3 main hardwoods I use in cutting boards
Updated: Jul 20, 2022
As a woodworker I enjoy making things out of just about any kind of wood, some woods are harder to work with than others but for the most part I enjoy it all. With that said not every species of wood is suitable for a cutting board. For instance some species of oak are very porous and make horrible cutting boards. This is because they absorb juices from food and harbor bacteria. In some cases the grain is so porous that the finish will literally run through the cutting board before soaking in and preserving the wood. I primarily use 3 kinds of wood for cutting boards. I use Cherry, Walnut, and Maple. Much depends on what I can get my hands on but generally speaking these are the woods I use the most.
Why you might ask? What are the attributes that make these superior cutting boards? Let's start from the beginning, what is it I want in a cutting board?
resistance to cuts
a smooth finish that's easy to maintain
ability to stay flat after getting wet
ease of milling
solid glue up
Black Walnut has been used for years in cutting boards because it's hard, dense, and doesn't bend or warp much after it's initial drying. It sands super smooth and while it does have some imperfections in the grain they are are easily filled with a sealant to insure you don't have any cracks or crevices for food to. be stuck in. I also love Black Walnut for it's aesthetic bringing in a darker color hue to the cutting board. Which is why they make an excellent border.
Cherry is such a beautiful wood with the hint of red that it brings, the close grain, and strong density. I love working with it as it almost always is smooth after milling needing very little sanding to be beautiful. It's hard and holds it's shape well and for me it's one of the best species of wood for laser engraving as it takes the laser well.
Maple and Hard Maple
I love working with Maple and only slightly less so hard maple. Hard Maple and Maple are both hardwoods in the maple family. The Maple family is one of the most common in North America both are considered hardwoods but some species are classified as hard maple being 25% more dense than a soft maple it has to do with the grain structure and how the fibers are put together. Suffice it to say both can be suitable for cutting boards if chosen carefully. The Hard Maple for example is less desirable in some situations as it is so dense it's hard to mill down. For example, compared to Black Walnut I had no issues milling Black Walnut down taking off 1/16 of an inch at a time on my planer. However, a piece of hard Maple was noticeably bogging my machine down and I had to reduce the cut to 1/32 of an inch at a time for a similar sized board. Even so, my planer still bogged down which tells me this stuff is really dense. Even more so than the Black Walnut. This is why my Hard Maple only cutting boards are more expensive it takes a lot longer to make them and the finishing is very tedious. The bottom line is you get what you pay for on a cutting board. Unfortunately a handmade cutting board isn't about just cutting and gluing a bunch of random sticks together. It's a very detailed process that takes time and care to get right. The end result though is worth the wait and the cost especially when it commemorates a life event that will remind those receiving it of that event for years to come.