Saturday, July 6, 2013

Chopping Block 1.0: Wedding Gift Edition

Congratulations Sergio and Jonathon (though honor compels me to suggest you swap that "o" for an "a"). Until the day comes that your wedding is just a "wedding" I get to say "happy gay wedding" (and see if I get a spike in google traffic from angry people searching for "happy gay weddings"). In anticipation, I have stocked an ample amount of Xanax for Gay Summer Weddings. Can't wait for those tickets to Italy!

But, in all seriousness, I'm thrilled for the two of you, and am very grateful that I made the cut and received an invitation. I made a chopping block for you guys. For Sergio and Jonathon, after the jump is some care stuff. For other people, more pictures and more info about the chopping block itself.

I put together a chopping block of out of maple for you. This, unlike the cutting board that I made before, has a cutting surface that is all end grain. End grain is far harder and more durable than face grain, which, you might rightly assume, is a good thing when you're cutting it with knives all the time.

Below I'll talk about the chopping block, but first a few words about caring for it:

It's just been rubbed with butcher's block oil. This is a non-permanent finish, and from time to time you should wipe it down with another coat. (Take oil, put on rag, wipe rag on surfaces, done).

It's wood, don't put it in the dishwasher or leave it soaking underwater. To clean it, just wipe it with a damp/wet rag or run it under the sink for a bit and then dry it off. Presto.

If you use it to cut meat on, rinse it right away and use some soap or detergent to prevent cross contamination. You could also put a layer of wax paper between the meat and the chopping block surface. Or, you could just treat it as a kosher cutting board and segregate it to just vegetable/fruit duty, leaving another for meat.

Lastly, it is durable, but it will get cut up (assuming you use it you lazy bums). Eventually you may think it's too chopped up. Good news! It's thick... really thick.

You've only chopped a few millimeters at most. Take a sander, sand it down until it's smooth again, and put more butcher's block oil on once a day for 3-5 days. Presto, chango, you've got a functionally brand new chopping block.

Onto the description of the chopping block:

If you look at any piece of lumber, the wide front and back are the face grain. The long narrow sides are the edge grain, and the ends are... erm... the end grains. In order, the end grain is hardest, the edge grain next hardest, and the face grain the least hard. A cutting board of strong hardwood (e.g. red oak or maple) will hold up reasonably well made of face grain. The next most durable method of constructing a cutting board is to turn all the boards on their sides and make a the cutting surface all edge grain. The most durable way of constructing one is to turn all of the boards end-up.

There are plenty of reasons why end grain up boards are not the most common, despite the fact that they may be objectively the "best." Building a board this way takes more material, more time, and consumes more other materials like glue and sandpaper. End grain is really hard, which is good for resisting knives, but it also makes it a pain to sand.

I ended up just using a little more maple to put a frame around it and routed a simple round-over so now there's an obvious top side to the block.

I'm pleased with how it turned out. I can make them bigger, with an approximate widest end grain surface of 13 inches. If anyone wants one, feel free to ask. Soon I'll probably put one up on the etsy as well.

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