The Mother Of All Cutting Boards

Viewer Project - By Ed
Added on April 10, 2008

I just finished the “Mother of All Boards” as we’re calling it, and here are the post-install pictures. My wife’s a gourmet cook and we built her a new kitchen. We used stock cabinetry and some granite on the sink-side, but she wanted a run of end-grain walnut butcher-block countertops on the stove-side of the operation. About forty square feet, I think. I got a $3,000 quote, thought “that’s ridiculous”, and well, you’re a bright guy, you know all about that particular road to hell. Actually, it was kind of fun. Scratching around for notes on technique was what led me to your site. I found (and enjoyed) your cutting board video and decided to adapt your technique.

Here’s a run-down of my process:

1) Mill out a bunch of 19″L X 1″H X 2″W pieces (my hardwood supply’s 4/4 is actually about 9/8)
2) Mill out a second bunch of 19″L X 1″H X 1″W pieces
3) Join one 1″W piece to 5 2″W pieces, making an edge-grain board
4) Thickness plane these edge-grain boards to about 15/16
5) Slice the edge-grain boards to 2 1/16″ (each board yields about 8
slices of end-grain)
6) Join the end-grain into tiles, alternating the 1″W piece from left
to right to yield a checkerboard
7) Square the tiles and join them into larger blanks (or a big hollow
square, in the case of the cooktop insert) in a pipe-clamp press.

Then came the conundrum. There are four big blanks in these countertops, and I knew that thicknessing them was going to be a pain. My first thought was a 36″ drum sander, but I wound up going to my buddy’s high-end mantel shop, http://mantelsofyesteryear.com, and using his CNC router instead because I was worried about scorching and snipe on the sander. The CNC routing was really interesting. We spent a Saturday thicknessing and dimensioning these things, and the end result was a set of blanks that were precisely squared, dimensioned, and rounded over on the edges.

Vital stats. These countertops are 1 7/8″ thick. I used about 130 BF of walnut and 2 1/2 gallons of Titebond III. They’re finished with food-grade mineral oil. And they weigh about three hundred thousand pounds! I couldn’t have done this project without Jet parallel-jaw clamps or a Freud crosscutting blade. Or without the Wood Whisperer, for that matter, thinking through your process was what made me see that there was larger potential. So thanks again.