Cutting Board Chasm

This post is mainly for the benefit of those who do not currently follow my Facebook page, where a few of us have already begun a discussion on this. Of course, I’d encourage you to head over there now and to click the Like button if you haven’t done so already!

When disaster strikes!

I received an e-mail from one of my recent cutting board recipients last night that. When I saw the heading, I knew it wasn’t good news and could only assume that something had gone wrong with at least one of the boards I’d made for them. In my mind; at least one board had begun delaminating along at least one glue line. But, as you can see in the photo above; what actually happened was far more devastating!

My heart sank and I felt awful, before the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ came rushing through my mind.

Looking closely, you can see the cracks are narrower on this side.
Looking closely, you can see the cracks are narrower on this side.

It looks as though there may well have been some internal stresses within the maple I used, which was of course kiln-dried and, after rough sawing to size on the same day I bought it, I then left it for a period of time which usually allows moisture to escape so that a balance can be formed all around. If you look at the growth rings then you can see that the two blocks are opposing each other. As one would attempt to ‘straighten out’ those lines with the inevitable shrinkage that occurs, they would only end up pulling against one another, which may well have caused the rifts.


Only this evening, have I noticed that this is one of the two smaller boards that I made for this batch. I’m not sure how or if that affects things but at least a replacement board can confidently be made from offcuts. I’m not sure how feasible a ‘repair’ would be, which is why I’ve offered to make a new one when I have time. Again this evening, I’ve reminded myself of a video that Marc Spagnuolo (The Wood Whisperer) once shot on his own terrifying experience with a very similar ordeal…

So, I feel quietly confident that this board could well settle down after a couple of weeks. Although I’ve not yet suggested this to my customer; in such an event, I’d be happy to ‘refurbish’ the same board in its more-rested state and, of course, I would pay for the costs of postage each way.

It is the wood that has ‘failed’. All of the glue lines remain in tact.

This month, I’d also like to make two brand-new cutting boards using a similar contrasting style but of a slightly different design… I’ll doubt I’ll shoot any more video footage of those (I already have two series’ of them) but I’ll keep you updated.

Thanks for reading.

6 thoughts on “Cutting Board Chasm

  1. You should remind your customers that the occasional item splits like this so that they can be assured that you use solid would through and through… ! No composite materials here πŸ˜‰

  2. Olly,

    I can only see only one thing that you could have done better in your layout, and that would be to spin both of the split maple pieces around 180 degrees so the rings are set up like they would be in the tree. Think of your cutting boards as circles, and when they grow all of the stress goes to the perimeter. With that said, nothing you did caused this problem, and neither did the wood. Any moisture/stress issues remedy themselves quickly in end-grain pieces like this since the water flows freely out of the ends. In just the time that is took you to mill the lumber, glue up the boards, and finish them, anything that was going to happen would have already happened.

    What I suspect did happen was that your customer got the board wet and laid it on a flat surface, where it remained especially wet on the bottom side. The moisture wicked up through the end grain and swelled the entire board. The extra insult was that the board was only wet on one side, which you can tell from the way the board cupped and had a bigger split on one side.

    When this board dries out it will be much better, but not perfect. Basically the grain has been raised and will remain slightly expanded where it was allowed to expand. After drying and with glue and clamps, you may get it back into shape, much like the example in the video.

    My recommendation for your boards and for all lumber in the world is to allow it to breathe on all sides. All wet is OK, all dry is OK, half wet and half dry is very, very bad. Adding some feet to your boards will take your customers carelessness out of the equation. After all, they don’t care about the wood as much as we do.

    1. Hi Scott and thanks for your reply.

      That’s a good observation. I was aiming for a sense of symmetry when I set the blocks out but I hadn’t considered ‘rebuilding the tree’, so to speak. It makes perfect sense. I also appreciate your valid thoughts on the possible cause of the cracks.

      With regards to your recommendation of feed, are you suggesting self-adhesive pads of cork of rubber, for example?

      I’d like my boards to remain ‘reversible’, so that they can be used freely on both sides. If you have any further thoughts on this idea then I look forward to hearing from you.

      Yes, I’d not considered how some of my customers may not be as ‘wood-aware’ as I consider myself to be. πŸ™‚

      1. Obviously, it is up to you on how the feet would work, but self-adhesive options would be quick and easy. Other options would include integral wood feet and call for different designs that might make the board one-sided with a specific top and bottom. In middle school, one of our projects was a one-sdied cutting board and we used dowels for the feet. It was simple and did the job. At the same time you could design a board that is slightly thicker on the ends (on top and bottom) that would get the middle of the board up in the air a bit. Anyway, I bet you could come up with lots of ways to make it happen and even a few designs that you like.

        In the meantime, make sure your customers know that they can get the boards wet as long as they are dry on all sides before laying them down again. Recommend that they rinse the boards and then set them up sideways in a dish drainer to evenly dry. Also, clearly remind them to never put the board in the dishwasher.

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