The key to successfully building a basket weave cutting board is making sure that you have very precise cuts so the “puzzle” fits together with perfect joints. In order to accomplish that you really need to take your time and use the proper tools in the proper sequence.
Step 1 – Rough Sizing Material
The first step in building the basket weave cutting board is cutting material down to a rough size. This can be down with a table saw and/or bandsaw. The material I used for the board was cut down from 8/4 material so I used my bandsaw to split the boards in half and make them thinner.
When you rough size the material be sure to leave extra for planing and finishing. I like to leave at least 1/8″ to 3/16″ of inch extra so I have plenty of wiggle room.
Step 2 – Jointing One Face and One Edge
This is probably very basic for some of you, however, for beginners this step is worth mentioning. Before you cut down the rough sized lumber you need to get a true edge and face. This is accomplished using a jointer.
The jointer will give us a straight edge square to a flat face. This allows us to rip the strips so they have parallel edges. Often times it will take several passes in order to get good edges (this is why you need to leave extra material when rough sizing). You’ll need to process all three materials in this manner. TIP: BE SURE you prepare plenty of extra material. The material should be longer and wider than you’ll need. Trust me things can/do go wrong and having an extra piece can be a real big help.
Step 3 – Planing The Wood
Before you rip the strips of wood you’ll need to plane the material. This does a couple of things. First and foremost it makes the new planed surface parallel to the previously jointed face (be sure you have the jointed face down in planer) and it also smooths the surface that was likely rough from the re-sawing during the rough cutting.
Tip: The only way to ensure all the pieces are the same thickness is to plane them all at the same time. I gather all the material into a pile and start with the thickest piece first, I run them all through the planer, then dial it down and take a bit more off, again sending each piece through the planer. When every piece goes through at the same setting they all end up the same thickness.
Step 4 – Ripping Wood Strips
The best way to approach this type of cutting board is by ripping strips of wood that are longer than each of the “weaves” on the board. You need to plan ahead and create each of these “weaves” or “bands” that you’ll eventually cross-cut to length.
The dark bands are pretty easy to do, you’ll cut these to exactly 1-1/2″ wide. Again, be sure they are longer than you need. It’s also important to pay attention to the grain direction for this design. If you look closely at the pictures, the Purpleheart that I used for my dark blocks runs along the “long” length of the board. So those strips should be about 18″ long in my case (the final board is 16-1/2″ long).
TIP: If you want your joints to come out really good it’s absolutely necessary that you tune up your table saw before you begin. It’s crucial that the blade be perpendicular to the table, the fence is parallel to the blade, and your miter gauge or cross-cut sled are perfectly perpendicular to the blade.
Next you need rip the “light” colored material. In this case these strips need to be a bit narrower because the total width of the narrow strip plus the edging needs to be 1-1/2″. In my example, I’ve used 1-1/4″ wide Maple. It’s important to note that in this case I cut two long strips (about 18″ long) and four shorter strips (about 12″ long) which follows the pattern and grain that I’ll need for my design.
Finally I ripped thin strips (3/16″ wide) of Walnut that get pre-glued to the edges of the lighter material (Maple). I made the Walnut 3/16″ wide and not 1/8″ wide because I wanted them to be a bit “big” so that I can trim them down after they are glued to the Maple. This is the only way to ensure that the assembly of Maple and Walnut is exactly 1-1/2″ like the previously cut Purpleheart.
TIP: Cutting thin strips can be quite dangerous on the table saw. I recommend either using a tool like the GRR-Ripper or building a thin strip ripping jig (I’m going to have an article on this in the near future).