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I bought this 15x20x4" maple board for my husband to hack up meat & bones for our dogs.

It's been on the granite counter, near our Berkey (water filter), except for cleaning. When I filled the filter Saturday, I noticed some water at its base. During clean-up, I found a 2 oz puddle under the board. I wiped it up, and this is what I found the next morning. (The photo is of the "top", though it's reversible.)

I was wondering if there was some way it could be fixed, or maybe taken apart and re-glued as a smaller board?

I'd really appreciate any advice.

top of board

  • Sorry if this is too much of a derail, but Graphus, could you please elaborate on why you think oiling a cutting board is malarkey? Thanks! – Peewee Jan 27 at 15:48
  • @Peewee, in the context of long-grain boards, oiling is completely unnecessary for upkeep — it's primarily done by makers for cosmetic reasons, and once home there's no reason to keep doing it except for looks (and actually some sound reasons to stop). In terms of boards in general where we need to consider end-grain boards, board butter or melted wax are actually far superior to any oil, and even with these leaving the wood completely bare is still a viable option (and may be the safest in terms of food hygiene, as it is on long-grain boards). – Graphus Jan 28 at 6:28
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I bet this was a shock, goes to show the power of expanding wood!

I think strictly speaking the answer to the question in the title is yes but it's likely beyond the scope of what a non-woodworker can accomplish so best to consider it a gonner. A replacement would be far less hassle, and assuming you don't own some of the requisite tools actually much cheaper, even with the high retail cost of boards of this type.

I'll briefly summarise what I think would be needed to properly 'repair' this, I use quotes because as you'll read this is actually a complete rebuild. It would need to be sawn apart, back to individual blocks, and every mating surface cleaned up. Then re-glued and clamped (very hard, from all directions, so lots of clamps, and good ones). Lastly one or both faces cleaned up which these days would generally be accomplished by lots of power sanding. The board would end up smaller in all dimensions, losing the most in its length, although if everything is done right it would be good as new..... actually better, see next point.

Something for you and future readers to notice, see how the block came apart pretty much exclusively along glue lines? This is a sure sign it wasn't glued together as well as it could have been (geek points for woodworkers in footnote 1). If it had been glued together properly it would still have failed, but pretty much or (hopefully) entirely ignoring the glue lines and just cracking randomly. This is because glue lines should be stronger than the wood.

If this happens again to a future board
If you choose to get another end-grain board, of any quality — no matter how good its supposed to be, no matter how expensive it was, no matter what wood(s) it's made from — and it gets wet in the same way the same thing could happen.

If the underside of a board of this construction gets wet and you notice it in time (i.e. before it cracks) get the entire thing evenly wet, if necessary by soaking briefly in the bath. Then towel it off and let it dry on edge. Do not make any attempt to speed drying, just let it dry off at its own pace.

With a bit of luck it will dry out uniformly and stay (reasonably) flat, but no guarantees you won't get some slight warping. If you do, just get used to using the board on top of a dry folded tea towel. It may flatten further over time as water slowly comes out of the interior, keep your fingers crossed but best not to count on it.


This is incidentally one reason, of many, I'm not a fan of cutting boards of this construction except from an aesthetic standpoint. They can look awesome. But long-grain boards need less fussing, require basically zero upkeep other than cleaning2 and ultimately can be far more long-lived. A decent long-grain board could still be in use 30 years after it was made or bought, having shrugged off many incidents such as this. And they cost less, potentially a lot less since a chunk of a 2x12" (preferably without knots but this isn't essential) could make a perfectly reasonable heavy-duty cutting board.


1 Any of or some combination of the following: inferior glue, glue that has lost its effectiveness (too old, maybe got too hot or froze), not enough glue was used (one of the chief causes of starved joints), after glue was applied the pieces weren't brought together and clamped up fast enough, the wood was left too long after cutting before glueing, insufficient clamp pressure (PVAs require lots of pressure to form the strongest joints).

2 None of that oiling, waxing, "cutting board finish" or "board butter" malarkey.

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  • Let's assume that this was a factory made board, not hand made, it seems that "inferior glue" is the only likely option. Mass production would likely mean running out of glue long before it's too old, it's likely stored indoors (though it might heat or cool too much during shipment to the factory), and production methods means there isn't time to dawdle between the application of the glue and assembly/clamping. Also, factory level clamping is most likely going to be sufficiently designed. If, however, it was "craft-made", then all bets are off! ;) – FreeMan Jan 16 at 12:57
  • @FreeMan, yup, agree that all seems reasonable logic. But then I think, would a commercial operation really use an inferior glue? Really? It's certainly possible, I mean who knows where they'd choose to cut corners. And there's always the human element to consider — the Monday AM or Friday PM lemon is a real thing with stuff like planes (badly machined), chisels and high-end rasps (poorly heat treated, or not hardened at all). If that can happen I have to leave room for the chance that some twit put glue on the wood, then checked their cell 'real quick' before tightening up the clamping frame! – Graphus Jan 16 at 14:28
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    Thank you so much for providing such a clear & detailed answer. Considering the way my husband "cuts" (he literally HACKS the meat, sending strips of meat and slivers of bone flying), what would you suggest I replace it with? I bought this one because I thought it was SO thick, it'd last forever - even sanding it down it wouldn't have shrunk much. Now, I don't know what to do. The only cutting board in the house is a 6" bamboo that's wreaking havoc on my knives! – Julie Jan 16 at 17:16
  • Welcome. Everyone has their own opinion on what makes for an ideal board and there are some die-hard end-grain fans. But like a lot of cooks I've chopped bones and meat as needed on standard boards and 'carving' boards, all long-grain construction, and they've held up fine but they aren't made to do this all the time. If you're not going to go for a full-on butcher's block (free-standing, held together with steel strapping or long bolts that go right through) and the suggestion of chunks of 2x12 doesn't appeal, I'd give some thought to plastic [contd] – Graphus Jan 17 at 6:38
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    Thanks for the advice. I lost the thread and just found it again. I stood our board on end for a few weeks and it straightened out, though it will need re-gluing where it cracked. Plastic has been found to harbor more bacteria than wood, damages our bodies and the environment, so I avoid it when possible. Since there's no room for a butcher block in my galley kitchen, I guess I'll buy a few long grain boards. Thanks again!!! – Julie Feb 13 at 13:47

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