Thursday, December 27, 2012

Checkerboard Butcher Block Tutorial

Hardwood Butcher Block: Checkerboard Pattern

Continuing on with "Cutting Board Mania". I wanted to work with more hard woods so I decided to build this butcher block out of maple and oak. It was constructed as a Christmas gift, then I made two more, it turned out so beautiful!

 I really researched how to do these before I started building it, simply because hard woods are much more expensive than say, pine and if you make a mistake, you are out more money because you have to replace the lumber. 

I found this video to be most helpful. 

I changed the measurements for mine and did not do such "fancy" patterns as he did. I wanted the blocks to be all symmetrical and the same size. Maybe its my OCD??

Another thing we need to cover before we get started is the fact that this butcher block is called an "end" grain block - as opposed to an "edge" grain cutting board, you can really use either, but I really like the end grain look.

You can see the difference here:
End Grain is less porous, and sturdier for the type of block I wanted. 


Appx 15 inches square
1 5/8 inches thick
Appx 2 5/8 inches from bottom of legs to the top of block.

Here's how I made it:

I purchased 4, 7 foot pieces of wood from HD. Two Maple, two oak.

I stacked them together and used a clamp to keep them tight. I cut them into 5 pieces each giving me 20 strips of wood.
Clamped, then cut. 

Cut together to keep every strip perfectly cut. 

I wanted the final size of the butcher block to be appx 15 inches square. Here are all 20 pieces stacked together.

Alternated the types of wood, oak, maple, oak , maple. 

Used a wood piece to keep all strips square.

Then I started to glue all strips together. I used Titebond III, and glued only one side of the wood, not both. You can buy this at HD.

Glue seeping out= good. You can sand it later.

Now for the clamping. You need at least 3 clamps for this. The more the better.

Like my clamps? Another "borrowed" item from my dad.

3 clamps, pretty tight, but not so tight that the wood "curls  up". 

Let this sit over night. The label of the glue says it should be dried in 30 minutes, but not to apply pressure for 24 hours. Check!

Next, remove the clamps, its time to cut again with your table saw. I set the fence at about 1 and 5/8 and started to cut strips into the pattern.

I continued to cut until the entire block was cut. A few of them fell on the floor breaking them, that was ok, I just re-glued. I ended up with 8 strips, then turned them to their end grain and laid them in a checkerboard pattern.

Then I re-glued the block again, the same way I did before.

5 clamps here, pressure from all sides. 

Then I waited another day, and removed the clamps.

Then... as sometimes happens with wood projects, it dropped and then split on the hard concrete of my garage, so I had to piece it back together and re-glue it. This time, taking no chances... I smeared glue everywhere and re-clamped it.  That set me back another day!

Another gluing.

Another clamping. 

Now I had to cut the extra squares off of the sides to make a perfect square. I used my compound miter saw, but you can use your table saw too. 

Cut off excess squares. 

Next, the sanding, a TON of it. I used my belt sander, 80 grit first, then 120 grit. Then used my orbital sander 120  then a big 220 grit sanding at the end. This took a WHILE.

Now for the legs.

I took a piece of oak scrap leg, that came from another table I had tortured, and cut it into 4, 1 inch square pieces with my saw.

Cutting legs.
Leg squares. 

Then I started my orbital sander and sanded the sides of the blocks, so that I would have raw edges.

Then I began to glue them with the Titebond III to the 4 corners of the block.

Add clamps to keep them tight.

I let this sit overnight again, then removed the clamps, perfect!

Next, It was time to seal the wood. No staining at all because the colors are pretty without stain. The woods actually do contrast pretty well once the oil is applied.

Now for the grease! I purchased this butcher block cutting board oil at HD. It is food safe blah, blah, blah, so it won't kill you. I poured it on the block...

Then, rubbed it in with a paper towel, came back about 10 mins later and rubbed it down with a rag.

Nice wood grain!
I did this about 3 times per day over the next two days... (it got addicting). Then I took some beauty shots. 

Oh Martha....sigh... I will never be able to bake like you,
but your book looks cool in my kitchen!

So natural and beautiful!
Hope you enjoyed this tutorial, drop me a line!

Happy Building!



  1. wow!! What a great job! That cutting board turned out beautifully!

  2. Replies
    1. have you built it yet? if so did it turn out good?

  3. amazing!! you totally inspired me !

  4. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT! Totally going to copycat you! Thanks for the great tutorial!

  5. Really nice Kristen. I might just try this. Though I will no doubt drop it at least 3 times. Thanks for your honesty and easy to follow instructions.:) Patricia

  6. I followed this basic design process and also tapped holes for dowel rod insertion for added stability (my family and I tend to be clumsy at times). This Christmas present made my partner happy as she loves anything I make, especially for the kitchen! Thanks for the tips!

    1. Nice idea with the dowels, I know someone who has been using this butcher block for a yea... a lot, and it still in great shape. Id love to see a pic.

  7. Hi Kristen, thank you so much for this post and your blog! Its encouraging to know other women also have a passion for wordworking! I have a few questions for you. .
    About the wood you purchased, you mentioned they were 7 ft pieces from HD, do you remember the width and thickness of these pieces?
    Did you have any left over wood after you finished this project?
    Do you remember the general amount you spent on making the cutting board?
    Thanks so much for the tutorial, im really excited to try this!

  8. Hello, Kristen,
    Your blog is really too fantastic. I love your post.
    Block Board Manufacturer in India

  9. this is amazing! how much did the total project cost?

  10. I have been wanting to attempt this type of project but have been hesitant to do so without a thickness planer. After seeing the quality of your end product I am certain that I can do the same. Thank you for sharing your work

  11. Beautiful job! Next time make the 1st glue up with an odd number of strips that way when you rip the board for the end grain pieces you can just flip every other one and have it already square/rectangular without having to trim off the odd pieces...makes it easier to clamp too :)

  12. Dump the rag, just slather the oil on, then walk away. As the oil soaks in on the first day, keep adding more. Ideally, you would, eventually, turn the board over and see wet spots where the oil soaked through.

    A saturated piece of wood will not dry out, so will not crack or split and separate.

  13. Great project! We have an antique large butcher block (end grain maple) and it has rods running through the pieces so it won't spread. (11" thick X30" X30"). End grain lasts longer in appearance and marring damage. (can make damage when cutting against the grain).
    Your project is wonderful and so great for you to share! Thanks!

  14. I am an experienced cutting board builder and I built and sold a ton of cutting boards of all shapes and sizes and if I had to explain how to do it I could not have done a better job.

  15. Wow…outstanding service and products to meet our office needs. I Love all and the colors you choose are perfect. I want this furniture for my new house. Thanks a lot for sharing
    furniture manufacturers in chennai

  16. Should never use oak as it’s and open grain wood
    Cherry and maple are better options

  17. Well your measurements do not add up and niether do your photos but i think i get the idea.