My Process for a 2”x16x20 - 3D Cutting Board

Hey, thanks for stopping by. This particular blog accompanies a video on my Youtube channel:

Between that video and this article, I share my process with you for putting this 3D board pattern together. I hope you find this helpful and that it encourages you to have a go at it yourself.

I learned how to do this board by watching a video and purchasing a set of plans from the original artist: Andrey Muntian @mtmwood. Here’s a link to his YouTube video on this pattern:

If you’re curious about any of the products I use throughout this process, or are interested in purchasing them yourself, please check them out in my Amazon store through this link:

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Ok, let’s get into the build.

First things first: Estimate, select, & purchase wood

Figuring out how much material is needed for this pattern has been a bit of trial and error for me. There is a generous amount of “waste” with this pattern, and I’m generous in my estimations so that I end up with a little extra rather than risk shorting myself. Here’s exactly what I used in the video:

All 4/4 (1”) stock:

Walnut – 3 pcs. @ 6.5” x 32” Total: 11.3 bd. Ft

2 pcs. @ 8” x 32”

Cherry – 3 pcs. @ 6.5” x 32” Total: 9.6 bd. Ft

2 pcs. @ 8” x 32”

Maple – 4 pcs. @ 6.5” x 32” Total: 7.1 bd. Ft

1 pc. @ 6” x 32”

For ease of math, I’ll round those all up to the nearest bd. Ft.

Walnut – 12 bd. Ft

Cherry – 10 bd. Ft

Maple – 8 bd. Ft

For the pricing I get on my material, this works out to $285 CAD pre- tax.

As you can see in the video, this amount of material yielded me more than I needed to build a 16”x20”. I was able to build an additional board at nearly 12”x16”.

I’ll walk you through my process for figuring out how much material is needed to build these boards. First, I calculate what I call “finished end grain bd. ft”, so in this build, I ended up with:

16”x20”x2” = 4.44 bd. ft

12”x16”x2” = 2.66 bd. ft

Total: 7.1 bd. ft, (again, round to 7 for ease of math)

Now I can use ratios to figure out what I need and what to charge if someone asks for a specific size.

I know for 7 bd. ft of finished board, I need

Walnut – 12 bd. Ft

Cherry – 10 bd. Ft

Maple – 8 bd. Ft

If, for example, I was asked to build a smaller board, such as a 12”x12”, it’s a simple matter of doing the math:

12”x12”x1.5” = 1.5 bd. ft

Using the math, I simply solve for “x” to calculate how much of each hardwood is needed.

1.5 bd.ft. = 7 bd. ft 1.5 bd. ft = 7 bd. ft 1.5 bd. ft = 7 bd. ft

X 12 bd. ft X 10 bd. ft X 8 bd. ft

X = 2.6 bd. ft of walnut

X = 2.1 bd. ft of cherry

X = 1.7 bd. ft of maple

And then I would round all these up to the nearest bd. ft to give myself some extra.

Hopefully that makes sense. And there very well could be an easier solution to figuring out how much material is needed for this pattern, but this is what works for me.

My hardwood supplier typically stocks pallet quantities of hardwood “shorts.” What these are, are 4x4 (1”) boards ranging in length from 60”-90”, and width from 3” and up. These are the piles I dig through to find the material for these patterns. Sometimes I have to dig pretty deep to find the good stuff. What I’m searching for is wood that is free of knots, cracks and splits. With the cherry, I aim to find boards that are all the same tone and all the darker heartwood. I’ve found with this pattern if you mix cherry heartwood and sapwood together, it creates a more chaotic look and the sapwood mixes with the colours of the maple, which takes away from the finished pattern. Also, you’ll notice in the beginning of the video I go straight from the miter saw to the planer skipping over jointing the faces. If I had a more modern jointer, I wouldn’t do that. But due to the jointer I have at the time of writing this, I aim to find boards that are already pretty straight with minimal bowing or cupping.

Step 1: Mill lumber to 1st glue-up

The miter saw part is straight forward. Here, I cut what I need down to length. In this build, I cut everything to 32”. Then I head over to the planer, and decide which face I want to plane. I simply make a judgement call here. I pick the side that I think will take the least amount of planing and will give me the nicest glue face. I take light passes, taking off just enough to give myself a nice, flat glue face.

Step 2: First glue-up

You’ll see in the video that I mark a line at ¾” and glue the top board to that line. It’s not a necessary step, it just helps to minimize waste. I made a math error here, and when I had to quickly go chop up some more lumber to get it glued up, I skipped over that part. Also, if I’m building these boards in batches, I’ll skip that step so that I can glue up several panels back to back so that I’m not waiting for individual panels to dry to free up clamps. I always apply glue to both faces. I’ve had gaps happen to me in the past, and applying glue to both faces just helps me “feel” that I’m not going to have any problems. I let these sit for 24 hours. You can remove the clamps after 12 hours, but I typically just leave them alone.

Step 3: Planer/jointer/miter saw pt. 2

After the glue has dried, I head back to the planer where I run both the walnut & cherry side of each panel through, just enough to smooth things up. What I do to 1 panel, I do to all the panels. I keep things as consistent as I can throughout the build. After the planer, I head over to the jointer. I really only need to joint the side that is going to ride along the table saw fence when I start cutting everything into the beveled strips. Then to tidy things up and make it a little easier to push through the table saw, I square up the ends on the miter saw.

Step 4: Table Saw action

This is where you find out what your table saw is made of. At the time of writing this, I have the Ridgid R4512, and although it’s been a solid saw over the years, it doesn’t have quite the amount of power that I would like to have for this project. Nonetheless, we work with what we’ve got. The first step is setting the blade to 45 degrees, and putting 1 bevel cut on each of the panels. This is where the ¾” overlap of the boards comes into play. Again, not a necessary step, but it’s always nice to reduce waste if possible. I simply adjust the fence as needed for each panel. Once I’ve got a bevel cut on each one, the next step is ripping all the strips. You’ll want to lock in your fence once and only once for this. I aim for my strips to be 5/8” wide. To set this distance, I’ll usually grab a scrap piece of lumber and ride it along the fence and just touch it to the spinning blade, measure, and repeat as necessary until my fence is where I want it to be. This is also where you can start playing around with the dimensions of things to alter the overall finished look of the pattern. I’ve made these strips as narrow as 3/8” and as thick as 7/8”. I find 5/8” is the magic number for the look I want to achieve.

Then it’s just a matter of putting on a good podcast and standing behind the table saw for a long time. As you can see in the video, I simply ride the long point of the 45 bevel along the fence and I use a series of push sticks here. The further away from the blade I can keep my fingers, the better. I highly advise against putting your extremities between the blade and the fence. I use my Microjig Grr-ripper to push the bulk of the panel and I use my stock Ridgid push stick to push the ripped strip out the back of the blade. Sometimes what can happen is the tension in the wood can release as you cut, causing the material to warp around the blade, binding it, and bogging down your saw. This is when kickback can occur and all the more reason to keep your fingers away from that blade.

It’s here that I aim to cut a few extra strips than what I think I need, because you do end up getting a strip or two with blade marks on it, ultimately resulting in a less than perfect glue seam. It’s not as simple as planing or drum sanding that strip down, because we need all of these to be the same dimension. What you do to one, you must do to all, so it’s best just to get a nice glue-line rip right at the table saw. The best you can do to avoid those nasty blade marks is to always keep the material moving through the blade. Don’t pause if possible. It’s when you pause and start up again that the blade likes to dig in.

The size of your board will dictate how many of these you need to rip. You need to create 2 opposing panels, both the width of your finished board to create the finished pattern. With my process, each finished “square” of the panel is about 1.25”. And for example, if I want a 16” wide board, I divide 1.25” into 16, giving me 12.8, so I round up to 13. And since I need 2 panels, I multiply 13 x 2, giving me 26, and when I cut a few extra, I end up at the 29 that I cut for this build.

Hopefully that makes sense….

Step 5: Mill cherry & maple

Now that I know how many beveled walnut/cherry strips I have, I know how many strips I need out of maple and cherry. In this case, I have 29 bevelled strips. That means I need half as many strips of maple and of cherry. That’s because each strip I cut out of maple & cherry, I will then cut in half again. Again, I give myself a couple extra in case I have any come out of the table saw with saw marks on them. I believe I cut about 16 strips each of maple & cherry.

But first, I run the maple and cherry through the same milling process: Cut to 32” length at the miter saw, plane both faces, and joint a side. Once I get to the table saw, I’ll actually run both sides of each board through the blade just to give myself 2 nice, square edges. Again, my jointer isn’t the most state of the art, so I rely on my table saw to clean things up. And I do both sides simply for the fact that I don’t have to keep track of which side I need to put against the fence. The less I need to keep track of, the less room for errors.

Once I’ve got these boards ready to start ripping into strips, I set them aside and turn my attention back to the cherry & walnut strips. I need to square both sides of these up. In the video, I call the walnut the “shadow” portion. It’s this side that I’ll run through the saw first. I want to leave on as much material as I can, so I take off just enough to square it up and end up with tiny, triangular pieces of walnut that I continue to bundle up and hoard away. Before we move the fence again, make sure you’ve got a clean, sharp blade in your saw. We’re going to set the fence again and not move it until all the beveled strips and maple & cherry have been ripped down. It’s important that at this stage, all the rips are the exact same width.

The way I determine how to set the fence is I want to leave just enough cherry above the walnut point on to account for future planing. This usually lands me at dimension of around 1.25”. It’s this dimension that you could use to reverse engineer just how many bd. ft of maple & cherry you need to get the amount of strips you need.

Step 6: Creating strips at the table saw

Once the fence is set, I run all the bevelled strips through and without adjusting the fence, I then rip all the maple and cherry into the initial set of strips.

Once everything is all ripped, make sure your blade is clean and sharp because there’s another stage of ripping that involves the fence staying in the same position. Here is where we’ll turn the maple and cherry on edge and rip each piece into 2 pieces. If you think that our finished, glued up sticks (or squares as I’ve referred to them) are about 1.25” x 1.25”, and the cherry/walnut piece in the center is 5/8”, we can do the math to figure out what the cherry & maple rips need to be. They end up being about 5/16”. I find a feather board is an absolute must at this point to keep the material tight against the fence as it feeds through the blade. The GRR-ripper is also a big help, as the gravity heel on the back pushes the thinly ripped strip out the back of the blade without having to sacrifice a push stick or getting your fingers too close.

Step 7: Gluing up those strips

I think how all these strips then fit together is pretty explanatory in the picture. Efficiency is key during this particular glue up. I glue things up in bundles of 10. Again, I like to glue both faces. I’d rather have a ton of squeeze out, than one tiny little gap somewhere. The couple extra dollars in glue is a small price to pay vs. ending up with a board that has gaps that need filling and will always be seen. It’s important to keep everything flat, which is why I use cauls on nearly all of my glue ups. Holding them in place while applying the clamps can be tricky to do by yourself, so if you have an extra set of hands available, it could make this process a little easier. You’ll also notice I use boards on either side of the glue ups before applying clamps. This is so that even clamping pressure is applied and I don’t bow the panel. Having a bow in this pattern completely takes away from the overall finished look. Ask me how I know. ;)

I let these sit for an hour before dismantling and scraping the excess glue. It’s not always important to scrape the glue, it simply eases the burden on your planer knives. However, during this particular glue up, I would deem it critical to scrape the excess glue. We want to be able to send these through the planer with as flat of a surface as possible on them, and if there is a bunch of dried glue, it could rock the pieces as they go through and take off uneven amounts of material, resulting in a less than desirable finished pattern. Once scraped, I don’t put all the clamps and cauls back on. I typically only put 2 pairs of cauls and 3 clamps back on, along with the boards used to keep things from bowing. Just enough equipment to keep everything stable and secure while the glue cures over the next 24 hours.

A good tip here is when you dismantle to scrape the glue, separate the sticks from each other before clamping back up together. Sometimes a little bit of glue can get in where it shouldn’t, and now’s the time to break that connection vs. the next day when the glue has fully dried.

Step 8: Plane/miter saw strips

Now we fill up the bag on our dust collector. I plane the walnut (shadow) side of the sticks first. This is because I want to take the minimal amount possible off the opposing side (the one where we left just a little bit of cherry on above the walnut point). To do that, we need to ensure we have a nice flat surface on the side that’s riding along the planer bed. Now, I’ve yet to perfect this to the point where I’m able to mill the wood consistently enough where I can plane perfectly down to that walnut point without taking a little bit of walnut in some places. It’s very minimal and only the very, very trained eye would be able to notice it in the finished pattern.

Both MTMwood and a video I’ve watched from Rough Cut Creations have a step in their process that combats this issue, but for some reason early on, I’ve left this step out of my process and therefore can’t explain it very well. If you’re curious, I recommend going to check out their videos on this board.

With the shadow side and the point side of the sticks planed, the third side I plane is the maple side. The reason I do this is because I want to preserve as much of the maple as possible to give us the thickest “cap” possible in the finished board. All I’m looking to do with the maple is take off any saw marks or dried glue and give myself a nice glue up edge. Once that’s done, I’m able to figure out what I need to take off the cherry side. The cherry side is the “floor” of the pattern. I don’t try to do this all in one pass through the planer. It often takes 3 passes. The first 2 get me close, and the third is a very fine pass to get things down to the exact dimension I need.

Step 9: First panel glue up

The way this pattern comes together is by using alternating strips from two different panels. These panels are offset from each other by 1 piece. And if you’re lucky to have a 20” planer, you can skip this step and go straight to Step 12. But if you’re like me and have a smaller planer and need to do a board that’s larger than 13”, gluing up the final panels has to be done in a couple stages. I glue them up back to back so that when I go to do the final glue up, the final glue seam is as straight and tight as it can be. If we glue them up separately and have to joint that edge to get a tight glue seam, it’s going to throw the pattern off. Because we’re going to put these panels through the planer before the final panel glue-up, I mark the end grain so that I don’t lose track of how things need to be oriented. It’s very easy to do so at this point.

My glue-up process is pretty consistent: liberal glue application aiming for a generous squeeze out, boards on either side to eliminate bowing, cauls, some sort of barrier between the clamps and the glue to keep the clamps smooth for future use, dismantle an hour later to scrape the glue, then put a few cauls and clamps back on to hold everything tight.

The next day, when these are dry, I’ll run them through the planer taking off the absolute minimal amount of material. If we take off too much it will, you guessed it, affect the overall pattern. All I’m doing here is just cleaning them up before gluing the 2 parts of each panel into 1.

Step 10: Final panel glue up

Because the end grain has been labelled, we haven’t had to keep track of orientation during the planing and we can easily put things back the way they need to be for the final glue up. Then just follow the same glue up process and allow to dry until the next day.

Once dry, a drum sander is the ideal tool to use here to take care of that sole glue seam. At the time of writing this, I don’t have one, but I do have a belt sander. If you choose to use the belt sander, do be cautious. We don’t want to just zero in on that glue seam, otherwise we will carve a very small, but noticeable trench into our panel. What we remove from the glue seam area, we want to remove from the rest of the panel as well. That’s why you see me going over the whole thing instead of just the glue seam.

All we need to do to get ready for cross cutting is to square up the end of the panels. These are too big to comfortably use with my INCRA miter gauge on my table saw and I don’t have an infeed extension on my miter slot which is why I draw a perpendicular line and use my band saw to trim things up. There’s a variety of ways you could square up these panels, simply do what works for you.

Step 11: Cross cut end grain strips

I use a 90 tooth Diablo fine finish blade here combined with a zero clearance throat plate. The two of these together eliminate any chip out and ensure the tightest and cleanest possible glue seams in the upcoming final pattern glue up. Again, if you have an infeed extension on your miter saw or better yet, a sliding table saw, this step is pretty simple. What you see me doing in the video isn’t the absolute best way to do this as you need to pay close attention to moving the panel through the blade fluidly and without twisting it.

This is also where we get to decide how thick we want to make our board. I build my larger boards at a full 2” thick, and because I flatten them in a router sled after the final glue up, I need to account for the material I take off there if I want the finished board to be 2”. I’ll set the fence at 2 3/16” away from the blade in this case.

It’s easy to mix things up here. It’s important to cut just one panel and keep the strips together as they come out of the saw.

Step 12: Pattern assemble

It’s tricky to explain this one in writing. If you watch through the assembly part in my video a few times, I think it will make sense. Take 1 strip from one panel and place it, then take a strip from the other panel and flip it and place it. If you look closely at the assembled strips, your eyes will start to pick up the orientation of how things need to go. Sorry, that’s the best I can do for this section.

Step 13: Final glue up

Here is where I separate the strips into the sizes of boards I set out to make. In this case, it was a 16”x 20”, and I well over estimated things. Before I draw the pencil line on, I carefully align the pattern. The intent behind the pencil line is to line everything back up after the glue has been applied. While this will get everything back very close to where it needs to be, I’ll do the very final alignment with my eye. There will be some slippage after a little bit of pressure is applied with the first clamp. This is when I get in close and have a look at how the pattern is aligned. If necessary, I have a wet cloth on hand to remove any glue that is obstructing my ability to see how things are lining up. With only slight pressure applied, I can shift things around. Once I have things exactly where I want them, I continue to very slowly apply pressure to the clamp. The slower you turn the clamp, the less chance for things to slide around.

Once I’ve got a good amount of pressure on the first clamp and things aren’t going anywhere, that’s when I’ll apply 2 more clamps on the underside of the glue up. As much as I’ve been preaching to always use cauls, you’ll notice I skipped them here. That’s simply a judgement call I made in the moment. The best reason I can give you is because at just over 2” thick and with a clamp on top and 2 clamps on bottom and at the pace that I tighten the clamps (slowly), the chances for the strips slipping vertically is very slim. My main priority is ensuring the pattern stays aligned, and I’ve found with this pattern, when I start messing with cauls on the final glue up, it can cause things to shift and make it a lot more difficult to tweak things back into place as more things are in the way. If there is a slight slippage on the vertical axis, it gets taken care of in the next step where I flatten the board.

Step 14: Flatten

There is no shortage of methods you can employ to flatten a board. Anywhere from a crudely built DIY jig to a drum sander to a big, fancy CNC machine and everything in between. I would advise against sending an end grain board through your planer. There are tips and tricks you can use to do this, but personally, I’m not courageous enough to do so. I’ve gone through a variety of flattening set ups. The one I use in this video is a couple rails and a sled I’ve built for the top of my table saw. You want a truly flat surface as your reference surface, and I know the cast iron top of my saw is just that. I try to pick the roughest looking side to hit with the router first. The other side goes face down on the saw top, and I secure it in place from any rocking or moving with shims and a hot glue gun. I then set my router in the sled and find the lowest point on my board and lock the router in at that. I don’t normally need to remove more than 1/8” off the surface off the board in this process, but if I ever had to, I would then flatten the surface in 2 passess. Then it’s a simple matter of taking slow passess. But not too slow, as you may end up leaving behind router burn marks, and if you go to fast, you might tear up a little more end grain than you would like. Just like your saw blade, make sure the router bit is clean & sharp.

When you take a router bit to end grain, it doesn’t leave the cleanest surface. There is some heavy duty sanding required to smooth things up. Again, a drum sander would be ideal, but I use 60 grit sandpaper in my 4” belt sander, and that makes pretty quick work of the clean up.

Step 15: Squaring Up

With the board initially sanded, I always like to check them for square. Sometimes it’s just a matter of cleaning up the edges and calling it good, but often if you do that and then stick a framing square on the corner, you may notice things aren’t as square as they could be. I also use this method to give all the edges a small trim, which cleans up the edges, eliminates any tear out caused during flattening and makes sure the board ends up nice and square. With how this pattern works, the finished dimensions are always fractions of an inch off. For example, this board ended up being closer to 17x21, which gave me a bit of trimming room to square and clean things up. I trim all the edges on my band saw, and then clean up the marks with a couple light passes through the jointer. From there, they’ll sand up quite easily.

Step 16: Finger holds/edge chamfer