Sometimes, the best DIY projects are also the simplest. This rustic cheese board takes less than an hour to whip up, and costs less than $10.00 in materials. Plus, it's easy to create even if you don't have access to a huge forest or wood pile, and doesn't require a chainsaw or any fancy power tools.
Let's make one!
Tools and Materials:
- Wood slice – we used a basswood round from the craft store
- Stiff brush
- Sandpaper – 150 and 220 grits
- Mineral oil or butcher block oil
1. The key to this project is finding the appropriately sized wooden slice. If you have access to large hardwood stumps or limbs that have been dried or seasoned, they'd be perfect. If not, you can find basswood slices in the unfinished wood section of the craft/art supply store, or easily on Amazon. Once you've procured your slice, it's just about prepping it for food use.
2. Begin by using a stiff-bristled brush to clean the bark. Make sure to remove any moss or lichen, as well as any loose bark or debris that will fall off easily and could mix with comestibles. If you have access to compressed air, give the bark a few blasts to really get rid of any dirt.
3. Then, sand both sides throughly with 150 grit then 220 grit paper. A powered sander is helpful here, but a simple hand sanding block works just as well. Be sure to keep the sandpaper flat against the surface so as to avoid rounding over the edges or interfering with the bark.
4. Lastly, finish the slice with mineral oil or butcher block conditioner. Since basswood is a relatively soft wood and you're applying to the end grain, it'll will soak up a lot of finish. End grain is basically a bunch of little straws all lined up, and they'll happily accept as much liquid as they can get.
To apply, simply flood the mineral oil onto a side, and wipe with a clean rag to distribute. You may see a bit of blotchiness at the beginning, but that will subside as the wood becomes fully saturated. After 30 minutes or so, repeat with a second coat. Allow the finish to soak in overnight, and then add a third and fourth coat if necessary.
Once the finish has fully dried, your wood slice board is ready to use. It's important to note that this really isn't a cutting board or butcher block. Basswood is a relatively soft wood (it's easy to carve, which is why they sell it at the craft store), so don't go hacking at a chicken carcass with a super sharp clever. But, since it's exposed end grain, and wood is naturally self-healing, most light scuffs will be invisible with a fresh coat of mineral oil. Plus, I kinda like a bit of knife wear-and-tear; it gives the piece a more rustic, worn-in look with plenty of character.
The project's round shape and light weight makes it perfect for serving charcuterie, cheese, and other staples. Or, it'll work great for other dry foods like desserts, cured meats and fish, or small bowls of pickles and sauces. I've been using mine in our bar area for assembling cocktails, cutting citrus, etc.
These basswood slices cost less than $15.00, and you can always find a 40-50% coupon for all the major craft stores at their web site or mobile app. So, $7.00 in materials plus a little sandpaper, some mineral oil, and about an hour of work.