This Woodworking is a Cut Above

Just one year ago, Maker Works member Chris Riecker made his first cutting board–a gift for a cousin’s wedding. In the short time since then, he’s made over fourteen others, each one more intricate than the last.

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He makes them out of nonporous woods like hard maple, cherry, black walnut, birch, and purple heart. For boards that will be used as serving platters rather than for chopping on, he tends to use figured woods, like birdseye and curly maple, flame birch, and quarter sawn sycamore.

He favors maple, with all its diverse figures that range from birsdeye to curly, spalted to quilted, or even multi-figured.

No matter what variety of lumber he uses, however, he always begins with rough sawn pieces. Because of this, the first tool he uses is the jointer to mill a face and an edge of the board so that the two flat surfaces come together at a 90-degree angle. He then uses the planer to mill a second surface of the board, which becomes parallel to the jointed side.

With three flat edges, Chris moves to the table saw to cut the last edge of the board, and then to rip the board into strips before repositioning, gluing, and clamping them together.

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After leaving it to dry for 24 hours, he uses the drum sander to smooth and flatten the new sides of the board and sand away excess glue.

He then cross cuts the glued board into strips again. Each of these strips is rotated 90 degrees before being re-glued. Doing so orients the grain vertically and exposes the end grain, giving the board a checkered appearance:

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Exposing the end grain doesn’t only change the look of the board, however. It also changes the way the board responds when used. The vertical orientation of the grain means that the fibers are more resilient when a knife comes in contact with them. As a result, the board will wear better over time, and will be easier on the knife, too.

After leaving the board to dry another 24 hours, he runs it through the drum sander again, and then uses the table router to round and smooth the edges.

The result is a unique, durable, and beautiful board to be enjoyed for years to come.

“The aspect of woodworking I like most is looking at a finished project and feeling a great sense of appreciation that I made it,” Chris says.

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Check out some of Chris’ other work: