For making crafty gifts for loved ones. What woodworker out there doesn’t enjoy giving gifts that were produced by their own labor? I certainly do, but my biggest challenge is finding useful projects that don’t take 10+ hours to complete. Here is one solution – a simple hand planed cutting board.
Around lunchtime I had a rough sawn plank. Before dinner I had a finished cutting board. Not bad, I think. Let’s walk through the process.
Since I’m working with hand planes, wider boards are better (no width limitation). Wide boards do not require lamination, so it saves time and looks great. The hardest part of this project is finding nice boards that are 12+ inches wide.
This is a great chance to use an off-cut from a previous project. Warning! Don’t the make cutting board longer than 23 inches. Anything longer will be difficult to put inside a kitchen cabinet. This cutting board ended up being about 12 inches wide, even though I would have preferred 14 inches or so. Hey, when working with scraps you can’t be picky.
Sighting under a straightedge in several positions is one way to check for flat.
I used a jack plane to get the board “jack flat” on both sides. “Jack flat” is flat enough that the board is not rocking around on the bench. This rough board was pretty well warped, wrinkled, cupped, bowed, and twisted so it took me a while. Why bother working with such a mangled board? The grain and color of the wood were worth it.
The bottom edge of longer planes makes a handy straightedge.
Next, I brought out my jointer plane, or in this case, my #6. I planed a slight hollow on both sides, hoping that it would allow the board to warp a little in service and still touch the countertop at the corners making it feel stable in use.
With both faces flat (or slighly hollow) and parallel, work the end grain. For lumber like this I hold the board in my Moxon vise and shoot the end grain with a smoothing plane. Use a really sharp and smooth plane. Work to a pencil line, not a knife line. This surface needs to be pretty, not super accurate (it’s not joinery).
Joint the long sides after the end grain. Working in this order should clean up any blown-out grain from the end grain shooting (why planing end grain is called shooting is beyond me). With a rough cut surface I always start with my jack to make the work faster, even on edges. Here I am starting with the jack before jointing it with my 6.
To pretty up the cutting board and make it look lighter, I decided to chamfer the underside. Mark the chamfer with a pencil, not a knife. Pick a chamfer angle that looks good to your eye.
To plane the chamfer, I used my number 6 again. I sharpened it before working the end grain, as shown here. Watch both lines closely and try to sneak up on both at the same time. I do this free hand. I completed the chamfer with my smoothing plane. These chamfers are on the underside, so they don’t have to be perfect, but aiming for perfect is great practice.
Finishing supplies include a smoothing plane, cotton rag, and mineral oil (intestinal lubricant – yum).
Once the chamfers are complete, use the smoothing plane to break all of the edges. “Break the edges” means to run a plane it over each sharp edge 5 or 6 times with a finely set blade. You don’t want to visibly round the edges, just make them dull enough to be easy on your fingers.
Pick your favorite food safe finish and apply by the instructions. I really like Mineral Oil. Just wipe it on and let it dry for about 24 hours. Tell the recipient to keep some mineral oil in the kitchen and re-apply regularly. If you want a finish that’s more resilient and sealing, do some research on the topic. Meanwhile, this thing is ready to be gift wrapped.
I think the chamfer really lightens the look of the board. With such a quick project completed, use your spare time to give some woodworking lessons to your little helpers.
“No, put your hands here. Listen to me – I’ve done this at least once.”