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The Milling Process: How to Make a Cutting Board

From Milling to Cutting Board: How to Make a Cutting Board

This video is sponsored by Titebond

Bruce Ulrich

Wood milling is the foundation of any woodworking project, and mastering this process is essential for achieving professional-quality results. Whether you're a seasoned woodworker or a novice enthusiast, understanding the intricacies of milling wood is crucial for success. In this comprehensive guide, we'll dive into the inner workings of two indispensable machines—the jointer and the planer—and walk you through the step-by-step process of executing a flawless glue-up for a stunning cutting board.

The Jointer:

A jointer is a woodworking machine designed to create flat surfaces and straight edges on lumber. Here's how it works:

  1. Flattening: The jointer features a rotating cutter head equipped with sharp blades. As the lumber is fed across the jointer's infeed table, the blades remove thin layers of wood, flattening the surface and eliminating any twists or bows. The outfeed table is slightly higher than the infeed table, but the same height as the cutter head. So as boards are passed through the jointer, you have cutting and then flat support under your lumber at the same height. This gives you a nice flat board without any bow.

  2. Edge Jointing: In addition to flattening surfaces, the jointer can also be used to straighten and square the edges of boards. By guiding the wood along the fence while maintaining firm pressure against the jointer's table, you can achieve perfectly straight edges for seamless glue joints.

The Planer:

A planer is another essential woodworking machine used to achieve uniform thickness across lumber. Here's how it works:

  1. Thickness Adjustment: The planer features a feed roller and a rotating cutter head similar to that of the jointer. However, the key difference lies in its ability to adjust the thickness of the cut. By raising or lowering the cutter head, you can control the depth of cut and achieve the desired thickness for your lumber.

  2. Surface Smoothing: As the lumber passes through the planer, the rotating blades remove material from the top surface, smoothing out any imperfections and leaving behind a uniform thickness throughout the board. The jointer references the bottom plate of the machine which is perfectly parallel with the cutter head. This is how the jointer duplicates the flat surface of your lumber on the bottom side and cuts it into your top, which gives you flat lumber on both top and bottom.

Glue-Up for a Cutting Board:

Now that you understand the basics of wood milling, let's walk through the process of executing a flawless glue-up for a cutting board:

  1. Lumber Selection: Choose high-quality hardwoods such as maple, cherry, walnut, or oak for your cutting board. Ensure that the wood is free from defects like knots, cracks, or warping. Bruce did a video here on choosing lumber at a lumber mill and what you need to know when planning your project.

  2. Jointing: Use a jointer to flatten one face of each rough-cut board and straighten their edges to ensure tight and seamless glue joints.

  3. Planing: Once the edges are jointed, use a thickness planer to achieve consistent thickness throughout the boards, aiming for a final thickness between 3/4 to 1 inch for your cutting board.

  4. Table Saw: Push your lumber through a table saw with the jointed edge up against the fence. This will give you the S4S board you are striving for to do a good glue-up.

  5. Dry Assembly: Arrange the boards in the desired pattern for your cutting board, paying attention to grain orientation and color variation. This step allows you to visualize the final layout and make any adjustments before applying glue.

  6. Glue Application: Apply a thin, even layer of woodworking glue to the mating surfaces of the boards using a brush or roller. You can use Titebond II Premium or Titebond III Ultimate for cutting board glue-ups. Check out the image below to help you choose the right glue for your application. Still have questions? Titebond compiled a fantastic FAQ section on their site. Visit it here.

7. Clamping: Carefully align the boards and clamp them together firmly using bar clamps or pipe clamps spaced evenly along the length of the panel to ensure even pressure distribution. Don't overtighten though, just a little past snug is perfect if you did your milling properly.

8. Cleanup: Wipe off any excess glue squeeze-out using a damp cloth or sponge, ensuring to remove glue residue before it dries to avoid unsightly stains on the wood.

9. Allow to Cure: Leave the glued panel in clamps for at least 24 hours to allow the glue to fully cure and achieve maximum strength.

Mastering wood milling is a foundational skill for any woodworker, and understanding how to use a jointer, planer, and execute a flawless glue-up opens up a world of possibilities for crafting beautiful and functional pieces. By following the guidelines outlined here and practicing patience and precision, you'll be well on your way to creating stunning cutting boards that will be cherished for years to come. So roll up your sleeves, unleash your creativity, and let the woodworking adventures begin!

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