Plywood is used for many different applications. Although it’s not one piece of solid wood, it shares most of the same characteristics as a board made of solid wood. A cutting board is thoroughly recommended any time a sharp knife is used to prepare food, and in this article I will explain if you can use plywood for a cutting board.
Overall, you can use plywood for a cutting board. However, care needs to be taken to choose a plywood that is made from hardwood. Hardwood plywoods have one face that is typically made of maple, walnut, cherry, teak, or acacia, which are perfect for a chopping board.
There are two different ways to make a chopping board out of plywood, it can be made by cutting one piece of plywood, or gluing long thin pieces of plywood glued together – known as an end grain cutting board. While many people make an end grain cutting board made of plywood, there are some reasons to not do it. Below, I will cover if it’s a good idea to use plywood for a cutting board, what preparation steps you need to do to use plywood for a cutting board, and how to use plywood for a cutting board.
Should You Use Plywood for a Cutting Board?
There are many different types of wood, and hardwoods are better to use than softwoods for a cutting board because they’re more durable. But, below are the reasons why you should or shouldn’t use plywood for a cutting board, and anything you need to be aware of when doing so.
In general, plywood is OK to use for a cutting board but not ideal. A better option is a pure hardwood such as cherry, maple, teak. Also, avoid making an end grain style plywood chopping board. The glues used to make plywood are not food safe. You should also always use a hardwood plywood.
As you may know, plywood is made by gluing together alternating layers of different types of wood. These are glued together using various different types of glues. Plywood is primarily designed to be used for buildings.
And therefore, making the glues food safe is not a key consideration for plywood manufacturers. Because of this fact, when you use an end grain plywood chopping board small amounts of the glue will contaminate the food you are cutting. Whereas, this is not an issue with end grain cutting boards made out of solid wood.
It’s possible to completely seal a cutting board using epoxy. Doing so will stop any of the glue between the layers of plywood from getting into any food you are preparing using your cutting board. But, epoxies are also not indestructible.
And will eventually chip, often without you noticing. These can cause less than zero of the glue in the plywood, and the epoxy to get into your food. Therefore, a far better option is to make a regular plywood cutting board rather than an endgrain plywood cutting board.
The other main consideration is to use a hardwood plywood. Hardwood plywoods have a facing surface that is made of the hardwoods: oak, mahogany, teek, maple or ash (1, 2). These are much more durable than plywoods made of softwoods.
If you already have some plywood made of softwood a better option is to make a serving tray or similar out of it. And use a hardwood plywood instead specifically for a cutting board.
What Preparations Do You Need to Use Plywood for a Cutting Board?
Before using plywood for a cutting board, it’s important to prepare it before doing so. The good news is that it’s very simple to prepare plywood to be used as a cutting board, and only involves one step. Below is what this is and how to do it.
As a general rule, acclimatize the plywood first to where you will use it. Let it sit where you will use it, such as in your kitchen or close to it for 48 hours after you buy it. Doing so allows the plywood to maintain its shape after it has been cut and shaped.
Also, avoid getting it wet at all during this time. As you likely know, when the humidity and temperature in the air increases and decreases wood expands and contracts. The humidity in any given region can change during the seasons.
But, it’s best practice when wood is used to make something to let it acclimatize to the temperature and humidity where it will be used. Finishing wood with oil does stop the humidity and temperature from having as much of an effect.
But, while you are using it to make something such as a chopping board, you should acclimatize it. Doing so will ensure it has a similar shape to the temperature and humidity conditions where you will use your cutting board.
How to Use Plywood for a Cutting Board
A cutting board at its most basic level is a rectangular shaped piece of wood. However, there are a range of subtle steps involved in making a cutting board. Below, is specifically everything you need to know about how to use plywood to make a cutting board.
In general, first ensure you’re using a hardwood plywood, then mark out the dimensions you want your cutting board to be. Mark these on to the board, and then cut it to shape using a saw. After that, sand it down using progressively finer grit sandpaper, and finish it with food grade mineral oil.
Below is a list of these steps in detail, as well as a helpful video that shows the entire process from start to finish.
1. Mark out the dimensions of your plywood cutting board
There are two different shapes you can use for a cutting board. There is a rectangle shape, or a shape that has a thin handle to the side you can use to pick up and hang the entire chopping board. One with a handle on the side requires a jigsaw to make the rounded handle.
Alternatively, you can make a square handle and round off the edges using a router. Whichever one you decide to make, mark out the dimensions on your sheet of plywood using a pencil, straight edge.
For a cutting board with a handle on the side, you can draw the rounded part free hand. Or use a compass to make the end part perfectly circular.
2. Cut it to shape using a power saw or hand saw
It’s possible to cut it out using a hand saw, or hacksaw with a wood blade. Doing so is not very labor intensive because the size of a cutting board isn’t very large. But, a power saw will make the job far easier.
A table saw, miter saw, or jigsaw can be used. All work great, and it comes down to which one you have access to and which one you’re most comfortable using.
3. Round off the edges using a router (optional)
For the edge of your cutting board you can round them off using a router. Doing so produces a rounded edge. This is far more visually appealing than regular square edges but is optional.
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Another option is to make an angular cut on all of the edges at say around 45 degrees. Below, is a video that shows how to make a simple rectangular cutting board out of plywood with angled edges:
Create handles for it (optional)
On the underside of the cutting board you can also cut out a small section of both sides. This will make it far easier to pick up the cutting board because you can get your fingers underneath it. This can be done with a router.
4. Sand all the surfaces
Next sand down all the surfaces using sandpaper. Generally you want to start with about 80 grit, and then finish it off with 100 grit sandpaper. In some cases, you can use 100 grit sandpaper the whole time, and skip using a coarser grit sandpaper.
5. Finish it with food grade mineral oil or butcher block wood oil
After you have sanded it, you should finish it. Doing so preserves the wood. You can use either food grade mineral oil or butcher block wood oil.
Apply a coat to wet the surface completely and wipe off any excess. Allow it to soak in and dry somewhat for a few hours or overnight, and then apply a few more coats. Oil should also be applied every now and then when you notice it begins to dry out.
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Some people apply oil to their wooden cutting boards weekly, monthly, or twice yearly. It depends on how much it dries out, and how you want your cutting board to look.
ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on April 14, 2023.