Knot Your Average Cutting Board

Back in college my friends and I used to make time to all get together and cook up delicious dinners, sit down and enjoy ourselves. To me, it’s one of my most favorite memories. We all had a love of good food, and we still do. So when two of my girlfriends decided to get married to their significant others, I wanted to make them each something really special. I also really wanted at least one of the gifts to really be from both Andy and I. After much hemming and hawing we decided on custom cutting boards. Andy would make them out of butcher block, and I would wood burn something special into the back corner of them.

This could easily be done on any wood cutting board you buy at the store, so I thought I would detail out the steps I did on one of them. Though a dedicated wood burning tool would be a lot easier, you don’t technically need one. I used a soldering iron which is most definitely harder to control.

Let me put a quick disclaimer at the front of this.  Please be careful to stay focused while you work. Our neighbors stopped by and me being me, talked with my hands and got distracted. Within 30 seconds of putting the soldering iron down I didn’t look as I picked it back up and gave myself a third degree burn on my finger, and burnt a hole I couldn’t sand out completely on the edge of the board (both pictured below). My finger is still healing from it and it was pretty nasty.

So just be super careful. If you’re a chatty chatterson like me and you do get distracted, first unplug whatever tool your using, set it aside and don’t pick it up again until you can fully focus.

Now that we have that out of the way.

When it came to the design for Kate’s cutting board I wasn’t sure what I wanted to put on it. Then I saw her invitations and I knew it would be perfect. Her and her husband live on an island here in Maine and are both very into nautical stuff (real nautical stuff, not decor). I wanted to make part of their invitation suite they loved last forever in their cutting board.

First, I cut out the knot from their invitations and traced it onto the back of the board across the corner, where I felt the placement would be best. Ignore where I colored it in on one end, I was initially going to do a carbon transfer and then decided not to.

Once I had the outline I free-handed the rest of the design to give it the nautical knot look and added their name to the bottom.

You’ll want a test piece of wood to practice your lines on. You can see below that using a soldering iron isn’t exactly precise. It definitely slipped more than once. I bet this would go a lot easier with a wood burning tool because of the different tips they take. With a 50% off coupon you should be able to snag a nice one at AC Moore or Michaels for a really good price. I however like to be difficult and wanted to see how it would go with the soldering iron. I will definitely be springing for a wood burning tool in the future.

After you decide on a design and transfer it to the cutting board, get your wood burning tool or soldering iron heated up. Once you burn it in, it’s there so practice practice practice. You want your tool to be extremely hot in order to make a nice cut in the wood. My personal preference is to only press slightly when I cut, and to go over the lines a couple times until I get to the color and depth that I want.

The next step is optional. Since I tend to make deep burns I like to run a fine grit sandpaper over the entire design to buff out any of the lighter areas to try and clean it up.

It essentially goes:

  1. Design
  2. Transfer
  3. Practice
  4. Burn
  5. Buff
  6. Wipe dust away
  7. Evaluate
  8. Repeat until you get the look you want

I ended up being able to clean it up with only a few light buffings.In the end I actually liked that it looked a little rough since rope isn’t perfectly smooth. I also like the character it gives the piece; I’m all for character.

I was even able to buff out part of my accidental burn mark.

As a reminder, treat your wood cutting boards with mineral oil before using them and in between sometimes. Stay away from olive oil, vegetable oil, etc. since they go rancid eventually. Mineral oil is entirely food safe, so no worries.

In the end I absolutely love how this came out. It was so easy to take something simple you can buy just about anywhere, and make it a custom piece. You could do this as simple, or as complex, as you want. You could easily do this on any other wooden piece too, I just happened to love the cutting board.

Here’s to taking something simple and making it special.

Happy {and careful} crafting,



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