Problems with Large Cutting Board

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Forum topic by jasoncarpentry posted 10-21-2011 03:10 AM 7082 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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149 posts in 3567 days

10-21-2011 03:10 AM

A few months ago, I asked for input on a 22” x 18” cutting board that was warping. After a few attempts, I’ve sorta fixed this one, but now I have a request for another, and I want to get it right from the begining. I’m using 3/4” thick x 1 1/4” wide pieces, alternating maple and cherry. For the first one, I used no internal stiffeners (I’ll explain below) and Titebond II glue.

I’ve seen plans where the pieces were “threaded” onto two pieces of 1/2” or 3/4” dowels. This helps w/ alignment during glue-up, and supposedly helps prevent the board from warping. For my new board, I plan to use polyurethane (Gorilla) glue and, instead of wooden dowels, I’m considering steel rods or steel all-thread. These would be either 1/2” or 3/8”, and the end slats would have blind holes to cover the ends of the steel rods.

What do you think? Is there a possibility of rust, even though the rods will be encased within the board? If that’s a possibility, I can epoxy-paint the rods before assembly. This is sometimes done w/ rebar in certain concrete pads.

-- Jim in Tennessee

11 replies so far

View jasoncarpentry's profile


149 posts in 3567 days

#1 posted 10-21-2011 10:38 PM

Thanks for your response. I went to the link you posted, but I can’t find any construction details. But I hear you; I need to check the wood with a moisture meter, then use Gorilla Glue.

-- Jim in Tennessee

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149 posts in 3567 days

#2 posted 10-22-2011 02:57 AM

One other thing: You said that my ”...original problem is from the wood wasn’t all dried the same.” I don’t think this was the case. All of this wood had been stickered and stored in my humidity-controlled shop (i.e., 60% RH) for several months. Based on my experience and your input, I’m beginning to think that the problem on this particular board was not using Gorilla glue in the first place, especially since the top of the board stays wet much of the time. And since it’s got “feet,” turning it over and using the other side isn’t an option.

-- Jim in Tennessee

View MoshupTrail's profile


304 posts in 3394 days

#3 posted 10-22-2011 11:34 AM

Which way is it warping? up/down or side-to-side?

I’m also wondering about the wood choice: Maple is very tight grained and does not absorb moisture quickly. I think cherry is much more absorbent. (I’ve never made a cutting board – so maybe that’s a common combination and works for others?) So how are you sealing this – to prevent moisture absorbtion which would cause uneven swelling? What about grain orientation? All grain vertical?

A look at Rick’s link – they use 100% maple and I saw a comment that they always use vertical grain. (what they call “chopping blocks” are end grain)

1. a urethane glue will not weaken when wet
2. use stainless rods and nuts if you go that route – overkill perhaps, but rock solid

-- Some problems are best solved with an optimistic approach. Optimism shines a light on alternatives that are otherwise not visible.

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5954 posts in 4156 days

#4 posted 10-26-2011 06:22 PM

A cutting board needs to stand up to how it will be used. Cutting boards are subjected to moisture, heat and sometimes in ways they were not intended. I think 3/4” is pretty thin for a sturdy board. Rick I has it right. Butcher block construction uses end grain as the working surface. If you use it for chopping, end grain is the only way to go. For cutting and slicing, I would still go with the end grain block or plastic. Those alternating wood boards may look nice, but they weren’t designed to stand up to heavy duty use. I would treat them as decorative and maybe use them for slicing and serving cheese. To keep one of those boards from warping, never wash it, but only wipe it down with a damp cloth and dry it. This precludes you from using it for cutting, slicing or chopping meats, poultry, fish or vegetables. Once the surface is breached through knife cuts, the woods will be subject to warping.

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149 posts in 3567 days

#5 posted 10-28-2011 01:31 AM

I realize that posts come and go so fast here that the responders may never see this, but …

As always, thanks for your comments & questions. I’ll attempt to answer them here:

1. MrRon: I misled you on the board’s thickness. It’s not 3/4”; it’s more like 1-1/4”. 3/4” was the thickness of the individual pieces before I turned them on edge and did the glue-up. But the site that RickL linked to sells boards w/ minimum thicknesses of 1-3/4”, and some are as thick as 3”. IMHO, the thicker the board, the less likely it is to warp.
2. Everybody: Yes, I’m also convinced that end-grain boards are the best, but I’d like to think that edge-grain boards still have a place.
3. RickL: I Googled Jowat glue, and I agree that it looks like a superior product compared w/ Gorilla glue (GG). But it’s kinda discouraging to learn that GG is already somewhat obsolete! But how come Marc (who has a good cutting-board video on Lumberjocks) is still using Titebond II?
4. Everybody: Before the board was ever used, I finished it in the standard way: I flooded it w/ mineral oil, wiped it in, and then followed up w/ a mixture of mineral oil & paraffin. Did this on both sides. So I’m convinced that the finish was thorough, and wasn’t the cause of the warping.
5. Everybody: It looks like you all agree that a board this size needs to be used (i.e., wetted) equally on both sides or it’ll warp.
6. Everybody: I still haven’t given up on the idea of reinforcing a board w/ steel rods. As an engineer, I understand the risks w/ different degrees of expansions due to heat, moisture, etc. But hey, it’s a challenge, and you’ve gotta admit that the idea is kinda unique (stupid?)

-- Jim in Tennessee

View TelescopeMaker's profile


98 posts in 3933 days

#6 posted 03-29-2017 01:24 PM

Hey Jason. Did you ever try the idea with the steel rods?

-- Telescope Maker, Woodworker, Brewer, Gizmologist, Gardner, Lawn Mower

View Bill_Steele's profile


733 posts in 2644 days

#7 posted 03-29-2017 03:54 PM

I think polyurethane glue is waterproof. I think it’s wise to use this type of glue since the board will get wet when you wash it (hand wash). I wonder if Titebond III provides the same level of protection from water. I think Poly glue also has a longer working time—which is a plus when you have so many parts to glue together.

I’m not so sure about the metal rods. It would be bad news if you forgot and decided to plane or cut the board and hit one of those rods. From time to time I will “clean-up” my cutting boards (e.g. plane or drum sander on the surface). If they split at a glue line—I rip them at the split and re-glue.

Off topic note: I remember reading somewhere that in ancient Egypt and Rome people used wood wedges to split stone blocks. They would insert the dry wedge and then soak it. This cutting board warping dilemma reminded me that wood can exert a tremendous force when it contracts or expands.

I’ve made a few cutting boards and still use them, but I’m starting to feel that synthetic or HPDE plastic boards might be better than wood for use in the kitchen. I think that wood will hold bacteria and germs more than some other materials. Wood boards look very nice. Perhaps a wood base that will hold a plastic board which can be removed and put in the dishwasher? Just a thought.

View ArtMann's profile


1483 posts in 1729 days

#8 posted 03-29-2017 06:47 PM

As to the comparison of the water resistant properties of an adhesive, the Government maintains rather rigorous standards of performance. Titebond III is certified waterproof just like Gorilla glue. For the joining of wood to wood, my opinion is that GG has no advantages other than extra open time but it has a lot of disadvantages.

As for metal rods, or dowels for that matter, I have never heard of anyone using either one to register or hold cutting boards together. I have built a bunch of smaller boards and done text and graphic inlays on them. They were all 1.5 inches thick. No customer has ever came back to me with a complaint of warpage. Maybe the wood needs to be thicker in your case.

View dbray45's profile


3391 posts in 3689 days

#9 posted 07-20-2017 10:32 PM

Don’t use polyurethane glues – not sure if they are food safe.

Titebond III is waterproof

-- David in Palm Bay, FL

View knotheadswoodshed's profile


225 posts in 3085 days

#10 posted 07-21-2017 01:09 PM

Titebond 2 or 3 is fine, a cutting board should never be soaked anyway and properly finished with mineral oil and beeswax will prevent moisture intake and also prevent bacteria growth.
End grain is best for chopping but edge grain will also give a good service life.
Rip your pieces to the thickness you want the board and length, then face glue for width of board. Mix and match species is fine as long as you are using tightgrained woods.
For end grain just repeat the process with the first board.

-- Randy - "I dont make mistakes, I make design change opportunities"

View Kirk650's profile


680 posts in 1661 days

#11 posted 07-21-2017 08:12 PM

I’ve made cutting boards for many years. I used TB II for a long time, and only had one board come apart. I had made one for my daughter out of Bloodwood/Satine and after a few years she said that some of it fell apart. That came as a shock, till I found out she was washing it in the dishwasher. So I collected the pieces and put it back together with TB III and suggested that she not put it in the dishwasher. All is good so far.

I have a cutting board on my job list. I’ll use White Oak milled from a big tree on our place in Texas. I’ll use TB III. I’m not fond of gorilla glue.

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