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Thread: Douglas Fir cutting board?

  1. #1

    Douglas Fir cutting board?

    My major pandemic project has been a new workbench. I'd bought the lumber a few years ago but hadn't had the time to complete it. It's almost done and I'm left with a few cutoffs from the douglas fir I used for the base. I was thinking about making an end-grain cutting board with them because a) I can't think of anything else off the top of my head to use them for and b) I've pretty much run out of scrap wood for small projects to keep busy. I generally stick to maple and walnut for cutting boards. A quick search reveals a wide range of opinions. Anyone want to chime in with theirs? Would I be wasting my admittedly low-value time?

  2. #2
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    I would not use D-Fir for a cutting board unless it was ornamental use only. D-Fir is very soft...even when it's the "harder" boards. Even in end-grain orientation, it's going to score so easily that it will be pitted out in a short period of time if it's getting used. IMHO.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  3. #3
    +1. Adding to the problems is the differential hardness of the earlywood and latewood. Unless it is super slow growing old growth material, the surface of the board is going to wear unevenly.

    What about using the scraps for some tool trays or carriers for your workbench? One of the perennial problems I have with the workbench is becoming so cluttered with tools that I have to spend a bunch of time clearing things if I need an open area. I made a couple small trays to put the collection of small tools I keep handy (e.g., couple chisels, couple squares, marking tools/pencils/Sharpie, a tape, a 12" ruler) in. When I need to clear some space, I can just move the trays instead of picking up all the miscellany.

    Best,

    Dave

  4. #4
    I moved into a house last year built in 1955. The built in kitchen cutting board is fir. When the kitchen cabinets were sanded for finish, the cutting board was in the stack. Since the guy who works for me had a sander in his hand...well, it was sanded clean.

    It was pretty carved up after 65 years of use, but not so much so that a few minutes in the eager hands of my do first, think...maybe...later helper couldnít straighten out.

    After about 9 months of use itís in better condition than I would have anticipated. The plan has been to replace it with Maple, but with all the projects it might be a while.

  5. #5
    Thatís a good idea. My gut instinct was the fir was too soft for a cutting board, even on end grain. I just saw some online that made me question that instinct. But both comments have made me think I could add handles and make it more of a serving tray. Iíll think about it a bit more. Thanks for the advice.

  6. #6
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    I've made a lot of DF "serving boards" over the years. As Jim says, its soft, but if your intention is to serve cheese/sausage without a lot of serious cutting with a sharp knife, it serves well. Old growth quartersawn tight grain DF is a much better choice than faster grown flat grain for this purpose, IMHO.

  7. #7
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    Id go for it, whatís wrong with a soft board? If you have very nice, expensive, brittle, and hard steel sharpened to an acute bevel, then a soft board is a good thing. I think the Japanese exclusively cut on hinoki boards, which are a softwood. I donít know the janka number for hinoki, but itís a cypress and canít be that hard.

  8. #8
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    If it has relatively tight growth rings I think it would work pretty well. DF is fairly hard for a "softwood" but all of the hardness is in the dark rings. The light wood between the rings is very soft, so wood with widely spaced rings has a very uneven texture and is kind of nasty to work with. Honestly even wide ringed wood would still work ok, I don't think an end grain cutting board is that demanding.

    If this Doug Fir was from construction lumber then something to look out for is pitch pockets.

  9. #9
    I agree, I'd also have no problems with making one from Douglas Fir.

    I think it's western culture to always feel things to be need "overbuilt", hence people feeling the need to use exclusively hardwoods, like they're somehow the only ones that work. Wood is wood, even hard maple will get cut up from a sharp knife. Just use what makes you have and don't overthink it. As Patrick mentioned there are actually benefits to using softer woods to aid your knife edge. I built my workbench out of old growth pine for the same reason. I'd rather have my workbench dent than my nice tools or piece I'm working on. I never understood why people want hard maple workbenches..

  10. #10
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    I have some original growth Douglas Fir, the growth rings are close together that I wouldnít hesitate to use it....Regards, Rod

  11. #11
    I also have some old growth DF, roof beams from a canning factory built around 1900, and that stuff is tight grained, dense, and hard. You've given me an idea on what to do with the odds and ends.

  12. #12
    Thanks for all the good input. I'll probably go ahead and make one and see how it turns out. There's one factor I didn't mention which, as I think about it, is relevant. I plan to give it away. And my experience with many of the boards I've given away is that people ted to say "this is too nice to use", despite the fact that I tell them it can always be sanded and refinished when scuffed up. So as long as a wood isn't balsa or toxic, it may not matter much.

    And I hate to admit it but the boards I've kept for myself I prefer to use as serving boards. I use polyethylene for most of my knife work as it can go into the dishwasher.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Porter View Post
    And I hate to admit it but the boards I've kept for myself I prefer to use as serving boards. I use polyethylene for most of my knife work as it can go into the dishwasher.
    I've made pizza peels and use them for serving boards, especially for cheese and crackers. You might try that if your cutoffs are long enough - but it only takes one long piece to go for the handle.

    Mike
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Porter View Post
    Thanks for all the good input. I'll probably go ahead and make one and see how it turns out. There's one factor I didn't mention which, as I think about it, is relevant. I plan to give it away. And my experience with many of the boards I've given away is that people ted to say "this is too nice to use", despite the fact that I tell them it can always be sanded and refinished when scuffed up. So as long as a wood isn't balsa or toxic, it may not matter much.

    And I hate to admit it but the boards I've kept for myself I prefer to use as serving boards. I use polyethylene for most of my knife work as it can go into the dishwasher.
    Ahh man, you are totally missing out then. I cut on a 36" by 20" by 3.5" cherry and ipe end grain board, and it rocks. I think i like the board more than i like my shuns. Its several years old at this point, and looks excellent. I am very happy with how little marking is on the end grain. I cook 6+ days a week, and not just because of covid 19! It was very rare for my wife and i to get takeout or go out to eat prior to this.

    Do you find you cut a lot of raw protein? Other than breaking down a bunch of whole chickens(i rarely buy separate cuts), i very rarely cut raw meat. Its always grill the 2-3lb tomahawk, rest, cut, serve to 2+ people. Roast the whole chicken, rest, separate, carve, and serve to 2+ people. When i break down several chickens at once, i pull out a plastic cutting mat and lay it over top of my cutting board. That then goes in the dishwasher. I keep wondering if its safe to cut on the wood board and chlorox wipe it afterwards. Im sure you have seen the studies about bacteria on wood surfaces versus plastic. Wood wins.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Kane View Post
    I cook 6+ days a week, and not just because of covid 19!
    As an aside, I resemble that remark... And I really enjoy it. I've been hoarding a bunch of scrap and cutoffs to make a very nice end-grain board one of these days, myself.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

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