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Thread: Any data on cutting board material and edge retention?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Justin0505's Avatar
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    Any data on cutting board material and edge retention?

    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?

  2. #2
    The alleles created by mutation may be beneficial


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    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

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    Still Plays With Blocks
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    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.

  4. #4
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    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.

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    Senior Member Justin0505's Avatar
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    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.

  6. #6
    Boardsmith, boardsmith, boardsmith. Sometimes there is one right answer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Justin0505 View Post
    ...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.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by johndoughy View Post
    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???
    "There's only one thing I hate more than lying…skim milk, which is water that's lying about being milk." -- Ron Swanson

  9. #9
    Lol I wasn't criticizing Dave, I was telling Justin to just buy a board from Mr.Smith. Which board is best? His are.

  10. #10
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    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.

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