DIY: Walnut and Maple Cutting Boards
I needed a wedding present, and cutting boards were on the registry. All of the ones I could find were expensive and not quite right. So I opted to make my own. I’m not used to taking pictures of every step, so there will undoubtedly be a few missing steps. Sorry about that. Also, this is a “how I made it” guide, not a “how to” guide. So if this is inspiration for you, awesome! But it isn’t intended to be a guide to follow.
It all began with a plan. I drew up a sketch of the boards I envisioned. I was mainly focused on proportion and dimensions. I knew I wanted a strong contrast and asymmetrical design. I opted for walnut and hardrock maple. I knew the maple would get a tad more yellow after “staining”, but the walnut would get deeper. I like the white quality of the maple, but I was okay with a yellow tint. Also, the family is mathematically inclined, so these had to be the golden ratio.
Buying wood, cutting to rough length, and ripping
So it was off to the local wood store (Windsor Plywood), could spend hours there. I selected two nice pieces of wood. Took them back and cut them to length. One for the big boards, one for the small and medium ones. It’s important to cut them longer, you want to leave some margin on the ends for cutting to final length. Sometimes the glue joints and ripped width aren’t perfect at the ends.
Next I ripped the boards to the appropriate widths. The thin strips are 1/8″ which can easily be done on a table saw with a cedar or other light sacrificial push stick. You can’t use a guard for that, but a riving knife will do. I don’t have pictures of this step, it was dusty and I just wanted to get them done.
I had some help here, the glue drys pretty quick and it’s helpful to have someone spreading the glue. I laid out all of the pieces, got clamps prepped, and double checked everything. Keeping an eye on the grain direction was important, the maple I got had some distinctive patterns and I wanted to preserve those across the walnut. After spreading the glue and clamping, they sat for a while. You can’t use too many clamps, but five were sufficient for me.
The small and medium boards were clamped together (because I didn’t have enough clamps and was impatient). It was very important not to put glue between the layers of these two pieces. I marked them so I wouldn’t forget.
Cleaning and sanding
If you’ve done it right, you’ll have glue coming out of the joints. Clean these up with an old fat chisel by scraping perpendicular to the boards, or use a rasp.
Ran through a drum sander, gives a wonderful even finish very easily. Still got a bit of snipe on them though. A planar would work too. You could probably do fine with a belt sander if you didn’t have either.
Cut them to length, ended up with 8 boards. Not bad!
Routed an edge on the boards. I did some with a roundover, but the wedding set I did with a chamfer. I thought it fit the hard lines the best. It’s distinctive too. I don’t have pictures here either, but it was just a lot of changing bits and running test pieces. I sanded with a finer paper on an orbital sander, then touched up the edges with a sanding block.
Stained with butcher block conditioner, it is food-safe and really easy to apply. I cleaned with a tack cloth first, then just wiped the stain on, let sit for a while, then wiped the excess off. I did three coats, but you could easily get away with two.
And what’s a nice set of boards without decent packaging. I wrapped them up with tissue, burlap, and twine. The box was brown painters paper with burlap ribbon. This was also the most appropriate thing I could come up with to fit the bride and groom.