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Cutting Board Disaster!

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Blog entry by thewoodwhisperer posted 07-31-2010 12:47 AM 3850 reads 2 times favorited 26 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The Discovery:

A few months ago, I woke up one morning, poured my coffee, and was incredibly disappointed to see that my cutting board exploded! OK so maybe it wasn’t all that violent but it was cupped like crazy and had a very large split. Upon further inspection, I noticed a bit of trapped water in the center of the underside of the board. Now the thing to remember about end grain cutting boards is that even after finishing, they will still soak up moisture like a sponge. So standing water is your cutting board’s Kryptonite!

What Happened?

So how does the split actually occur? Well let’s think about what happened. The water soaked into the center of the board and as a result, the center “squares” swelled and expanded. Because the moisture was in the center only, the wood in the outer perimeter did not expand. So something had to give. The resulting crack is really nothing more than pressure relief. Think of it like surrounding a piece of solid wood in a frame. Eventually, the joints in the outer frame will open up if the board in the middle expands.

The Epoxy Fix:

The first step in repairing this disaster simply involves waiting. After a few weeks, the board flattened out and the crack closed up almost completely. But the gap was still big enough that I wanted to use a gap-filling glue, so epoxy did the trick. Now I know what you are thinking. Is epoxy food-safe? While I have heard that food grade FDA-approved epoxies do exist, I have never seen them. And I can definitely say that the West System Epoxy I use is not FDA-approved. So why would I use this on my cutting board? Generally speaking, its the same logic I subscribe to when discussing the safety of film finishes. That is, once cured, the product is inert. In other words, its not chemically reactive and its not actively leaching chemicals under normal room temperature conditions. Furthermore, the crack represents such a small area that actual food contact would be absolutely minimal. Now while I am not prepared to tell you epoxy is completely food-safe, I will say that I consider cured epoxy safe enough to use on a small crack on MY cutting board. Ultimately, the final decision is yours.

Want to make an end-grain cutting board like this? Check this out!

-- For free video tutorials and other cool woodworking stuff, check out http://www.TheWoodWhisperer.com



26 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2402 days


#1 posted 07-31-2010 12:51 AM

YIKES!

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

View douglbe's profile

douglbe

358 posts in 2714 days


#2 posted 07-31-2010 01:06 AM

Love the trick with the vacuum hose. Thanks.

-- Doug, Reed City, Michigan

View Bothus's profile

Bothus

428 posts in 1929 days


#3 posted 07-31-2010 01:21 AM

Hey Marc,

Thanks for the vacuum trick.

Not sure about epoxy on a cutting board, although your logic is sound and I would do it too, be prepared for feedback on this one.

Can you say “EpoxyGate”

Take care,

Jerry

-- Jerry Boshear, Professional Kitchen Designer, amature woodworker.

View closetguy's profile

closetguy

744 posts in 2645 days


#4 posted 07-31-2010 01:29 AM

I hate it when that happens. I’ve sold over 400 cutting boards in the past three years, and I’ve had that happen once. When wood decides to move, nothing is going to stop it.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design changes....www.dgmwoodworks.com

View thewoodwhisperer's profile

thewoodwhisperer

601 posts in 2937 days


#5 posted 07-31-2010 01:31 AM

Wow. 400:1 is a pretty darn good track record!

-- For free video tutorials and other cool woodworking stuff, check out http://www.TheWoodWhisperer.com

View childress's profile

childress

841 posts in 2295 days


#6 posted 07-31-2010 01:59 AM

I think it’s the finish used. I’ve never had this happen to me (fingers crossed) and all I use is mineral oil with beeswax finish. That wet spot looks like it was under the film finish. Could also use some rubber feet to keep it off the counter…

I do agree that the epoxy is inert when cured and have even talked to a mfg that said they use the resin to coat the inside of soda cans or something but, like you said, couldn’t provide any docs to it’s FDA compliance.

-- Childress Woodworks

View Eric_S's profile

Eric_S

1521 posts in 1948 days


#7 posted 07-31-2010 02:04 AM

That is a great tip with the shop vac, thank you. Excellent video as well.

-- - Eric Indianapolis, IN

View thewoodwhisperer's profile

thewoodwhisperer

601 posts in 2937 days


#8 posted 07-31-2010 02:04 AM

I should also clarify that this is a well-seasoned 5-year old cutting board. And since my varnishing method is always a hot topic of debate, here’s an article I wrote on my process with my justifications:
My Cutting Board Finish

I use the varnish to seal the board, but not to create a film on the surface.

-- For free video tutorials and other cool woodworking stuff, check out http://www.TheWoodWhisperer.com

View Brad_Nailor's profile

Brad_Nailor

2532 posts in 2710 days


#9 posted 07-31-2010 02:11 AM

I use rubber bumpers as feet on all my boards now. I find that people would lay the boards flat on the counter for long periods of time and they would cup….Also not good if the counter gets wet. The feet are cheap, and they prevent the board from sliding when using it.

That is a great trick with the shop vac.

-- http://www.facebook.com/pages/DSO-Designs/297237806954248

View Rustic's profile

Rustic

3156 posts in 2349 days


#10 posted 07-31-2010 03:25 AM

Holy Crack BatMan good save

-- www.carvingandturningsbyrick.com, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View Alan's profile

Alan

443 posts in 2157 days


#11 posted 07-31-2010 04:33 AM

Wow great idea with the vacuum. Thanks for sharing.

-- Alan, Prince George

View zlatanv's profile

zlatanv

689 posts in 1987 days


#12 posted 07-31-2010 04:54 AM

Cool fix, I’m always finding the cutting boards sitting in the sink with stuff piled on them, just waiting for this to happen, keep telling my wife but she has a mind of her own that somehow I can’t get into. I did drop a board and had a split a little ways thru it, I spread it open and injected some glue and clamped it, good as new. I used your finish tech and love it. Thanks.

-- Z, Rockwall, TX

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1797 posts in 1944 days


#13 posted 07-31-2010 07:51 AM

Very cool vacum trick Mister!!!

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5119 posts in 2466 days


#14 posted 07-31-2010 02:40 PM

Clever use of the vacuum! Thanks for posting this.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View brunob's profile

brunob

2277 posts in 2922 days


#15 posted 07-31-2010 02:45 PM

Don’t think I would have had the patience to wait but now I’ll know better. Thanks.

-- Bruce from Central New York...now, if you'll pardon me, I have some sawdust to make.

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