Publish365 006: Why are cutting boards so expensive?


In your kitchen right now, unless you're one of my customers, you probably have a janky old cutting board with deep knife grooves, a mostly dried out top, cracks and warps, and a color that looks like a sea shanty. That's if you even have a wood board at all and not one of the dime-a-dozen HDPE (that milky white plastic stuff) boards you can get at Target, Walmart or Ikea and there's nothing wrong with those boards for most people. In fact, the thought probably crossed your mind at some point to "get a better one" but the prices are... Well... High.

The board in this picture is approximately 10x10 and sold for $75. I typically sell full sized boards in the range of $150-$175 (depending on the size). In the coming year I'll be adding something new to the product mix: end-grain cutting boards, and the anticipated price point will be $250-$300 per board.

Am I out of my mind? Why in God's name would someone pay that much money for a cutting board?

I figured it would be a good idea to talk you all through the pricing of a board so that when you buy a board from me you understand why it costs what it costs.


Materials

Obviously, right? Materials cost money. It's easy to forget that sometimes a full size cutting board uses $75 or more just in wood, and that's for an edge-grain board. Walnut is a relatively available wood, but it's also a relatively expensive wood. Hardwoods in general are very expensive and the number climbs very quickly when you get into more exotic woods from South America or Africa. You can't make a $25 board with $75 worth of materials and wood doesn't come cheap!


Consumables

Making a cutting board isn't just taking a really chunky slab of wood and cutting a shape out of it (although some people do make boards in that style!), but it requires cutting the wood (which uses up blades on a saw) or CNC'ing it (which eats up endmills in a CNC), sanding it, shaping it, soaking it in oil, finishing it with an oil and wax conditioner, and you can't forget the glue, which has to be both food safe and liquid-proof (and trust me, boards use a lot of glue!).


Labor

If you have never made a cutting board before, you probably don't understand the labor involved, and that's fine. It's not your job to understand how the sausage is made, only that it's damn good sausage. When making an edge grain cutting board, the boards come in dimensional but not cut to size so they have to be cut into strips. Those strips are then glued together to make the basic "blank" of the board. The blank is then planed down to level it and flatten it, or smoothed down using the CNC and a special router. Once it's flattened, it's shaped (edges and corners) with a router and some hand sanding. This is the point where custom engraving and inlay work would happen, and then the board is put into an oil bath for 4-6 hours. Once it comes out it gets 3-4 coats of butcher block conditioner (which is oil and wax) and then is buffed out with a microfiber cloth. Afterward feet are installed and the board is left to dry in the air for 3-4 days.


Intangibles

Almost every board goes out of my shop with some kind of custom engraving done to it. Designing those engraves is often a back-and-forth process with customers over the course of a few hours or even days. When the board is ready, it gets wrapped in brown paper, then bubble wrapped and taped tight. In the box paper is crunched up to take up any space in the box, and then a can of wood balm is bagged and added along with an enveloped with detailed care instructions and a personal note to the customer.


Oh, and unlike cheap big-box store boards, I stand behind mine. If it breaks, needs resurfacing, or just isn't performing up to snuff, I'll remake it, and if it's my fault, I'll do it for nothing. Try even finding the manufacturer of your Target board, let alone getting satisfaction after you used it.


Now you understand the costs of a board. I didn't even get into the crazy details of patterns, sizes of boards larger than my tools can handle, and accessories and add-ons like coasters. If you look at it as a total package, someone like myself is probably undercharging for their boards. I won't tell if you don't!

If you enjoy the stuff I'm writing here, I'd love it if you'd join my mailing list! Just go to the contact page and send me a message and by doing so you'll be added to my email list. I send about one email a week and coming in 2021 there will be special mailing-list-only exclusives like early sales and discounts. This is going to be the best email you get each week; trust me.

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