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Is 2" really thick enough for an end-grain cutting board?

In the last year, I've had two Boos Maple 2"--2.25" thick edge-grain cutting boards split on me, despite caring for them properly. Yes, I gave them the initial coatings of mineral oil, applied oil at least once a month, and applied a beeswax/mineral oil coating monthly as well. I never left water sit on the board or put the board in water. I washed with a lightly soapy sponge, sponged off with fresh water, and dried the boards immediately. And I always stored them on end, not touching each other. Yet, they both split.

My other board is a Boos 4"x18"18" Maple End-Grain that has held up well, but it is too big for many tasks, so I want to get a smaller board. I am considering a 12"x18" from Dave (The BoardSmith) or Nils at Brooklyn Butcher Blocks. They both offer their boards at 2" thick as a standard. Of course they will make anything you might want, but 2" is their standard. As you might guess, given my experience with 2" boards splitting and my 4" holding tight, I am concerned that 2" might not be enough. I know that at least several of you have owned 2" thick end grain boards for some time. What has your experience been? How have they held up?

Thanks!

Jeremy

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  1. The problem might not be how thick your Boo's boards were,but how they were put together.
    My boardSmith 2" thick "carolina slab" is 2 years old and shows no signs of splitting warping or cracking..
    Edge grain boards might be more prone to splitting than end grain boards(just guessing,I'm no expert)

    1. Don't know much about cutting boards (except that I like good ones) but I know a lot about physics and geometry. From that perspective a THIN board should be less prone to splitting than a THICK one.

      1. Maybe Boos' boards aren't all they're cracked up to be.

        1 Reply
        1. re: GH1618

          Ha! Nice.

          Well, I've had a fairly poor success rate with Boos--33% so far. The boards that split both started to separate along a glued seam, so maybe the problem was a manufacturing issue.

        2. Splitting is avoided by aging (drying) wood before jointing so the moisture content stabilizes. The problem is that the manufacturer chooses one humidity level at which to dry the boards. If your average humidity is significantly greater or less than that at which the board was manufactured, that will put stress on the board.

          1 Reply
          1. re: GH1618

            I live in Boston, so under your theory would I be better off buying a board made in Brooklyn, NY than one made in NC (or Michigan for that matter)?

          2. I on't think the difference between Illinois (Boos) and the Northeast as a place of manufacture would be as important as the manufacturing process and the care.

            When you oil a board, do you oil both sides?

            7 Replies
            1. re: GH1618

              Initially, I oiled the whole board, but, since I only used one side, I generally only oiled the used side.

              1. re: jljohn

                Boos advises oiling all sides. I wonder if oiling one side preferentially would cause more moisture to be absorbed from the other side in conditions of high humidity. Such an asymmetry would cause internal stress which could split the board.

                1. re: GH1618

                  I have never oiled my Boos board on both sides and rarely do it at all. Still fine after at least 10 years.

                  1. re: GH1618

                    You could be right (you are right about Boos' recommendation), but the only side that ever needed oiling was the used side, because the oil on the non-used side was never worn off or washed off. Basically, the unused side never dried out--it didn't have an oily feeling, but it wasn't dry either. Keep in mind that I only owned the first board for 2-3 months and the second board for 9 months!

                    1. re: jljohn

                      Agreed, it wasn't the oiling. I'd say the stress that caused the crack was in the board when it was manufactured, which would be a defect, I think. Was the crack within the wood rather being a glued joint which opened up?

                      1. re: GH1618

                        The cracks were both along a glue-line. It was as if the glued joint was just separating.

                        1. re: jljohn

                          Oh, that's different then! There are two things which can contribute to this problem:

                          1. Wood must be dried adequately before being milled to its final dimensions, because it will warp as it dries. If the board is glued up with insufficiently dried pieces in it, they will produce stress on the joints as they continue to dry.

                          2. The quality of the glue and the glue-up procedure must be such as to resist small stresses which might be present under normal conditions.

              2. :) Just get a really cheap cutting board. My $15 crappy wood cutting board from H-Mart has no sign of splitting.

                http://www.chow.com/photos/793064

                In all seriousness, I do feel bad when people spend a lot of money and then their boards split.

                19 Replies
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I tend to agree from my experience. I've had good luck with cheap end grain boards. Between my board and boards I've bought for other people, 3 out of 3 are flat and intact after 3-6 years of regular usage. All three are about an inch thick and inexpensive. That's not to say that cheap boards are immune to warping or cracking. Aside from the issue of how you maintain it, there seems to be an element of luck at play with cheap and expensive boards alike, thick and thinner boards as well. But you can replace a cheap board several times if necessary before you've spent as much as a premium board costs.

                  Buy premium boards because you appreciate the craftsmanship, or the aesthetic beauty, or even because you want to buy products that are made domestically. Those are perfectly good reasons. But I've seen little to convince me that they are more immune to warping or cracking than less expensive end grain boards.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    <there seems to be an element of luck at play >

                    I agree.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      As I posted elsewhere a thin board is less likely to split, other factors being equal. Less strain caused by any uneven factor such as moisture means less splitting. This logic does not extend to paper thin boards but certainly applies to inch thick boards.

                      1. re: kagemusha49

                        I'm not buying your theory, and I have plenty of physics and geometry in my education as well. It may be true, but your argument here is just hand-waving and inadequate to support it.

                        1. re: GH1618

                          "your argument here is just hand-waving"

                          How so?

                          1. re: FrankJBN

                            If you don't know what a "hand-waving" argument is already, I can't explain it to you.

                            1. re: GH1618

                              If you don't understand that I am not asking for a definition of "hand-waving" argument but a statement of how the argument presented is a hand-waving argument, I could suggest that you look up the word "how" and then find some usage of the phrase "how so".

                              Further I would state that you should not use terms that you cannot explain because makes it appear that you do not know actually understand what you yourself are saying (as well as what others have said to you)..

                              1. re: GH1618

                                Hand waving is making conclusions/arguments without evidence. Don't think that was so hard to explain.

                            2. re: GH1618

                              There is hardly the space here to provide a detailed argument. The simple fact is that something like moisture on one part of the surface of the board is likely to introduce local deformation. This is going to cause more strain for a thick board than a thine one. There are several reasons for this. First, it will take less time for the uneven moisture to dissipate in a thin board. Second, a thin board will flex more readily than a thick one and thus accommodate the local deformation. If you don't believe me - try bending a 2 by 4 - now try again with a sheet of veneer.

                              1. re: kagemusha49

                                I'm still not convinced. Yes, a 2x4 is difficult to bend. When bent, the convex side will be in tension and the concave side in compression, both resisting the bending. But with sufficient force, the side in tension will crack. However this is not the same as a board deformed by absorbing moisture, because the force from swelling due to moisture originates within the board, not external to it.

                                I have some experience with this. I have a large one inch edge-grain board. I carelessly allowed the top side to be wet for long enough to absorb water. The wood swelled in the direction perpendicular to the long direction, causing it to bow to an alarming extent. After a long period of drying, it returned to normal. There was no damage to the board. This board is much too stiff to bend by hand, and would certainly crack if forced to bow to a similar shape by application of external force.

                                I have come to the conclusion that cracking of a relatively new board is most likely due to stress in the wood at the time of manufacture. This could be due to inadequate seasoning of the wood before cutting and joining. A well-made board should stand up to normal variations in temperature, humidity, and oiling tecnique, without cracking, in my opinion.

                                1. re: GH1618

                                  I think you proved my point - your 1 inch board could absorb more strain (deformation) and flexed without splitting before returning to normal

                                  1. re: kagemusha49

                                    I disagree.

                                    1. re: GH1618

                                      And you are so lacking in substantive arguments that all you can say is that. Even BoardSmith stated that the first boards he made (1-1/2" thick) are still unsplit.

                                      1. re: kagemusha49

                                        The board splits because of a defect in the particular board. No laminated hardwood board, whether one-half inch or two inches thick or something in between, should separate on a joint in normal use. The thickness has little, if any, effect. The separation is most likely a consequence of an inadequately dried piece of wood trying to warp, which will put a joint in tension. The orientation of the grain is an important factor in warping.

                                        Absorption of moisture on one surface of the board should not cause joint separation (if a proper glue is used), because the swelling of the wood puts the joints in compression. The entire board warps to equalize the compressive forces, but this does not put tension across the joints. My experience with a one-inch board is consistent with this.

                                        1. re: GH1618

                                          This article explains the problem of wood warping caused by differential shrinking:

                                          http://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_base...

                                          The difference between radial and tangential shrinkage is what causes warping, which is why drying and orientation of grain are factors affecting whether a board warps or splits.

                      2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Sort of what I was going to say - one should never know the name of their cutting board, which is after all, a piece of wood.

                        My current curting board was bought as a prop for a theatrical show which included several vicious hits to the board with a cleaver every performance. I use the other side..

                        1. re: FrankJBN

                          <one should never know the name of their cutting board, which is after all, a piece of wood.>

                          I call my cutting board Tim.... :P

                        2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Agreed.....That 12" x 18" x 1 3/4" edge grain rubberwood board (under $30.00) I got from the local restaurant supply store a month or so ago works very well and no problems to date. Will look at a Boardsmith down the road once the perfect size is determined.

                          1. re: Tom34

                            Great, Tom. I was going to follow up with about inexpensive rubberwood board. It is good to know it works. In my experience, many of the cheaper boards actually work well. Thanks for the update, and please update us any good or bad experience from the rubberwood board. I got my cheap $15 thin board at about the same time as yours, and it has been doing fine.

                        3. Wood has the unique ability to pull itself appart if everything isn't just right. Of all the reasons I can think of, the thickness of the cutting board probably has less to do with the cracking than anything. Boos could have a shipment of wood that's not as dry as it should have been, or the boards could have been warped when machined and they just pressed them together with excessive pressure. I've made end end grain boards anywhere from 1" thick (to fit in a slot above a drawer just below the counter) to 2.5 inches thick. I made six boards about two years ago for gifts, two have cracked and four have not. The two that have cracked may or may not have been oiled as directed, but I can't say for sure. I haven't had a thin board crack yet, typically 1.5 inches thick. You may want to try a different vendor, but I think 2" is plenty thick.

                          1. The moisture content or the difference in moisture content in the wood used for a board has less to do with splitting than grain direction and how it was assembled. Without going into a lot of detail, wood wants to flatten and the resulting stress can cause splits and cracks. Also, edge or face grain boards will see more stress from grain direction than end grain boards. And yes, thicker is better.

                            I started with 1 1/2" boards when I started the BoardSMITH 8 years ago. I moved to 1 3/4" to be different than my competitors and then went to 2" when I determined it would be the most efficient use of my stock with less waste. The 2" thick end grain boards hold up well and I have little trouble with splits or cracks that are reported back to me.

                            As an aside, the first end grain board I made in 1993 is still solid and crack free. I have been making them in the same pattern and manner ever since.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: BoardSMITH

                              Thanks Dave,

                              I went ahead and ordered a 2x12x18 Maple board from you. I look forward to putting it to good use (and to using it for many years!)

                              Jeremy

                              1. re: jljohn

                                Is David doing the blemish free premium Maple boards yet? IIR he posted on another forum that he was going to start with two price levels on the Maple after some disappointed customers would up with mineral stained boards. Be sure to ask and I'm sure David will take care of you. ;)
                                I saw a Maple board of his lined with Mahogany recently that was a serious looker!

                            2. Have you contacted Boos to see if they can offer help?

                              14 Replies
                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Good suggestion but no need. I got them at SLT, and I made use of their generous return policy. I'm not the kind of guy who will return something years down the road because I don't like the thing any more, but when an 'high-quality' item does not hold up as it should when used and cared for properly (as with my boards), then I have no qualms about returning it. The first time, they exchanged the board for me, and the second time they happily refunded my money.

                                1. re: jljohn

                                  If there's a next time, you might consider contacting the manufacturer...because SLT will just toss the board into the trash and debit Boos for the replacement.

                                  If you contact Boos directly, they will be able to track down and pinpoint any problems in their manufacturing process, and/or make suggestions as to how to avoid this in the future.

                                  Most manufacturers appreciate the opportunity to fix a problem. I met the president a few years ago (briefly, at an industry function) - he seems to be a genuinely nice guy who is very involved with his company.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    It's not the OP's problem what happens to the board after he/she returns it.They purchased the product directly from a major retail outlet,let them(SLT) contact Boos and tell them fix what seems to be an ongoing problem.

                                    I'm sure Mr nice guy president would love to hear from them.....

                                    1. re: petek

                                      But we all know they won't -- and second-hand information about what happened is typically suspect.

                                      Mr. Nice Guy President *would* like to hear from SLT about returns and exchanges...but it won't help him pinpoint any possible problems with production, because the board is gone (no way to examine it) and they won't have kept any usable records of why the boards were returned ("broken" isn't very helpful)...thus all mr. NGP gets is a big fat debit memo and no usable explanation as to what happened.

                                      You can't deny someone the opportunity to fix a problem and then complain because they didn't fix the problem.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        Is it really common practice for large chains to chuck defective products in the bin without trying to contact the manufacturer first? If so that's not doing anyone any good.

                                        I just figured that if there were enough complaints about a certain product(which there seems to be) that SLT would address the issue directly with Boos.

                                        1. re: petek

                                          Yes, it's not just common practice-- it's pretty much the only practice amongst big retailers (ask me about my observations with places like Ace Hardware and Home Depot). Had the OP board been returned in a bucket as a collection of chips, SLT would have just dumped it in a bucket and debited Boos.

                                          Big retailers just debit the supplier for anything that they deem necessary -- you name it, they'll debit it, even if it's not the supplier's fault. The supplier has no recourse -- either accept the debit, or find a new customer.

                                      2. re: petek

                                        I HATE the throwaway mentality associated with so much of what we purchase today, which is a major reason why I try to select a high quality product that will last a long time. And in many situations, I will work directly with a manufacturer to correct or fix a problem.

                                        This situation is different. It's not like Boos can or will repair the board so that it won't get trashed. And, in the end, it's a wood board--biodegradable--so if it does wind up in the trash heap, it'll decompose rather quickly. Furthermore, if I had called Boos, I can bet that they would have required me to cover the cost of shipping the board to them (a further waste of fuel and cash), and upon receipt, at best, they would have shipped me a new board and put the old one in the trash (just like SLT). So, I couldn't find any benefit is working with Boos on this.

                                        If only I could have convinced SLT to refund my money and allow me to use the board for firewood. That might have been a win-win!

                                        1. re: jljohn

                                          Not necessarily -- Boos *might* have repaired the board, and very well *might* have covered the cost of shipping (perhaps just to make you happy, perhaps because it's a small investment to get the chance to see what went wrong).

                                          As above -- you can't crucify them for not doing anything when you never even gave them the opportunity.

                                          Note -- my meeting the president was a passing glance...You'll note I didn't say I know the guy, I said he seemed like a good guy. I'm not connected to him or the company in any way -- I don't even OWN a Boos board (though I wish I did).

                                          But I used to work for a couple of different manufacturers in a similar industry-- and it's dismaying how many customers badmouth a company and a product for this exact situation...the company didn't know the product failed, but rather than taking a few minutes to make a toll-free call (Toll Free: (888) 431-2667), it's easier to throw them under the bus on an Internet forum and tell everyone what a horrible product it is and what jerks they are to sell such crap.

                                          If you *had* contacted them, and they'd replied with a shrug and snotty "too bad, so sad", I'd have offered to drive the bus for you.

                                          And no, your board wouldn't have gone in the trash: http://www.johnboos.com/content/1/38

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            I haven't spotted any real crucifixion going on in this thread.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              No intent to crucify.

                                              I just got off the phone with the John Boos company. I asked them what should be done with a board, which has split even though it was properly cared for. Should it be sent to them to assess and repair or replace or should I speak to the retailer, and I was told, "Unfortunately you have to go through the retailer." I questioned further whether there is really no way the board could be sent to Boos to be taken care of, and the customer service agent insisted that they could not do that. She stated that I should work through the retailer to get the board replaced, and the retailer would contact Boos if necessary. So, there you have it. I was supposed to take the board back to SLT after all.

                                              sunshine842, I appreciate your optimism, but I have had enough interactions of this type with manufacturers such that I know that, no matter how much the president cares about his product, most of the time the institutional machinery is not set up to manage problems how you and I wish they would be handled. For example, even if Boos is FSC certified, it appears that they will guide you to a course of action that will cause your board to wind up in a landfill. Will you be taking the wheel now? :)

                                              1. re: jljohn

                                                Throw me the keys.

                                              2. re: sunshine842

                                                If I had purchased 2 defective products with the exact same problem, from the same company I would be pretty pissed.
                                                Why should I have to do a song and dance to receive satisfaction?
                                                In the end,the onus is on the manufacturer,not the customer or even the retailer(who from what I understand,has a very generous return policy),that's the price you pay to do business with the big boys or girls..

                                                1. re: petek

                                                  Patek, I try to make my purchases in a way that yields very few 'really pissed' moments. I tend to think about the object I am buying, and the lower the probability of a problem the more likely I am to buy it at a steep discount from a place like ebay. The higher the probability of defect or product failure, the more likely I am to go to Bed Bath and Beyond or SLT, where there is an absolute satisfaction guarantee, and pay full retail. For example, not much can go wrong with a Lodge Cast Iron pan, and the rate of defect is probably very low, so something like that gets bought on amazon or other discounted location. A blender or a wooden cutting board both probably have a fairly high rate (comparatively) of defect or failure, so those would be bought at BBB or SLT. In the end, when something fails unreasonably, I usually am not out dollars and cents, because I can exchange or return the item, but I sure don't like the hassle and I hate to see the waste.

                                                  1. re: jljohn

                                                    I very rarely buy anything sight unseen/online,only my Boardsmith board(no better local options and great reviews)and a couple of deBuyer carbon steel pans that I knew would be an easy return if there was a problem.

                                                    I realize I'm missing out on some great deals,but I try to buy from local purveyors(big or small),because I can't stand the thought of shipping something across the border or country to get a replacement.

                                                    You're lucky SLT has such a great return policy

                                                    Enjoy your new boardsmith board!

                                    2. If your new board fails again, consider "Hinoki" one ; It;s called Chamaecyparis obtusa (Japanese cypress, hinoki cypress or hinoki ) only grows in Japan where Hinoki cutting board is the best one and have been used for centuries. Pros are you don't need ANY OIL to maintain, it has its own strong anti germ properties better than bamboo/cedar for that matter, very good in a humidity condition. You just wash and leave it then good to go next time. My mom uses the same Hinoki board last 40 years or even more. Though, it got rounded the corner over the time, surface is solid, no split (one seamless piece, hence no glue). When I have a chance to visit Japan, I gotta get the large one (I have medium already)!!
                                      Amazon carries some Hinoki board although nothing to compare with thickness and quality of it, which is actually made in Japan. Worth take a look at it if you ever have to replace.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: bluemoonnumber4

                                        Hi. Just an fyi. Although the Chamaecyparis is native to Japan, it does grow in the US. It happens to be one of my favorite plants and i have several varieties of them -- including an obtusa in my yard. They grow very slowly, so i'll likely never see them as mature as the ones in Japan.

                                      2. I've had thin boards that have lasted for years in deep-south, high humidity. In my mind thickness is more about usability. A 2-inch board would raise my cutting surface beyond what is comfortable for me. I prefer just thick enough to remain flat.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: andabien

                                          Yes -- short has its own list of issues, doesn't it?

                                          (I'm fairly close to "normal" - but my mom is a very petite lady -- so I'm always conscious of how high/tall things are)