Wooden breakfast boards

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Project by Craig Ambrose posted 10-23-2009 11:13 PM 5630 views 11 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

These small boards were a birthday present for my wife. They are for eating off, as they do in Germany, and we particularly like to use them for antipasti, ploughman’s lunch, sandwiches, or any meal that the guests need to do a bit of cutting a preparation before eating.

They are made from a huge cube of oak that a lumberjack I met gave me once, which he’d cut out of a damaged tree some years earlier. The tree couldn’t be milled properly because it had swallowed a metal fence. The breadboarded ends are a peculiar spotty jarah that I found a small amount of. As usual this year, all work was with hand-tools, and it took a significant amount of sawing and hand planing to get the wood to the sizes I wanted. I let the slabs dry oversize for a few weeks, and then planed out any cupping. The ends are pegged on with oak pegs, draw-bored ever so slightly, so there’s no glue on this project, just a bit of olive oil to finish off.

My veritas low angle jack plane really carried the day on this one. I swapped blades a number of times to get different angles for the oak, and the end grain. I don’t have a scrub plane, or fore plane, so the initial stock prep was done across the grain with a crappy chinese Stanley #4, with the blade fully extended and skewed. That didn’t work on the jarah of course, which was a good test of blade sharpness. As soon as the jack plane got slightly less that sharp, it just started sliding across the jarah and not taking a shaving at all, no matter how far it was extended. I had to stop and sharpen several times.

I’m very pleased with the result, but next time, I’ll make a shooting board first, and maybe a panel gauge too.

12 comments so far

View CanalboatJim's profile


200 posts in 3534 days

#1 posted 10-24-2009 02:24 AM

These are beautiful boards, and to think that you did this with all hand tools. I have become a cutting board fanatic over the last year and I would put these at the top of heap.

-- Jim Westbrooks

View a1Jim's profile


117128 posts in 3606 days

#2 posted 10-24-2009 02:30 AM

Cool boards

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View kcrandy's profile


285 posts in 3461 days

#3 posted 10-24-2009 04:42 AM

Quite beautiful. Are they sat on the table like place mats and then used as a plate?

-- Caulk and paint are a poor carpenter's best friends

View rrdesigns's profile


531 posts in 3215 days

#4 posted 10-24-2009 04:43 AM

This is a clever idea. I’d love to know how they hold up after washing. Also, did you use a specialty plane to cut the dado or is that a hand cut chiseled slot/mortise?

-- Beth, Oklahoma, Rambling Road Designs

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3314 days

#5 posted 10-24-2009 05:09 AM

Very unique. Beautiful work.

-- John @

View drfisherman's profile


33 posts in 3199 days

#6 posted 10-24-2009 04:23 PM

Now that is food for thought! Great job.

-- "The worst day fishing is better than the best day working!"

View jm82435's profile


1285 posts in 3771 days

#7 posted 10-24-2009 11:53 PM

they look very nice, i like the proportions and composition. hard to get a perspective, how big are they?

-- A thing of beauty is a joy forever...

View Craig Ambrose's profile

Craig Ambrose

47 posts in 3601 days

#8 posted 10-26-2009 11:08 PM

Thanks for all the great comments guys.

Regarding size, they’re about 200mm (8 inches) long, and approximately a golden rectangle. So, that’s probably about 2/3 the size of a placemat. Certainly small enough to eat off, pick up comfortable in one hand, etc. I saw some other boards at a market this weekend intended for the same purpose, and they all hand a hole and hung on a stand, which is a good idea. Mine are a probably a little thick for that (in order to fit the mortice), so maybe a box would be better there.

rrdesigns, I did forget to mention that I did the mortice on the router table. Of course this is cheating :), but I didn’t have any hand tools for the job. The mortice is a grove, which you can see, but then a deeper mortice in the middle (to take the pegs). To do that by hand, I’d need both a plow plane, and also a chisel thin enough to make the cross grain cut (ie, the width of the mortice). I don’t have either of those things, but they’re on my list. I’d like to phase out the router, it wasn’t nearly as pleasant as the rest of the work.

The tenons, being in such thin material where done with a wooden fence clamped to the work and used to guide first a tenon saw for the cross grain cut, and then the side of my shoulder plane as I planed the tenon down to the layout lines. I didn’t try to do a saw cut along the tenon cheek like I would for a fatter piece of wood, the oak seemed to plane really well across the grain, so the shoulder plane could be set quite aggressively and didn’t take long.

I didn’t mean for them to be “washed”, as in immersed in the sink, but I forgot to mention that to my wife and she did so. It stripped a bit of the olive oil off, and I re-oiled them (at least with olive oil, I didn’t need to leave the kitchen to do so). I’ve asked her to just whip them with the dishwater, rather than immerse them. Their dip in the sync did raise the grain on the oak, and I’m planning to give them a bit of a rub (on the oak) with some 400 grit paper to get them shiny again. The beauty of the simple oil finish is of course that nothing is final, and I can easily play with it as much as I want.

View moshel's profile


865 posts in 3712 days

#9 posted 10-29-2009 01:00 PM

Maybe you can try using walnut or tung oil. they both cure (although very slowly – 1-2 months) and create a layer which is almost indestructible. haven’t tried putting it in the dishwasher yet, but it can take immersion easily. you would probably have to warm tung oil to get it workable. wattyl have a surprisingly good pure tung oil at a reasonable price.

another question – as the wood is very different between the body and the ends, don’t you get noticeable difference when its humid or when its hot/cold?

-- The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep...

View Craig Ambrose's profile

Craig Ambrose

47 posts in 3601 days

#10 posted 10-29-2009 10:43 PM

Good idea on those oils. My only concern there is that I believe both walnut and tung oil can trigger allergies in some people. We don’t have any nut allergies in our house, but I didn’t want to have to ask guests each time we pulled out the boards.

As for wood expansion, the peg holes in the oak tenons were widened (perpendicular to the grain only), so that the oak can move a bit inside the jarah. There is no glue in there. Obviously if the oak expands or contracts it wont line up with the jarah exactly on the ends, but that’s normal for “breadboard ends”. I’ve done nothing to counter changes in the thickness of the oak relative the the jarah. The tenons were a fairly tight fit, but slid on with hand pressure. I don’t think they are thick enough to change enough to cause any problems (but I’m no expert).

View moshel's profile


865 posts in 3712 days

#11 posted 10-30-2009 01:49 AM

as far as I know (but i think no one ever made scientific research on this) after they cure, they release nothing so they don’t trigger allergic reaction. i see your point, though… the problem with olive oil is that if you do not use the boards for a while, it will go rancid. so keep using them!

Thanks for the details about the breadboard ends – i might try to make some – they are really pretty.

-- The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep...

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3717 days

#12 posted 10-09-2012 11:01 PM

Beautiful eating devices : )
I was also going to mention the use of Olive Oil going rancid.
I use Mineral Oil and sometimes beeswax mixed into it.

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

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