Can oak be used in a Butcher Block Board?

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Forum topic by Kram79 posted 02-19-2010 01:49 PM 21333 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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45 posts in 3374 days

02-19-2010 01:49 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question oak

I’ve made a couple dozen Butcher Block cutting boards and I like to stick to Hard Maple, Cherry, Walnut, Jatoba and a few exotic close grained woods (Bloodwood Yellowheart and Purpleheart are a couple I’ve used). I’ve resisted using Oak as I remember reading somewhere it is not a good wood because of the open cells, yet I’ve seen many made of Red Oak and White Oak. The reason I am asking now is I received a request for a large board and the Wife wants Oak while the husband wants Maple. I prefer the Maple as it is much harder and denser, but I would like to give them an informed response. So what better place to get some useful insight then here? All responses in either direction would be very helpful.

-- You can never have enough tools

6 replies so far

View snowdog's profile


1166 posts in 4219 days

#1 posted 02-19-2010 03:10 PM

I am sure you can do a quick search to find out for sure but I would not use red oak (open cell) and personally I would not use oak (in general) due to the smell and taste. Love it in my alcohol not on my food (mostly) although some foods might enjoy that oakie taste.

-- "so much to learn and so little time"..

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4058 days

#2 posted 02-19-2010 03:17 PM

Oak can be used for a cutter but it is not generally recommended since oak has large pores which can provide a nice home for bacteria to set up housekeeping.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View PaulfromVictor's profile


228 posts in 3582 days

#3 posted 02-19-2010 03:54 PM

In my opinion white oak would be okay for and end grain board, red oak, definitely not. White oak is described as “impervious” to water. It has been used for whiskey barrels and ship hulls. The structure of the cells of white oak is quite different from red oak. If you were to cut a two inch length of red oak, you can actually blow through the wood. Put one end in water, and you will find that you can blow bubbles. With white oak you cannot. Because of the more closed structure, the white oak should be fine for an end grain board (properly sealed with a salad bowl finish). If you are doing a face grain board, I would be less enthusiastic. All oak is quite ring porous, meaning that there are exposed “holes” that could trap bacteria. For hardness, oak should be plenty hard.

View CaptainSkully's profile


1607 posts in 3795 days

#4 posted 02-19-2010 05:52 PM

Semi-custom homes use oak plywood in their kitchen cabinet slide-out cutting boards. After a few years of cutting across the grain fibers, they’re trashed and stained from improper finishing. If you use oak, I’d make sure the end grain was exposed as the cutting surface. I’d also saturate the oak with mineral oil to keep any yucky stuff from growing.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View Tony's profile


986 posts in 4266 days

#5 posted 02-19-2010 07:06 PM

All types of oak are “open grained” woods. the biggest problem you will have with using an open grained wood is bacteria getting into the open grains – saying that providing you periodically clean the board with some form of chemical to kill the bacteria (I just use a diluted house hold bleach) it should be ok, I am still here after many years of use.

I would also suggest using some form of oil protection and a moisture resistant glue. As for the red oak, I do not have any experience with it, as it is not readily available here.

As to the hardness of the woods used – when using end grain, they are all pretty hard and resistant to marking – it is very common here to find end grain boards made from pine and fir – they seem to last very well.

-- Tony - All things are possible, just some things are more difficult than others! - SKYPE: Heron2005 (

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 3287 days

#6 posted 02-20-2010 03:22 AM

What about a compromise here?

Maybe use maple in the center section, banded by oak on the perimeter? Most people don’t cut at the edge of the board, so the introduction of bacteria between the grain will be less of a concern.

You could use QS or rift sawn oak for the perimeter to pretty it up along the edge.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

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