Kitchen Project: This cutting board, with the end grain showing on top, harkens back to the old style butcher block.
Having the end grain exposed makes for a much more durable cutting surface. To create a contrasting design element, I used both maple and cherry for the board. If you can’t find cherry you can use red oak or any other contrasting hardwood. However, avoid using softwoods such as pine or fir. I have also included a groove around the edge for easy lifting.
The cutting board is made from slices of glued-up boards that are re-oriented, then glued together again. The first step is to cut the strips of wood. From the maple board, rip four 1 1/2″ pieces and one 3/4″ piece. From the cherry board, rip three 1 1/2″ pieces.
Lay out the strips ensuring that the 3/4″ piece of maple is on one end, and the other pieces are laid out as shown in the above photo. This will create the mosaic pattern for the board.
Apply a generous amount of waterproof wood glue (such as Titebond III) to the mating edges, smoothing the glue to ensure it covers the entire surface. Clamp the strips together, making sure they lay flat and that the top surface is flush along the entire glued-up board. This is important to reduce the amount of surface planning you have to do in order to create a smooth surface.
After half an hour, scrape off any dried up glue, but don’t remove the clamps. Let the glued up board cure overnight.
Run the assembled board through a thickness planer, taking off only 1/32″ at a time until you have a smooth surface. Repeat for the other side. Don’t take off any more than required. (Note: if you don’t have access to a thickness planer you can use a belt sander or a jack plane).
Trim one end of the assembled board square on your table saw. Set the rip fence 1 1/2″ from the blade and use it as a guide to cross-cut the board into 1 1/2″ wide strips. Use a push-stick and blade guard for safety. Discard the last piece, which will be less than 1 1/2″ wide.
With the strips cut, you can now assemble them into the cutting board. Flip every second strip end-for-end to alternate the joints and create the pattern with the cherry strips.
Once the strips have been positioned, apply glue to the matching surfaces. Clamp the strips together, making sure they are flush on the sides and on the top surface. Use a clamp every 4″ to 6″.
Again, remove dried up glue after half an hour, then let the block dry overnight. Trim the ends on the table saw or with a hand plane. No matter how carefully you glue the strips together they will be slightly uneven. Smooth the top and bottom surface of the cutting board with a random orbital sander or belt sander. Start with #50 grit to take care of the most uneven parts, then work your way through #80 and #120, finishing with #150 sandpaper.
Brush dust off the surfaces between grits. To make the finger groove around the cutting board, set up a 3/4″ bullnose bit on your router table so that it extends 1/4″ from the top of the table and position the fence so the bit is exactly centered on the width of your cutting board. Carefully rout around all four edges of the cutting board to form the finger grip.
Sand the edges of the cutting board, knocking off the sharp edge on the top and bottom.
Cut each of the four corners at 45º, 3/4″ in from the end, in order to eliminate the sharp corners. Sand the cut ends smooth.
Be sure to use a food friendly finish. I recommend you apply a liberal coating of vegetable or mineral oil to all surfaces of the cutting board and allow it to soak in for several hours. Wipe clean. Repeat periodically to maintain protection.
Lay out strips with sawn edges facing up
Apply glue liberally and smooth over to avoid gaps
Position, glue, and clamp flush
Reposition the cut strips to create pattern
Glue and clamp flush
For easy lifting, rout groove