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Why isn’t bamboo or plastic cutting boards ideal for hard knives?

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Goorackerelite

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Excuse the seemingly newb question but I have found that my Japanese knives don’t hold their edge as well in these surfaces as the softer steels. And I want to know.... why? It’s infuriating to take my freshly sharpened White number 2 knife and not be able to slice through tomato skin after a few minutes on my friends bamboo board while their crappy Hampton forge knife that I finished at 300 grit holds an edge seemingly forever on bamboo and plastic boards.
 

M1k3

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2 things for your example. Bamboo is a hard grass with silica (sand) in it. The glue to hold it together is usually pretty hard also.

White steel is a simple carbon steel. Low wear resistance.

The steel in the other knife is pretty wear resistant. And low grit edges are better at slicing.
 

D J

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For years I've been using plastic place mat's as cutting boards they're 30mm×40mm and looks only about 1mm thick. I dread cutting on them, but. After buying a bamboo cutting board I put it away after the first use and started using the plastic ones again. I found it too hard. Got frustrated yesterday preparing dinner and pulled the trigger on a synthetic rubber cutting board. I've heard they are a little forgiving. Don't think they are better than a soft wooden board like hinoki or some of the others, I'm hoping it will be easier maintenance
 

kayman67

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I think I remember this. But after seeing what people do and experience, I believe now that the test is just too perfect and too simple.
 

Michi

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I used an Ikea edge-grain bamboo cutting board for a while. It's a bargain; quite large and only costs about $20. But it's absolute murder on knife edges. Glass or stone would be worse, no doubt, but probably by not all that much. It only took me a few weeks before I gave up on that board.

Use something made of softer wood and you'll be fine. Whether that's end grain or edge grain probably doesn't matter all that much—I suspect that using a soft-ish wood is more important than the grain orientation.

White #2 doesn't have great edge retention, no matter what you cut on. That's the price you pay for the phenomenal sharpness you can get from white #2, and the ease of bringing it back to being sharp again once it dulls.

If you are worried about edge retention, try blue #2, or Aogami Super, or SG-2, SLD, ZDP-189, or HAP-40. Those won't get quite as sharp, but will stay sharp a lot longer.

Something like a Wüsthof will handle a bamboo cutting board much better than most Japanese knives. The advantage of that steel is that it can take a lot of abuse, and it's easy to bring it back to really sharp over and over with just a honing rod. A Wüsthof won't get as sharp as a good Japanese knife, but it'll be more than adequately sharp for almost any use—for a long time and with little effort.
 

Hz_zzzzzz

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A Wusthof is usually pretty thick behind the edge and the edge angle is usually 20+ degree per side. If you thin a Wusthof to be as thin behind the edge as a Japanese knife and put a 10 degree edge on it, and then sharpen it to a higher grit like you do to a white 2 steel knife, it won't show any edge retention because the edge would either roll or microchip after a few contacts with the bamboo board.

Btw, I get best edge life on Hasegawa Soft Rubber board, and the micro chipping issue on some knives has been mostly eliminated since I switched to Hasegawa from a TheBoardSmith end grain maple cutting board.
 
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Runner_up

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Btw, I get best edge life on Hasegawa Soft Rubber board, and the micro chipping issue on some knives has been mostly eliminated since I switched to Hasegawa from a TheBoardSmith end grain maple cutting board.
This. I think overall I still prefer the feel of my walnut end grain, but there's no doubt about it - the Hasegawa boards are very gentle on edges and are great boards to use.
 

Desert Rat

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I found this a while back...it's a study that was done on the effects of various chopping boards on edge longevity. I'm not a scientist or an engineer so I can't speak to the accuracy of the study but the findings were pretty interesting. http://knifegrinders.com.au/SET/Chopping_Boards.pdf
When a knife gets sharper through use on a cutting board I have to think that the test was flawed from the start.
 

MarcelNL

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A Wusthof is usually pretty thick behind the edge and the edge angle is usually 20+ degree per side. If you thin a Wusthof to be as thin behind the edge as a Japanese knife and put a 10 degree edge on it, and then sharpen it to a higher grit like you do to a white 2 steel knife, it won't show any edge retention because the edge would either roll or microchip after a few contacts with the bamboo board.

Btw, I get best edge life on Hasegawa Soft Rubber board, and the micro chipping issue on some knives has been mostly eliminated since I switched to Hasegawa from a TheBoardSmith end grain maple cutting board.
I'm thinking to make an end grain board but am torn between that and the Hasegawa, does the benefit apply cutting everything one uses in the home kitchen or is that mainy when cutting soft tissue (fish and meat)?
 

tostadas

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I don't have any issue with plastic. I have end grain wood, edge grain wood, plastic, and synthetic rubber boards that I use regularly.

I threw away my bamboo which I had been unknowingly using for years. There is a very noticeable degradation of the edge when I used bamboo.
 

M1k3

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Don't overlook Asahi boards. The thicker ones are in the 'goldilocks' zone, IMO. Soft enough to be gentle on the edge, while not being overly grabby, allowing the knife to glide almost like poly boards. Doesn't really stain except for stuff like beets. A little bleach usually cleans it up though.

They definitely don't like bread knives though.
 

LostHighway

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I've used most of the usual suspects over the years (plastic, edge grain maple, Epicurean, Hinoki, Hi-Soft, end grain cherry, and I recently acquired a brown PE Hasagawa). I skipped over bamboo because it is notorious for dulling tools whether you're cutting culms in the field or working with it in a woodshop. My take is that they all have their pros and cons but that for edge longevity Hi-Soft and Hasegawa are hard to beat. That may be true of the Asahi and Sani-Tuff boards as well but I haven't used those. I used to be able to find some plastic boards that were on the softer side, you could get them to yield to a fingernail edge with moderate pressure, but I haven't found any that soft for years. I still keep a couple plastic boards around but only for abusive uses like serrated knives. For good Japanese knives I think you pick your trade offs among Hasegawa, Hi-Soft and equivalents, Hinoki or Aomari Hibari, and not too hard end grain (I prefer cherry). Plastic and Epicurean/San Jamar Tuff-Cut are, IMO, well below any of these but tolerable for limited uses. Bamboo, acrylic, glass, metal, and stone boards I would avoid like the plague.
 
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jacko9

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I have been experimenting with several boards; I made a 10" x 14" maple end grain board which is fine but a little too small for me, a 18" x 26" large edge grain maple board which is pretty heavy, a bamboo board which is pretty hard on edgers, a plastic board which I'm about to throw away, a 14" x 17" Hasegawa Wood Core Soft Rubber board which slows knife marks when cutting veggies (I'll use this for fish and raw protein in the future) and I finally just ordered in in stock 12" x 23" Hasegawa Wood Core PE Rubber board which should be a little harder. Bottom line I most likely will get down to the large board and both Hasegawa boards.
 

MarcelNL

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Asahi is on the shortlist, but thanks helping me remember...prob is none of them seem readily available in the EU at the moment...
 

McMan

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I wish that the synthetic rubber boards could go in the dw...
 

Dave Martell

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I found this a while back...it's a study that was done on the effects of various chopping boards on edge longevity. I'm not a scientist or an engineer so I can't speak to the accuracy of the study but the findings were pretty interesting. http://knifegrinders.com.au/SET/Chopping_Boards.pdf
What a cool test they did. I do wish that they had used a knife with some edge retention though, I'm 100% sure the results would be different.

Thanks for sharing this!
 

Dave Martell

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I'll tell you about an unintended test between two Boos blocks and two BoardSMITH blocks.

The owner of the Carter International Damascus set (yes set!) was getting crazy edge chipping from his new knives. The problem persisted through about a year's time. I was involved in resharpening the damage out and eventually we contacted Murray who was perplexed by the situation. He asked for the knives back for evaluation and regrinding and could find no issues after looking them over. Upon return the knives began to chip again.

On an impromptu move the user bought two new BoardSMITH boards just to try out and you know what happened don't you? Yeah, the edge chipping stopped immediately!!!

Both types were maple end grain.

Why did the Boos chip out the knives and the BoardSMITH did not? You tell me!
 

Barmoley

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Brown PE Hasagawa and Hinoki are the best for edges. Hinoki stains and has other issues, but is very light. Brown PE Hasagawa is excellent and can go into the dishwasher if you have one large enough.
 

MarcelNL

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I wish that the synthetic rubber boards could go in the dw...
I'll tell you about an unintended test between two Boos blocks and two BoardSMITH blocks.

The owner of the Carter International Damascus set (yes set!) was getting crazy edge chipping from his new knives. The problem persisted through about a year's time. I was involved in resharpening the damage out and eventually we contacted Murray who was perplexed by the situation. He asked for the knives back for evaluation and regrinding and could find no issues after looking them over. Upon return the knives began to chip again.

On an impromptu move the user bought two new BoardSMITH boards just to try out and you know what happened don't you? Yeah, the edge chipping stopped immediately!!!

Both types were maple end grain.

Why did the Boos chip out the knives and the BoardSMITH did not? You tell me!
glued with epoxy vs bone glue, rabbit skin glue, or something similar?
 

Barmoley

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I'll tell you about an unintended test between two Boos blocks and two BoardSMITH blocks.

The owner of the Carter International Damascus set (yes set!) was getting crazy edge chipping from his new knives. The problem persisted through about a year's time. I was involved in resharpening the damage out and eventually we contacted Murray who was perplexed by the situation. He asked for the knives back for evaluation and regrinding and could find no issues after looking them over. Upon return the knives began to chip again.

On an impromptu move the user bought two new BoardSMITH boards just to try out and you know what happened don't you? Yeah, the edge chipping stopped immediately!!!

Both types were maple end grain.

Why did the Boos chip out the knives and the BoardSMITH did not? You tell me!
Could the glue be the issue? is it possible for glue to be hard enough. Epoxy can be depending on the filler, but you'd think glue used for cutting boards is pretty soft.
 

Dave Martell

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glued with epoxy vs bone glue, rabbit skin glue, or something similar?
Could the glue be the issue? is it possible for glue to be hard enough. Epoxy can be depending on the filler, but you'd think glue used for cutting boards is pretty soft.

I recall David using Titebond II(?)

I always figured it had something to do with the binding agents and the fact that Boos uses smaller pieces of wood blocks meaning more glue.
 

MarcelNL

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Titebond does not seem to be anything THAT special, it's just another PVA wood glue.
 

jacko9

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Brown PE Hasagawa and Hinoki are the best for edges. Hinoki stains and has other issues, but is very light. Brown PE Hasagawa is excellent and can go into the dishwasher if you have one large enough.
Just ordered my Hasegawa Brown PE yesterday!
 

MarcelNL

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It is food safe, though.
that to me is a nice to have, how much of your cutting board is glue and how much of the cutting board ends up being eaten? Mean, as long as you don;t make the board out of U235 or something similar :)

Smaller versus larger blocks may mean something, ther is just more glue usinh smaller blocks; if there is more wood surface arrea impregnated with glue it probably makes the board harder.
 

juice

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that to me is a nice to have, how much of your cutting board is glue and how much of the cutting board ends up being eaten?
It's no harder to use, so why not use it? Also, if you're making/repairing boards for others, it's surely a non-negotiable.
 

Desert Rat

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I'll tell you about an unintended test between two Boos blocks and two BoardSMITH blocks.

The owner of the Carter International Damascus set (yes set!) was getting crazy edge chipping from his new knives. The problem persisted through about a year's time. I was involved in resharpening the damage out and eventually we contacted Murray who was perplexed by the situation. He asked for the knives back for evaluation and regrinding and could find no issues after looking them over. Upon return the knives began to chip again.

On an impromptu move the user bought two new BoardSMITH boards just to try out and you know what happened don't you? Yeah, the edge chipping stopped immediately!!!

Both types were maple end grain.

Why did the Boos chip out the knives and the BoardSMITH did not? You tell me!
Very odd. I have been useing a 24 x 24 x 6 end grain maple Boos butcher block for better than a decade with no issues at all. It was old and abused when I found it but it will easily out live me.
 

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