Quilt-Pattern Cutting BoardComments (0)
This article is from Issue 99 of Woodcraft Magazine.
This might be the prettiest kitchen helper you ever use
A quilter friend recently requested a cutting board featuring a quilt pattern design. As if the challenge of incorporating a fabric-based pattern into wood wasn’t enough, I wanted to make this project an end grain cutting board. With an end-grain surface, the knife spreads the wood fibers apart rather than slicing across them, preserving both the cutting surface and the knife’s edge. The design I developed requires precise cuts to accomplish tight joinery and a crisp pattern, but the technique offers near-infinite possibilities depending on wood choices and geometric layout. Laminated sandwiches of contrasting woods and corner blocks border a core pattern. The border stock should also be oriented end grain up like the rest of the blocks, so the parts move in unison throughout the seasons. You’ll need wide boards to accomplish this, or if your jointer isn’t wide enough, edge-join two narrower boards to make up the width. Just keep the seam centered. I don’t recommend edge gluing to create the blocks that make the core, as glue seams would distract from the geometric pattern. This project is perfect for the quilter in your life or anyone who appreciates attractive kitchenware.
A complex configuration from several simple parts
The design incorporates maple, walnut, cherry, padauk, and purpleheart, but any tight-grained, contrasting hardwoods will work. To create the pattern, cut individual triangular and square strips 36" long. Crosscut these strips to 18" and glue them into two logs that are crosscut into the two sets of repeating 4"-long blocks. Also, a single 4"-long log serves as the center block. Glue the nine blocks together to form the core pattern. Next, glue together the three outer layers to form the sandwich. Crosscut the sandwich and add corner blocks (I used a turning blank, see Buyer’s Guide, p. 62.) to make up the border. Glue the border parts to the core in turn, then resaw the resulting 4"-thick assembly in half to get two approximately 10-3/4"-square by 1-1/2"-thick cutting boards. Feel free to adjust these dimensions to match your needs and lumber availability. Just make sure all the core blocks are the same size and perfectly square before attempting glue-up.
Order of Work
- Rip individual strips
- Glue strips into logs
- Crosscut logs to blocks
- Glue blocks into core pattern
- Add border “sandwiches” and corner blocks
- Resaw in half
- Flatten each half with a router and sled
- Round over and finish
Thanks to Cormark International for supplying the lumber used to make this project. For more information, or to buy stock for your cutting board, visit cormarkint.com.
Assembling the core pattern
Mill all the stock for the core strips to 1-1/4" thick by at least 5" wide (I used 7") by 36" long. Include some scrap lumber for test cuts and setups. Be sure to run all the pieces at the same planer setting to ensure consistent thickness. Rip the triangular strips by cutting bevels on both sides of the blade as shown. Return the blade to 90° and the fence to the right to cut the square maple and cherry strips, running the bevel edge against the fence. Crosscut the strips to length, and glue up the logs with the help of shop-made clamps as shown. After the glue has cured, run each 18"-long log over the jointer, taking very light passes (no deeper than 1/32") to square two adjacent faces. Then finish squaring up the logs at the planer. (Clean up the 4" long center block at the table saw, if necessary.) In the process, you might shave off a tiny bit of one or more points, but strive to keep the pattern as consistent as possible. Crosscut the 18" logs into 4"-long blocks and mark for easy pattern reorientation. Arrange the nine core blocks into the pattern and glue them together as shown.
To yield the 1-1⁄4" thick stock for this project, you may need to start with 8/4, as 6/4 stock isn’t commonly available. I used these dimensions to cut the strips:
- Padauk: 1-1⁄4 × 5 × 18"
- Maple: 1-1⁄4 × 5 × 36"
- Walnut: 1-1⁄4 × 5 × 36"
- Purpleheart: 1-1⁄4 × 5 × 36"
- Cherry: 1-1⁄4 × 5 × 36"
(This provides extra material for safe handling.)
- Padauk: 3⁄4 × 7-3⁄4 × 18"
- Maple: 1⁄2 × 7-3⁄4 × 18"
- Purpleheart: 3⁄8 × 7-3⁄4 × 18"
- Walnut: 1-5⁄8 × 1-5⁄8 × 18"
The stock required for this project is thick and some of the species are dense. My 110 volt, 1.5hp contractors saw protested the 45° bevels. Take some precautions, especially if (like me) you don’t have a riving knife on your saw. Make sure your planed and jointed stock is square and stable. Boards at least 5" wide will keep your hands clear of the blade when ripping the bigger triangles. Also, consider a thin kerf rip blade (See Buyer’s Guide on page 62). At least make sure your blade is clean and sharp. Feed at a steady rate and use a push device such as the GRR-Ripper. An outfeed table will catch the piece after the cut.
The inner and outer angles are made of 3⁄4"-thick Baltic-birch plywood. Machine bolts thread through dowel nuts and press on aluminum bar stock to apply even pressure on the sliding, inner right-angle pieces.
At the border
Once all nine of the core blocks are glued together, true up the edges of the resulting core pattern at the table saw, as shown. To make the striped border, glue up a sandwich from three layers of 7-3/4"-wide × 18"-long material. Once the glue dries, trim the width of the sandwich to match the width of the core pattern. Then crosscut the sandwich into 4" lengths. Also cut four walnut blocks approximately 1-5/8 × 1-5/8 × 4" to make up the corner blocks. Glue the sandwiches and corner blocks in place as shown.
Glue on the sandwiches. Cut two sections of the border sandwich to fit, and then glue them to opposite sides of the core pattern. Carefully align the ends of the border precisely with the edges of the core.
Complete the border. Glue the corner blocks to the remaining two border sandwiches, as shown. Then complete the border by gluing the sandwich/corner block components to the core.
Resawing and routing
After the glue has cured, resaw the piece at the table saw, as shown. Or use a bandsaw with a sharp blade and a tall fence. Scrape away any glue squeeze-out so you have a face flat enough to run against the fence. Then use a shop-built router sled/base to clean up all the surfaces. The sled rides on a simple plywood frame that surrounds the workpiece. Stop blocks on the bottom of the sled keep the router from traveling too far, while opposing wedges hold the workpiece in place inside the frame. Use a handheld router and a 1/2" roundover bit to ease the edges, and sand through 320 grit. To finish, I applied three coats of Howard Cutting Board Oil.
Flatten the faces. Set the router plunge depth to take a light cut, and work the router back and forth evenly across the face of the glue-up to make it flat. (Not perfectly smooth, but flat.) Take multiple light passes if needed. I used a CNC spoilboard surfacing bit. Cut around the outside first, to avoid chipping the edges before working your way into the center.
Finish the edge. Use a bearing-guided roundover bit to put the finishing touch on the edges of each cutting board.
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