Sometimes having a good DIY project is the best way to spend a day or two. It doesn’t even have to be something huge to fill us with a sense of pride, a wonderful moment of “I did that.” What can make DIY projects a hint more rewarding is doing them with repurposed materials. Nothing says amazing like taking what is ostensibly garbage and turning it into something cool. Well, that’s exactly what making a cutting board from repurposed wood can be.

We’ve all seen those stunning cutting boards with strips of multicolored wood. They seem a marvelous accomplishment, something that surely took years of honed skills and a mixed forest of lumber to produce. Actually, that’s not the case at all. Cutting boards are usually an afterthought project for carpenters with an abundance of scrap wood lying around. And, they aren’t so hard to make at all.

Source: IriGiri/Shutterstock

The Tool List

The most difficult part of making a cutting board is collecting all of the equipment necessary to do it. In reality, this is why they are such a marvel of carpentry: they require quite a collection of tools.

  • A table saw. While some cutting tasks can be completed with an old school handsaw or the typical homeowner’s circular saw. Some of the cuts require the precision of table saw can provide.
  • A planer. This will make the piece properly smooth, both for good gluing and a nice, even surface for the final product.
  • They’ll need to be large enough to hold the board together while glue is drying.
  • Sanding equipment. Technically, we can sand things by hand, but for those who just love equipment, there are a number of palm sanders, belt sanders and dust-free sanding boxes.

While this list isn’t extensive, some of these items are not uncommon to the suburban garage, even a DIYers garage. Remember, it isn’t always necessary to buy these things. There is always a friend around or a nearby shop that might let you borrow something, like a planer.

The Material List

The crux of a fine cutting board is getting topnotch offcuts of wood. Lots of cabinetry shops and furniture makers use quality hardwood lumber, but they inevitably have to trim pieces off and rip boards to fit into spaces. These hardwoods are the best wood for making cutting boards because they are sturdy, beautifully colored and durable. Ideally, we want pieces that are about an inch wide to avoid warping. That said, cutting blocks—particularly for home DIYers—can be made from whatever scrap wood is around, including quality pallet wood.

The other material necessary is waterproof wood glue. More often than not, professional carpenters seem to recommend a product called Titebond II (water-resistant) or Titebond III (waterproof) for this.

The Cutting Board Construction Process

The first step to creating a cutting board is preparing the wood. The scrap pieces should be cut into roughly the same length, slightly longer than what the board itself is to be. Next, the wood should be trimmed via a table saw (or band saw) to the same vertical thickness, slightly thicker than the final cutting board will be. Finally, the sides of the strips of wood should be cut so that they are even widths and planed down so that the sides are smooth.

Once all the strips are cut and planed, it pays to spend a minute arranging them in a pleasing order, either making strips or bands via the colors of the different woods. Then, lay out the clamps. Start with a buffer strip of wood (not part of the cutting board) to protect the end piece from dents or scars caused by the claps then glue each strip of the cutting board together, adding another buffer piece at the far end and finally clamping it together tightly. Wipe off what wet glue clumps cooperate and leave the board to dry.

After the board is glued together, it’s just some final touches. Use the table saw to cut the glued ends of the boards off evenly and squarely. Then, send the top and bottom of the board through the planer until it has a smooth surface. Finally, it’s time to sand. Start with 100 grit sandpaper and work through 150 grit onto 220 grit. Before the final sand, spray the board down with some water and let it dry. This raises the grain and gets off wood fibers that would otherwise stand up after the first washing.

Source: Jarrod Lombardo/Shutterstock

A Shining Moment

Now that the board is completely put together and smooth, the last thing to do is oil it up. Mineral oil is commonly used, but it might be a little safer/healthier to go with some type of cooking oil, a la coconut oil or walnut oil. For those who have plant-based wax around for DIY projects (and it’s not a bad idea), a final coat with an oil-wax mixture will helped to waterproof the DIY cutting board.

For those with access to the right equipment, this is a fun and rewarding project that will definitely wow friends, family and lucky onlookers.

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