Weekend Project – Chopping Board

Wednesday 11 July 2018

I often think the simplest projects give me the greatest pleasure because they don't generally take long to do, and leading a busy life my time is always a bit short. It's good to use up those odd bits and pieces that oh-so-nearly end up in the woodburner in my front room! A nice chopping board goes down well in the kitchen too, or perfect as a present, always well received.


Choose a food-friendly offcut, in this case it happened to be maple but beech or other light coloured, tight-grained hardwoods should be suitable. Cut it oversize and run it down to thickness, in this case using the Pocket Workshop's thicknessing unit which is perfect for work like this. Make sure both faces are smooth and flat with no snipe – dipped cut – at the ends.


Hand plane the board to width, checking the edges are square. A jack plane is the correct length for this work.


Mark the board ends across with a trysquare and pencil the board to length.


To cut to length there are two options. The first is to handsaw it slightly over length using a good sharp blade.


Method one – use a router, straight cutter and T-square to trim neatly to the marked lines allowing for the cutter to base offset distance.


Second method – use a circular saw and the T-square to do a cut to the marked lines. Remember the blade to baseplate edge offset. If the cut finish is known from experience to be a bit rough, leave a bit of extra length and use the router to trim.


You should now have a nice neat rectangular board shape. The corners need to be rounded off so find a suitable shape to draw around but leave the board square for the moment to make fenced routing more accurate.


Before the corners are shaped we need to make finger grip slots in the sides to lift the chopping board up by. Make up an L-jig for the router, simply two boards screwed together with a bracket underneath to keep it rigid. Pre-drill to avoid the board puffing or splitting open.


Fix an L-jig in the vice and clamp the board to it flush with the top of the jig, mark the slot length about 50mm short of each end and use the router, fence and a small corebox bit to machine the slots. Note the L-jig is wider than the chopping board so the router has support at the start and end of each cut.


So long as you control the router by pressing the fence carefully against the jig, you should end up with a nice neat stopped finger recess.


On one side of the board we need a slot to contain meat juices, while the other side is plain for vegetable preparation. To make the slot use a tiny corebox cutter in the router and use with the straight fence. The board is sitting on Trend Loc Blocks so the fence facing can hang down below the board's edge.


Bandsaw off the corners of the board working close to the line, then use a wood file and abrasives to smooth the shape.


The chopping board edges need a tiny bevel to finish them properly. Make sure the bearing on your bevel cutter doesn't sit too far down or it will run into the finger recesses and ruin the job. All edges now need a small roundover, I like using a 3.2mm cutter for a very neat profile. Make sure the cutter isn't set down too low or the slight step left behind will be hard to remove.


Sand fully all over finishing with fine abrasive. To sand the edges put the board in the vice before using the sander.


Use a suitable food-safe finish – the simplest being vegetable oil – and let it soak in. Your board is now ready for the next meal!