January 9, 2024

The Cherry on Top: Crafting the Perfect Cutting Board

In my woodworking experience, cherry wood stands out for crafting cutting boards. This blog post will explore why cherry is an ideal choice. Cherry wood’s durability and resistance to warping and moisture make it a practical option for kitchen use. Beyond its functionality, cherry’s appearance enhances kitchen aesthetics, elevating a cutting board beyond a mere tool to a piece of art.

We’ll examine cherry wood’s properties, compare it with other woods, and share insights on selecting, working with, and maintaining cherry wood cutting boards. This guide aims to inform woodworkers, culinary enthusiasts, and anyone interested in well-crafted wood products about the benefits of cherry wood for cutting boards. Let’s explore the functionality and appeal of cherry wood in cutting board craftsmanship.

Aesthetics and Durability of Cherry Wood

Color and Grain: A Visual Feast

Cherry wood features a reddish-brown color. What makes cherry wood cutting boards popular is their impressive durability, non-toxicity, and softness that does not dull your knife. Cherry wood is a stunning flat-grain wood that starts with lighter tones and blends with reddish hues.

Cherry wood has a smooth, closed-grain pattern. A single cherry wood board can have several contrasting grain patterns depending on the tree growth. A wavy grain pattern is wood fibers running up and down the tree in a wavy pattern, rather than straight lines.

Cherry-wood-Burl

Aging Gracefully: The Patina Effect

Cherry’s aging process is more dramatic than oak, maple, and other types of wood. Expect typical cherry wood furniture to take on an amber color after around 6-8 months. Cherry wood has a smooth, satiny grain that you can enrich with the application. Often move or rearrange anything that sits atop your cherry wood homeware so that imprints can disappear. Cherry wood darkens as the light triggers chemical reactions in the wood’s pigments. Depending on the intensity of light exposure, the pigments within the wood slowly change, developing richer, more intense shades.

Hard yet Workable: A Balanced Choice

Cherry wood is excellent for cutting boards due to its hardness and food safety characteristics. The wood is hard enough to withstand the rigors of regular cutting but still soft enough not to dull your knives. Cherrywood is a workable hardwood tree. You can easily shape, carve, and sand it without much effort. The wood stains well, meaning you can effortlessly customize it to fit specific design needs.

Resistance to Knife Scars

Cherry is not too soft or hard to use as a cutting board. The board is less likely to develop marks or grooves due to frequent knife use. The high hardness levels make it dense, meaning it can withstand warping, splintering, and cracking.

Environmental and Health Considerations

Sustainability of Cherry Wood

Cherrywood is a sustainable wood choice since it is readily available and can be grown in managed forests. Since it is a renewable resource that can be harvested and replanted, it becomes a responsible choice for those who care about the environment.

Antibacterial Properties of Cherry Wood

Cherry wood features natural antimicrobial properties that help keep your food safe (Nih.gov). These properties help prevent the growth of bacteria, which cause foodborne illnesses. The wood is less likely to develop grooves and crevices from frequent knife use, giving a less suitable breeding ground for bacteria. Cherry wood is tight-grained, giving no room for bacteria to hide. It contains no harmful toxins in its sap. You can even use the board without any treatment, but food-grade mineral oil remains part of its maintenance activities.

Safety Measures: Maintenance and Cleaning

  • Hand wash only and never submerge in water.
  • Disinfect and deodorize using vinegar. Remove stains and deodorize with baking soda. 
  • Clean with coarse salt and lemon.

Cost and Sourcing

Initial Investment

When looking for a cutting board, they should be easy to clean, long-lasting, and will not damage their knives. Choose a cutting board that has been certified by the National Science Foundation. 

Long-term Value

Black cherry furniture works as long-lasting wood. Due to its high sap content, cherry is very slow to season. 

Finding Sustainable Sources

Black cherry wood is sustainable because black cherry trees capture carbon from the atmosphere. Black cherry furniture is also long-lasting. Cherrywood decomposes and turns into nutrients that nourish microorganisms, insects, plants, animals, and soil.

Reclaimed Cherry Wood: An Eco-friendly Option

Cherry wood waste can be recycled as by-products or biomass pellets to offset the carbon emissions during harvesting and processing. Reclaimed wood is more sustainable than virgin wood. It extends the lifespan and carbon sequestration of already used wood, reduces the need to cut down forests, and has short transportation distances and low manufacturing emissions.

Crafting Your Cherry Wood Cutting Board

Essential Tools and Materials

  • A jointer or hand plane, table or hand saw, thickness planer, fixed or plunge router, orbit or belt sander.
  • Clamps
  • Router or chamfer bits
  • Earplugs
  • Safety goggles, dust or face mask 
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood conditioner
  • Wood glue
  • Mineral oil

Designing Your Cutting Board

Lay out your pieces of wood next to one another, with the different textures and shades of wood, so you come up with a design you like. You can alter or switch your design before putting your board together. Glue your boards together.

Preparing the Wood

Cut your pieces of scrap wood to a thickness of 1 ½ inches and a length of 16 inches, running them through a planer until they are smooth. Pick varying or uniform pieces of wood to create your pattern. Make your board slightly larger than your desired size, to cut and sand it down without compromising the final area.

The Cutting and Assembly Stage

Cut your strips for the Cutting board. Cut your pieces a bit longer than you intend your final cutting board to be, because you will trim it later. Cut the board to size on your table saw to clean and true up the ends. Expect to lose a 1/4 to 1/2 inch in this process so factor that into the dimensions of your initial pieces.

Sanding and Finishing

Sand the board starting from 80 grit and then through 120, 150, and 220 with an orbital sander. Finish the sanding by doing 320 and 400 grits by hand. For a profile on the edges, use a round-over bit in a router. Finish your boards with food-grade mineral oil. Apply 2 or 3 coats on the board, letting it sit for 5 minutes after each application and wiping off the excess.

Customization and Maintenance

Engraving and Personalization

create your unique cutting board as each board is laser engraved to fit your design specifications. Make a cherry wood edge grain cutting board with your personalized laser engraving.

Mixing Woods: Aesthetics and Functionality

You can have handmade edge-grain cutting boards made with unique blends of walnut, cherry, or maple wood.

Regular Cleaning Routine

Remove stains with coarse salt or baking soda. Scrub out the stain using a sponge or a brush dipped in hot water. For extra stain-lifting power, use half of a lemon to scrub. The acid gives the abrasive baking soda or salts an extra look.

Oiling Your Cherry Wood Cutting Board

Oil your cutting board every month or when dry to the touch. To oil your board, drizzle some oil onto the entire surface, and rub it in using a dry paper towel. Let it sit for about an hour. Wipe off excess oil.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Dealing with Warping and Cracks

There are three methods used to deal with warps and cracks. The Iron method includes putting a wet towel over your board and ironing it. For the Steaming method, steam one side of your board over a pot of boiling water. The Force and water method involves soaking the board in water, and then setting it under a bunch of weight until dry.

Removing Stains and Odors

Add 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts warm, soapy water. Use the mixture to scrub the board, paying attention to the stained sections.

Summary

Cherry wood is an excellent material for chopping boards due to its unique combination of durability, knife-friendliness and safety. Its density ensures longevity with frequent use, while its softness preserves the sharpness of knives. As cherry wood comes from an edible fruit tree, it is guaranteed free of toxins and therefore cannot come into contact with food. To maintain its quality, it is advisable to oil the wood regularly once or twice a month. This combination of properties makes cherry wood chopping boards a practical, safe and durable choice for any kitchen.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does cherry wood compare to other woods for cutting boards?

Cherry wood is ideal for cutting boards due to its durability and gentleness on knife blades. It’s softer than maple or walnut, reducing knife sharpening frequency, yet dense enough for heavy use. Cherry resists cuts and scratches better than softer woods like pine or cedar and has a fine grain that prevents bacteria buildup. Its moderate hardness minimizes warping and cracking, making cherry a practical, versatile choice for cutting boards, striking a balance between hardness and softness.

What is the cost difference between cherry wood and other materials?

Cherry wood is less expensive than hard maple but costs more than red oak. Price per board foot:

Cherry Wood:

  • 4/4 Cherry: $4.95
  • 5/4 Cherry: $5.50
  • 8/4 Cherry: $6.25

Maple Wood (Hard Maple):

  • 4/4 Hard Maple: $5.35
  • 5/4 Hard Maple: $5.50
  • 8/4 Hard Maple: $7.00

Oak Wood (Red Oak):

  • 4/4 Red Oak: $3.90
  • 8/4 Red Oak: $5.40

This comparison shows cherry wood as more affordable than hard maple but pricier than red oak, considering wood thickness and quality.

How often should I oil my cherry wood cutting board?

Oil your cherry wood cutting board once a month. If used heavily or in a dry climate, oil twice a month. Oil when the wood looks dry or dull to maintain its condition and appearance.

Can I repair scratches and knife marks on my cherry wood cutting board?

Yes, you can repair scratches and knife marks on a cherry wood cutting board. First sand the area with 120 grit sandpaper and then with finer grits such as 220 or 320. Always sand along the grain. Remove the sawdust after sanding. If the board appears dry, apply a food-safe mineral oil to protect and renew the wood. Regular maintenance ensures the longevity of the board.

Is cherry wood safe for all food types?

Cherry wood is safe for all food types, favored for kitchen utensils like cutting boards and bowls because of its hardness, fine grain, and non-toxic nature. It doesn’t alter food flavor or release chemicals. Proper maintenance, such as regular cleaning and oiling, is essential to prevent bacteria buildup and maintain its safety and durability.

David D. Hughes

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