I left off last week ready to glue up my cut pieces of ash and walnut. It bears mentioning that I didn’t start out this project expecting to do an end grain cutting board. Rather, it was my cousin Neil who asked me if I’d make an end grain cutting board, and I said no because the additional steps were annoying. I’ll go into those later.
I used my DeWalt clamps as usual, but I added a set of Bora 50″ clamps. One of the pair that arrived was working freely and nicely. The other one needed more convincing. I set that aside in favor of just using three clamps (the two DeWalt and working Bora).
After the glue-up, it was on to what has fast become my favorite part of the process: hand planing.
I use a Stanley No. 5 plane to have the longest flat surface while still being reasonable to hold. That way I don’t ride dips but get rid of them.
The thing slowing down this process was using the skinny pieces. Since they weren’t as thick as the other pieces, the entire board had to be brought down to their level.
As fun as planing is, there are real benefits to cutting everything perfectly right the first time. I know I’ll get there. But I haven’t yet, so there’s more cleanup.
Once the planing was done, I took out my basic crosscut sled to cut up the board into pieces again.
And I had that decision to make about whether to go edge grain or end grain.
I had two cutting boards under my belt to this point. The first, a simple edge grain that was maple and walnut. The second, a more complicated edge grain that was entirely cherry and had an offset. I had done some planning for each, but the planning factored in the cutting depth of the Proxxon table saw that only makes through cuts. I had gotten my DeWalt table saw in the middle of the cherry cutting board project, and this would be the first one without limits for cutting depth.
I had some desires for this cutting board project: 1. I wanted very little waste. The amount I had to cut off the edges for the offset bothered me. I would have to build that in to preserve as much wood as I could. 2. I wanted the contrast of the light and dark woods. The cherry was fine, and I’d do it again with cherry, but I like the contrast more. 3. I wanted to play around with thicknesses. The prior projects had uniform thicknesses of pieces of wood that I glued together, but the increased cutting depth would allow me to play around with a mix of thicknesses.
I was still at the mercy of whatever the guys at House of Hardwood decided to put in the scrap area.
When I went shopping for this project, I found a lot of poplar. But poplar is bad for cutting boards. I also found ash. Ash can be good for cutting boards.
I found no walnut.
But I had a little bit of walnut left over from my first cutting board project!
I had enough of an idea to start up.
I set up my table saw with my makeshift outfeed table of a board attached to a folding table and set up my fence to rip the walnut. I have since become aware that the fence flips down for closer cuts with the blade guard.
I liked the uniformity of these cuts and the variety of colors. I was off to a good start. I’d have more play with the ash.
Again, the fence flips down for closer cuts. I know that now.
With more uniform pieces, I’d cut some thinner ones.
I had it almost all lined up perfectly. It was those thin piece that threw off the height. But I was sure it’d be worth it.
I left off last week with a planed cutting board ready to be sanded.
I went through grits 80 to 220 with the 3M cubitron sandpaper to get the board smooth.
I decided to leave the offset pieces on during the sanding and trim once done. If I accidentally rolled over the edges while sanding with the random orbit sander.
Like with all woodworking projects that haven’t yet been finished, the colors of the wood became more muted. When I was close to getting it all smooth, I’d raise the grain.
I think I wrote about raising the grain before, but it bears writing about again. When sanding, wood fibers are torn. That’s why it gets smooth. You know, you tear them all the to same height, and they’re even. But the torn fibers swell when they get wet just like how your hair swells when it’s wet.
When freshly sanded wood gets wet and then swells, it doesn’t return to its smoothness when it dries. Rather, there’s some roughness left over from fibers that are still sticking out. That’s not a step you want to do after the finish is applied because you end up with a rough finished product. Raising the grain with water works a lot better because when it dries, sanding lightly again will get rid of those unruly fibers and make things smooth again.
I used my crosscut sled to trim off the crenulations.
I added a chamfer to the edges of the board. I learned from my first cutting board that I needed to raise the grain on the chamfers because they became rough when I finished that board with mineral oil.
After raising the grain that second time, letting it dry, and then sanding it, it was on to the mineral oil finish.
I had completed a striped edge grain cutting board and an offset patterned edge grain cutting board. I read that the only people who have end grain cutting boards are woodworkers. Next week starts my third cutting board project.
I left off last week prepared to cut up the board on my table saw with my simple sled to make repeatable cuts. I had read over and over that a good table saw sled must be squared up to the table. I agree, but for my first sled, I figured it would actually be kinda cool to make strips that had a taper that would offset when glued back together. And that allowed me to make the sled faster.
When I had the board cut up, I prepared to glue up in my new clamps that turned out to be incredibly finnicky. I’m going to reach out to amazon because they’ve just gotten worse.
While it looks like an end grain orientation, this was just the setup for gluing. You can see the alternating tapers where the ends are alternating higher and lower.
I’ve long known to avoid making cutting boards with pieces that meet exactly at four corners because the all-glue middle points are much weaker than where wood is glued to wood. So I offset the pieces in the second glue-up.
The slight taper isn’t completely visible from this angle.
With the glue dry, it was time for the second round of planing.
The board was mostly even, but there were some low spots I had to get out.
I should have been a little more careful in that corner in the gluing phase.
I flipped to the other side and found another low point.
But the planing depth was very low, so I didn’t actually remove that much material to get this thing flat.
And then it was on to sanding to get the thing smooth and ready for the finishing steps of my second cutting board.
I left off last week having planed the cutting board after the first glue-up. I wanted to cut the board further, and that’s where I ran into a cutting issue with the tools I had. The riving knife on the table saw did not allow for cuts that do not go all the way through the material because the plastic blade guard is required to be on. And there’s no chance I’m going to cut anything without a riving knife–even if it’s a lower horsepower table saw with a small blade. I’m going to going to risk kickback.
See, the riving knife is a piece that sits behind the blade of a table saw. The table saw blade spins in the direction toward the operator of the table saw, so if a piece gets caught in the teeth, the blade acts like a batting cage pitching arm to hurl a caught piece of wood at the operator.
I tried to get a riving knife that sat lower with my table saw that would allow me to make slots in boards rather than cut all the way through. That way I could cut on one side and then again on the other so I could get a deeper cut all the way through. I had no luck in that area. Is it worth modifying a riving knife to do that?
But then something happened.
The DeWalt jobsite table saw went on sale on Amazon and Calah and I were about to use our 20% off all sold by, shipped by Amazon items because enough had been purchased from our wedding registry.
The DeWalt table saw has enough cutting depth to go through thicker pieces of wood. But it has a much thicker blade than the Proxxon table saw does. I’m now lucky enough to have both and use them in tandem, which I think is pretty cool.
I have mentioned in the past about how crosscut sleds are important with table saws. Miter gauges can work, but the cuts are harder to keep straight.
I was able to trim off the edges, but they were not as uniform as I would have liked. But the table saw worked!
So then it was on to making a sled.
I took a 1/2″ plywood board that was left over from the cushions project, some plywood pieces I glued up, and then some additional plywood pieces I cut into strips on the Proxxon table saw.
I also needed an outfeed table because I couldn’t have things fall off the end.
I had the vacmaster connected to the lower part of the table saw (you can see the hose in the bottom left corner of the picture) and the outfeed table made up of a plywood board I have used as a tabletop for my sukkah that I had finished with polyurethane so the termites don’t get it.
I put all the pieces of the sled together and put a block in place for repeated cuts of the same size.
I was about ready to cut it up for the next stage of gluing. More next week.
I left off last week ready to glue the pieces of cherry together.
For the strong, very water-resistant hold, I used Titebond III wood glue and tightened the parallel clamps.
I complemented these clamps with bar clamps and let the whole thing dry.
I had read differing opinions on how long to let things dry. Some said that the project could be popped out of clamps after half an hour. Others said an hour. Others yet still said 24 hours. I wasn’t going to take any chances with this one and let it sit for a full day.
Then came one of my favorite parts: Planing.
A lot of people have planers they can feed something through to take predetermined amounts of wood off a project to make an even surface.
I have hand planes.
I rely most on my Stanley No. 5 plane because the sole (flat part underneath) is very long, so the plane spans much of a project for an even surface.
I used the chamfer method to prevent tearouts. I’ll go into that another time, but it was very effective.
I planed the other side to make a flat surface I could then cut up for the next step.
Now, I’ll take a quick diversion to write about a cool thing I will be using later in this project.
During my sanding of projects in the past, I’ve had a small dust collection bag for the Makita sander, a small dust collection bag for the DeWalt sanders, and then finally a big vacuum that I had connected to the DeWalt sander, but the connection was through a rubber piece that had come with my table saw. It was not designed for the DeWalt sander and made a seal that worked but was prone to disconnection.
I saw that someone had posted on a 3D print site that a connector specifically for the DeWalt sanders because DeWalt itself does not offer a connector that allows for vacuums to be used with the sanders. That meant I was able to send the instructors to my cousin Yaakov for a 3D printed connector because he has a 3D printer. This would make it so that the sander wouldn’t disconnect from the hose while I was sanding something. He printed it, and I connected it to my sander, and I was in business!
While I was and still am proud of my first cutting board project, the idea was to build on the first project to create more complex cutting board designs.
So back I went to House of Hardwood and came across many scraps of cherry. Now, I had seen cherry used as an accent within a larger cutting board. Nobody seems to want to make an overwhelmingly pink board.
Due to the limited cutting depth of the table saw, they helped me at House of Hardwood with planing the thickness of the cherry down to about 0.7″.
That meant all I had to do was set the rip fence to 1.5″ and I would be ready to go.
I set up my table saw and my outfeed table that I’d made out of an Amazon box, connected the vacuum, set the fence, connected to power, and then I was actually ready.
I was pretty excited about the varying colors of the cherry and that I’d have pretty consistently cut pieces to glue together.
I crosscut them to about even length. Without a crosscut sled (and without the ability to make one without giving up precious blade cutting depth, close was as good as I was going to get.
In order to arrange the pieces properly for gluing, I wet them down to get a better feel of the colors.
I left off last week with the planks cut up and ready to glue up.
The first step to gluing always is to dry fit. If the boards do not fit perfectly together before the glue is applied, adding glue won’t overcome that permanently. Sure, glue may work initially, but the bond will be weak, and the split will reform eventually.
Then for the glue. I used Titebond III because it’s written up pretty much everywhere as the glue for things that contact water a lot. Some say that Titebond II is enough, but why risk it?
Also I’ve had this glue for a long time, so why not use it? The hope is that it hasn’t gone bad.
With such a small board, the clamps on one side might be good enough, but just in case the push from the bottom would cause the pieces upward while drying, I put clamps on to better balance out the direction of the push.
The part I hate the most is waiting for it to dry. There’s debate as to how long you really have to let a glue-up stay in the clamps. I don’t usually have enough going on to need to free up the clamps so fast, so I like to leave whatever it is in the clamps at least overnight.
With the glue dry, I popped the board out of the clamps and got ready to plane.
The unevenness of the pieces makes sanding as the first smoothing step impossible. Planing accomplishes that goal quickly and repeatedly. So I sharpened the iron of the plane and got to work.
OK I got to work to get the strips of glue out with the tiny plane, but then I really go to work with the Stanley No. 5 plane.
Here are a bunch of progress photos in a row:
And then look what I got!
With the table saw setup and a need for a larger jig to get a straight cut, I realized that I could get the excess off easily with my belt sander.
I held a bubble level to it as the belt sander removed more and more material to make sure that the end result wouldn’t be all cattywampus.
I raised the grain to make to make a smooth surface after the sanding.
I sanded the board from 80+ to 220+. And when I felt the surface, the back of my hand slid on the edge, and I ended up with a decent slice. I didn’t expect that to be the reason to call it a cutting board.
So I decided to put a chamfer on the edge so it would be easier (safer?) to handle.
And then it was time to prep for oil.
And then apply the oil.
Check out next week’s post for the first installment of a series about a second, more complicated cutting board.
I left off last week ready to make my first cuts with my table saw.
I had purchased maple and walnut that I was ready to crosscut because the table saw is small, and my confidence in ripping (cutting with the grain) was lower than my confidence in crosscutting (against the grain). I figured that ripping smaller pieces would be better in the even of drift.
Should I have practiced with wood I didn’t care about so I could preserve the wood I needed? Probably! Did I? No.
And how could I not use the 3D printed crosscut pusher my cousin printed for me?
I went with the maple first. It was thinner than the walnut, so it would just be smooth going. I practiced a few times with the table saw unplugged to adjust the blade and make sure the pusher moved easily. Then it was time to plug it in and cut.
And then I sustained my first injuries. I knew they were happening, but there was little I could do before it was too late.
I was out for vengeance.
I got my vengeance and some of my blood back.
With that mosquito eliminated, it was on to the cutting.
Hooboy was that fun! My first two cuts were smooth and easy with the pusher. Of course, without a crosscut sled, the small table is better suited for smaller pieces for crosscutting.
Crosscutting walnut was more challenging.
The walnut boards were slightly thicker than the cutting depth of the blade. No matter, I had figured. I would just cut through all the way one way and then flip over and cut off the other side.
But I ran into an issue pretty quickly: The riving knife-cover assembly doesn’t provide clearance for a board to pass over it only partially cut. I hadn’t foreseen this. I don’t know how I hadn’t, but I hadn’t.
So it was an exercise in flipping.
When I ran out of room to cut through a board, I flipped it over back and forth and back and forth to cut the newly accessible parts. Absolutely it was sketchy. Using this small setup and the blade guard and everything, it was lower risk of big injury.
While I was proud of myself for the success I’d had, after crosscutting the two boards, I didn’t want to go through that process again.
So I moved to one of my favorite tools.
I took a little bit of material off with the plane at a time, and that took a while. But the alternative was trying to rip and flip and rip and flip. I had zero interest in that.
Finally I got the boards to proper thickness, and I ripped away.
I was proud of the consistency of my ripping work as a first-time solo user of a table saw.
When Calah and I were choosing things to put on our wedding registry, Calah and I debated the legitimacy of adding a table saw. I was in favor of putting it on, as evidenced by me having done so. Calah was opposed.
So I broke down why the table saw (and other tools) were not just reasonable and appropriate.
First I asked what she had against the table saw. She took the position that the gifts on the registry are intended for both the bride and groom. I agreed and said that that’s why the table saw should be on there. She disagreed and said that that’s why it shouldn’t be on there.
So I brought up that kitchenware and cooking appliances are standard items.
I understood that I was at a slight disadvantage with this point because both Calah and I cook, so kitchen items would benefit both of us directly. I had to go the conceptual route: Generally it isn’t the case that both members of the couple are involved in baking and cooking, and that just because we’re nonstandard in that doesn’t change the fact that people are totally cool with that inequity.
“But cookware benefits both of them because food is made for both.”
Well, my woodworking projects benefit both of us. Whether it’s turning junk furniture into something good or making something from scratch, it’s not just for one of us after all.
The table saw stayed on the registry.
Now, I hadn’t owned a table saw before, so I watched a lot of videos on YouTube to make sure I didn’t slice my fingers off. The chance was lower because the table saw has less than a 3/4″ cutting depth, and I was certainly going to install the riving knife assembly with the shield, but I still didn’t want to play it wrong.
What I saw over and over was that it’s beneficial to have a sled for crosscutting. Essentially, you build a tray with skis that fit into the slots on the table so you can push the piece of wood through while never putting your fingers in harm’s way.
That sounded great to me, except that with such a low cutting depth, how could I take up any of that space? I turned to reddit, and I got advice to use hard plastic or 1/8″ high-density fiberboard.
Ultimately, I turned to the world of 3D printing and asked my cousin to print a thing I had found specifically for this table saw:
Rather than having the board underneath, I’d just have the pusher.
Unfortunately for me, my cousin was prepping to be out of town for a month, so I’d have to wait until his return.
I went to my local hardwood supplier, House of Hardwood in West LA, and I picked up some walnut and maple from the scrap area.
Finally my cousin got back.
He printed out the pusher, and it fit right on. I mean, I had to knock off a little bit of excess plastic, but once I did that, it was perfect.
I set up the my dust collection system (aka my vacmaster), attached the table saw to my coffee table workbench, made sure all moving parts were clear of obstruction, and then I plugged everything in. I was ready to make my first cuts.