How to Build a Cutting Board

A single knife and three garlic gloves on a used cutting board.

Building your own cutting board, or block, can be a great woodworking project, even for a DIYer with basic skills. You can replace your own cheap cutting board with one of quality, in your own custom size, or add a little extra decoration and give one to the cook in your life as a gift. However, as always, it is important to have an idea of what safety measures should be taken, what materials you will need, and the step-by-step procedure before you begin.

Safety Tips

1. Wear Protective Gear

Safety glasses or goggles should be worn whenever power tools are in use and when chiseling, sanding, scraping, or hammering overhead. This is very important for anyone wearing contact lenses. Wear ear protectors when using noisy power tools, as some tools operate at noise levels that damage hearing. The proper respirator or face mask should be worn when sanding, sawing, or using substances with toxic fumes.

2. Don’t Have Anything Loose

Be careful of loose hair and clothing so that it does not get caught in tools; roll your sleeves up and remove jewelry.

3. Know Your Tools

Read the owner's manual for all tools to understand their proper usage, so you can always use the right tool for the job.

4. Maintain Your Tools

Keep blades sharp. A dull blade requires excessive force and can slip, which causes accidents. Also, repair or discard tools with cracks in the wooden handles or chips in the metal parts.

5. Keep Your Area Safe

Don't drill, shape, or saw anything that isn't firmly secured in place. Unplug all power tools when changing settings or parts as well. Any rags you might use to wipe up oily messes will be spontaneously combustible, so take care when you store and discard them. Also, never work without a first aid kit on hand.

6. Be Aware of Yourself and Your Surroundings

Do not work with tools when you are tired. Know where your hands are at all times. Keep tools out of the reach of small children. It’s under these conditions when most accidents occur.

Most Common Mistakes

The single most common mistake in any DIY project is the failure to read and follow the manufacturer's instructions for any tool or material being used. Other common mistakes include taking the safety measures that are laid out for a project for granted, and poor project planning. Here is a list of hints to successfully complete this project and to do it safely:

1. Follow the "Golden Rule" of measuring: "Measure twice, cut once."

2. Provide yourself plenty of time for each step.

3. Understand your plan.

4. When finishing the wood, keep dust and dirt away from the table.

5. Follow the application instructions for your choice of finish.

6. Allow an extra ¼ to ½ inch when cutting the stock.

7. Experiment with scrap wood before you work on the real piece. This will help with finishing touches.


Before you begin your project, you will want to become familiar with the woodworking terms shown below.

Miter Cut - Angle cut across the width or thickness of the board

Rabbet - L-shaped cut

Dado - Channel cut across the board, into which a second piece of wood is fined

Kerf - Width of the blade

Countersink - To set a screw head at or below the surface

Dowel - Wooden pin used to provide strength and alignment

Chamfer - Corner of a board beveled at a 45-degree angle

Laminate - Composed of firmly united layers of wood

Wood Selection

The two basic categories of wood used most often in woodworking projects are hardwood and softwood. Hardwood is more durable and less prone to dents and scratches. It is also more expensive but will finish to a better advantage. Soft woods, like pine, are more prone to damage and do not have the durability of hardwood. Softwoods are, however, much less expensive and easier to find.

Ask your lumber supplier to show you "Class 1" or "Select Grade" lumber. Make sure it is properly dried, straight, and free of knots and defects. It may be impossible to be completely free of defects but be sure you understand how to cut around these.

Similar to laying a pattern out on a piece of cloth, often you can cut several different pieces of the same thickness out of a single piece. It is a good idea to add up the total number of board feet, being careful to make sure you group short pieces in a board with long pieces to minimize waste.

This project could be built out of scrap wood already in your workshop. If you choose to use new stock from the lumber yard, both hardwoods and softwood are good choices.

Note: Developing a good relationship with your lumber suppliers is important if you do regular woodworking. They can help guide you in making material selections as well as making special orders for a type of wood you may desire for a project.

Now that you have reviewed safety hints, learned the mistakes to avoid, reviewed the basic components, and gathered your tools and materials for your projects, you are ready to begin!


Step 1 - Cut the Stock

The block thickness is determined by the width you cut the individual pieces. For example, to get a block to be one inch thick, you will cut the stock one wide because of the lamination process which will group the boards together.

Cut the stock a little longer than you wish the length of the cutting board to be. You will cut the board to the finished size after it has been laminated and sanded.

Step 2 - Laminate the Stock

Use resorcinol glue on both sides of the stock to glue them together. Resorcinol glue is waterproof and will provide stability if the board is soaked in water. After gluing, clamp the boards together and let it dry overnight. Scrub off any extra glue before it dries to prevent chipping the cuffing blades when finishing and shaping.

Step 3 - Finish the Cutting Board

After the board dries, take it out of the clamps and use a belt sander to smooth the top and bottom surfaces.

With a table saw or circular saw, cut the board to the length you want. If using a table saw, be sure that the cutting blade does not exceed 1/4" above the cutting board to prevent drag.

A shaper or a router can be used to round the sharp edges. Finalize your cutting board with a non-toxic finish such as mineral oil or a salad bowl finish.