006: pallet wood cutting board #3: cleaned up, ready for final shaping and finishing

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Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 03-31-2010 03:59 AM 5083 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: cuts and glue-ups Part 3 of 006: pallet wood cutting board series Part 4: rounding over, sanding, and finishing »

Well, it’s a lot nicer than it was where I left off yesterday. The router bridge (seen at the end of this post) is such a nice way to plane things, and I’ve thought of some ideas that might make setup a lot easier.

I’ve moved up to a 5/8” or maybe 3/4” bit and it makes planing a lot faster. Too, I found that just putting masking tape along the bottom edges, curved to stick to the workbench is more than adequate as a hold down until I come up with a better solution – probably wedges. The tape doesn’t hold in the direction through the face you’ve taped and it’s opposite side. It holds in the direction of that edge. The front and back runs keep it from moving side to side, and vice versa. It was rigid as could be the 3 times I set up and planed, and I took much deeper passes than I have in the past.

As for tearout from the bit, this is eliminated by first framing the piece in a clockwise direction, half the bit over the piece, half hanging off the edge. This runs the bit along the outside edge in what machinist’s would call a ‘climb milling’ direction. In other words, the cutter edges don’t dig into the material and scoop up in the direction of motion, like a bulldozer scooping and lifting as it drives, but instead roll over it like a wheel, hammering straight down into the wood and scooping down and back into already cleared area. There was one spot where I pushed through from front to back and did get a little swath of tearout, but it will be gone after rounding the edge with the router and final sanding. Switching back to first framing the face clockwise, then going back and forth to clear the middle stopped all tearout entirely. Wasn’t even a great bit – just a blue Ryobi straight bit from a large set I got years ago. It was about 2 minutes per full pass on this small thing.

After that, I slowly, carefully passed one long and one adjacent short edge over the jointer. All of the corners were remarkably square, before and after the jointing operation. That helped a lot. Then I used my large miter sled to trim the opposite faces to those to get them parallel. My hold down clamp on the sled (Incra T-track setup) wouldn’t hold the thick slab tightly against the fence, so I just clamped it to the sled itself, first pushing it up against the front edge of the board. As it clamped down, it flexed outward a bit, pressing the slab tightly against the fence. I couldn’t budge it. It’s a good technique for the future.

The amazing thing was that all 4 corners read exactly the same thickness on my digital calipers, to the 128th of an inch. I had used small scraps of plywood to shim the board up high enough to take passes with the router, and didn’t bother to register anything – just clamped down the rails, taped down the board, and made the passes. It’s a well set up system, and that has me quite pleased where future efforts are concerned. I went over it with 3 grits in my ROS to knock away the router bit marks and remove my circular saw’s unfortunate burn marks. The grits were something like 60, 120, and 220. Anyway, pics!

This face, with the little knotty void region will be the bottom:

bottom of cleaned up cutting board

This is the top:

top of cleaned up cutting board

It’s not as pretty as it would have been with PurpLev’s suggested long-grain glue-up (see 2 posts back in this series, and sorry, Purp!), but it sated my curiosity about making an oak end grain board from scraps. The edges aren’t half bad, either. That dark stripe repeating itself on the long sides came through:

edge of end grain cutting board

edge of end grain cutting board

And here are the narrow ends:

edge of end grain cutting board

edge of end grain cutting board

Next up, rounding over the edges – going with large roundovers for this – then rubber feet, branding the bottom, and giving it a nice bath in butcher’s block oil!

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

8 comments so far

View lew's profile


11265 posts in 3177 days

#1 posted 03-31-2010 04:05 AM

Nice Gary!

Hard to tell from the pictures, is it Red or White oak? If it’s red, it would be interesting to see if the oil will wick completely thru from one side to the other.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View OutPutter's profile


1199 posts in 3412 days

#2 posted 03-31-2010 04:51 AM

I just love pallet wood don’t you Gary? The stuff I’ve found sometimes looks like yours and sometimes I find South American cherry. I have a hard time passing up a good tile store pallet stack. Great job and love the blog.


-- Jim

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1000 posts in 2803 days

#3 posted 03-31-2010 05:07 AM

Thanks, Lew and Jim!

Jim – it takes some loving, but pallet wood cleans up pretty nicely. I have a good stack of it left over here, and a couple pallets I have yet to cut up.

Lew – It looks like the middle stripe, made from 2 identical boards are some kind of white oak. They have those tyloses clogging up the pores and that more grayish color, as well as the usual oak markers. The board down the long edges and every other one in from that – 4 stripes total on each side – are red oak. There’s some color deviation, so it could be anything from different parts of the tree, to different trees grown in different conditions, to different species within the red oak spectrum. The 4 blond wood stripes on each side, in between the red oak stripes I at first thought were oak, but they just don’t have the right end grain. They have a kind of smooth, creamy end grain that I’m not familiar with, though the edges had a bit of an oak-like open grain. The wood itself had a really sweet smell when cut which I also couldn’t identify. It mixes with the 2 oak scents to make a really nice fragrance that I rather wish I could bottle. It would be nice to learn what kind of wood it is. Maybe I’ll send a small sample to one of those wood ID labs. I have scraps in the cutoffs.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View DragonLady's profile


298 posts in 2428 days

#4 posted 03-31-2010 05:09 AM

I really like the subtle design with the grain. Very nice!

how come I can never find OAK pallets? All I get is nasty pine.

-- A woman's work is never done-but power tools help!

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1000 posts in 2803 days

#5 posted 03-31-2010 09:00 AM

DragonLady – perhaps you need to look around places that get much heavier deliveries? You might try poking around tile places and industrial machine shops. The wood for this came from a pallet from a bearing place. Those come in heavy boxes piled up that weigh a ton with the hundreds or thousands of bearings stacked on them. The wood I got from behind a restaurant that was installing kitchen machinery was all pine, but a lot of the more heavy-duty, dirty, industrial places seem to have thick, very heavy pallets. I can’t get through them fast enough, but if I could, I’ve seen so many out here in west LA. Now that I’m tuned in, I see them everywhere. I saw a stack of about 15 of them pulling out of a drive-thru fast food place yesterday, and lamented that I couldn’t even bother with that many. 2 blocks down from me on my street is a place that sells furniture – just a little boutique shop – and they often enough lay a nice, clean pallet up against the tree in the sidewalk out front, and no one ever takes them. I’ve grabbed a couple of those while out on my occasional neighborhood walks, and just walked 2 blocks back home with them.

One thing about the design of the roads here in LA that I wouldn’t get, say, back home in south Jersey, or in Sarasota, FL, where I went to school, is all of the alleys between each block. A good example is here in Google Maps. You can see Anderson Plywood on Sepulveda there, between Washington Blvd and Washington Place, but note there’s a kind of angle bisector road that runs from Sepulveda through the middle of those, between both Washingtons. That’s not a real road. It’s just the delivery route and employee parking areas. If I drove through that, I’d probably find several pallets, and there are always people behind these buildings doing something. I can ask them, and most love to lighten their load of pallets. LA is completely tiled for miles and miles in all directions with back alley places like this, one right next to another. I can just go from one to the next to the next all day. If you zoom out of the map at that link, it’s frightening how dense LA is, and how massive. It seems to never end, and it’s wall-to-wall buildings and people, and pallets :)

Unfortunately, as I said, I just can’t process them fast enough. If I was really fast, I could make a fortune building and selling things in this goldmine of free wood!.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View 308Gap's profile


336 posts in 2424 days

#6 posted 04-04-2010 05:35 AM

I sense a longing for more of a country life in your writing, kep up the blogs as I enjoy yours more than most. Thanks.

-- Thank You Veterans!

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1000 posts in 2803 days

#7 posted 04-04-2010 05:36 PM

308Gap – it’s true. I grew up in the deep woods and didn’t leave home until college at nearly 18. I seem to always be trying to find my way back there. Someday I may.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View medman's profile


1 post in 2382 days

#8 posted 04-18-2010 12:55 AM

I’m a total nooby when it comes to wood working. I really love the project. Are you concerned with any the chemical treatments (if any) that are used on Pallets and exposing it to your food?

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