Finishing cutting boards

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Forum topic by Mayflycarpentry posted 02-28-2016 11:17 PM 772 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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9 posts in 843 days

02-28-2016 11:17 PM

I have made several cutting boards, both end grain and face grain boards. I have sanded them down to 330 and have finished them with 4 coats of howards butcher block conditioner, the wax type. My question is they seem as smooth as glass after I sand and oil them, but after being washed the first time, they become significantly more rough. Not so rough that they are unusable, but more so than I’d like. I am notably critical of my own work, so I don’t know if this is normal, or if there is something else I should do. I’d appreciate your input.

9 replies so far

View cracknpop's profile


295 posts in 2372 days

#1 posted 02-28-2016 11:26 PM

I ran into a similar issue with my first cutting boards made with walnut/cherry/sycamore/maple. The next ones, after sanding to 220, I wet them with water to ‘raise the grain’. After dry, sanded them again. Wet again, dry, sanded again. Then sealed with mineral oil. Seemed to take care of the issue.

BTW, the first cutting boards that roughened a little bit, I simply sanded again, wet again, sanded, re-oiled.

-- Rick - I know I am not perfect, but I will keep pressing on toward the goal of becoming all I am called to be.

View conifur's profile


955 posts in 1174 days

#2 posted 02-28-2016 11:44 PM

320 is to fine, closes the pores so sealer, stain, finishes cant penetrate. 2nd anyone that puts wood in a dish washer is nuts, mechanical dish washing soap is very aggressive chemically, thats how it works to clean them, Tuff on wood, will strip out any oil, then if you do the heat dry, tougher yet on wood.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View Mayflycarpentry's profile


9 posts in 843 days

#3 posted 02-28-2016 11:50 PM

Thanks for the input. I’m definitely not nuts, and would never put wood in the dishwasher. It was a simple quick wash and rinse with dish soap and water. Good to know though that 320 is too fine. Should I just stop at 220 then? Does anyone else have any other methods? I like the idea of the wet, dry and sand method.

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 1958 days

#4 posted 02-29-2016 12:09 AM

I never really worry too much about how rough my cutting boards are since they are going to get chop marks and such in them relatively quickly anyway. But, if I were going to try to address your concern, I would follow cracknpop’s advice.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3919 days

#5 posted 02-29-2016 03:39 AM

Going to 320 is not necessary – in my opinion. I go through 220, run them under the faucet to raise the grain, allow to dry, then sand again with 220. I use a tack cloth to remove dust then soak in mineral oil for about 10 minutes, set aside to dry. Once dry I check the boards again for any raised grain – if there is any – which is not all that uncommon – I use 400 grit wet/dry paper to smooth it out.

If you are selling your boards, or plan to, the fact that the board is smooth is important. The first thing a customer does after they spy a board they like is to run their hand over the board and comment on how smooth it is.

Hope that helps a bit.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View bigJohninvegas's profile


456 posts in 1485 days

#6 posted 02-29-2016 06:16 AM

I sand mine to 220, and finish with danish oil. After the oil cures it is food safe. Every few washings a little mineral oil is good to keep it smooth. Now I have heard not to use vegetable oil, and i always start with danish oil on a new board. But on my personal board I use what ever oil is handy to maintain it. Most of the time a splash of olive oil. I use this board most every day, and it gets a quick wash about everytime I use it. So I don’t think there is any real danger with a food oil hurting me. I have had a few customers over the years tell me that they can’t cut anything on such a nice looking board and that they keep it for decorative purpose. I tell them to stick with mineral oil. But a board that sees daily use. I don’t see any harm with using whatever your cooking with.

-- John

View Andre's profile


1868 posts in 1829 days

#7 posted 02-29-2016 07:04 AM

The few boards I have made have all been planed smooth and if needed a little smoothing with a Cabinet scraper, have never used sandpaper on any cutting board?

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View splintergroup's profile


2071 posts in 1245 days

#8 posted 02-29-2016 07:45 PM

Rick and Betsy have it, the sanding compresses the grain a bit rather than completely cutting it away.

Wetting raises the compressed fibers back up where sanding can have another go at cutting. You need to use the same technique before applying water based dye so the water in the dye won’t cause the same ‘rough’ condition.

Andre’s use of a scraper is also good, it’ll cut better than sand paper. If I have a curved part to smooth, I go for sand paper, if it is flat, I’ll use a scraper.

View Mayflycarpentry's profile


9 posts in 843 days

#9 posted 02-29-2016 08:34 PM

Interesting stuff. Good thoughts and ideas everyone. Thank for the input.

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