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View Full Version : Any data on cutting board material and edge retention?



Justin0505
11-03-2011, 01:55 PM
Like, I'm guessing, a lot of folks on here, I've gone through a lot of different cutting boards and board materials. I've developed my own opinions on each material and its effect on blade edges, but I've never gathered anything beyond anecdotal evidence to actually answer the question of which materials are best on knife edges and how much difference exists between the different materials.
The main materials that Im thinking of are:
-end grain maple
-paper & resin (epicurian)
-bamboo
-hard white plastic (ploy)
-sani-tuff (sp?)

I've read comments about "oh material X is horrible on edges! you should use Y instead." but I've never seen any quantitative data to back it up.

So, calling all board geeks: what do you know?

Andrew H
11-03-2011, 01:58 PM
If you want anything more than experience using multiple types of boards, I'm guessing you won't find much. It's hard to come up with a reliable sharpness / edge retention test.

Just my $.02

The BoardSMITH
11-03-2011, 02:57 PM
After making boards for several years, I don't know of any quantative means to measure edge retention when using different cutting board materials. All I know is what my customers report to me.

-end grain maple.....The most used wood is Hard Maple and is probably the best choice due to its close grain structure, hardness and durability. However, some national manufacturers use a resin hardener which can play havoc with edges. A member here found that to be true and the chipping ceased once he changed over to a non-resin cherry board. Another to avoid is Teak due to the high silica content. Kind of like cutting on sandpaper'

-paper & resin (epicurian).....Just another way to say MDF. I used waterproof MDF in a cabinet shop I worked part-time in when we made cabinets for a medical teaching facility. Once the students would finish cutting up a cadiver, the cabinets were hosed off. High resin content and may be harder on the edges. A lot of people like it and some don't.

-bamboo.....Mostly made in the Orient, the smaller pieces require a lot more glue and resins to bond them together. More glue joints may mean more wear and tear on the edges.

-hard white plastic (ploy).....I know many health inspectors require poly but I am concerned about the hardness and keeping them clean. The cuts never go away and once cut up and stained, they end up in a land fill where they will stay and stay and stay.

-sani-tuff (sp?).....All I know is that this is a rubber based board and the reports I hear is that they are grabby to the edges.

I hope this is what you were looking for.

tk59
11-03-2011, 09:14 PM
I'd say it depends on how you use the knife and what you expect your edge to do. Back when I was putting a superfine edge on knives, they'd stay adequate for a few hours on endgrain but a handful of slices on a cheap bamboo board, killed them. I don't find poly boards kill the toothiness nearly as quickly on a very fine edge nearly as fast. That's pretty much all I've used recently. Now that I'm using toothier edges and I don't use the bamboo anymore, I don't notice any issues.

Justin0505
11-03-2011, 09:26 PM
Thanks for the reply David! Some interesting info there: I never considered that it's actually the glue or resin that does the most damage to the edge. I also knew that they Epicurian is very similar to the MDF used in furniture, (or skate parks... that's how the company started) but I assumed that they where using a different resin to make it food-safe and more friendly to the edges. Do you know if Boos uses resin hardeners?

What got me started on this line of thought was that I haven't actually noticed a huge difference between my hard maple boos board and my Epicurean in terms of edge retention, and I'd heard mentioned by a few people that the Epi's where really hard on edges.
I only use the plastic for messy raw meat, so it doesn't see enough edge contact to really judge it's effect on the edges. I also dislike the concept of the poly boards and feel a bit guilty to own one. Once mine wears past the point of sanitation, I'll replace it's role with my Boos and replace the Boos with something from a craftsman such as yourself.

I find it interesting how much time people spend discussing and studying the edge retention of different steels, but there's not much talk of what actually wears the edges: the board material.

Eamon Burke
11-03-2011, 10:52 PM
Boardsmith, boardsmith, boardsmith. Sometimes there is one right answer.

tk59
11-03-2011, 10:54 PM
...I find it interesting how much time people spend discussing and studying the edge retention of different steels, but there's not much talk of what actually wears the edges: the board material.I think this is due to the fact that there is nothing magical about a board. You get end grain, not too dense, no fillers, minimum glue and not poisonous and you're golden. With steel, there are enough variables that very few people can really say anything substantive about them. Either the composition is a mystery or the HT is a mystery or even the sharpening method, skill and consistency are a mystery, for the most part. When no one really knows anything for sure, you can discuss forever.

mr drinky
11-03-2011, 11:00 PM
Boardsmith, boardsmith, boardsmith. Sometimes there is one right answer.

So much pressure, Dave. There's so much pressure when you are the keeper of all truths wooden.

k.

P.S. How come glass and slate cutting boards get no mention???

Eamon Burke
11-03-2011, 11:08 PM
Lol I wasn't criticizing Dave, I was telling Justin to just buy a board from Mr.Smith. Which board is best? His are.

El Pescador
11-03-2011, 11:12 PM
I have a sani-tuff board and like it. They smell until you wash them a couple of times in a dishwasher. If you're heavy on your stroke you'll bury the knife into the board, but I've done that a couple times with an endgrain board.

NO ChoP!
11-04-2011, 12:49 AM
Not a fan of sani-tuff; Dave hit it on the head. Plus they are pricey; for the big thick ones, you might as well go end grain.....

I use bamboo at home, because it's light and can be stored easily, but I make little board contact with it, so it's not a big deal. I actually like the sound it makes....

kalaeb
11-04-2011, 01:19 AM
I will admit to having a few epicuran boards at home. The are light and easy to clean. Since I enjoy sharpening and I don't crank on them for hours at a time, edge retention is not much of an issue at home. Large wood boards are non conducive to petite spouses. Although I will have a Boardsmith at one point...all my own.

mr drinky
11-04-2011, 08:31 AM
I have a few smaller Epicurean boards. I usually travel with one, and I also cut oily things such as anchovies and sun dried tomatoes on them. I don't do major chopping sessions on them, but I do appreciate the light weight when I need a quick cutting surface. I think Chad Ward in his book even says he uses one for traveling.

In the end, it's a trade-off that I am willing to make. If I wanted to keep my edges perfect, I guess I could stay away from butternut squash too ;)

k.

Justin0505
11-04-2011, 04:48 PM
I currently have a "blended" cutting board family.

For awhile I was using a 24"x18" boos end grain maple board as my main cutting surface. So far, it's my favorite surface on which to cut. I was very contentious about the maintenance and care but having it live on my counter made me feel like I was constantly having to look out for it. ... and what my gf at the time might decide to do on it was a whole other story (puddles of balsamic vinegar, sticky colorful messes of food coloring and cake decorating goo). I also found it difficult to balance not over cleaning it / stripping all of the wax and oil out of the wood with cleaning it enough to remove all of the flavors left behind from things like onions or garlic. So I had kinda a love / hate relationship with it.

Anyway, I had a smaller "original style" Epicurean cutting board for years so I knew how indestructible and not-too-bad on edges they where, so when Kitchen Window (awesome store) had some 24 X 18 X 1 1/4 Epicurean "Big Block" model boards on super-sale (>50% off) I picked one up (which wasn't easy as the thing must weigh 30lbs!). I have a very small apartment and a small primary counter work space so the a board that big covers most of the space. It's lived there for the past 6months or so and I've been very happy with it. I put hot pans on it, it never stains, it never warps, it never slides around (really sticky rubber feet + lots of weight) I clean it heavily with a water,vinegar,bleach mix and I never have a problem with flavor contamination. - Like drinky said, it's all a question of trade offs.

For bigger / longer, more cutting intensive cooking projects, I set my boos board right on top of it and use that.
For big jobs with lots of raw, meat, I put a large polly board w/ blood grove on top of the Epi.
For smaller raw jobs I have some smaller thin plastic flexi-sheets.
For travel I use the trusty, old, smaller Epicurean.

I don't really wail on the Epicureans much, but I've been pretty surprised to find that they don't seem to wear my edges that much faster than my boos.

JohnnyChance
11-05-2011, 06:02 AM
I don't really wail on the Epicureans much, but I've been pretty surprised to find that they don't seem to wear my edges that much faster than my boos.

I think the difference isn't as great as some people make it out to be. It isn't the end of the world if you have to use Epicurean or poly or SaniTuff for some/all of your cutting. The end grains are certainly nicer, and even though I have a massive butcher block I still eye David's site every month or so and will end up with one eventually.

Salty dog
11-06-2011, 08:28 AM
I'm in the minority when I say I prefer my maple sideways. Possibly the only one.

The BoardSMITH
11-06-2011, 09:00 AM
I think this is due to the fact that there is nothing magical about a board. You get end grain, not too dense, no fillers, minimum glue and not poisonous and you're golden. With steel, there are enough variables that very few people can really say anything substantive about them. Either the composition is a mystery or the HT is a mystery or even the sharpening method, skill and consistency are a mystery, for the most part. When no one really knows anything for sure, you can discuss forever.

This reply hit the nail squarely on the head. There is really nothing magical or mysterious about a cutting board. Wood is wood and I can't add anything to it to change its composition like you can steel. What it all boils down to is personal preference. Some will buy my boards, some will turn their noses up at them, some will cut on glass or stone no matter what anyone says to them and some will use whatever is handy.

BTW Thanks for the kind words guys. You sure know how to make a guy blush!

mr drinky - I didn't mention glass, stone or slate for a very good reason, no one in their right mind would use a good knife, read anything above the quality of Cutco or Showtime, on either material. The harder surfaces are edge killers and with the time you guys spend sharpening I can't see pros, semi-pros or serious cooks mistreating their edges in such a fashion.

Salty - You aren't in the minority. I still sell edge and side grain boards to a lot of customers. Again, personal preference.