How to finish a cutting board + extra tips

by Lucy Maddox

Meet Jeremy Honey of Honey’s Woodworks. When he’s not busy at his day job, you can find him in his workshop turning wood into stunning cutting boards that are available to buy.

In this blog Jeremy shares his top tips on how to finish a cutting board, so let’s dive in and hear from the man himself all about how he got started and how he gets his boards looking so good.

Hi Jeremy, so when did you start making these gorgeous cutting boards?

Well, having grown up enjoying woodworking projects with my dad, and after watching countless videos on Instagram of other woodworkers creating cutting boards, I finally decided to dive into the world of cutting board creation for myself on New Year’s Eve 2018.

The starter videos I used were from fixthisbuildthat, Brad has some great how-tos on the basics of making cutting boards along with a ton of other helpful videos. This is also where I got my shop plans from. On Instagram, bourbonmoth and woodward_builds also have really good videos with tips for beginners.

Jeremy in his workshop

That’s great, you clearly have a skill for it. Now, what all our woodworking enthusiasts are keen to know - what are your top tips to finish a cutting board?

I would say I have 4 top tips for how to make and finish a cutting board:

Profiling & Initial Sanding

After gluing up a board blank and flatting with a jointer/planer, before I route the edges or add finger grips, I run the board through the drum sander with 120 grit. Then I add any edge profiling/finger grips before switching to a hand sander. Start with 80 grit to remove the drum sander lines from the board. I usually draw pencil lines across the board to make sure it is completely sanded down. From 80 grit I work through 100, 120 and then 150.

Branding & Grain Raising

After 150 grit I thoroughly vacuum the board. At this point I wet a small corner of the board and add my logo with a Gearheart branding iron. Right after branding the boards, I give them a spray down with water to raise the grain. Then they are set to dry completely before moving on to the final steps.

Final Sanding

Once the boards are completely dry, I move to final sanding, beginning with 220. For face and edge grain boards they get 320 after that, end grains finish at 400. I find the 400 on the end grain leaves a glass-like finish and shows off the wood's natural character beautifully.

After the last sanding the boards get thoroughly vacuumed again (you could also use tack cloth or mineral spirits to remove the last of the dust).

Finishing

I dip the boards in a mineral oil bath for about 5 minutes then set them on a drying rack to drip off for about 12 hours. I then wipe any remaining residue off the boards and add a thin layer of Walrus Oil wood wax. I let this sit for about an hour, then buff any remainder into the board. The wax layer helps to seal the board and also makes it smell great!

Finished cutting boards

That’s really helpful. And in your experience, what is the best wood to use for creating cutting boards?

My favorite wood to work with is walnut, it has so much character to it and is always fun to reveal under a rough cut board (now having the right tools and skill level to use those).

For people getting started my best tip would be to make sure you are buying wood of the correct grade for the tools and abilities you have, it may cost more up front but will save so much time and frustration. Right after I started making boards, I thought I could buy rough cut walnut and work with it, turns out you need a few more tools (such as a jointer and planer) and some skill to make that happen!

Good to know! So, now that you have been doing this a while, what tools would you recommend that make finishing a cutting board easier?

I started with a Ridgid jobsite table saw and a handful of Ryobi tools including a miter saw. These were a great start for a beginner on a budget! I realized very quickly that I would need a planer and jointer also and was able to get a Dewalt planer and a Porter Cable jointer. This helped me to increase my accuracy and open up to different grades of wood to work with.

Over a couple years I expanded my shop with a Rikon bandsaw, Supermax drum sander and a Festool sander and extractor. I’ve been using the bandsaw specifically for resawing boards and cutting out templates. The drum sander was a game changer for end-grain boards, greatly reducing the time to finish them and producing a perfectly smooth finish. Festool sanders help produce an amazing finish and also produce less vibration which my hands definitely appreciate. This year I was able to upgrade to a Ridgid cast iron table saw and add a Rockler router table to my shop. Having a flat router table has made template work much safer and faster.

And finally, what do you find the most satisfying part of woodworking?

It’s fun to reveal the final look of the board after you dip it in an oil bath, but the most rewarding part of woodworking is the responses from my customers. While the boards are built to be used daily it’s a great compliment to hear from people that they look so amazing that they don’t want to cut on them!

Natural wood cutting boards from Honey’s Woodworks

Do you also want to sign your cutting boards with a custom-made branding iron? Gearheart create custom-made branding irons to order, so no matter what your requirements are, we will make something perfect for you!