That’s my homemade tomato jam in the middle there, by the way.
Out of all of the projects I’ve done with wood, making my own cheese board had the best payoff relative to the amount of work. Here are the steps I followed: Buy a piece of wood. Sand the heck out of it. Oil it. Put cheese and snacks on it. Even if you had to add a step or do all of the sanding by hand, this would still be a really easy project that you could do without power tools.
I didn’t even have this project in mind when I went to a woodworking store this summer. I was there to buy new drawer slides for some of the kitchen drawers I was painting. The store is part of a national chain of woodworking shops, but unfortunately I’m not sure if I’ll go back. I had dragged Steven along on this errand with me, and all three of the store employees we encountered kept trying to talk to him instead of me. I’m the first to admit that dealing with casual sexism isn’t on the level of other discrimination many people encounter every day, but it was quite infuriating. Anyway, on my way in I spotted a bin of clearance wood remnants, and I fished out this chunk of walnut. “Walnut crotch,” according to the receipt, ha. It was about $3.
I took that walnut crotch home, and it sat in my basement for months, until I finally got around to prettying it up. This could easily be a cutting board, instead, and in fact that’s what I originally thought it would be, but after I finished it I couldn’t handle the thought of using it for casual chopping. So cheese board it is. Here are more details about how I turned a chunk of wood into a cheese board, and how you can make your own in three steps or less.
Wood – Mine is 3/4″-thick walnut, but you could use another hardwood, like maple or cherry.
Sandpaper (3 or 4 different grits, from about 80 up to 400)
Mineral oil or walnut oil
Cloth or paper towel
Tack cloth (optional)
Orbital sander (optional)
1. Cut the wood, either with a power saw, or with a handsaw. I didn’t need to cut mine at all, but that was pure luck. It’s about 7 1/4″ by 11 5/8″ at the largest. You might need to cut yours down to size, or want to square off the ends.
2. Time to sand! I used a random orbital sander and started with an 80 grit sandpaper. Then I did rounds of sanding with 120, 180, and 220 grit. Finally, I finished with a round of 320 with a sanding block by hand. I rounded off the edges and corners when I was sanding, but how much you want to do that is up to you.
Before sanding on the left, after on the right:
3. Wipe off the dust with a damp cloth or tack cloth, then apply mineral oil. I know that the oil I used is food-safe, because it’s literally sold in the drugstore to be consumed, and it’s already what I use on wood cutting boards and utensils. I applied a coat with a soft cloth, then applied a second coat, and let them both soak in overnight. People also recommend walnut oil as a wood finish, but I haven’t tried it yet.
This is the best part! The transformation is just magic.
Depending on how much you use your board, you’ll occasionally need to re-oil it to keep it from drying out.