How cutting boards are made

At Small Axe, we start by purchasing rough lumber, all of which is FSC certified. The FSC certification ensures that the wood we purchase is sustainable and comes from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits. 

We purchase the majority of our FSC certified lumber from a lumber yard within 8 miles from our Woodshop; Singh Hardwood in Far Rockaway, NY. Any other lumber we bring into the shop is also certified safe and sustainable from either the FSC, PEFC, SFI or the Rainforest Alliance. 

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We take the rough lumber, cross cut it down to workable sizes and mill it. Milling lumber is basically just flattening and straightening all sides, and squaring all edges of the wood. Get more detailed information about how to mill lumber at FineWoodworking.com

The tools we use to mill the lumber are primarily a jointer followed by a thickness planer and then the table saw. 

 
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We then rip the wood down to strips and mill it again. We may have to repeat the milling process various times based on how much the wood "moves" after ripping it and what the final dimensions will be. Ripping wood is simply cutting the wood along the grain. It is usually a longer cut than a cross cut. The end result is strips of wood. 

 

Once we have strips of wood that are all square and flat, we can glue them up. The glue we use is Titebond III. It is a waterproof FDA approved glue. We put a thin layer of glue on one side of each piece of wood and clamp them together using pipe clamps. We leave them clamped over night.

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After removing the clamps, the board has to be flattened on both top and bottom surfaces. To do this we use a thickness planer followed by a drum sander. Depending on the amount of flattening we need to accomplish we may only use the drum sander. For example, the thickness planer handles "heavier" flattening work while the drum sander is used for light flattening. Here are some pics of the final flattening technique using the drum sander. We also use a planer sled and a drum sander sled to assist in keeping the board flat when planing or sanding. 

 

Next, we cut the board to size on the table saw and square up the sides and edges. We usually use our table saw sled to accomplish these tasks. 

 

Now we use a router round over or chamfer the edges, and add finger holds and juice grooves as needed. We will either use the router table to round or chamfer the edges or just the handheld router. To make the finger holds we use our finger hold jig on the router table. We use the handheld router and juice groove jig to cut the juice grooves. 

 

Ok... now we sand the board... We typically just use a random orbital hand sander. However there are times when we use the belt sander to sand the 4 edges if they are not square. We use a sanding schedule of 80 grit, 120, 180, 220, 400, 600 grit on all 6 sides of the board. We then wet the boards to raise the grain and sand again at 600 grit. There is certainly a lot of sanding involved but the end result is very rewarding. The objective is to avoid the "fuzzy" feeling you may get when washing your cutting board with water. This occurs because water causes the grain to raise. We will wet sand the board to pre raise the grain and sand it back to smooth before you get it. This leaves us with the finger holds and juice grooves. We typically hand sand these following the same sanding schedule.  


And now for the finish! To finish our boards we either give them a bath in, or wipe them down with organic fractionated coconut oil. We let it soak in overnight and wipe the excess. We will repeat this step until the board stops absorbing oil (usually 2-3 coats). Next we apply our Small Axe Board Wax. This adds a really nice, extra layer of protection. Our recipe is simple but effective - Organic fractionated coconut oil, organic beeswax, organic FDA approved essential oil. 


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Or learn more about choosing a cutting board in our Learning Center.