“I just bought one of your boards, how do I care for it?”
Great question. All of our products are made from real wood (no veneers), sourced locally and kiln dried. Given the climate here in Colorado, this means the wood is low moisture and our boards are ‘thirsty’.
When finishing, I use Howard Butcher Block Conditioner on all Cutting Boards/Serving Boards. It is a food safe product and readily available on Amazon, at Lowes and Home Depot. Your thirsty board will need a drink whenever it starts to look dull. You will need to condition it more at first and less as the mineral oil penetrates the board over time.
The best method I have found is to place the board on a few folded dish towels or dish rags (this is also helpful when using it for cutting so it doesn’t slide around your counter or for display to elevate it slightly from the adjacent surface). Put about two (2) or three (3) tablespoons of conditioner on it, depending on size. I coat the board with my bare hands and let it sit for 5 – 20 minutes and soak. Then, take an old t-shirt or clean towel (no chemical residue), wipe off the excess and polish to a nice sheen.
Finally, I put an added layer of protection by waxing the board with George’s Clubhouse Wax. This product is a little tougher to find but you can get it on Amazon, at Walmart, or specialty wood stores. You can use any wax you like as long as it is food safe.
You can use other oils but I recommend staying away from oils that will make the board rancid. Sometimes, I use Coconut Oil (the paste, not the liquid) on my own boards but have gravitated toward Howard of late.
*Smaller, cheese boards are finished with General Finishes Salad Bowl Finish. This product is food safe and non-toxic once cured. You should NOT cut on these boards and only use them to serve food(s).*
“How do I clean my board after I’ve used it?”
Mineral Oil Boards: These boards are much more sensitive to water and I call them ‘open boards’. I recommend making a mixture of bleach & water (1:10 ratio – search online) in a spray bottle. Take a clean cloth, spray the cloth lightly with the mixture and wipe the face of the board being careful not to soak it. Alternatively, cut a lemon in half, place coarse salt on the board (few tablespoons will do the trick) and rub it with the lemon. Then, apply a fresh coat of your Conditioning Oil as necessary.
Salad Bowl Finish Boards: These boards are basically ‘sealed’ and can take more water but I still recommend you don’t soak them. I do recommend following the same procedures as listed above for ‘open boards’. I do wax these boards before sending them out and recommend you do the same. It is an added layer of protection to preserve your board.
“I put a knife mark in my board, now what do I do?”
It’s okay…your board was meant to be used! But I get it, you don’t want it looking all rough. First, let’s address how you came to that knife mark. The main culprit is a dull knife. When our knives are dull, we have to ‘push’ through the food as much as cut it which results in a dreaded knife mark (gouge actually). If we keep our knives sharp, any marks should be small & thin and a good coat of Butcher Block Conditioner will cause the wood to swell and fill in tiny knife marks.
To freshen your board, go to your local hardware store and buy a few sanding blocks. I recommend a coarse (no less than 100 grit) and something finer like a 220 or higher. Start with the lower number sanding block and gently sand out the scratches being careful to sand with the grain (typically top to bottom). Then, switch to the higher number block and continue to sand until smooth. *If you’ve sanded and the surface doesn’t seem smooth, the grain may have been ‘bruised’ (laying down while sanding) and now it’s standing back up. To remedy this, you can take a damp cloth and wipe the surface (being careful not to soak it) to make the grain stand up uniformly, then continue sanding with the higher numbered block until your surface is smooth again. To really polish it, finish the sanding process with a ‘0000’ Steel Wool pad. Lastly, condition with your Butcher Block Conditioner and you’re good to go!
“You use different types of wood in your boards, does it make a difference?”
ABSOLUTELY! Different woods have different levels of hardness measured on what is called a Janka Scale. The Janka Scale tests how much force is needed to embed a steel ball 1/2 way into a species of wood (technical, right?).
Maple is one of the hardest domestic woods and great for cutting boards. The other woods I use are not as hard, but not too soft either like some species of wood (think pine). Maple is also a closed grain wood which means the wood’s cell structure is less porous than open grained woods. Additionally, Maple has some natural anti-bacterial properties which is why it is so popular for cutting boards.
Generally speaking, I’m a bit of a germaphobe so I don’t cut raw chicken or pork on wood, I only cut these meats on (gulp) plastic cutting boards.
“How do I know if my board has bacteria on it?”
If your board has bacteria, it will start to smell pungent.
Understand that bacteria will thrive in crevices on your board. So the first thing to do is keep your knives sharp and any ‘cut marks’ on your board to a minimum.
Second, use the bleach & water mixture discussed above or the lemon & salt cleaning method.
Basically, you have purchased a real, live product and it does require a small amount of care to last a lifetime which we hope it will!
“I just conditioned my board, but it isn’t super smooth and doesn’t shine like when it arrived…what am I doing wrong?!?”
If you’ve followed the advice above, absolutely nothing. But, now you’re asking me for a trade secret…and I’m happy to share it! The last step for me in finishing a board is the most critical to the look and finish.
Apply the final coat of either Howard Butcher Block Conditioner or George’s Clubhouse Wax liberally onto the surface of the board and let is soak in for at least 20 minutes. Next, take a pad of 0000 Steel Wool (ask for ‘Quadruple Aught Steel Wool’ at your local hardware store) and, using the Steel Wool, wipe with the grain, rubbing/wiping/polishing the board to the high-level of finish you saw when you purchased it. Finally, take a clean cotton cloth (I use painters rags you can buy at any hardware store) and wipe the excess material off the surface of the board. The cloth will have a little bit of wood residue on it because you’ve just taken off a microscopic amount of wood grain while polishing the finish into the surface of the board. Viola! Your board should shine like the day it arrived!