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Nov 16, 2012 05:04 PM

Olive wood chopping board advice?

Having tried several bamboo and lesser quality woods with no success in the past I am thinking of getting some olive wood chopping boards for everyday use at home. These are one whole slice of wood which has been smoothed and varnished rather than bits of wood glued together. I love the pattern and colour of olive wood however my main aim is to buy chopping boards which are resistant and will endure being scrubbed with a sponge and washing up liquid and then rinsed and rested upright in order to dry. Is olive one such type of wood?

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  1. I wash with soap, rinse and let dry all my chopping boards. I can't imagine owning ones that would be handled any other way.

    15 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      No doubt that olive wood boards and utensils are beautiful to behold. However, it is a much harder wood than the ones more commonly used for cutting boards, such as walnut, cherry, etc. Your knife edges will suffer more with an olive wood board. I prefer a softer wood for cutting and chopping.

      Sorry, I accidentally posted this comment in the wrong place. It's a response to the OP, not to escondido.

      1. re: cheesemaestro

        No problem. If someone is religious at sharpening their knives, I don't think the harder wood should be a problem.

        1. re: escondido123

          Well, I'm not that religious about sharpening my knives! I do think that a softer board will dull them less quickly. The Board Smith recommends woods between 850 and 1,600 on the Janka scale of hardness for cutting boards and chopping blocks. Mediterranean olive wood is way above that, at 2,740.

          Most of what I've seen in olive wood is thin and is designed for light cutting, e.g., for cheeses or dried sausages. I've never come across a board made for heavier kitchen tasks (although I can't say that one doesn't exist), nor have I seen standard terms like "end grain" and "edge grain" used in reference to olive wood boards.

          Iliria, do you have a particular board in mind that you are considering purchasing?

          1. re: cheesemaestro

            I have been lusting after one of those Boardsmith boards for quite a while. Unfortunately because he is based in US and I live in UK it is impossible for me to own one.

            The boards that I have been looking at are these:

            The main features that have attracted me are:

            1. The thinness-I like to have daily boards that are about 1 inch thick.
            2. Being one piece-One whole piece of wood, no glue, end grain etc.
            3. Wood's resistance to water.
            4. The grain pattern (this is just visually pleasing but I can live without if needs be).

            1. re: iliria

              Hi, iliria:

              Thank you for the link--their products are beautiful and reasonably priced.

              Regarding the hardness/dulling issue, I think for production work and/or extremely thin-edged knives given any torsional forces, you might well be better off with a softer wood. However, if you're not a line prepper or a knife geek, I don't think the increased hardness would dull your knives noticeably faster.


              1. re: kaleokahu

                Oh no, nothing like that. I just enjoy cooking at home and just do the usual chopping and prepping for a family of 5. Whilst not being a knife geek I do have a couple of knives which are thin-edged (a Hattori chinese cleaver and a JCK Gekko santoku).

                The Hattori is at the bottom of this page

                1. re: iliria

                  <a Hattori chinese cleaver and a JCK Gekko santoku>

                  Wow. Nice.

              2. re: iliria

                Yes, they are very attractive pieces.

                Kaleo and I will continue to disagree about the hardness issue, but there's something else you should consider. At first blush, it seems logical that a board made from a single piece of wood would be more durable, but it isn't so, at least not in the opinion of woodworkers who have experience making boards. In fact, such a board is more prone to warping than one that is properly made from pieces that are glued together. I was searching on the Internet for an olive word board suitable for cutting and chopping and came by chance upon the following discussion:


                The OP in this discussion asked the same question you did concerning the desirability of buying an olive wood chopping board. The responses from chefs and others were not positive. Note that the BoardSmith participates in this exchange and that he agrees with the general consensus.

                1. re: cheesemaestro

                  Thank you very much for that link. I have just found an end grain maple board which is made by Michigan Maple Co so I might go for that one instead and just buy an olive wood board simply for cutting and serving roast beef and other cooked meats.


                  1. re: cheesemaestro

                    Having taken in consideration the advice given in the link by the Boardsmith I was wondering if this board is real beech or not? Anyone able to tell?


                    1. re: cheesemaestro

                      Hi, cheesemaestro:

                      Complicating this comparison and all the opining is the relative market scarcity of quality European olive lumber. I've yet to see a review by a maker who makes thick or endgrain glued-up olive boards, let alone one dissing the wood. But I agree with you that a single-piece is more warp-prone than glued-up, all other things being equal. It just hasn't been my experience that my olive boards have warped.

                      FWIW, I don't find the posts at your link to be particularly negative.


                    2. re: iliria

                      I do think many of the things you mentioned are very attractive and suitable for your needs. Thinness is definitely useful for mobility. I also love one piece cutting board. I have one, but it is a bit thicker than you would ever want. :)


                      As for the wood being resistance to water, is this really true? I find a lot of claims on the internet is somewhat questionable. I am worry about it warping for a working board, but I cannot be sure. I am also concern about the hardness of the wood, but a bite different from cheesemaestro. I am slightly worry about the hardness of the wood dulling knives, but I am more concern that the hardness of the wood preventing you from making clean cut. When a knife is used to cut objects (especially meat instead of vegetable), the knife need to able to cut a little tiny bit into the board to separate the object. If you have ever used a glass cutting board, you will know that it is difficult to make clean cut because of its inability to give in. Of course, glass cutting boards also dull knives. I think there are values in what you said. I have some doubts, but they are just my own doubts. So I guess you just have to get one to try it out. Maybe don't get a super expensive and large one. :)

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Wow, that is a very large piece of wood indeed. And really beautiful too. I have a large butcher's block which is really nice (see link below) however it is a nightmare from the mobility perspective.


                        1. re: iliria

                          Mine is not as large or as heavy. It is thick however. Mine is 14" in diameter, so tha tis 35.5 cm. I dont' know how heavy it is, but it is more than 10 pounds since my kitchen scale could not read it. However, I can lift it by one hand, so...

                          Anyway, have fun.

                    3. re: cheesemaestro

                      Amazon has nice thick olive wood cutting boards.

              3. Hi, iliria: "...resistant and will endure being scrubbed with a sponge and washing up liquid and then rinsed and rested upright in order to dry. Is olive one such type of wood?"

                Yes. Boards, bowls and utensils of olivewood hold up quite well. I have several vintage olive cheese and serving boards. My experience is that they're durable and don't warp, even if they're not particularly thick. They also seem to resist stains better than most of my other wooden stuff.


                1. <Having tried several bamboo and lesser quality woods with no success in the past>

                  So what is the "no success" here? I like to know what sort of troubles you have experienced. This will help me and others to answer your question. Do these boards start to warp? they start to mold? they dull your knives very quickly? they smell?

                  Also I like to know what kind of lesser quality wood board you have been using? Are they lesser because they are thin? because they are inexpensive? because they are edge grain instead of end grain? What is the definition of lesser quality here?

                  The reason I ask is that there are poor quality wood boards, and there are inexpensive wood boards, and they do not necessary equal one and other. Currently, I own a very inexpensive $15 board from Korean H-Mart. Although it is unattractive, light weight, and cheap looking, it has not given me any trouble at all. It has not warp, crack, splinter or anything. Cheaper boards do not necessary mean poor quality.

                  Because wood is a nature product, there is always a level of uncontrollable factor. I can make two plastic cutting board exactly the same, but I can never make two wood boards the same. Because of this, some wood boards are simply bound to fail even if you do all the care taking, while other wood boards will survive abuses. In my experience, as well as a few other chowhoundesr (including cowboyardee), inexpensive wood boards are not necessary less functional than expensive wood boards.

                  Boos cutting boards have very good reputation and are very much the industry standard. Yet, even its cutting boards have received plenty complaints. Maybe the users do not really know how to take care of wood boards, maybe because the luck of the draw.

                  As for olive wood, I think it works well as cheese board or other lighter jobs, but I won't use it won't be my first choice for daily cutting board.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    My apologies, I wasn't very clear. By lesser quality I meant boards that after having been hand washed a few times started to fall apart. The glue simply didn't manage to hold them together. Some of these boards were bamboo and some were other types of wood. I don't think the type of wood was the contributing factor though.

                    The reason why I am interested in olive wood is because I have heard that it is quite sturdy, resistant to water and you can get boards that are made of just one piece of wood and don't involve using glues. I do have a top quality end grain maple board however due to its size it is not convenient to be used as a daily board. Plus I need other boards for meat etc.

                    1. re: iliria

                      I wash all my boards, and all are glued butcher block, nothing real expensive. Never had one come apart and they get washed every time they get used, many every day for years.

                  2. Personally I love olive wood boards however, I use them for serving cheese/charcuterie vs cutting. As others have noted, other woods such as walnut or cherry make for good cutting boards but, construction varies considerably. Fortunately there are some great tips and references here on the Cookware Board.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                      Walnut is my second preferred type of wood in respect to the beauty of its colour/grain pattern. However it is quite hard to find unless you go to specialized board makers.

                      1. re: iliria

                        I go to just such a specialized board maker out of San Diego (Omni Butcher Blocks) for all my wooden kitchen stuff. I have seen some things he does in olive wood (I have an olive wood spatula from him), though most of his boards are maple, cherry, and walnut. I think he does some artisanal boards in whole olive wood. I do know that he will do custom work in almost any wood that you request.

                        I have some absolutely beautiful maple and walnut boards of his that are from single pieces of wood, but I use these more as cheese boards and serving platters. For cutting boards I have a large and a small end grain board that are made from maple and walnut pieces. End grain is just superior for cutting on (for the wood and for your knives).

                        He does very nice work and is reasonably priced (<$230 for even his very large end grain boards). Plus he will ship anywhere for very reasonable costs even on big heavy items. Just had him mail a board far away as a wedding present and it cost me under $20 for shipping.

                    2. I have some Arte Legno I use for serving and put some small pces of natural parchment under it, but got advice on this board to oil them so they don't crack. I am worried and want to use only natural products. Any advice?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: itryalot

                        I have some olive wood ladles and the instructions that came with them suggested using olive oil to oil! I know olive oil typically isn't recommended for wood conditioning/preservation since it may become rancid more easily (?), so curious to hear others' thoughts re: whether this applies as well when the wood is itself olive!

                        I'm also thinking about trying this product: (I've used Howard's conditioner before, but one intended for furniture, which was fabulous).

                        1. re: iyc_nyc

                          <I know olive oil typically isn't recommended for wood conditioning/preservation since it may become rancid more easily>

                          It is my understanding as well that extra virgin olive oil turns rancid quickly compared to other oils. Light olive oil or extra light olive oil may be better.

                          The most general advise is to use mineral oil for cutting boards because mineral oil cannot turn rancid, whereas most cooking oil will. However, oil for a cutting board is a bit different than oil for a wood ladle. Because a ladle will get used often and its oil will be more readily get flushed out. It is believed that the oil won't have enough time to turn rancid. Personally, I use 100% natural tung oil for my cutting boards, but the tung oil strategy is a completely different one. It is a drying oil.

                          Now, just beware of furniture conditioners vs cookware conditioners. Furniture conditioners may contain non-food safe materials.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Chem, this all makes sense. The olive ladle makers didn't differentiate between olive oils when they suggested that be used to oil the ladles.. but it may be, as you suggest, that the rancidity factor is less of an issue with ladles than other things like cutting boards.