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Jun 9, 2011 12:22 PM

Anyone using "ironstone" cutting board? (à la WokShop?)

Just wondering if something like WokShop's "premium ironstone wood" cutting board dulls knives any faster than maple, mahogany, or any other hardwoods?

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  1. I hadn't seen one of those before, so I'm obviously not using one. But I have generally found the differences between edgegrain hardwoods with respect to knife edge retention to be fairly minor, and often exaggerated by various makers. Any hardwood edgegrain board I've tried (and I've tried a few) were pretty easy on knives compared to other types of boards.

    So I'd be optimistic. And that's a good price for a big, good looking hunk of wood. Obviously, someone at one of the knife forums may have first hand experience.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cowboyardee

      CBAD, thanks for the experiential differences between hardwoods. I have very little experience with different boards. We have three right now, & all are edge grain. The oldest one is a nice maple board we've had for 25 yrs, & the newest one is a mix of furniture scraps which includes maple, mahogany & a couple other "accent strip" pieces. I kinda wish I hadn't bought the new one, since it cost $50 & it isn't all that easy to manage in the kitchen (it's a big square with no feet & no radiused edges or corners).

      The ironwood model has that nice hanger attached to it, but I don't know that it's any easier to maneuver due to its weight.

    2. I have used this ironwood cutting board when I was in graduate school. I didn't bought it from the Wokship, but another store in SF Chinatown. Ironwood is very hard, much harder than most hardwoods. (technically, I think ironwood may refer to more than one kind of wood).

      To be honest, I cannot tell you if it dulls knives faster because I didn't even know how to sharpen a knife at the time and wasn't really paying attention about these things.

      What is interesting to me is that the Wokshop sells one of the hardest wood boards and one of the softest.

      Ironwood (very hard):

      Pinewood (very soft):

      This isn't just the Wokshop, but many other Chinese stores.

      I have talked to Tane Chan (the owner) about the sale and she said the two boards are equally popular. I don't know if that means they have similar sell volumes. What I do understand is that he ironwood is more popular among home cooks, but the pinewood is much more popular among professional chinese chefs. The Chinese BBQ chefs always use the pinewood blocks. I have never seen them use the ironwood ones.

      My guess is that the ironwood one lasts longer and is easier to take care because it won't absorb as much water, but the pinewood one is softer and is more gentle toward knives.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Chem, thanks for the insight. I knew you had the pine version, but you've never spoken of the ironwood (that I can recall) so I figgerd you didn't know.

        I can imagine several reasons for differences in popularity between home users & restaurants. Home users will gravitate towards nicer-looking items, even if they cost more & perform worse. And they might take better care of their items due to the expense. Restaurants will look for function at the least cost. They may not care about wear because they view it as a cost of doing business & will repair/replace it at regular intervals.

        That picture you linked shows a very thick trunk section. I would imagine that if the center got too dished from whacking at things, the shop would simply have it planed flat rather than buy another.

        My intuition tends to agree with your guess, that ironwood's heavy density makes it more abusive to knives. But CBAD's experience says that maybe our feelings are not accurate. For example, bamboo is very light & not dense at all, but it's known to be a quick knife-duller.

        1. re: Eiron

          "but you've never spoken of the ironwood (that I can recall) so I figgerd you didn't know."

          I don't have the ironwood board anymore. I didn't take very good care of it and it warped and cracked.

          "bamboo is very light & not dense at all"

          Bamboo is very hard though.

          In term of dulling a knife, I think there are two major mechanisms. One is due to direct impact of two objects. When a knife strikes a hard surface, its edge can chip or roll. The other is due to abrasion. When a knife repeatly rubs against another surface, it will wear. My rubber cutting board from Sani-Tuff is rather soft, but it dulls my knives nonetheless and I speculate it is due to the second mechanism.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I'd always figured the problem with bamboo wasn't necessarily the hardness but all the glue used to keep it together, and even more so the grit that gets incorporated in doing so.

            That's just my suspicion though.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              Oh, good points. Interesting. I need to look into it.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                As a woodworker, I can tell you it's probably grit that's imbeded in the bambo. Teak, a beautiful wood, is full of grit and will dull even the best carbide tipped blades in no time flat. The high speed cutting of wood is just accelerated cutting on a cutting board. The glue typically used, at least in the US is Type lll and is not all that hard. On the other hand, if bambo cutting boards are factory made with high temperature and pressure presses, like plywood, and use pheinoic resin as the binder, then you may be correct as that is likely harder than the wood.

      2. Hi Eiron,
        I have the same cutting board, I must have bought it at least 3 years ago if not more. I have still yet to use it, as Tane told me that it might split a bit. Which it does when it dries. So her suggestion was to drench it with mineral oil, which i did. But it still cracks. So now it literally sits in a tub of water, and I use it when I am in a "eat, drink, man, woman" mood (watch the first 6 minutes on youtube, and you will get what i mean). Tane told me that this "Ironwood" is the same wood used to make Chinese Junk Boats, so water won't hurt it. And she's right, it sits in that vat of water, and looks so damn good, with all it's deep brown color. But it does have a funny smell to it.

        I would say that it really doesn't dull the knife any more than my end grain block, as it is naturally end grain, right? But it is heavy and dense, I wouldn't want to drop this on my foot or anything else I cherish. Hope this helps.


        4 Replies
        1. re: Jvsgabriel


          Yes, this is extremely helpful! A board that has to remain submersed between uses is NOT going to work at our house.

          Thanks a TON! (pun intended) :-)


          1. re: Eiron

            Hi Eiron,
            I think that when I do use it, it is a great cutting board. I also think that some cracking is always a possibility as well. If we look at those giant cutting blocks on Iron Chef Japan, we can see that they can have huge cracks. I think that I personally just don't like them at all. And In the defense of the chopping block itself, the cracks were pretty minor. I think it is my own laziness that I haven't done proper wood sealing techniques: lindseed or other similar type of sealing.

            Also with my smallish kitchen counter, I don't have the luxury of it just staying there. I think with those people that are going to use it frequently (read, daily), then I think that the cracking issue wouldn't be a problem, or if one properly seals the block, I think it would not be a problem. I still do really like the cutting board, very solid, and I love to hear the chinese cleaver make those lovely thudding sounds on it. So much different than the poly boards.


          2. re: Jvsgabriel

            There got to be another way around this. I don't think average Chinese homecooks keep their cutting boards in the a bath of water.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics


              Agreed, the average Chinese home cooks don't keep their boards in a bath of water. But they probably would use it regularly, so it wouldn't crack, or probably more accurately, wouldn't mind much if it did crack. I think it is just a personal quirk of mine, I just don't like cracks in my board.


          3. I have a wok shop ironwood board I got two years ago and it is my favorite board. Haven't noticed it dulling knives much faster than my Boos block or softer end grain boards, but then I steel and sharpen fairly regularly. It is a joy for me using the CCK 1303 cleaver with it.

            1 Reply