Monday, December 26, 2016

Hickory Chopping Block How-To

Finished product
So the plan here is to describe how to make an end grain chopping block. If you just want to check out pictures of it in its finished form, check out the other post.

7" x 10' x 5/4"
I started with a single 10 footer of 5/4 hickory, about 7" wide. I got the lumber yard to put a straightline on one edge to make life easier.

That's what it looks like before we turned most of it into sawdust
From here, I cross cut it into a couple five foot sections.

Then ripped it into 3" wide strips

Titebond III on the edges + bar clamps = take that hydraulic pressure you're no match for me

When doing this it's useful to alternate grain directions so if (when) the wood moves, the pieces move in opposing directions and maybe that will counteract it

Which I then edge-glued back into a single panel

After gluing up the panel, the panel wasn't totally flush (the closer you are to gluing everything flush, the less that needs to be planed, so be better than I was when I did this). There's also some glue squeeze out along the seams. So, a few passes through the planer clean both faces up nicely.

Next, I set the rip fence to a bit over the approximate desired thickness of the cutting board, and using the cross cut sled (I know you're not really supposed to use both at the same time, but it works), crosscut the panel into strips that then you set on end, face-to-face, to create the board.

To secure the magnet, I cut one strip 3/16" narrower, drilled a 5/8" diameter hole on the drill press with a forstner bit to sink the magnet, glued the magnet in place with a little CA glue, and then glued a 3/16" slice onto the top of the strip, capping the magnet in place and making the strip the same size as all the others.

I start by spreading glue out and trying to get close to all of the edges before spreading it over the entire surface

I try to get a thin layer over the entire face being glued

Yes, my glue bottle is a honey bear

Next is gluing up the cutting board itself. I've seen people on the internet glue all of the pieces together in one go, but I've found that's hard to do. The visible surface forms a grid of sorts, so if something's out of alignment, it draws the eye. Glue, thanks to hydraulic pressure, means that when you clamp pieces together, they can slide a bit. Gluing three or four strips together at a time makes it much easier to correct any sliding and make sure the grid is clean and aligned. It means there's more glue-ups, but hey, that's the price of getting it to look right, eh?

More squeeze out
Again, it's hard to glue the block up perfectly, so there's a little variation up and down as well as some squeeze out. Running it through the planer (taking as thin of slices as humanly possible) fixes this. (Seriously though, end-grain planing a 12" wide block of hickory is the absolute edge of what my planer can handle). Quick tip, take a block plane and put a chamfer on the trailing edge of the block. As the block leaves the planer, there's no grain supporting the trailing edge, and the planer wants to chip the back edge (especially with a wood like hickory). Putting a chamfer on the trailing edge greatly reduces the amount of tearout.

You can see some unevenness and squeezout on the edges

Much better

Crosscutting the both sides squares everything up.

The honey bear glue bottle approves
For feet I just used a bit of left over hickory and cut 45 degree mitres to attach as feet.

There's really no caption that can make sanding end grain exciting
Even though it's a chopping block that will get cut up in use, I wanted to clean off any machine marks from the planer as well as give it a nice smooth surface to the hand. So, 100 and 180 grit sanding with the random orbit takes care of that

I took the block plane and put a small chamfer on the edges. This both softens it to the eye and hand, but also means that any minor clunk or ding it might get in use will be less visible to the eye. Plus it meant I got to play with the hand plane.

Yes, I carved my initials in it because I am vain.

The client requested a design burned into the board. The inspiration was sort of the idea of a couple putting their initials on a tree trunk. This is how it turned out.


To finish it, I wiped it down with mineral oil.

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