Mini Cutting Board Trio

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This article is from Issue 104 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Nested, wall-hung snack-slicing boards

My wife comes up with great project ideas. For some time, she had been suggesting I make small cutting boards, noting how convenient they would be for simply slicing up a piece of fruit or small block of cheese when snacking throughout the day. Made sense to this snacker, so I got to work playing with a variety of shapes that might suit both form and function. It occurred to me that hanging the boards—but not stacked—would provide easy access to them. These design parameters boiled down to the concept of nesting three differently shaped boards side by side on a wall-hung backboard. I really like the combination of a 5/8"-thick paddle-shaped board flanked by 1/2"-thick round- and kidney-shaped boards. 

Realizing that I would likely also end up making these sets as gifts, I decided to template-rout them. Carefully made templates allow for quick production and ensure that adjacent profiles are a consistent distance from each other for aesthetics. Another advantage to template-routing is that it greatly reduces edge cleanup if you use an over-under flush trim bit, which can be adjusted to cut with the grain to minimize tearout. 

This project affords a great opportunity to use small scrap boards of precious woods. I made this set of cutting boards from curly maple, while the backboard is ambrosia maple. I have to hand it to my wife: we reach for these small boards at least as often as our full-size versions. You’ll see.

Complementary kitchen kit

The cutting boards hang from dowels installed in a backboard that is secured to the wall using keyhole slots routed in the back (not shown here). Curves in the round and kidney-shaped boards complement those that form the handle of the paddle board, allowing the boards to nest together when hanging. The grain in the cutting boards is oriented vertically for both strength and aesthetics. Making the paddle board 1/8" thicker than the two flanking it adds visual dimension to the hanging set. 

Order of Work

  • Make templates
  • Pattern-rout blanks to shape
  • Shape backboard and hangers
  • Sand and finish

Saw First. Bandsaw the templates just outside the lines, using a narrow blade to easily navigate the concave curves.

Make the templates

Print out the paddle and kidney board patterns (see OnlineEXTRAS). Using stiff-paper versions, trace the profiles onto 1/2" plywood. Lay out the 7"-diameter round plywood template using a compass. In each case, orient the plywood’s grain to match that of the finished piece to help visualize grain direction when template-routing later. Bandsaw all the templates slightly oversized before sanding them to final shape with a disc sander and a spindle sander. At each hanger hole location, drill a hole just large enough to accept the shank of an awl that you’ll use later to mark the cutting board blanks.

Sand Second. Sand the round template to shape using a disc sander and jig (See Tips & Tricks, p. 18). The template rotates on a pivot pin installed in the end of a runner that’s clamped to the auxiliary table at the proper distance from the sanding disc. 

A little sticky. A bit of double-faced tape goes a long way, so a few square inches will easily hold the templates to the blanks for routing. For added security, clamp the taped sections in a vise for a few seconds before routing.

Shape the boards

After milling stock to thickness, trace the template profiles onto the blanks, orienting the grain to run vertically when boards are hung. Then rough-saw the boards to shape. Attach the templates to the blanks with double-faced tape, and use an awl to mark the hanger hole locations. Then template-rout to the final profile as shown, using an over-under flush-trim bit. (See Buyers Guide, p. 62.) Detach the templates and drill a 5/8"-diameter hanger hole in each board. Finally, chuck a 1/8" roundover bit in your router table and ease the edges of all the boards, including the hanger holes. 

Flush-trim Setup

An over-under flush-trim bit allows pattern-routing with the template atop or under the blank. Mark out the direction of bit travel for cutting with the grain when the template is on top. Note that you’ll be feeding the workpiece opposite the direction of bit travel.

Clean over and under. With the endmost bearing riding against the template atop the workpiece, trim along the sections you marked earlier, feeding the piece against the rotation of the bit (left). Then flip the assembly over, adjust the bit height to employ the opposite bearing, and trim the sections that remain (right). 

Key to hanging. A simple router jig (see OnlineEXTRAS) helps with cutting the keyhole slots on the back. The jig corrals and guides the router base, allowing you to plunge the keyhole bit, then accurately shift the router 3⁄8" to create the slot.

Finish up

Size and shape the backboard. It’s worth making a router template if you plan to produce multiple cutting board sets. Drill 3/8"-diameter holes for the hanger dowels where shown on the pattern, then plunge-rout the keyhole slots in the back. Sand and finish all pieces before sizing and installing the hanger dowels. Mineral oil—warmed in a pan to aid penetration—works well for finishing the cutting boards, while the backboard calls for something more durable such as wiping varnish. Finally, install pan-head screws in your wall for hanging your cutting board set. Then sit back and snack on some apple or cheese slices while you admire your work.

Slimming down. If commercial dowel stock is too fat, drive it through a dowel sizing plate. You can purchase one or make your own by drilling through plate steel. This shop-made version will slim down 1⁄4"-, 5⁄16"-, 3⁄8"-, and 1⁄2"-diameter dowels. 

Nosing around. After sizing the hanger dowels, chuck each one in a hand drill and round one end using a disc sander. Spin the drill opposite the rotation of the sanding disc. 


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