Woodwork can be daunting, particularly if your project is as detailed as those dotted around the walls of Aleksandra Zee’s workshop. However, you don’t need a degree in Fine Arts to craft something for yourself.
For beginners, a handmade cutting board is the perfect place to start; a simple enough place to learn the basics, yet the result makes a thoughtful gift and adds an authentic, unique touch to any kitchen. Buy enough wood so you can make a mistake, and don’t throw away the bits you don’t use – a few small squares can be sanded into a set of coasters.
Find out how to make your own with the following tips from our MarkMaker.
Before you can get started on your cutting board, you need to collect your materials. That means gathering your woodwork essentials – sander, safety glasses, conditioner – and choosing which kind of wood you want to use. Some of the most common cutting board materials are maple, walnut, cherry and teak.
“Laying out materials and figuring out which wood to use is one of my favorite parts of any project. At the moment I am loving hickory, but any tight-grained hardwood will work a treat.”
Find the section of your wood that you want to use for your piece, looking for those interesting details like knots and grains. Then choose your shape, which can either be square or something totally different, depending on how ambitious you want to be. Use a miter saw for a cleaner look, or a jigsaw if you’re looking to create a funky organic shape.
“Ideally, you’ll want to purchase at least 2 feet by 3 feet of your chosen wood – that way you’ll have some room to mess it up. If you want your cutting board to have a handle, you can use the jigsaw again and cut a hole into one of the corners.”
Sanding might not be the most glamorous job in the world, but when it comes to making a cutting board it’s probably the most important. If you’re doing it by hand then it’ll take some hard work to get the glossy finish you want, or you can use an electric hand sander, which is much faster. Start with 150 grit paper and really work on those edges. Then sand the whole board with a finer grit when you’re finishing up.
“Now is the time to sand your little heart out. To get your board into shape it’s going to take a lot of sanding – so be patient for the right result.”
After all that sanding, your cutting board should now be nice and smooth, but it’s not quite finished yet. Applying walnut oil or a food grade wood conditioner will leave it looking beautifully shiny – just reapply the finish once it begins to fade.
“Flood the surface of your board in the conditioner and leave it to soak for a couple of minutes, then wipe it off with a soft cloth. You can also use beeswax for a natural finish.”
Cutting board complete, did you have enough material leftover for matching coasters? Simply repeat the process with your remaining wood.
As for what to listen to while you work on your masterpiece? Aleksandra has tips for that, too.