Curved Space-Time Cutting Boards

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Blog entry by caocian posted 05-24-2013 02:58 PM 4246 reads 23 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I should start by saying that I make these boards for friends, all of whom hang them up as kitchen wall art. They have no intention of ever using them to cut on. For a more functional board, I prefer a simpler design, incorporating an end grain surface. But for decorative boards, this process is easier and the result is satisfying.

To make any of these boards, the technique is pretty much the same. First, select your stock. For me, this is usually leftovers, off cuts from larger projects. In the photo above, you can see the maple and cherry I used and the jig I use to hold things in place. Flatsawn wood is great. I cut it into strips and flip is so the edge grain is up, giving the surface a quartersawn, straight-grain appearance. When you cut the flatsawn blanks, the width of cut will end up being the thickness of the board. I start with 1”-wide blanks. After assembling, cutting, reassembling, and thickness sanding they end up around 7/8”.

At the table saw, start by installing a rip blade. I use a Freud Glue-Line Rip blade and it works extremely well. I can go straight from the saw to the glueup. Really, if you’re used to using a combination blade for everything, this is a good time to invest in a good rip blade. You’ll thank me later. Of course, you’ll also want to make sure your saw is tuned-up properly and ready to cut.

It’s wise to start by cutting the widest pieces first. For these, I started by cutting four pieces (two each of maple and cherry) to 5/8”. Then I move the rip fence in 1/16” and cut four more. Keep moving the fence and repeating until you are at the end, cutting four 1/16” strips. PLEASE DON”T DO THIS IF YOU ARE NOT ABSOLUTELY CONFIDENT IN YOUR SAW AND YOUR ABILITY TO USE IT. It’s no disgrace to look at this and be a bit intimidated by these final cuts. I’ve been at this a very long time and only do it when I’m wide awake, and able to pay very close attention to detail. Push blocks are made and sacrificed in this process. As an alternative, you can cut the pieces so they fall on the outside of the blade. You’ll just need to move the fence more often.

In the next photo, you can see how I start putting the pieces in order. For this design, I start in the middle and work outward on both edges. You’ll need two pieces (one each of maple and cherry) on each edge. The jig provides a flat surface, a square reference corner, and a sliding fence that allows me to hold things in place while I position the individual strips. Continue to build outward until you have all the pieces in place.

At this point, make sure you’ve got everything in order, then use a couple of clamps to pull the sliding bar in and hold the pieces in place. Now tighten the knobs and remove the clamps. I use a few strips of clear plastic packing tape to hold everything for the glueup. This allows me to flip the assembly over and just run a bead of glue at the lower edge. Pushing the pieces together forces the glue up and covers both surfaces nicely. When you’ve glued them all up, just add clamps. (For this particular board, I glued up smaller sections to save headaches. The other benefit is you can run the narrower section through most benchtop planers.)
After the glue dries, scrape off the squeezeout and flatten them in the planer or drum sander.

Now you’re ready to repeat the cutting process. This time, however, you’ll want a good crosscut blade in the saw. As before, start with the larger pieces and cut four of each width, continuing through the sizes. Then start putting them in order in the jig again. I have a sliding table on my table saw, so I cut most of the narrow strips this way, using the block next to the rip fence as a stop.

This time, when you assemble the pieces you’ll flip them so each color is next to its opposite counterpart. This assembly is where it gets finicky. It’s important to keep the pieces lined up. When you have them all in the jig, go through each piece and inspect it to make sure it’s right. Then clamp it in the jig.

This time, cover the entire surface in packing tape. This will help make sure nothing shifts during the glueup. Now add the glue and clamps. After it dries, scrape and sand until both sides are flat and smooth.

I use a roundover bit in the router table to soften the edges. This is a matter of personal taste. After that, finish with the clear coat of your choice. If it’s going to be used for cutting, a mineral oil is perfect.

Good luck

Not sure why I took this photo. I can’t imagine what I used the chisel for. I probably just wanted to show off one of my Matsumura white steel paring chisels. It’s just cool.

10 comments so far

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2684 days

#1 posted 05-24-2013 03:59 PM

Wow. That is sick.

-- Brian Timmons -

View JoeinGa's profile


7739 posts in 2206 days

#2 posted 05-24-2013 04:00 PM

Wow beautiful board!

(But I’m getting dizzy :-)

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3065 days

#3 posted 05-24-2013 04:02 PM

Wow! These are something else. Nice work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Toolz's profile


1004 posts in 3941 days

#4 posted 05-24-2013 04:07 PM

I agree with Brian!

-- Larry "Work like a Captain but Play like a Pirate!"

View moke's profile


1265 posts in 2975 days

#5 posted 05-24-2013 04:22 PM

Thanks for giving us your “secrets”. Those are awesome boards.

-- Mike

View SPalm's profile


5325 posts in 4081 days

#6 posted 05-24-2013 04:43 PM

Very nice indeed.
I love the idea of a sliding table for the cross cuts. That would be sweet.
The round over really does this design justice.
Good idea with the tape too.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View stefang's profile


16124 posts in 3533 days

#7 posted 05-24-2013 05:06 PM

Mesmerizing board and great work!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View lanwater's profile


3111 posts in 3133 days

#8 posted 05-24-2013 06:10 PM

Beautiful board indeed.

Thanks for the blog.

That Matsumura white steel paring chisels looks great.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View degoose's profile


7244 posts in 3554 days

#9 posted 05-24-2013 06:11 PM

Thank you very much for that indepth tutorial…

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View robert triplett's profile

robert triplett

1566 posts in 3304 days

#10 posted 05-25-2013 04:38 AM

Beautiful, but I can see why no one wants to cut on it. I could misjudge where my fingers are and that could hurt!

-- Robert, so much inspiration here, and now time to work!!!

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