Score Big with a Football Cutting Board

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This article is from Issue 85 of Woodcraft Magazine.

With a little bit of walnut and maple, you can craft a cutting board that’s sure to be a big hit with any football fan. Cutting the cross stitch slots in the joining halves of the football blank involve a technique that is similar to making finger joints, and the nifty trick for bending and applying the maple stripes allows the walnut football shape to expand and contract without restriction. Now let’s give this project a proper kickoff.

Order of Work

  • Glue the lace strips and spacers to one half, and lay out the cross stitches.
  • Cut slots for the stitches, glue the halves together, and tap the stitches in place.
  • Make the stripes and lay out the football.
  • Shape the football and add the feet.
  • Load it up with tasty snacks, and enjoy the game.

Two halves, with cleverly cut notches

The iconic football shape is created using walnut for the football and maple for the stitches and stripes. For stability and looks, I used riftsawn stock with straight grain as opposed to the cathedral grain of flatsawn boards. I cut both halves from the same board for the best grain match.

Each half is notched at the table saw to make the cross stitches, and then glued together. Shallow dadoes on the top make room for the stripes. The feet are cut from a walnut dowel rod.

Add lengthwise stitches to one walnut half, then cut notches for cross stitches

Plane a 5 × 30" length of walnut and a 2 × 12" length of maple to 1" thick. From this stock, rip a 1/2"-wide length of the walnut for the filler strips, and two 1/4"-wide lengths of maple for the laces. (This will mimic the fine seam of the laces on an actual leather football.) For safety and accuracy, I used a featherboard at the table saw using a zero-clearance insert.

Now lay out the slots for eight cross stitches. Tape together the halves keeping the ends flush. Mark four cross stitches on each side of a cross grain centerline. These slots require two separate cutting sessions at the table saw. Once all the slots are cut, glue the halves together. Then cut and install eight cross stitch pieces.

Shallow slots in both halves. Install a 1⁄4" dado set in your table saw and set the cutter height at 3⁄8". Put the halves together with double-stick tape, making the ends and inside edges flush. Attach a wood auxiliary fence to your miter gauge to eliminate tearout. Align the slot layout with the cutter, clamp, and cut.

Deeper slots in the wider half. Separate the halves from each other and raise the cutter to 7⁄8". Now, finish cutting the cross-stitch slots in the wider half that contains the lengthwise lace parts, registering on the slots cut earlier.

A rectangular football. Use the 1"-wide cross-stitch pieces as indexing keys to ensure precise alignment. Once fully clamped and aligned, remove the keys to prevent them from being glued in place. Use moistened cotton swabs to remove glue in the slots. Finally, glue in place the cross stitch pieces and sand them flush when dry.

Stripes, curves, and finish…Touchdown!

Lay out the football’s 1"-wide stripes 3/4" from the end of the laces. Extend the lines onto the edges to align the dado cutter, and cut the dadoes as shown.

Size two pieces of maple to fit the dadoes. I give the stripe pieces a permanent bend along their lengths and apply glue to only the middle two inches, clamping the concave faces into the dadoes. The pressure created by the bend keeps the stripes’ top faces flush to the cutting board, allowing for wood movement.

Now the football will start to take shape. Copy the Quarter Football Template (p. 27), and trace the shape as shown. Cut out the shape, and then sand and round over the edges.

Make the feet from 7/8"-dia. dowel rod. Just cut four 5/8"-long pieces, and glue them into 1/4"-deep holes drilled with a Forstner bit.

I sanded the entire football through 220-grit and applied mineral oil. It’s almost time for kick-off. Load up your cutting board with your favorite game-day snacks and enjoy.  

Bend the stripes. Clamp the ends of the maple stripes over a small dowel and heat the center of each piece with a heat gun to form a permanent bend in the wood.

Dadoes for the stripes. Using a dado set and a miter gauge with an auxiliary fence and a stop, cut 1⁄4" deep × 1" wide dadoes across the top face of the cutting board.

Lay out the football shape. To center the football outline on your blank, strike one line between the long lace strips, and a perpendicular line centered between the two middle stitches. Set the template against the centerlines and trace each section as shown.

Shape the football. Cut the blank to shape, sawing just outside the lines. Use a disc sander to remove saw marks and achieve a smooth, accurate edge. Chuck a 1⁄4" roundover bit in your router table, and round-over the top edges of the cutting board using a pair of push pads for safety.

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