct pretty easily. Especially if, say, it is left wet or with a pool of water on it for a few hours. Also, one of these boards needs to be exceptionally large -30”x36”.

But even for the end grain boards – why do we rip everything down into blocks rather than just gluing together wide slices from a single clear board? Why don’t you see end grain boards made from wide pieces? If they are all cut from the same board, they should all move similarly with exposure to water, right? Then there are also fewer glue joints to potentially fail.

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2119 posts in 4070 days

#5 posted 07-02-2017 02:59 PM

Most people don’t rip into blocks for end grain boards. They do something similar to Marc Spagnuolo's video where they glue up an edge grain setup, cut it into strips, and glue those together facing up to get end grain.

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414 posts in 1451 days

#6 posted 07-02-2017 03:07 PM

Ok. Right. But that’s my question. That edge grain setup that they then slice pieces off of and flip – why can’t that just be a single flat, clear board that is sliced and flipped, rather than a panel glued up from thinner strips and then sliced again? Is it just for that checkerboard look? Or is it for structural reasons also? I want to do a simple hard maple board, not a fancy walnut-purpleheart-cherry-padauk thing, so the checkerboard doesn’t matter to me. I just want a solid cutting board that won’t warp or split.

View lew's profile


13114 posts in 4527 days

#7 posted 07-02-2017 05:51 PM

If you want it to stay together forever-

There is an original butcher block island on the USS Yorktown just like this

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

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13384 posts in 3152 days

#8 posted 07-02-2017 06:39 PM

This is about long grain cutting boards, not end grain cutting boards.
The reason they are ripped into strips (instead of using wide boards) is to minimize aberrant movement. It’s a similar concept to plywood where thinner wood and changes in grain direction minimize the amount of movement. It also allows you to turn wood and glue it so the edges are quartersawn. It also can look better.

-- Rick M,

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3078 posts in 2570 days

#9 posted 07-02-2017 06:54 PM

To make as you would make, usually using old wood is better to last much longer. The problem is already getting fragile but using old wood is better because there is rarely old wood.

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A simple Hardmaple end grain cutting board is very use of your time.Ive made many don’t be afraid to thinn down your tite bond 3.Youll get smaller glue lines.
Get fresh glue and a scrap of wood with notches to spread glue on both surfaces evenly.
Good luck.

-- Aj

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1368 posts in 1692 days

#10 posted 07-02-2017 08:38 PM


My guess is that ripping a wider board to a narrower board results in narrower boards that more closely approximate quarter sawn lumber. Quarter sawn lumber tends to be a bit more predictable and uniform in its movement. I would expect that orienting the narrower boards for a face to face glue-up so that the annular growth rings are perpendicular to the cutting board’s faces would somewhat uniformly direct most expansion and contraction of the board toward its edges and even-out individual boards’ face to face (up and downward) movement. The end result could be to reduce the tendency to of the cutting board to warp or cup.

I am not sure how well edge gluing wide boards that were milled and purchased as quarter sawn lumber would hold up. That answer could depend on the radius of the annular growth rings, that is, the diameter of the log from which the lumber was cut and the thickness of the individual boards.

There could be several explanations for the occasional glue-line failures you have observed. Waterproof or water resistant glue may not have been used. The individuals boards may not have been milled properly and the joints did not close up well when the clamps went on. If too many individual boards were glued-up at one time, the open time of the glue could have been exceeded and thus weakened the joint. While I am not sure, it could be that a well-made cutting board subjected to the harsh environment of a dishwasher could promote glue-line failure. Poor maintenance of the cutting boards could also be a contributing factor, especially when combined with any of these other factors.

For what it is worth, my thoughts about battens is that they are unnecessary, and even if useful, adversely affect the function and cleaning of the cutting board. I personally doubt that battens thinner than the cutting board would be a match for the cupping or warping forces of the wood. Water could find its way under the battens and be slow to dry. The prolonged moist environment could promote growth of microorganisms, contribute to cupping, and reduce the life of the cutting board. Keeping crud build-up out of the corners where the battens meet the face of the cutting board would be difficult to avoid.

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2119 posts in 4070 days

#11 posted 07-02-2017 09:11 PM

I made my in-laws an end grain cutting board about nine years ago, and they use it literally every day. It was made with Titebond III and aside from needing more finish, it looks great. No failure of the glue joints whatever.

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5787 posts in 3123 days

#12 posted 07-02-2017 09:35 PM

Why don’t you see end grain boards made from wide pieces?

Sometimes you do but generally most of us make cutting boards from our scraps. Once you do a lot of wood working you will acquire a lot of pieces of wood that are too small to use for much else. Speaking for myself, once my scrap pile gets too large I start making cutting boards.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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3778 posts in 1994 days

#13 posted 07-03-2017 02:20 PM

I went through an exercise in building a CB with all the features to make it last.
Basically you want all the wood to expand/contract in unison. That means (in the extreme), using the same species and wood all from the same tree. Mechanical joinery is a big plus as well as using the proper adhesives.

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