Jul 252012

If you are just joining us, we are building cutting boards in a concept I call social woodworking. First, we planned them and then went shopping for wood. After cutting wood strips, we assembled the boards. Today, we finish them up. If you would like to buy a cutting board, they are available in the Store

To finish up our cutting boards, we next round over the edge and corners. To finish over the corners, I loaded a 1/2″ round-over bit in my router and mounted it in the table. To round over the corners, I stood the boards on edge and ran them through the router.
 The result is a nice, round corner.  
 Next, we want to round over the edges to make them easy to pick up and keep them from splintering. Rounded edges are visually appealing, too. I like to have the edge rounded over to nearly half the width. These boards ended up about 3/4″ thick. If I used a 3/8″ round over bit, it would have left the edge looking like a half circle (3/8″+3/8″=3/4″). To leave a slight flat spot on the edge, I used a 1/4″ bit (1/4″+1/4″=1/2″ leaving 1/4″ flat side). It adds a little more “bulk” to the look of the board.
 As you can see, there are a few sides to smooth over. It takes awhile. There are some burn marks on the corners. They are a result of my not moving the wood through the router bit quickly enough. Since It was on edge, I moved it slowly to control it better. However, the slow speed allowed heat to build up and the wood burned. It is easy to take off the burn marks with sandpaper.  
  Speaking of sanding, let’s do some. You can see the nicely rounded edges and corners. Looks much nicer. I used some 100 grit sandpaper in palm sander and took off all the burn marks and the other unevenness. The results were very nice. I could have sanded them with a higher grit, but honestly, it doesn’t make that much difference in a cutting board  used in a kitchen. These aren’t fine furniture. 100 grit sanding is good enough.
 Here is a great picture of the edge of a board. You can see where the 1/4″ flat side has some burn marks from the table saw on it. I was able to quickly remove these with the sander. I don’t know what I would do without a power sander. It takes forever by hand.  
  With the sanding done, it is time to apply some finish. Cutting boards are used around food, of course, so we need a food safe finish. There are a few to choose from. I like mineral oil because it is available everywhere, inexpensive and completely safe. Walnut is another I have heard of being used. I have a friend with an allergy to walnuts, so I never really warmed to using it for fear of causing someone harm. Mineral oil’s downside is it doesn’t last very long. To keep a board looking its best, it will need a thin coat of mineral oil rubbed on every few months or so.
Mineral oil is dead easy to apply. Pour a small amount on the board. Take a paper towel, fold or wad it up and rub.  
   You can see how quickly the beauty of the wood appears with just a little oil on it. This is the first coat of oil of three or four I apply when finishing it for the first time. It will soak into the wood a little more with each application.
 It is quite therapeutic to apply finish this way. There is something about watching the oil absorb into the surface and the way it feels in my hand. Sometimes I think I perhaps do it a little too much, but it can’t hurt the wood. Get yourself a board and some mineral oil. It really helps to remove the stress of a rough day.  
 Here are the finished boards. They turned out very nice. There are five different patterns to choose. Which do you like the best? I would really like to hear your favorite. Let me know in the comments, please. If you would like to buy one, they are available in the store.

Cutting Board Pattern 1

Cutting Board Pattern 2

Cutting Board Pattern 3


Cutting Board Pattern 4

Cutting Board Pattern 5

Jul 242012

If you are just joining us, we are building cutting boards in a concept I call social woodworking. First, we planned them and then went shopping for wood. Last time we started cutting. If you would like to buy a cutting board, they are available in the Store

Now that we have a lot of wood strips, the next task is to lay them out in an appealing design. I played around with several. Every four foot long set ended up being different. I like variety. Here is the first one, all laid out on the end of the table saw. It usually doubles as a workbench quite often.
Once I get a design I like, I clamp it to keep things from shifting while moving it around. I really like this design. Lots of little strips that show off the contrasting colors of wood. I make the designs symmetrical around a center board. It is more pleasing to my eye than an asymmetrical design.
Next, we glue it all together. Time is against us. The glue starts drying quickly and all the strips need a layer of glue and to be placed in the clamps before the first strip’s glue dries. I called for reinforcements for this step. My wife and son helped me with the process.First, we squeeze a line of wood glue onto the strip. There is a fine line between too much and too little glue. Both make for weak joints. The right amount just covers the entire strip and just barely squeezes out when clamp pressure is applied.
Here is a new invention I love. I used to use my finger or a cheap brush to spread the glue. Both were messy. This year for my birthday, my wife bought me a silicon glue brush. This is wonderful! It evenly spreads the glue out. When I’m finished, I let the glue dry in the bristles. In a couple days, I just pop the dried glue out without any trouble at all. Best birthday present!The brush really speeds up the process and helped us get the wood into the clamps before the glue started to dry too much.  
   Forgive me for not taking more pictures of the gluing process. We were pushing hard to get it done quickly.This is actually two sets of boards loaded in together. We just left two boards without glue between them so they wouldn’t stick together.The clamps may need some explanation. These are three way clamps that apply pressure from all sides. The top and bottom bars are made from rock maple. As the a black end pieces push inward form the edges, the scissor action pulls the bars together and flattens the boards being glued. It isn’t perfect, but it makes table tops and, in this case, cutting boards much closer to perfectly flat and reduces the mount of sanding later.I have two sets of bars for the clamps. This is the short set and allows about 20 inches of width. On the shelf behind, you can see the long bars I use for wider pieces.
Here is another look at the clamps from the other end. I had lined up the ends on the other side so I could find long pieces on this side suitable for handles.  
   After a couple hours in the clamps, I took the boards out and let them dry further overnight. Looking good! I was surprised how much glue this project required. I bought a brand new bottle with the wood. I usually go through one bottle in about a year’s worth of projects. I ran out on the last cutting boards and had to make an emergency trip to the store to finish up.
The next step is to make the boards flat. The problem with gluing up lots of little strips is they are never the same width. The easiest way I have found to do it is to use a planer. It has a set of long knives that spin above the board, shaving off the top little bit as it is fed through. The glue is hard on the blades, but in this case, it is worth it. Notice the 4 inch tube coming off the right. It is hooked to a very large vacuum and sucks up all the shavings.  
   Lots of shavings! The tube popped off and by the time I grabbed the camera, it had covered the top of the table saw. I ended up with about 30 gallons of shavings by the time I was finished.
Here is a good shot of a board making its way out of the planer. As you can see, it is slowly becoming flater and nicer looking. There is still a couple places that need some more work, in the middle and near the end. A planer is very loud and slow, but is us much faster than a hand planer and sandpaper, which is the “old school” method.  
  All done. Sixteen square feet of cutting board finished up and ready to be cut into individual boards.
 Here is another shot. I love how nicely they turned out. The grain and color really set each other off. I think they are going to be gorgeous, if I do say so myself.  
  First up, we trim off the ends. These are much too wide for the chop saw. I have to do this on the table saw. I have a miter gauge to help me. I don’t have a good picture of it (yet), but think of it as a fence that has a bar perpendicular to the face that runs in the groove in the table. The fence supports the wood slab and makes it easy to cut off the ends at 90 degrees to the edges.
 Here is a shot of a cutting board being separated from his brothers. The black mechanism is a miter gauge. It is finally starting to look like what we want.  

Come back tomorrow for the last installment. We will round over the edges, sand and finish them up. If you have any questions, please leave me a comment and I’ll answer it. As always, if you would like to buy one or more of the boards, they are available in the store. See you soon!

Jul 232012

If you are just joining us, we are building cutting boards in a concept I call social woodworking. First, we planned them and then went shopping for wood. Last time we started cutting. If you would like to buy a cutting board, they are available in the Store

Now we move to the table saw. Unlike the chop saw, the blade is mounted into a fixed position. It is then raised and lowered through a slot in a table (hence the name). The wood is passed through the blade to make the cuts. It can make cross cuts, but it specializes in cutting along the length of the board, with the grain. This kind of cut is called a ‘rip’.The blade is raised to a height where the tooth comes completely about the board. The space between teeth, or the “gullet”, carries the sawdust out of the way below the table.
As you can see in the photo above, the edge of the board is pretty rough. They often come from the sawmill this way, leaving the woodworker options for the project. Our first task is to create a clean, straight cut along the edge to work from.To make rip cuts on a table saw, we use a fence. A fence is a straight edge, mounted to the table parallel with the blade. It provides a stable guide as we push the wood through the blade.

Here, I set the fence so I am cutting a minimal amount of wood from the left side of the board. This helps me make a perfectly straight edge on once side. Sometimes boards twist while drying, so more has to be taken off to get a straight edge.

Once I get a straight edge, I can trim up the other side as well. Now we can start cutting strips for the cutting boards. You may remember in our design discussion, I need several strips of different thicknesses to glue up into the 10 inch slabs. Here, I am cutting a 1 inch strip of maple.
  It only takes a few minutes to cut up the maple to the desired lengths. Don’t worry about the blue paint on the end. The ends of the boards are often painted to slow down the moisture evaporating from the end grain. If the evaporation isn’t uniform across the board as it dries, the board cracks. We’ll plane off the paint in a future step. A plane scrapes the top of the wood, removing the top layer. You’ll see it in a couple days.
It can be pretty dangerous to cut very thin strips of wood on a table saw. We don’t just set the fence to 1/8″ and cut. When a thin strip is caught between the fence and the spinning blade, it can easily catch and be thrown backward at high-speed. Trust me, you don’t want to stand in line of fire.Let me walk you through how to safely cut a 1/8th inch strip. I have a piece of cherry that is exactly 4 inches wide.
   Here is a picture of the board. Exactly 4 inches wide.
Now, I set the fence closer to the blade. I want 1/8th inch of wood left when the cut is complete. The blade will cut away 1/8th inch of wood, so I have to add the two together 1/8 + 1/8 = 1/4. I subtract 1/4 from 4 and set the fence to 3 and 3/4 inch. All the time studying fractions in 4th grade has really paid off!  
   As you can see, now 1/8th inch will be left once we make this cut. As I push the large piece of cherry, it will be safely in control. The tiny strip, which is too small for me to safely touch while going through the blade, will fall safely away to the left after it exists the spinning blade. Safety is very important. Even little pieces of wood, when flying at high speed, can do damage to the human body.One time I got lazy and made an unsafe cut, putting the strip between the blade and the fence. Fortunately, I wasn’t standing directly behind the blade when it launched the wood backwards. It traveled 10 feet and embedded in the wall. That is when I learned to do the math and be safe.
 Here is all the cherry cut up. You can tell I like to use thin strips of cherry for accent. Cherry is softer than maple and knives will scar it more easily. I use the harder woods (maple and hickory) for the bulk of the board and use the softer woods for accent.  
   Here is all the wood cut up and ready for arranging into cutting boards. From left to right: hickory, cherry, maple and walnut.
 Remember when I said we were going to make a lot of sawdust? Well, here is a picture of the bottom of the table saw. I usually don’t get this much sawdust from a single project. With all the small strips, a lot of wood turned into sawdust. Too bad I can’t think of anything to do with it. There is probably $20 of wood turned into dust for these boards.  

Tomorrow we will start arranging the boards. This is where the craft becomes art – arranging them into pretty patterns. See you then!

Have questions? Please leave a comment.