Make a Hardwood Cutting Board

  • 01 of 10

    Hardwood Cutting Board Plans

    Close up of butcher with chopping board and knife
    Image Source/Image Source/Getty Images

    If you're looking for a woodworking project that is very easy to build and yet looks spectacular, check out this hardwood cutting board. The tools required to make this project are basic, and it only takes about two hours to build.

    Cutting boards are useful, as every kitchen needs at least one. However, not every wood species is recommended for cutting boards. Open-grained stock such as oak isn't conducive to use in such a project, as food particles can become embedded in the grain....MORE Instead, choose a tight-grained stock such as birch, or in this case, maple.

    Difficulty Level
    • Woodworking: Easy
    • Finishing: Mineral Oil or Salad Bowl Oil
    • Time to Complete​
    • 2 Hours
    • Recommended Tools​
    • Miter Saw or Circular Saw
    • Table Saw with Dado Set
    • Router with 3/4" Roundover Bit
    • Materials Needed
    • Three (3) Pieces 1x6 x 16-1/2" - Maple or Birch
    • Two (2) Pieces 1x4 x 14" - Maple or Birch
    • Pencil
    • Waterproof Woodworker's​ Glue such as Titebond II
    • Mineral Oil or Salad Bowl Oil
    • Sandpaper
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  • 02 of 10

    Cut the Grooves for Joining

    Cut the Grooves
    (c) Chris Baylor

    To begin the woodworking for your hardwood cutting board, use your table saw to rip the three 1x6 maple boards to 5" in width and cut them to 16-1/2" in length, followed by the two end boards ripped to 2" in width and 14" in length.

    Lay the three boards on a table side by side, alternating the end grain. Mark the three boards 1, 2 and 3 from left to right.

    Next, you'll need to set up your table saw to cut the grooves. One of the best aspects of this project is that even an...MORE inexpensive, basic table-top table saw will perform admirably in this project. However, you will need a stacked dado blade set to cut the grooves.

    To set up your stacked dado set, replace the table saw blade with only the two outside blades of the dado set, which is equivalent to a 1/4" thickness. Set the fence 1/4" away from the blade and the blade's depth to 1/2", and run the left edge of boards 2 & 3 through the dado blade. Ideally, you should use a feather board to hold the stock securely to the fence, as shown in the image above.

    TIP: When cutting the groove in boards 2 & 3, run the left edge on end through the blade and then turn the board around and run it through the blade again. This will ensure that the groove will be perfectly centered.

    At this point, you should also cut the grooves in the two end boards, using the same procedure.

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  • 03 of 10

    Cut the Tongues in the Strips

    Cut the Tongues
    (c) Chris Baylor

    Now that you've cut the grooves, its time to cut the corresponding tongues in boards 1 & 2.

    Add some chippers to set the width of your stacked dado blade to 1/2", and lower the blade height on your table saw to 1/4". Move your fence to 4-1/2" away from the blade and run boards 1 & 2 through the blade on both sides to create the tongues that will fit in the corresponding grooves in boards 2 & 3.

    TIP: For the best fit, set your dado blade to just less than 1/4" height...MORE and cut the tongue, then try to dry fit it into the groove. You might need to raise the blade a hair and run it through the saw again, but this will procedure ensure a tight-fitting tongue-and-groove joint.

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  • 04 of 10

    Cut the End Tongues

    Cut the End Tongues
    (c) Chris Baylor

    After you've dry-fitted the three main boards of the cutting board, you'll need to cut the tongues on the ends of these three boards.

    With the dado blade's height set to the same final height (that gave you a tight fitting joint) in the previous step, adjust the ​table saw's fence to 3/4" from the edge of the blade. Clamp a short piece of 1x stock to the leading edge of the fence, as shown in the image above. This clamped piece should be clear of the saw blade and will serve...MORE as a spacer.

    Using your miter gauge (set square to the blade), place board #1 on the table against the miter gauge and also against the clamped board on the fence. Then, while holding the piece tightly against the miter gauge, slide the combination forward and through the blade. Once you've cleared the blade, lift the board, slide the gauge back and place the board on the table to cut the opposite side of the tongue. Repeat with each end of each of the three centerboards.

    Dry fit the entire board together and make certain that the tongues fit snugly but not too tightly.

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  • 05 of 10

    Assemble the Cutting Board

    Gluing the Ends
    (c) Chris Baylor

    Now that you've dry fit all of the boards together, disassemble them so you can glue them together. Place a small bead of glue on both sides of the tongue on board 1, and insert it into the groove of board 2. Follow suit on the tongue of board 2 and insert into the groove of board 3.

    If any glue seeps out of the joints, immediately clean the extra glue with a clean, damp cloth.

    Next, you'll attach the end boards, but you do not want to glue the entire tongues. Instead, place about a...MORE two-inch bead of glue on both sides of one tongue on board 2, and affix the end board. If you were to glue the entire length of this joint, any seasonal fluctuations in humidity that causes the boards to swell or shrink might crack the board. By gluing only the center of the joint, the boards are free to expand or contract as necessary without damaging the unit.

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  • 06 of 10

    Affix the Opposite End to the Board

    Wipe off the Excess Glue
    (c) Chris Baylor

    Once you've affixed one end of the board, connect the opposite end in precisely the same manner. Once again, be sure to wipe off any excess glue that seeps out of the joints with a clean, damp cloth.

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  • 07 of 10

    Clamp the Assembly

    Clamp the Assembly
    (c) Chris Baylor

    Use three woodworking clamps, two on one side and one on the other, to hold the joints together while the glue dries. Once again, immediately clean off any excess glue.

    To ensure that the cutting board is square, measure diagonally from corner-to-corner, and then measure the opposite diagonal. If the two measurements are equal, the board is square.

    By using two clamps on one side of the board and one on the opposite side, you should be able to ensure that the cutting board will be flat after the...MORE glue dries.

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  • 08 of 10

    Ease the Edges With a Router

    Ease the Edge of the Cutting Board
    (c) Chris Baylor

    Next, you'll want to ease the edges of the board with a router. You can put any edge on the board you'd like, but we prefer to use a 3/4" roundover bit with a bearing on the tip. We set the depth of the router so that only the bottom portion of the bit engages the wood. This will give a partially rounded edge, which is a very nice touch on the cutting board.

    Run the router around all four edges of the board on each side.

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  • 09 of 10


    Sanding the Cutting Board
    (c) Chris Baylor

    The final woodworking step on your cutting board is to sand it thoroughly. Use a palm or random orbital sander with progressively finer grit sandpapers to give you a nice smooth finish. It never hurts to follow the sander work with a hand sanding for a perfect final touch.

    Clean all sawdust off of the board when you're satisfied with the sanding.

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  • 10 of 10

    Oil the Board

    Apply Oil to the Cutting Board
    (c) Chris Baylor

    The last step is to oil the board. Apply a liberal coat of either mineral oil, which is available at any drug store or salad bowl oil. Do not use vegetable or olive oil, as these can go rancid over time.

    You'll want to oil your board once a day for a few days before use, and then occasionally thereafter for maintenance. A good rule of thumb that we once heard is to oil the board once a day for a week, once a week for a month, and once a month for life.

    Another good rule of thumb, from a...MORE food-safety standpoint, is to avoid using the same board for cutting vegetables and different kinds of meats. Keep one board for vegetables and one for each type of meat (poultry, beef, pork, etc.). This will help to avoid any possible cross-contamination.

    To clean your board after use, wash it by hand in hot, soapy water or in a dishwasher.