I hear this a lot from woodworkers and woodworking forums. A lot of woodworkers want to create things with intricate curves and complex joinery. For me however, there is a great deal of elegance in simplicity.
Take for example, an order I received at a local market. Two young ladies came to visit and they wanted to get a cutting board for their sister who lives in Pennsylvania. These two sisters come from a family of five girls (poor dad!) who grew up in upstate New York. The girls have moved all over the country, but still maintain regular contact.
These are the things that I think about when I build a board. Who is it for? Where did they come from? What will it be used for?
When I build a board, I start by selecting the best stock that I can find. Such as this 2" thick cherry that I got from a local supplier.
Its not much to look at yet, but the grain patterns can be identified as I begin to plan on how to glue this up for best visual appeal and durability.
The next step is to clean up the lumber. A few trips through the planer and the joiner results in perfectly square stock.
The next step is to cut the lumber to dimensions that can be glued and glue it up. No, its not very pretty yet. I use PVC pipe as a support for my glue ups. I also clamp the board flat using cleats to help insure there is minimal movement in addition to the joint clamps.
Once the glue dries, the board takes a trip through the sander to ensure flatness. Many boards would be almost done at this point, but the order was for an end grain cutting board so we are only about 1/2 way through the process.
This next step may cause pain in some readers. Now that I have an almost completed cutting board, the next step is to cut it up! I use a sliding sled and a very simple block jig to ensure that all the slices are the same thickness.
The result of this step is to get a bunch of slices of the board.
Each of these pieces are now used to create the end-grain cutting board. These pieces are reoriented so that the edges of the original lumber are glued together and the ends of the lumber are exposed as a cutting surface. Again, I use a cleat to minimize any lateral movement and to maintain the flatness of the board. It still isn't very pretty, but you can begin to see some of the grain pattern.
Now that the board is finally taking shape and the glue has dried, it takes another few dozen trips through the sander. I cannot tell you how much I depend on that sander! It is one of the most-used tools in the shop.
Once it has taken a few dozen trips through the sander, the grain pattern is starting to show.
Even though the board has been sanded, the sanding machine leaves marks. So the next step is to rout the edges and then sand the board. Then the board gets sanded and sanded. Once that is done, its time to sand again. I use a Festool sander to sand to 150 grit. It was expensive for a sander but worth every penny. Boards then get hand-sanded to 220 grit.
To finish this board, it was ordered with an engraving of a rose on it. This is where I can take advantage of some of the newer technologies such as a laser engraver.
After the board is engraved, it is time for sanding the board again! This sanding removes any burn marks from the engraving and increases the contrast.
Finishing our boards is a simple process. Of course, the battery died in the camera so I only have the after pictures. I finish the boards starting with food-grade mineral oil. Mineral oil penetrates the fibers of the wood and absorbs into the board. Once the mineral oil has absorbed, we coat each board with our own "board butter" - a mix of all natural bee's wax and mineral oil.
Here, you can see the finished board. The mineral oil and bee's wax bring out the natural color of the cherry. Combined with the contrast of the engraved rose, it is very striking.
Hopefully, this board will survive generations of use. Cutting boards are under-appreciated. A good cutting board is one of the non-electric kitchen appliances that is most often used. Ever-present in every kitchen a good cutting board will be a part of every dinner for years to come.
I don't know about you, but I don't think this is boring at all. I love creating cutting boards. Combining traditional craftsmanship with selective use of new technologies, a cutting board can be personalized for any use.
This cutting board is totally oblivious to the latest "app" and its usefulness will outlive the next generation of iPhone or whatever the next fad is. Oh, and it cost less too!