Branching Out with New Things

After over four years of making round things, I finally branched out into making something that was flat and rectangular…

Not too long ago, a friend reached out to me and asked if I could make them a cutting board. Now, I’m not exactly equipped to do that just yet, but I took the commission anyway. Friends support you, and are more likely to give constructive feedback to you if you mess something up.

Messages flew back and forth on Instagram between us in the evenings when we were free. The final request was for an 18×24 inch cutting board that could be used on both sides. So I begin my search for table saws as well as dimensional lumber. Fortunately, I found a lot of maple, cherry, and walnut in the dimensions I wanted and ordered it. This would mean that I could hold off on the table saw for the time being.

The lumber arrived, and when I stacked it together to get an idea on size, I discovered two things:

  1. I didn’t order enough. The board would have been about 6 inches too narrow.
  2. The maple was too light for my friend’s taste.

Not a problem. I ordered another lot of the combo I purchased the first time around. This way I would be sure to have enough and would end up with enough maple on the side for another project. In the meantime, we discovered that my friend really liked the look of purple heart as well, so with his approval (it was going to raise the price some) I ordered some of that as well.

Fortunately I realized that none of my clamps were large enough before I started gluing everything together. I was even more fortunate to find a set of vintage pipe clamps that were long enough at an estate sale for a song, so I would be all set for clamps. Well, almost… I had to run to Home Depot for something unrelated, so I picked up two Bessy clamps while I was there. You can never have too many clamps…

Even with all the new clamps, I still had to finagle my shorter clamps to help on the edges. Proof that even with the purchases, I still didn’t have enough clamps!

When everything dried I realized that I had a new set of problems:

  1. The boards shifted slightly, so the ends were jagged and would need to be trimmed up.
  2. Dear lord, that was a lot of glue that squeezed out!
  3. I was in for a long day of sanding with my little hand sanders.
  4. How was I going to deal with the handles?

I posted about this little set of conundrums over on Threads to whine a little and was thrilled by the responses of the wood working community on there. There were a few good tips, but even more so, was a local wood worker offering to let me come to their shop to finish my project! Well, I’m not going to say no to borrowing someone else’s tools and hopefully learn a little something in the progress; of course I took them up on it!

A fun side note on here was that I honestly had no idea who I was meeting when I drove out to their shop. It turns out that 40×60 Woodworks is also a member of the North Texas Woodworkers Association!

The original offer was to borrow their drum sander, but when I got there we decided to go with their CNC machine instead. Going through that process I learned a few things, and also realized that had I just tried to build a router sled I probably would has still botched things because I never thought to level the piece first. Between flattening and rounding on the CNC, and a few other steps around their workshop I was able to all but complete the cutting board. I can’t say enough about their help. Without their help I’d probably still be sanding…

This still left one key piece for me to do: Add hand holds to the sides of the board. It took some research, and in the end I opted to buy a jig for my handheld router as opposed to trying to freehand it or make my own jig. A few test runs later on a piece of scrap walnut and I was ready for the real thing.

I couldn’t be more pleased with the results of the hand holds. Not only do they look nice, and are big enough to be properly useful, but the’ve bumped my confidence level up a notch so I’m not nearly as afraid of doing something like this again!

A few coats of cutting board oil later, and this behemoth of a cutting board is ready to be delivered!

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