Craft an impressive cutting board in eight easy steps
Whether you’re using it to chop food or display an array of cheeses and charcuteries, this piece will serve you well.
The warmth and natural qualities of a handmade charcuterie board make it the perfect way to welcome a guest. This is a simple project that can be completed with a basic set of tools—without electricity, even. You’ll find plenty of uses for this piece as you chop veggies on it, serve food to friends and family, and display it in your kitchen.
Warning: DIY projects can be dangerous, even for the most experienced makers. Before proceeding with this or any other project on our site, ensure you have all necessary safety gear and know how to use it properly. At minimum, that may include safety glasses, a face mask, and/or ear protection. If you’re using power tools, you must know how to use them safely and correctly. If you do not, or are otherwise uncomfortable with anything described here, don’t attempt this project.
- Time: 4 hours
- Material cost: $10 (wood only)
- Difficulty: easy
- One piece of hardwood (mine was an 8-by-16-inch piece of live edge cherry)
- Paper (for a template)
- Osmo TopOil
- Hand plane (or a thickness planer)
- Coping saw (or a bandsaw)
- Bit brace (or a drill press)
- Drawknife (or a spokeshave)
- Rat tail rasp
- Hand sanding block
1. Trace a shape onto a piece of wood. I’ve always been attracted to serving boards that embrace the natural qualities of wood. Live edge boards do this well, as each slab features the natural exterior of the tree it came from. I’d recently picked up a piece of live edge cherry that seemed perfect for this project, I let the natural edge of the piece define the shape of the board. Additionally, because I enjoy inviting the wood to make design decisions, I shaped the handle on my charcuterie board to follow the cathedral grain pattern in the wood. I recommend using a hard wood for your project, as it will resist the wear and tear of chopping.
2. Create a template. Cutting a template out of paper can help you get a feel for whether or not you like the shape you’ve drawn. You can hold it in your hand, see if the size feels good, and easily manipulate the shape by slicing off slivers of paper to get the design just right. Additionally, you’ll have the benefit of being able to reproduce the project in the future if you’d like. If you need help making nice curves, consider using a French curve, or even tracing the shape of an existing item in your house that you find attractive.
3. Prepare the wood. You’ll want a nice, flat board, so it doesn’t wobble around on your countertop. I started by removing the bark from my piece with a drawknife, then proceeded to use a hand plane to make both sides of the board perfectly flat.
- Note: You can use a power jointer and planer for this step if you have access to them.
- Tip: To flatten a board with a hand plane, place the wood on a flat surface and press on each corner to find the high spots on the wood. Then flip the board over and plane them down, checking your work often.
4. Transfer the template to your board. When your wood is flat and ready to go, trace the final shape onto it.
5. Bore a hole in the handle. If you’re going to make a handmade charcuterie board, you might as well display it. I like when I can hang kitchen accessories, so I recommend boring a hole in the handle of your board around a ¾-inch in diameter. Be sure to leave at least a ½-inch of wood between the hole and the outside edge of the handle.
6. Cut out your board. A simple coping saw will do the job, as its thin blade makes it especially good at cutting along the tight curves of the handle. Don’t fret too much about cutting a perfectly smooth line, as you can correct any mistakes at the next step.
- Note: If you have a bandsaw, you can use that for this step.
7. Shape the wood. I prefer to use a drawknife to get the final shape on a charcuterie board. With this basic tool, you can quickly go from heavy stock removal to finessing the smallest details, without missing a beat. I also love the faceted look that drawknives give to the wood since each of the small surfaces left by the blade catch the light in a different way. I figure if I’m making something by hand, you might as well be able to tell! To shape tight corners like the one on the handle, use a round rasp, also called a rat tail rasp.
- Tip: If you’re not confident with a rasp or drawknife, try them out on a scrap piece of wood. They’re fairly simple to use with a bit of practice.
8. Sand the wood. There’s no need to employ a power sander on such a small project, so sanding by hand will do the trick. I recommend sanding up to 220 grit in order to get a nice, smooth surface that will be easy to clean.
9. Finish the board. Applying finish to a charcuterie board is important, as it will encounter harsh treatment from chopping, serving moist foods, and getting washed after use. I chose Osmo’s TopOil to finish my board because it’s food safe and gives the wood a beautiful look and feel.
- Note: It’s imperative to choose a finish that is food safe. Make sure to read the production description carefully to determine whether or not your finish of choice is rated for direct contact with food.