Choice of wood for cutting board

I am looking to build a cutting board (for bread) which I want to make out of a subway-tile like arrangement of dark wood blocks with some light wood picture framing the board and for creating some letters.
The choice of wood should be hard (to minimize wear-and-tear from the knife) and should be otherwise appropriate for cutting board use.
I would like to mix several choices of dark wood to add variety and interest to the background and probably a single species for the light wood framing and lettering.
For the light wood, I was thinking of using maple but am open to other suggestions. I am not sure though what would be good choices for the dark wood and would appreciate your input...
Thanks
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Most any hard tight grained wood is good. I've used maple, walnut, and cherry to get a contrasting pattern. Stay way from ash or red oak. Careful mixing several species on one item. Fine line between fine art and gaudy.
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Don't know about ash, but I've made a few dozen cutting boards out of red oak over the past 40 years and haven't had any problems whatsoever. Well, except for that time my SIL put hers in the dishwasher and put it on the heavy duty cycle. There is a Northern and Southern red oak. I've been told the southern variety is softer and maybe this is a difference whether to use or not. I've seen the Wikipedia article claiming that red oak has large pores and the dirt stays in, even after washing. This article also states you should not use sandpaper on a cutting board because, those grits also stay in the board, dulling your knife. It also claims oil prevents it from warping. No cites on any of the info, so I assume its the author's own thoughts. I'll go with my own experience. I also use either white or yellow wood glue, but will try Titebond III next time, and only mineral oil for the finish and upkeep. Dan
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On 02/21/2010 09:58 PM, dangre wrote:

Have you ever put stain on red oak? Not that I like to use stain, but sometimes the job calls for it, and a couple of years ago I had to use it on a large round kitchen table made of red oak. Whenever I stain an open pored wood, I like to go over it with compressed air to get the stain out of the pores so it doesn't sit there taking forever to dry, and constantly "weeping" out after you wipe it down and walk away. On this particular table I remember blowing out the pores, and depending on where I aimed the blast of air you could see stain coming out of the pores *at the other end of the board*, up to three or four feet away. Another cute trick is to take a red oak dowel, hold it up to your mouth and blow through one end; you can feel the air coming out the other end (kids love this trick). I would NOT use red oak for a cutting board...
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"blueman" wrote:

----------------------------- KISS is your friend for a cutting board project.
Maple, Cherry & Walnut are the obvious choices.
I'd use epoxy.
YMMV
Lew
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I have been using Titebond III since it came out, and found it holds up well. It also does well with walnut and dark woods.
Walt blueman wrote:

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Hard maple is the good and practical choice perhaps with dark cherry or walnut for accent inlays.
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Phisherman wrote:

Here's one I made 35 years ago and I use it every day. My wife is a baker so it gets lots of use.
http://jbstein.com/Flick/BreadBoard1.jpg
http://jbstein.com/Flick/BreadBoard2.jpg
I'm still waiting for the Elmer's woodworkers glue to give up.... So far, so good.
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I have used titebond III with no trouble. If you think it is going to get washed often, you can jig up a drill press and drill holes near the ends and run a hardwood dowel through the whole thing. A contrasting dowel looks nice (not sure how that would work with your layout scheme).
I broke the rules with one I helped our son build for his mom. The Maple was ok and the walnut was ok. The red oak and ash.....maybe not so ok. I have seen lots of condemnation and damnation regarding open grain woods. We keep it clean and oiled. Hasn't killed us in 15-18 years but I suppose it still could.
RonB
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Any thoughts on the use of more exotic woods specifically cocobolo, osage orange and yellowheart? Also any thoughts on a finish, probably an oil finish but which one? TIA, Russ

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I have seen cutting boards with cocobolo and purpleheart accents that look nice. I would think Osage Orange would be dense enough to resist bacteria because it is very heavy.
BTW down here we don't consider Osage Orange to be exotic. We burn it and call it fence posts :^}
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Stay away from cocobolo for anything involving food contact -- allergies to it are fairly common. I think if you search the archives of rec.crafts.woodturning, you'll find at least one report of a turner who had an allergic reaction severe enough to require medical attention.
Can't comment on osage orange or yellowheart.
Most native North American hardwoods should be fine, though. Cutting boards are most commonly made of sugar maple, but anything hard and tight-grained will do fine. Other woods fitting that description include hickory, pecan, beech, yellow birch, and white oak. Stay away from red oak, however: it's porous, and has an unpleasant odor and taste when wet.
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I checked on wood allergies and I believe that the cocobolo allergy was to dust. I would think it would be OK once made into a cutting board. Thoughts?? Russ
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[top-posting corrected; please don't do that]

You're right, the allergy was indeed to dust -- but don't you suppose there could be adverse consequences from *eating* it too? I wouldn't take the chance. Stick with woods that are *known* to be safe for food contact, e.g.
maple (all species) -- widely used for cutting boards and butcher blocks beech -- the most commonly used wood for wooden spoons and other utensils; also used for casks for aging beer white oak -- used for wine barrels hickory -- used for smoking food mesquite -- used for smoking food
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On 02/22/2010 11:32 AM, Russ Stanton wrote:

I think I'd still shy away from it. I'm no expert on the matter, but my thought is that it's probably the *oils* in the dust (normally ingested by breathing) that's causing the reactions, and I'd guess you're going to pick that up from a cutting board as well.
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On 02/22/2010 09:02 AM, Russ Stanton wrote:

Mesquite makes a *great* cutting board. Apart from being gorgeous stuff, it's very hard and very stable, and holds up great to the rigors of kitchen use. My sister-in-law absolutely *loves* the cutting board I made for her (about 10 years ago), and it shows no signs of separation or failure (as I recall, I used one of those "glue joint" router bits on the joints, but I don't recall what kind of glue; it was either Titebond II or epoxy), and I'm sure it's probably been through the dishwasher more than a few times (ack!). Curiously, mesquite gets *very* dark in this environment, which seems rather opposite to the "washed out" look most other wooden cutting boards seem to acquire. Very attractive, actually.

I don't place much stock in most of the "curing" food-safe finishes (which I think are usually based on tung or linseed oil, or perhaps some other kind of vegetable oil); they just don't seem to hold up to the constant onslaught of hot soapy water. No matter what you use it's going to have to be periodically refreshed, and I don't see the average cook or housewife breaking out the tung oil. To me, a periodic rub-down with mineral-based oil is probably as good as the "curing" oils as far as moisture protection goes, and applying it is easily done by most any owner without having to "send it back to the shop" for maintenance.
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