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Many people ask, “how do you make these cutting boards?” Most assume that we buy pre-made cutting boards and just laser engrave when the orders come in.
Since we take pride in the work we do and want each cutting board to be truly unique, we make our own cutting boards in-house. Laser engraving an object really disconnects the maker from the craft produced, it’s simply a file, load and engrave.
We are true to the handmade mantra that Etsy and other hand made marketplaces aspire to. With that said, below you will find an overview of the process we follow in making the cutting boards sold at our shop.
Sourcing Local Lumber
We currently obtain our rough and 2S lumber from two sources here in Tampa;
- Lumber Specialties, Inc
- Craftsmen Supply Center
Both offer a good selection of lumber, with Craftsmen Supply Center stocking the greatest variety of wood species.
Milling is the process of taking lumber that has been “rough” cut from a log and cutting it to the desired dimensions required for a given project. The other key task accomplished when milling lumber is squaring it. This means ensuring that all corners square.
Essentially one starts with an 8′ plank with rough edges, odd sizes, with curves all kinds of irregularities and ends up with boards that you would normally buy at a Lowes or Home Depot.
Lumber is usually purchased in 8 foot to 16 foot long boards ranging anywhere from 6 inches to a little over a foot wide. The depth ranges from 3 inches to an inch.
When we mill the lumber we need to ensure we end up with raw cutting boards that match the cutting board dimensions offered. Sometimes we have to glue two narrow boards to make a single wide board. It all depends on lumber availability and the size required for the project.
So we talked about what milling is, next we’ll cover the steps taken to start with a rough piece of lumber and turn it into one of our beautiful, hand crafted cutting boards.
Sizing Up Lumber
Before milling any lumber, the piece of rough lumber needs to be examined to understand grain direction, knot location, weak points and grain pattern. This will help determine where the required pieces of lumber will come out of.
Release the Tension
Lumber is packed with tension. Every knot and every curve pulls wood fibers in all directions. You cut a piece of wood from a larger piece and a knot that was previously part of the larger piece is no longer there to pull fibers one way or the other. Cutting lumber in larger pieces than needed provides the flexibility needed to ensure that any shift in the plank’s shape can be corrected in later stages.
Primary tools used are miter and table saws.
Flatten the Board
Once lumber is cut into the necessary dimensions, the next step is to square it. This simply means turning a piece of curved, rough lumber into one that is square in all four corners.
The primary tools used in this operation are planers and jointers. Each board is run through the planer several times to achieve the desired thickness and end up with two flat faces (also known as S2S lumber).
One edge of the board is flatenned using a jointer. Usually you joint one edge to start with a flat edge or reference edge and use either a table saw or a track saw to rip cut a flat parallel edge on the opposite side.
When all four sides are squared, you have what’s referred to as a S4S board, meaning all four sides are flat.
Cutting the Boards
Now we have boards that can be cut to the desired length and used as raw cutting boards. These raw cutting boards are stacked up awaiting customer orders.
When a customer places an order for one of our cutting boards there are two options, a personalized design or one of our standard designs. Personalized designs add a step to the engraving process where we go into the design application (in our case, Illustrator) and update the design to include the custom request.
Other than that, once design and order are finalized we laser engrave the custom design onto the boards associated with the order.
Laser engraving involves material placement, alignment, laser focus and generating the tool path files used by the laser’s controller board to engrave the design.
During the milling process, the cutting boards are squared and left with sharp edges. Butcher blocks for the most part have a square edge, but all of our cutting boards have a rounded edge.
After laser engraving the boards we use round over bit to round out the edges and leave all edges with a smooth finish that’s easy on the hands when handling the board.
All of our cutting boards are sanded down in two steps, first a coarse 80-100 grit sandpaper and then finished with 220-240 grit sandpaper for a smooth finish.
Once boards have been carefully sanded, we apply a coat of food grade mineral oil blended with beeswax, carnauba wax and Vitamin E.
We let mineral oil blend soak into the board and then wipe off the excess.
At this point the cutting board is ready to package and ship.
As you can see, we do a lot more than just laser engraving a piece of wood. Each board we ship goes through the process outlined above. We take pride in our craftsmanship, our intent is to ship truly unique cutting boards that are crafted with love.