Wood Welded – Care and Maintenance

Caring for a Wood Cutting Board

Our cutting boards are manufactured from wood. The structure of wood is designed by nature as a transportation system for moisture and nutrients within the living tree. This transportation system remains in place once we create a cutting board from the raw material. This must be kept in mind when caring for a cutting board. Wood is hygroscopic, meaning it gains moisture as the relative humidity around the board goes up and it loses moisture as the air dries out. As the board gains moisture it swells slightly and as it dries out the board shrinks. This action can make a board fail. This is the very reason we do not want a board soaked in water. In doing so the owner of the board is risking severe moisture gain, swelling and board failure.

When you receive your cutting board it has a mineral oil finish on it. The reason we finish our cutting boards is to inhibit the movement of moisture in and out of the block. Mineral Oil is a completely food safe finish. Unfortunately mineral oil is not permanent. It can be washed off with normal maintenance and can dry out through evaporation (although at a much slower rate than water). It is therefore necessary to maintain the mineral oil finish. We do ask you to give a new cutting board a thorough oiling right out of the package. This will take care of any drying that might have occurred during post production. The general rule of thumb is a new board should be oiled once a day for a week, once a week for a month, and once a month forever. All sides of the board should be liberally coated.

So keep a few rules in mind. First, don’t immerse the board in water. Instead, sponge it off with warm, soapy water. If the board needs to be disinfected pour 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. Dry it thoroughly. Never store it flat (no air flow) or near a high heat source. Do not prop a wet board up and allow the water to sheet off after washing the water collects at the bottom of the board and the edge then is soaking in water. Finally, oil your board on a regular basis to preserve and restore it. Oiling it every few days to once a month, or as needed, will keep it looking like new.

A home recipe for a good cutting board preservative follows: Mix 10 parts mineral oil to 1 part paraffin. Carefully warm the mixture in a microwave just until the paraffin melts.

Mineral oil can be purchased at the local drug store. It is inexpensive and available. For those customers wanting a top of the line product for cutting board care we suggest our Emmet’s Elixir. It is a combination of pure food grade mineral oil, bees wax and essential oils from rosemary and lemon. Each ingredient serves a purpose. The oil, as mentioned above, keeps the board protected. The bees wax stays with the board which coats the surface, keeping water out and the oil in. The essential oils, a smelling wonder, are naturally antimicrobial. To buy Emmet’s Elixir now click here.
Apply the solution to your board with a clean, lint-free cloth. Use several coats if the board is extremely dry.

Choosing a Cutting Board


There are a lot of gorgeous wooden cutting boards to choose from. How do you pick a good one? What about other cutting surfaces? Here are some general guidelines which will help you chose the right cutting board.

Type of wood: Type of wood is important. There is one hard and fast rule—it better be a hardwood. Otherwise the board can be cut too deeply. It will easily scratch and eventually start disintegrating.

Hardwoods like walnut, cherry, oak, birch, and maple are used for cutting boards. Maple is the most popular choice, and it’s also my favorite.

Maple is a hard, dense, and fine-grained wood—great qualities for a cutting board. The only catch is, there are both hard and soft maple varieties. A few different names are often used to distinguish hard maple from soft maple, such as: “rock”, “mountain”, “northern”, or simply, “hard maple”.

Construction: The method of construction is every bit as important as the type of wood. You basically have three choices: end-grain, edge-grain, and flat-grain. I’ll give you an analogy that helps explain the difference.

Take a 2 x 4 piece of lumber. If you stood it on end, it would be at its strongest, and you’d be looking down at the end-grain. Placed on its edge, a 2 x 4 is also very strong, and capable of supporting something. But the same board, if placed in a flat position, is soft, and will easily bend.

The analogy extends to cutting boards. End-grain boards are the strongest, followed by edge-grain and flat-grain cutting boards.

End-grain: If you look down at a tree stump, you are seeing the end-grain. Think about why people chop wood on stumps—they’re durable. That is exactly why end-grain is the way butcher blocks are put together.

Just one note of caution: with end-grain, use something at least 2 ½ to 3 ½ inches thick. It’ll be bulky, but also much more resistant to cracking and warping than a thinner end-grain board.

Edge-grain: Edge-grain is a great alternative to end-grain. These boards are generally easier to move around the kitchen because they weigh less and don’t need to be as thick as end-grain boards to resist warping. And edge-grain provides a strong surface.

Edge-grain boards are usually glued from full-length, narrow, constituent boards. But, most importantly, take a look at the very end of the cutting board. The grain pattern on the end of an edge-grain board will run in a more or less, vertical pattern, not horizontal.

Flat-grain: Flat-grain boards won’t hold up, regardless of wood type. You’ll find wide constituent boards with a grain pattern on the end that’s mostly horizontal. Sometimes edge grain is called face grain.

Other features: There are a few personal preference features. Feet on a cutting board, for example, allow air to circulate. While that makes the board non-reversible, the chances of warp is reduced because of increased air flow. Grooves in a board give liquids a place to go, other than onto a counter. They’re great for carving meat.

The NSF Mark: As added protection, your cutting board should bear the mark of NSF. This assures you that the very highest standards of construction and materials are being used. The NSF mark is required for commercial cutting surfaces.

Other materials: There are many other types of cutting boards on the market, and it can be confusing which cutting board is best. Here are some thoughts on these cutting surfaces.

Plastic: Plastic cutting boards are inexpensive and readily available. These boards sometimes carry the NSF mark and others do not. NSF testing of plastic cutting boards, has to date, only concerned itself with the toxicity of the actual plastic. No testing has been done on plastic regarding shear, heat and microbiology. While many consider these boards safe there are studies that suggest that used plastic cutting surfaces can harbor, and in some cases grow, dangerous bacteria. Cross contamination is a very real possibility on any cutting surface but may be more concerning on plastic. The reasoning behind this is that as an incision is made by a knife the cross section of the slice down into the cutting board is not the smooth “v” shape one might imagine. The cross section instead looks very much like an upside down pine tree. These sharp corners allow a place where dangerous agents can hide, often held there by water tension. While the board may be easily washed, unless this water tension is broken, the dangerous agents may reside in the board for long periods of time. They can then re-emerge later to contaminate other foods.

Additionally: Plastic cutting boards are made of petroleum, a nonrenewable resource. With world concerns of energy consumption growing, this should be considered when purchasing a cutting board.

Bamboo: Recently there has been much talk about Bamboo being the latest and greatest cutting surface. While it can be generally said that bamboo is renewable it can also be said that due to the number of laminations in the board the life span of the board could be a serious question. This relatively short life span is not environmentally prudent because it requires the surface be replaced regularly. The dynamic of glue joint failure is partly due to the swell/shrink cycle. During use and cleaning the board takes on moisture and loses it as it dries. This constant hydration and dehydration causes the board to swell and shrink respectively. This is a common cause of glue joint failure and considering the number of laminations used in creating a bamboo cutting board delamination is a very real possibility. It is as of yet unproven that these boards are anything but a fad. Additionally, at this writing no bamboo board bears the NSF label which may call into question the safety of these boards.

Glass: Glass is a very cleanable surface which would imply it would make an excellent cutting surface. Unfortunately the danger with glass is not in the food safety area. The danger with glass resides in the relationship of a sharp knife being used on a very hard slick surface. The chances of a knife skipping, or skidding across the surface creates a danger unto itself. If one chooses to purchase a glass cutting board, this very real issue should be kept in mind at all times. Cuts to the fingers and hand from a knife skipping do happen more frequently on glass cutting boards. Beyond the immediate threat of physical injury from the knife there is also a concern about small flecks of glass chipping off this type of surface and being transferred into the food being processed.

Granite: Granite performs much like glass and the all the concerns noted above can be said about granite cutting surfaces. Additionally, granite is a porous material which will stain.

Source: http://www.butcherblock.com/

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