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Chopping board questions

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fraser

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Hi
I want to make some chopping boards, preferably out of one piece of wood and wondered firsly how wide i could go without the risk of them cupping. I thought about joining more than one but other people seem to be able to do it in one.
Also could I use any timber in contact with food and what sort of finish would I have to use?

Thanks!
 

Kalimna

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It would depend on the timber, how dry it is relative to its' new kitchen environment and how thick the board is (I imagine the thicker and closer to equilibrium, the less it will cup). I have a couple of boards sitting in my kitchen right now that are about 3 years old (and another about 4), and although they are all made up of several bits aand a variety of wood (oak, walnut, beech, sycamore, padauk), they have hardly cupped at all - in fact only one of them rocks slightly on a flat surface.
I think if you are going to use a single piece of timber, then you might just have to accept a little cupping over time.
As for finish, you cant go wrong with 'food safe finish', which I think is just a light mineral oil. Doesnt give much of a shine or depth to the wood, but perfectly good for a utililty item thats in contact with food. I have used tung oil too. Olive oil is frequently recommended, but a FineWoodWorking article a couple of years ago suggested it wasnt too good as it *can* go rancid over time, unlike walnut oil which dries hard.
Safe wood to use - much advice given on this before and I cant remember the links to safety advice, but in general, avoid tropicals as they can be sensitisers. Most UK woods (beech, oak, walnut, ash, sycamore) are ok, but avoid yew and laburnum (toxic).

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Adam
 

Harbo

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I make mine generally out of sycamore and the best finish is no finish.
Scrub them after use in hot soapy water.

Rod
 

paulm

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One important additional thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is the piece of timber itself. if you use quartersawn timber then it should, if properly seasoned and prepared, be pretty stable. If using through and through cut timber, particularly from near the top or bottom of a log, it will be much more prone to cupping.

If looking at the end of the board the growth rings are all short and close to vertical it is quartersawn. If the growth rings showing on the end of the board are longer and run more across the width of the board (ie not near vertical) then it will shrink more along those longer growth rings and cause cupping.

Hope that helps.

Cheers, Paul
 

Jacob

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If for yourself just make them and start using them.
If for somebody else keep them exposed lying about for a week or so in the warmest part of the house.
Either way - if they bend just plane a bit off.
No finish needed.
Any wood will do (excluding obviously soft such as balsa!) the harder the better. Sycamore is trad preferred, but others are OK too.
 

fraser

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Thanks for all the replies! Alot of help there. 

My first question after the replies is without a finish, when it gets washed (then slowly naturally dried out) would this not make it move? I am guessing the dishwasher is a nogo also.  Would the varnish also not reduce the chances of small pieces not coming off when bashed? 

Also, if they were to be made out of more than one piece, what glue would be the best to use? 
 

Jacob

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fraser":1u2anv6u said:
.... when it gets washed (then slowly naturally dried out) would this not make it move?... 
Only if you leave them in to soak and/or too hot.
 

Argus

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I hate to throw a spanner in the works but as a woodworker (and a cook) you need to think about what the board will be used for.
If all you are doing is light slicing, bread and the like, then a broad plank is fine.
For chopping, i.e. chopping herbs, meat, vegetables etc., and not slicing, then you need end grain, not side grain. The thicker the better, think in terms of two inches plus.
If you chop on side grain you will end up with minute pieces of wood in the food. Plus it’s much harder work chopping on side grain. You tend to get a ‘bouncing’ action on the side of a plank.

.
 

soulboy

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continuing the question of which woods are suitable, is there any issue over using oak due to its acidic nature?
thx chris
 

Harbo

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We have an oak bread board which is now 45 yrs old - never caused any problems, used nearly everyday and still going strong! :)

Rod
 

thomvic

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I don't know about other area but the Environmental Health Dept around here doesn't allow commercial food preparation premises to have wooden cutting/chopping boards. They have to be impermeable and washable at minimum temperature of 60C.

Richard
 

gasman

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i've made quite a few of the wood whisperers boards a few years back - i used sycamore, oak, yew, walnut etc etc. varied the thickness a bit - easy enough to do - and they are all still going strong (relatives, friends etc - really straightforward and was one of the first things I made
I definitely think you need a finish - mineral oil best - any sort of cooking oil stinks after a while - keep applying until it doesn't soak in any more
Good luck
Mark
 

Jacob

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A bit too much thought going in to these boards IMHO!
OK if you are a butcher and regularly cleaving carcasses then you might need a proper end grain job. I don't believe butchers finish their blocks with anything other than soap and water, but I might be wrong.
But for ordinary self use you just need an off-cut of any hardwood, planed and cut to size, and that's it. You could be fancy and round off the arris's a bit, but time will do that anyway. Time will also apply an attractive natural looking finish.

A big one for bread. A smaller one for cheese. Several sizes, for chopping and slicing, as pot stands, as plates themselves for non-runny food like cold meat or sandwiches. They last for years and can be planed up like new again several times before they become firewood. They are really useful.
 

fraser

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All sounds really good.
I understand the theory on the end grain side of things but other people use them without any problem, so
like Jacob etc say it can't do that much harm. I am also a keen cook so will look into that bit. Maybe the mineral oil is best for the side grain to help prevent this? End grain looks pretty naff if you ask me but it is still worth a go as a tester. Do you have any ideas of variations angus?
 

Pete Maddex

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Hi,

I have used off cuts of wooden work top to make chopping boards, I put a big chamfer on the ends to make it easer to pick them up.

No finish just wipe them clean and stand them on edge to dry.

Pete
 

bugbear

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fraser":l9c2iqra said:
All sounds really good.
I understand the theory on the end grain side of things but other people use them without any problem, so
like Jacob etc say it can't do that much harm. I am also a keen cook so will look into that bit. Maybe the mineral oil is best for the side grain to help prevent this? End grain looks pretty naff if you ask me but it is still worth a go as a tester. Do you have any ideas of variations angus?
The full time restaurant "prep" guys over on knifeforums all (really, 100%) use endgrain, which they say gives better cutting and is kinder on edges (no sharpening mid-shift). I agree end grain isn't pretty.

I use side-grain, mainly because it allows me to use lighter boards (end grain is weak, so the board MUST be thick). I'm careful to wet both sides when washing up to avoid the more obvious issues, and I occasionally give it a wipe with beef dripping, which is very stable, and gives a little "lift" to the grain and a degree of moisture protection.

A possible (depending on your friends and family) issue with vegetable oils is that the only common edible oil that polymerises (walnut) is a problem for people with nut allergies.

If you can get q/s timber, it's clearly going to be less prone to warping (a cupped board that spins merrily on your worktop is annoying). The best woods for a boards are the diffuse porous ones, maples in the USA, Sycamore over here. Ash (with it's wide, soft rings) would be terrible :-(

BugBear
 

fraser

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Thanks very much again for all the replies.

Beef dripping?! Really? I will give it a go for sure! Bug do you use a finish on yours? Also what is the deal with glues? What can and can't be used?

And what other variations on a end grain board could there be? Other than the usual offcuts glued together.

Cheers
 

twothumbs

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I always gave my boards an oiling with vegetable oil, corn oil, that sort of thing, to stop any initial excessive staining as you would with wooden spoons. Sycamore (11/2" or thicker) still going strong after about 40 years.

I rather think the Ameriacns did 10 years research into chopping baords and found that the natural wood ones were better than the plastic, but perhaps for domistic use. Something to do with pore sizes.... The Americans also did 10 year research into porriidge and established it was quite good for you! I'm not sure how I am still alive along with all the other old bairns in this country.

Putting a board in the dishwashers will instantly split it, as happened to one of my loving made presents.
 
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