A handmade edge grain or end grain cutting board is a fun DIY project that makes a great gift for just about anyone. Making a cutting board is fairly easy, as long as you have the right tools and supplies. You may be wondering to yourself, ‘what tools do I need to make a cutting board?’
What tools do you need to make a cutting board? The necessary tools you need to make a cutting board include a jointer or hand plane, table or hand saw, thickness planer, fixed or plunge router, orbit or belt sander. Other miscellaneous supplies including clamps, router or chamfer bits, earplugs, safety goggles, dust or face mask, sandpaper, and wood conditioner.
Like with any DIY project a person doesn’t always have all the necessary tools on hand. So aside from buying new, you can always buy used, rent or borrow to save money. If we were to pick the five essential tools we would like in the shop when making wooden cutting boards these would be it.
- a jointer or hand plane
- a table (or hand) saw
- a thickness planer
- a fixed (or plunge) router
- an orbit (or a belt) sander
Now lets explore each tool individually as well as some of the other supplies needed. We will also briefly touch on the best types of wood to use as well as the best wood finishes available online.
Tools Needed To Build Cutting Boards (Explained)
Let’s begin by listing the necessary tools and other miscellaneous supplies needed for making a wooden cutting board. These include the following:
Jointer or Hand Plane
A good cutting board is one without gaps between the wood. Therefore, you will need to mill or plane the squares on all sides. To do this, you need either a jointer or a hand plane.
A jointer works great and saves time. Its smooth plane will mill a board perfectly flat while the perpendicular fence nicely squares up the adjacent face. If the blade is fairly new and sharp, it will provide a ‘smooth as glass’ surface that is ready to glue.
Table Saw or Hand Saw
Making a cutting board requires several strips of wood. The best (and easiest) way to do this is to use a table saw. A hand saw will work too but it will take more time with less precision. Hand sawing hardwoods (such as maple or walnut) can be quite tiring, therefore, consider investing in a table saw, if you don’t have one already.
A thickness planer not only reduces the diameter of a board but also parallels the two opposite faces of it. After gluing the wood strips, you may find that the pieces are not even. A run through the thickness planer will make irregular boards flat, smooth and even.
Fixed Router or Plunge Router
A router is only necessary if you want to round or shape the edges to make it fancier. A plunge router can be used to create detail or design within or around the board. Using the router with the chamfering bit will smooth out the edges so they aren’t rough to the touch.
Belt or Orbit Sander
It is necessary to sand the entire board (top and bottom) with either a belt or orbit sander using 100-grit first followed by 220-grit sand paper. The board must be smooth, not ragged, in order to provide a more water resistant surface. Sand paper alone is not enough.
Additional Cutting Board Equipment and Supplies
Other supplies are needed (in addition to the main power tools) for making a cutting board. These include the following:
Clamps are needed to put all the strips of wood together and hold them in place in order to glue them together.
Router or Chamfer Bits
Router (and chamfer) bits are required to cut the wood into stripes and decorate the edges of the surface.
Anytime you are working with power tools such as a table saw or orbit sander, you should always protect your ears from the high decibel (or noise exposure) levels.
Safety Goggles or Face Shield
Safety Goggles or a face shield should be used anytime you work with either a power or hand saw to protect your eyes and face.
A dust mask is vital when working with saws or sanders to avoid inhaling tiny dust particles and other allergens which can have an adverse effect on your health.
A shop vac is great for cleaning up afterwards, especially when sawing or sanding wood. If you don’t have one, you can use a standard vacuum or simply a broom and dustpan.
Sand paper in both 100-grit and 220-grit is needed for smoothing out the cutting board, especially areas that are difficult to do with an electric sander including the corners and edges.
Work gloves can be used for parts of the process such as assembling, clamping, gluing or milling the board. Do not use them when operating a table saw, only when changing the blade. Gloves cause you to lose your sense of touch as well as gripping power which can result in a lost limb if the blade catches onto them.
Apply several coats of wood conditioner or oil on the cutting board to seal the wood and protect it from damage. For this, you will also need a paint-brush or rag. Allow the product to penetrate for 5 to 15 minutes and then remove the excess with a clean, dry cloth.
Now lets explain the difference between an edge grain and an end grain cutting board.
What is the Difference between an Edge Grain and an End Grain Cutting Board?
An edge grain cutting board is made from parallel pieces of wood that are fused together. It is known for its durability and affordability however, it can dull knives faster than end grain boards. Prolonged use will damage the aesthetic of the board and cuts or scratches will be visible.
An end grain cutting board is made from end pieces of wood that form a checkerboard pattern. It is usually more expensive than edge grain boards but it is better for knives and is “self-healing”. This means that the wood fibers will close-up after being cut with a knife.
The tools and supplies needed to make both boards are basically the same.
What is the Best Wood for a Cutting Board?
Now that we have outlined the tools and supplies needed to make a cutting board, let’s go over the best types of wood to use. Both end and edge grain cutting boards are generally made from dense, fine-grained hardwoods as opposed to softwoods. The reason being that softwoods can crack or split over time from the motion of the knife cutting across the surface.
The best woods to use include birch, cherry, oak, (hard) maple, pine and walnut. If possible, choose wood that has been pre-cut between 2 and ½ and 3 and ½ inches thick. This will prevent the wood from splitting or warping.
What is the Best Wood Finish for a Cutting Board?
When finishing a wood cutting board, be sure to use non-toxic products as the board will be coming into direct contact with food. The best finishes include wood conditioning varieties such as Danish or linseed oil, coconut oil, mineral oil, walnut oil, beeswax, Carnuba wax or shellac.
Check online retailers (for the most popular yet cost-effective choices) such as Amazon.com. One great product (which we reviewed in a previous article entitled Danish Oil on Pine) includes Tried and True Danish Oil. Another great option is All Natural Wood Finishing Wax by Virginia Boys. It has an overall rating of 4.9/5 with 5/5 for scent, 4.9/5 for usability and 4.7/5 for value (something worth while checking out).
Before starting, I always like to prepare everything in advance of construction which helps streamline the building process. Gathering all of your tools, supplies and cleaning your work area before starting will definitely save you time (and money) which is important especially if you plan on building and selling any of these for cash.
Making a cutting board is fairly easy with a little advance studying, preperation and a little know-how and of course the right tools and supplies.
Good luck with your next DIY project! Stay tuned for other great woodworking ideas in articles to come!
Cutting Board Featured images Courtesy of Curtis Frank, Madison, WI