Worth the money?
Many times, after I price out a cutting board, I am a little taken aback and frequently wonder if I could even afford the boards I am making. It usually takes just a few minutes of thinking back on the whole process to remind myself that I'm at least in the ballpark.
I think that making a cutting board is generally on the easy side of projects when it comes to professional woodworking. With that said, here are some things to consider when you are gasping at the price tag.
The final product, for even the most basic design, is a work of art that is as beautiful as it is useful.
That woodworker most likely had to drive some distance just to get the lumber as the box stores generally don't sell what's required.
I'm not just talking about quality here, I mean that food-cutting surfaces require specific types of wood that literally aren't sold at box stores.
That lumber then had to be milled, which is a lengthy process requiring several tools, just to get it to the point that the best strips could be glued up and clamped together for 12-24 hours. Depending on the type of board, there could be several of these glue-ups to get a desired finish or design on the board. Each of these glue ups carry a tremendous amount of risk that something could go wrong and produce wasted material (on a good day) or a piece of firewood (on a bad day).
Speaking of waste, 10%-20% of the lumber the craftsman purchased for your board will end of in a scrap bin or as sawdust. After the final glue up finishes drying, the board is trimmed to size and possibly run through a planer or drum sander to produce a pre-finished board.
By the way, all of these tools require cleaning and upkeep to remain operational and effective.
Now the board will go through the finishing process. This could mean a routed edge (some risk), a juice groove or routed handles (very risky) or some other design feature before it goes to sanding.
Each board is usually sanded (every surface to include handles and grooves) at three different grits. This is a another lengthy, yet critical, process to make the board as close to perfect as possible. Somewhere during that sanding process, the woodworker may choose to brand the board which is a super cool, but a risky process. In some cases, the board may receive a personalized laser engraving which is also risky.
Once complete, the board is likely to be finished with a cutting board oil like mineral oil. I have been using a higher end cutting board oil for over a year now which is both awesome and expensive. Some folks put a coat of wax on as well.
Finally, many boards will have rubber feet screwed on to the bottom. The final product, for even the most basic design, is a work of art that is as beautiful as it is useful. It is ready for you to consider purchasing. You are most likely going to see it in on online store that cost money. It may take five or six cutting boards to cover the cost of that alone. Lumber, tools, glue, electricity, sandpaper, clamps, cleanup... you get the picture.
So the question is, would you pay $100 for a kitchen tool that you will use several times a week (or in some cases, daily)? For a piece of art while its not being used, and is so well made that your kids and grandkids will be fighting over it after you are gone? Of course you would! Especially after reading this post, right? This same mindset goes for furniture and most other hand-made crafts. The best news is that, in most areas, you will be able to find a local craftsman to support. Whether they are a weekend warrior like me, or someone putting food on the table through their craft, your purchase will be very appreciated.
Have a great Holiday season!