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How to Make a Wooden Cutting Board: Whale Cutting Board Plans

Anthony enjoys spending time in the workshop, kitchen, garden, and out fishing. Many of his DIY projects are featured in his yard.

Whale Cutting Board

Whale Cutting Board

This is a Whale of a Cutting Board!

This unique whale shaped cutting board was crafted from leftover bits of wood. The whale silhouette is cut to shape and sandwiched between two pieces of contrasting wood.

The scrap bin in my shop is usually filled with a variety of types and sizes of wood, and I also salvage lumber from old furniture, remodeling jobs and renovations. Saving bits and pieces of found materials adds diversity to the "free" wood in my stockpile, and I enjoy giving new life to these old pieces when creating new woodworking projects.

Over the years, I made lots of wood cutting boards in many different shapes and sizes, and in several different silhouette designs. A recent trip to the Maine coast inspired this new wood cutting board in the shape of a whale that I made from pieces of richly colored teak and contrasting light colored ash that were recycled from a discarded plant stand.

The size of the cutting board was determined by the width of the pieces of teak and ash. The narrow strips of wood from the plant stand are only about 2-3/4" inches wide. After designing the whale template and fitting the pieces together, the finished cutting board is 7" wide and just over 13" long -- a nice size for slicing a tomato, chopping up a few fresh veggies or for serving cheese and crackers.

This whale of a cutting board was a fun and a simple craft project that took just a couple of hours to complete, though a few specialty woodworking tools including a band saw and a drum sander made it easier to cut and shape the hardwood pieces. And by using reclaimed materials from a discarded plant stand, the total cost of the cutting board is $0.

How to Make a Whale Cutting Board

Whale Design Template

Whale Design Template

Designing the Whale Template

The whale silhouette is patterned after a sperm whale. The long, lean proportions of the sperm whale fit best on to the narrow piece of ash hardwood, and the streamlined body shape works well for this cutting board project. I started by sketching the whale on paper and when I was happy with the image, I cut out the paper whale and traced the outline on to a piece of tempered hardboard (a piece of cardboard works just as well).

The whale template is about 2-1/2" high and almost 13" long. Use the 1-inch grid in the photo as a guide to draw your whale template.

After cutting out the template, I smoothed and rounded the edges of the pattern using a sanding drum in my drill press.

The Whale Template - Here's a larger image of the whale template

Whale Template

Whale Template

Whale Template

Whale Template

Tracing the Template

The whale cutting board is made from a piece of light colored ash wood that is sandwiched between two dark brown pieces of teak. The tight grain of these hardwoods make these good choices for making a wood cutting board, but you could also use maple, oak, mahogany, walnut or other similar wood.

Position and trace the outline of the whale template on the piece of ash. A sharp pencil gives a well-defined line to follow when cutting out the profile of the whale.

Cutting Out the Whale

Cutting Out the Whale

Cutting Out the Pieces

Ash and teak are very hard woods. Cutting boards made from these woods will resist knife cuts and stand up well to daily use, and the finished board will look good. The characteristics that make these wood good choices for cutting boards also makes them difficult to cut and sand into shape -- especially when trying to fit varied shaped pieces together seamlessly.

The tool of choice for this job is my band saw. Taking it slowly, cut along the outer edge of the pencil line. Cutting through the hard wood was slow going, even with a sharp blade. Time spent in cutting out the whale as cleanly and close to the line as possible will save time later in trying to sand the pieces for a tight fit.

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Use the whale silhouette as a template for tracing the cut lines on the upper and lower pieces of teak. Start by setting the teak pieces on a workbench, and placing the whale silhouette in position between and on top of the teak pieces.

A thin piece of scrap wood is placed temporarily between the upper and lower pieces of teak to help orient the whale silhouette in the proper location. When you are satisfied with the placement of the pieces, trace the outline of the whale silhouette on to the pieces of teak. Pencil lines do not show up well against the teak's dark grain, so I used a white crayon. Rubbing the crayon against a scrap of sandpaper created a sharper point for a cleaner tracing line.


Test Fitting the Whale

After carefully cutting out the pieces, the whale cutting board should fit together fairly well. Do not be alarmed or discouraged if there are minor gaps between the pieces. A little sanding and shaping will improve the fit and close the gaps. Look at the pieces closely and using a pencil, mark the "high" areas to remove. Sand off just a little wood at a time, testing the fit often to gauge your progress.

With a little patience and selective sanding, you can reduce the gaps around the whale inlay and improve the fit between the pieces of wood.


Apply Some Pressure

When you are satisfied with the fit between the whale silhouette and the adjoining pieces of teak, it's time to glue up the cutting board. Use a waterproof glue that is food safe; I prefer a wood glue though you could use a polyurethane glue.

After spreading the glue evenly along both edges of each piece, carefully align and position the pieces for clamping. I used several pipe clamps, and I added sacrificial cauls between the cutting board and the metal jaws of the clamps. After the photo was taken, I added a third clamp to the topside of the clamping assembly to even out the clamping pressure. I also inserted a piece of wax paper between the wood and the metal pipes.

Apply firm and even clamping pressure, but do not over-tighten the clamps. Wide gaps between the boards cannot be squeezed together by cranking down on the clamps. If the seams along the whale silhouette have small gaps and imperfections, try spreading a little bit of sawdust from the sanding into the wet glue along the glue line and press the sawdust mixture into the gaps. Wipe away any excess glue with a damp paper towel, and set the cutting board aside for the glue to dry and cure.

Whale Wood Cutting Board

Whale Wood Cutting Board

The Finishing Touches

After the glue dries and the cutting board is removed from the clamps, it is time for sanding. If needed, use a paint scraper or putty knife to remove any harden beads of glue.

I started the sanding process with a belt sander, moving the sander continually to smooth out the surface of the cutting board, especially along the glued seams. After a bit of sanding, the cutting board was smooth and clean.

The next step was to round off the sharp corners. Using a coin as a template, I marked off an outlined and sanded the corners with the drum sander. I eased all of the edges on both sides of the cutting board using a router equipped with a 1/4" round-over bit.

After a final sanding with progressively finer sandpaper, the cutting board is ready for finish. A coating of food-safe mineral oil fills the pores of the wood, and brings out the rich color and grain of the wood. The whale silhouette just "pops" right out of the darker teak. The wood cutting board is ready for years of service in the kitchen.

The New Whale Cutting Board is Ready for Use!

Whale Cutting Board

Whale Cutting Board

Do You Use A Wood Cutting Board?

Caring for Your Wood Cutting Board

With a Little TLC, Your Wood Cutting Board Will Last for Years

Wood cutting boards are perfect for chopping vegetables, and for slicing breads and hard cheeses. Do not cut raw meats and poultry on your wood cutting board, and avoid slicing staining foods such as beets and blueberries. Here are a few more tips on caring for your wood cutting boards:

  • Clean your wood cutting board by rinsing the board in the sink under running water. Do not submerse the wood board. Dry the board with an absorbent towel, and then set the board on edge to dry.
  • Disinfect wood cutting board with white vinegar. The acidic liquid works down into the pores of the wood to kill bacteria.
  • For tough stains, try spreading some coarse sea salt on the board. Squeeze a lemon over the salt, and rub the mixture thoroughly into the surface of the cutting board. Rinse with water and then dry the board.
  • Protect the wood cutting board with a coating of mineral oil or a specialty food-safe oil designed for wood products. Spread a thin layer of oil on to the board, and rub the oil into the wood. The oil helps to protect the wood from drying out and cracking.

Take Care of Your Wood Cutting Board

Food Grade Mineral Oil with Natural Wax

© 2013 Anthony Altorenna

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