The best materials for a custom wood cutting board

Posted by James Barrett on Feb 21st 2018

The best materials for a custom wood cutting board

Lets cover the best wood for a custom wood cutting board- 

So, now that you have decided on buying a wood cutting board, you quickly find that there are so many options for look and feel. What type of wood should you consider? Are certain woods stronger or better than others? Which ones are the most durable? Which woods are going to be the most beautiful? 

Hardwoods vs. softwoods 

Hardwoods are from slow growth trees. They take a long time to grow into a usable tree. These are usually from deciduous trees. They drop their leaves in the fall and usually don't grow in the winter time. Hardwoods consist of trees like oak, ash, and cherry. There are some other species considered in the hardwood family due to their slow growth habits but they are softer in nature, as rated on the Janka hardness scale. These would be woods like maple and walnut. 

Maple really deserves a class all its own, in my humble opinion. There are so many variants of this tree species- from spalted maple to rock maple to curly and fiddleback maples! Imagine a wood cutting board with fiddleback maple! Ha! 

Softwoods come from faster growing trees. These are usually conifer and evergreen trees. 

Aside from hardness and softness of the wood itself, there are a few other characteristics for consideration: 

  • Figure, otherwise known as "character"
  • Color
  • UV stable woods

Walnut has tremendous character, especially in a custom cutting board. Most furniture pieces are made from straight and clean walnut, with very little character. This is primarily for the integrity of the furniture piece. The sapwood is a bit more "unruly" and often not desired in the furniture making world but in a wood cutting board, this is a great material selection because of all the variations in its color. From purples to light yellows, sapwood walnut will get you all sappy. Er, not the sticky kind... Drool over a walnut cutting board! 

I love walnut because each piece of wood is so different from the other. It lends to creating a truly one of a kind wood cutting board. 


Woods like maple are considered a very clean wood. Maple is straight and doesn't tend to steal the show, like it's walnut counterpart. Maple is light and the grain patterns are almost invisible. 

On the other side of the color spectrum, you have hardwoods like purple heart and canary wood. Purple heart is just like it sounds. It is very purple! Customers often ask me if the wood was stained and are astonished to find that the natural color of the wood is that pretty. 

Color can also lend itself in contrasting and complimenting patterns. This is where the creative juices can flow and really get a pleasing and fun custom wood cutting board. 

UV stable woods

UV stable woods made my list of woods to consider in a custom cutting board because cutting boards are out in the kitchen where there is natural light. Some woods can discolor to an unpleasant tone with prolonged use. This would a wood like cherry. Cherry is very stable and very beautiful but will change from a naturally warm and pleasant color to a more dull brown color. Most of us have seen cherry in homes or custom furniture and it looks so beautiful but that is because it has been stained and finished with certain finishes that prohibit UV rays from hitting the wood. 

The purple heart we mentioned earlier will start out a really dull purple but will brighten to a wonderful and deep purple color with UV light. 

All that being said, maple is the most common lumber selection in any custom wood cutting board. While there are many variants to consider, rock maple is by far my most favorite. It dulls my blades and is a bear to run through the shop. Which tells me that it will hold up just fine with use in any commercial kitchen and personal kitchens alike. 

Maple is very stable and very straight grained. It doesn't warp or move. And maple is extremely easy to maintain for a custom wood cutting board. 

It takes a professional woodworker to know what lumber to select when making any custom wood cutting board. A lot of pieces at my local lumber yard are offcuts and usually on a great sale that it can be tempting to buy! But I have to carefully select materials that will stand the test of time in any kitchen. This is one of the most rewarding dynamics of my business. 

Wood has a voice. And a life to live beyond it cutting down in some forest. That life is in your kitchen. And with your family.