What woods to avoid when making cutting boards?

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Forum topic by Micah Muzny posted 07-04-2014 05:35 PM 2723 views 1 time favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Micah Muzny

185 posts in 1935 days

07-04-2014 05:35 PM

I want to make a cutting board and wondering what hardwoods are safe to use. I know oak and ash is bad due to the open pores in them. Are there any woods to avoid due to being poisonous or woods that would transfer bad taste to food? I know it needs to be hardwoods not softwoods. I know what the usual woods are but looking for some other species also.

12 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile


5091 posts in 2553 days

#1 posted 07-04-2014 06:23 PM

Woods to possibly avoid are: if you’re allergic to nuts then leave out the nut woods. Another one to consider may be Cocobolo, I know I’m allergic to it, and I’m not sure I’d want to prepare food on it. Poplar and butternut are too soft.

Now for the good woods, maple, cherry, purple heart, fruit woods, birch, there are many many others, including tropical woods that really add a lot to a cutting board if used as accents. Typically I use maple as the base wood and add others for color and accents. It is hard to beat maple for it’s tight dense grain, and easy availability and price. Plus it really adds contrast to the darker woods.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View bigblockyeti's profile


5286 posts in 1923 days

#2 posted 07-04-2014 06:46 PM

Anything with large pores, the food can get into them and cause bacteria issues.

-- "Lack of effort will result in failure with amazing predictability" - Me

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2563 days

#3 posted 07-04-2014 08:33 PM

Pressure treated.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Greg In Maryland's profile

Greg In Maryland

553 posts in 3200 days

#4 posted 07-04-2014 08:48 PM

You want to avoid using morning wood—it is better used for other things.


View JoeinGa's profile


7739 posts in 2209 days

#5 posted 07-04-2014 09:09 PM

LOL At Greg!

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View paxorion's profile


1107 posts in 2248 days

#6 posted 07-04-2014 10:11 PM

I think it’s implied in your forum topic (but not the title), but any softwood should be avoided.

-- paxorion

View LiveEdge's profile


594 posts in 1822 days

#7 posted 07-05-2014 06:21 AM

I don’t want to contradict bondo, but nut allergic people would not have a problem with nut woods. Walnut is nice to work with for a cutting board.

View OldWrangler's profile


731 posts in 1797 days

#8 posted 07-05-2014 09:48 AM

A very few people have any bad reaction to Mesquite. It is quite hard, pretty available, nice colors and grains and takes a great finish. It will however, wear out your tools. Zebrawood is expensive but fairly available. It is hard and one of the prettiest woods. Others I like to use are Purpleheart, Maple, Bois D’arc, Walnut, and Locust. Softer woods that are great for projects other than cutting boards are my two favorites Beetle Kill Pine (mostly the Ponderosa) and Aromatic Red Cedar.

-- I am going to go stand outside so if anyone asks about me, tell them I'M OUTSTANDING!

View BoardSMITH's profile


121 posts in 2466 days

#9 posted 07-05-2014 10:02 AM

The generally accepted rule of thumb for woods to use for cutting boards is any wood from a tree with edible running sap (hard maple) or wood from a tree with edible fruits or nuts. Oak is an exception due to the large pores IMHO. Some exotic woods are toxic to humans and should be avoided. Zebrawood is pretty but smells like a wet dog when cut. Cedars are to soft and if the bugs won’t eat the wood you shouldn’t use it to eat off of. Spalted wood is caused by a bacteria that is toxic to humans and unless you are sure the kiln has killed all the bacteria, AVOID it. Besides, the spalted wood is far to soft and mushy to be of any value. All the soft woods like pine are far to soft to be of any value in a cutting board. I have seen some use baltic birch plywood but I would doubt the glues used will be food safe.

Generally stick with hard maple, cherry or walnut.

-- David

View JimRochester's profile


538 posts in 1817 days

#10 posted 07-05-2014 11:55 AM

Cocobolo is horrible to work with. I won’t use it for anything any more. I did one project with it but’s so waxy it’s terrible to sand. Mahogany is another nice rich looking wood for an end grain board.

-- Schooled in the advanced art of sawdust and woodchip manufacturing.

View Micah Muzny's profile

Micah Muzny

185 posts in 1935 days

#11 posted 07-05-2014 03:38 PM

You want to avoid using morning wood—it is better used for other things.


- Greg In Maryland

LOL Greg, that is one wood I don’t want to cut!

View JAAune's profile


1853 posts in 2519 days

#12 posted 07-05-2014 09:48 PM

Here’s a helpful resource.

Toxicity in Wood

Please note that almost all woods have a tiny chance of some kind of mild allergic reaction. There are some that are noted as very dangerous however so it’s important to stick with known species that have a history of use in products designed for food contact.

-- See my work at and

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