All Replies on woods known to be safe for cutting boards?

  • Advertise with us
View Gary Fixler's profile

woods known to be safe for cutting boards?

by Gary Fixler
posted 01-07-2010 11:25 PM

26 replies so far

View SNSpencer's profile


133 posts in 3136 days

#1 posted 01-07-2010 11:38 PM

I have used Purpleheart and Yellowheart in small cutting boards with success.

-- Jef Spencer - Refined Pallet -

View SNSpencer's profile


133 posts in 3136 days

#2 posted 01-07-2010 11:39 PM

Oh yea, Lyptus, Oak and Ipe.

-- Jef Spencer - Refined Pallet -

View degoose's profile


7234 posts in 3378 days

#3 posted 01-07-2010 11:42 PM

My rule of thumb is….. no spalting ….major no no…. other than that can’t help …. your availability of timber is different to mine..

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View ARTTdylan's profile


73 posts in 3085 days

#4 posted 01-08-2010 12:24 AM

Hickory. One of my fav’s. – On the left.

-- Dylan - -

View pmayer's profile


1028 posts in 3089 days

#5 posted 01-08-2010 02:42 AM

In addition to walnut and maple that you mentioned, I love cherry. Its hardness is borderline, but its janka rating it in the ballpark of walnut. Generally I use maple, with alternating dark woods. That way the maple supports the blade and minimizes the penetration into the software walnut or cherry. That said, one of my favorite cutting boards uses alternating cherry and walnut with no maple. I have been abusing one of these for over a year now, and after periodic treatments with a mineral oil/wax blend, it looks like new.

One of my other favorites for cutting boards is red birch. I have a bunch of this that has roughly the color of cherry, and nearly the hardness of maple. If you can get your hands on some darker red birch, you will love it for cutting boards.

I love making these. I made one as a gift about 18 months ago, and since then have built about 50 of them. I even helped my dad start a company where he builds and sells cutting boards as his flagship product.

-- PaulMayer,

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3098 days

#6 posted 01-08-2010 02:51 AM

I recently did a breadboard (and bread knife) with walnut, maple and padauk. The padauk was only a narrow accent piece that separated the maple and walnut. So far, the recipients are still alive and doing well.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18285 posts in 3699 days

#7 posted 01-08-2010 03:12 AM

Gary, we know pine and fir are out :-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Dudley's profile


742 posts in 3284 days

#8 posted 01-08-2010 03:26 AM

Oak should be out as well. To open grain.

-- Dudley Young USN Retired. Sebastian, Fl.

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 3405 days

#9 posted 01-08-2010 05:11 AM

Thanks for the help, folks!

Jef – I’ve wanted to use Purpleheart, but wasn’t sure if it was toxic. I’ll double-check, but it’s probably okay. My one concern there is that it seems to turn brown in a few years. If I make imagery out of blocks with brown wood, as well as purpleheart, I’m a little concerned they’ll eventually match, and the image will become mostly invisible :) Oak, as Dudley mentioned I’m going to leave out, as it’s very open, and the grain can catch a lot of food particles. I suppose I could fill it, or bar-top it, but I’m looking to crank out things here, so the less work the better. I’ll have a look into your other suggestions as well. Thanks!

Larry – Yeah, no spalting, pretty as it is :(

dylan – I’ll give hickory a look-see. Hadn’t occurred to me, as I thought it was pretty open, like oak. Thanks!

pmayer – I think I would like to give cherry a try. I’ve never used it, and really don’t know much about it, besides that it’s a great furniture wood, and that it changes color over time with exposure to UV. I don’t know that I’ve seen red birch. I’ll have to look around. Is it sort of like a lighter walnut? I’ve used birch from Home Depot, and they get a lot of heartwood running through it, and it can be quite brown. I quite like it, and if that’s what you mean, I agree.

Rich – glad to hear everyone survived, haha. That is another wood I would love to use, especially as the background in many of my designs, but then it will be pretty predominant throughout the board, inside the frame, and around the center art. I’d better do my research and be sure it’s not an allergen. I know walnut can actually cause problems for very allergic people, but then, walnut boards are so common, so it must not be too big a deal. I know someone online who made a friend ear plugs (those disc-like earings that go inside your earlobes) out of either bubinga or cocobolo (I think the latter), and he had a very bad reaction to them. Thanks for the suggestion!

Topamax – why are they out? Are they bad for you? I honestly don’t know.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18285 posts in 3699 days

#10 posted 01-08-2010 05:31 AM

They are soft and can be full of pitch.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View jerryw's profile


158 posts in 3939 days

#11 posted 01-08-2010 05:37 AM

ELM makes a nice board. color ranges from tan to brown.

-- jerryw-wva.

View ARTTdylan's profile


73 posts in 3085 days

#12 posted 01-08-2010 09:35 PM

Hickory is more open than maple but less than oak. I think it still makes a fine cutting block.

-- Dylan - -

View ellen35's profile


2738 posts in 3456 days

#13 posted 01-08-2010 09:47 PM

There is a website that will give you safe woods for food. I don’t have it on my work computer (yes, I have to work to afford my toys!)... but try googling wood safe for foods or something like that. As I recall, most everything is safe… at least everything that I’ve ever heard of or had access to. Cutting boards are also finished with mineral oil and that is about as safe as you can get!

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3777 days

#14 posted 01-08-2010 09:56 PM

Ive used the afore mentioned Cherry/Walnut/Maple with much success. This year I added Purpleheart and Bloodwood to the mix. First time working with both. They are very pretty, but don’t care to much for Purplehearts chippyness. The Bloodwood work allot like maple and according to a recent LJ survey the redness of the wood doesn’t fade severely. Here is a trivet made for someone for Christmas. Its not a cutting board but I am planning on using the rest of the board for one.

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View Andrew's profile


709 posts in 3222 days

#15 posted 01-08-2010 09:59 PM

Oak, does have open pores, however much like walnut the wood contains tannins, which are natural antibiotics. In otherwords they are your safest as far as bacteria goes. All cutting boards get cuts in them, all cuts allow moisture and food to get in them, plastic cutting boards slightly “heal” the cut trapping said moisture and food, createing a perfect place for bacteria to live and breed. Wood at least dries out, this is good cause bacteria needs moisture and protien to live. Walnut and oaks will actually kill the bacteria as well.
Thought you would like to know.

-- Even a broken clock is right twice a day, unless, it moves at half speed like ....-As the Saw Turns

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4151 days

#16 posted 01-08-2010 10:06 PM

Sycamore is my favorite, especially for rustic crosscuts.
I learned this from our local Amish craftsmen.

Sycamore has long been a favorite for commercial butcher blocks.

-- 温故知新

View woodsmithshop's profile


1319 posts in 3569 days

#17 posted 01-09-2010 07:34 PM

if you want to use oak, for non end grain boards, rift sawn or quarter sawn should not have so much open pores showing as flat sawn, also less movement.

-- Smitty!!!

View eddy's profile


939 posts in 3388 days

#18 posted 01-10-2010 04:18 PM

i use hickory in almost every board. i also finish them like the woodwisper with the general finishes deluted to 50%. the finish soaks in pretty deep and some times wicks out thru the bottom i think this seals the wood
very well on issues as of yet

-- self proclaimed copycat

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4424 days

#19 posted 01-12-2010 12:46 AM

I’ve had allergic reactions to Cocobolo. It gave me poison Ivy type rash. But it’s the dust. that gives me problems.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 3405 days

#20 posted 01-12-2010 02:27 AM

Thanks everyone for the continued help. Karson, I think that was the one I saw the kid with the earrings had a reaction to. They were cocobolo, and his earlobes and surrounding area looked terribly swollen, like infected poison ivy. I’m a little afraid of that wood!

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3672 days

#21 posted 01-12-2010 09:06 PM

PS. people can be allergic to Bloodwood – including a couple of LJs. also people that are allergic to nuts might be sensitive to walnut and it’s kind.

sensitive being the understatement… (some serious complications can be had)

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View PaulfromVictor's profile


228 posts in 3369 days

#22 posted 01-14-2010 10:41 PM

I would go out on a limb and say that white oak would be okay on an endgrain cutting board. It is a very ring porous wood, but that is on the face, not so much on the end. In fact white oak has been used for ship hulls and whiskey barrels because it is said to be “impervious” to water penetration.

Red oak would not be safe. One method for identifying red oak vs. white oak is to take a 2” long piece and blow through the end grain into water. Red oak will allow you to blow through making bubbles. White oak no bubbles. This being said, I would think bacteria would easily travel into the pores.

Has anybody seen any allergic reactions to any of the cutting boards they have made? Would the finish seal in the allergens?

I found this site on wood toxicity. I didn’t find it helpful because it says pretty much everything can cause a reaction.

View Andrew's profile


316 posts in 2390 days

#23 posted 05-13-2012 05:04 PM

Old thread, I know – but useful.

I assume red oak is safe for a long-grain board, right, since the pores are not exposed?

-- Andrew - Albany. NY

View pmayer's profile


1028 posts in 3089 days

#24 posted 05-13-2012 07:47 PM

The pores on red oak are exposed along its long grain. I wouldn’t use red oak for any style cutting board. Too porous, and doesn’t play well with water.

-- PaulMayer,

View NewEnglandsWoodWorks's profile


117 posts in 2625 days

#25 posted 05-13-2012 08:42 PM

Purpleheart, maple, oak, jatoba.

-- Brett

View mamell's profile


55 posts in 908 days

#26 posted 04-30-2016 05:31 AM

Sometime next year or maybe later I should have a good supply of river birch. We just had a 20 inch birch taken down in the front yard and going to have the trunk sawn down.
I’ll probably never use it all myself, but I will sell bits and pieces for cutting boards and other uses for a very reasonable price if anyone is interested, but it’s going to be awhile waiting for it to air dry..
I’ll probably repost in a year or so..

-- Never underestimate the power of the history of sliced bread. Sliced bread is still the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics