|Project by CyBorge||posted 05-08-2010 02:39 AM||2179 views||1 time favorited||14 comments|
I made this Wood Whisperer inspired, end grain cutting board for my wife’s birthday. This marks my first indoor (non-shop) project, my first “real wood” project, and my first non-paint finish.
I chose maple, purpleheart, and walnut for the woods. I bought the wood pre-surfaced because I don’t have the “big boy toys” yet. That includes a table saw, so my size/layout options were a bit limited as well. I started by clamping the three boards together, and then cutting all three at once with a miter saw. In hindsight, gluing the boards together first would have saved me a lot of grief, because after twenty cuts I found myself with sixty little blocks of wood to glue together instead of twenty.
After way too many separate glue-ups, made only more complicated by an absence of long clamps, I finally had a nice, big slab. This board was originally going to be the tired-old rectangle shape that’s been done to death, but a gap between some of the pieces (not to mention the somewhat imposing weight) convinced me to cut the top corners out and make a handle instead. It worked out as well as can be expected, though I had some serious trouble making those curves. A rough cut with my jigsaw worked out well enough, and I decided to clean it up with my new router table.
This is when I discovered just how much softer walnut is than purpleheart and maple. Every time the router blade moved from one of the harder woods to the walnut, it wanted to yank the board in and eat it for breakfast. This made it difficult to make a nice, neat, consistent cut. That was very frustrating, and left the final shape a whole lot less smooth than originally intended. Plus it’s not very symmetrical. Still, as it turns out both my wife and I actually like the “chunky feel” better, so that turned out alright.
Then came the flattening process, which had me crying “uncle!” Between a poorly sharpened card scraper, a random orbital sander, a hand sanding block, and many hours of effort I managed to get it reasonably flat. Next time I will pay a whole lot more attention when gluing pieces together; end grain is a whole lot tougher to sand down than I expected, and this board could definitely use a little more work in that department.
For the finish I used Howard butcher block conditioner. It is basically mineral oil with beeswax and carnauba wax. After heating the bottle in a pot of water to melt/soften the wax, I applied as much as the board could absorb, wiped it off a few minutes later as directed, and then applied additional coats every day for the next few days. You can see in one of the pictures how much of the original 12 ounce bottle is left (a little over half).
This stuff sure changed the appearance of the wood! I included samples of the original woods in some of the pictures so you can see the before and after. The purpleheart looks great when the light shines on it just right, but the walnut darkened up too much for my taste. I’m not very happy with the weak contrast between these two woods. Next time I might try salad bowl finish, but more than likely I won’t use these two woods together again without something in place to better accentuate the differences.
Edit: One thing I neglected to mention is that during the glue-up process I found myself with three long rows of blocks, none of which had clean enough edges to glue together side-to-side. I remedied that situation by jointing them on my router table using a two-inch top and bottom pattern bit. The bearings weren’t used; it was just the only bit I had that was long enough to cut through the entire thing in one pass.
-- "How can I be lost if I've got nowhere to go?"