Wood choices

Kitchen Knife Forums

Help Support Kitchen Knife Forums:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Founding Member
Feb 28, 2011
Reaction score

What are the most requested wood choices for your boards?

Have you seen them change over the years?

I walk near a cabinet shop and always poke my head in and say hello, I have noticed over time that the "fashions" in wood come and go.
Whitewashed oak was big a while ago ...
Great question Jim. I actually had to stop and think about this a little.

Maple is the most often asked for, I guess because of the cost and durability. (Just went to the lumber supplier yesterday and bought 240 bd ft of hard maple. Filled the rack a little. I guess I should have gotten 500 or more.) Walnut is the next most popular even with the cost and waste. Walnut is graded differently than other woods and has more defects and knots which have to be discarded or worked around. I hate throwing out scraps and walnut pains me the greatest. But the results can be spectacular! Cherry is the next most requested. I really like working with cherry because of the smell and how easily it can be worked. Add to it the natural tendency to darken as it ages and it can be beautiful. The only bad point about cherry are the pitch pockets, those little black voids that tend to show up in the worst places. I work around them the best I can but most are unavoidable. Also with cherry there can be a lot of waste due to those pitch pockets and limbs which mar the work. I did offer mahogany and still get the rare request but until I get a supplier who can get the same species I was using, I will not be offering it. It is a beautiful wood with the deep burgundy color and black highlights.

Only rarely do I get requests for anything else. I did make a cedar board for a grill once and it looked very nice. I get a few calls for ash and hickory but never any real interest. Once in a while I get a request for oak but so far no one has ever actually ordered an oak board. It is one of those woods that, IMHO, look like it would be a good wood to use but may be to porous to be able to clean properly. I suppose one of these days someone will order one.

You are correct stating that wood fashions come and go. I made a bathroom cabinet in whitewashed oak about 20 years ago and it still looks good, just rather dated. The darker stains seem to stay in vogue but hide the real beauty of wood. When mahogany is sold in the stores it resembles nothing of what it really looks like. With all the fillers and stains, mahogany looks more like Formica. Such a shame to see the beauty hidden. And when I was selling mahogany, I was asked why it didn't resemble the mahogany furniture sen in the stores.

Do you have any thoughts on mesquite as a material for cutting boards? I've never seen a mesquite board in person, but some of the photos on the net make them look pretty intriguing.

I haven't seen much mesquite so I can't say much about it. The stock I saw was full of voids and was filled with a filler so I can't say how suitable it would be for a cutting board.
I may be wrong, butt I think that mesquite is rather abrasive. It pulls silica out of the soil, or some such.
Any thoughts on larch wood (or tamarack, as it's sometimes called)? I've seen a few end grain boards made of it. It has nice figuring, but it seems it would be much too soft to make a good board.
There is a maker in Canada who uses Larch exclusively. It looks good but I agree, it may be to soft to use.
Beautiful stuff (as we all know)!
I have a question about materials, as well.
My wife got me a beautiful custom board made of birch, mahogany and walnut, by a friend who is a board maker/carpenter. It is INCREDIBLE!
I am wondering, however about another wood that he swears by for boards. He recommends a certain type of ash (black, I believe). Just curious what you think of it for a board.
I already have my board, but I'm just curious because I need to know everything! Haha
Sorry, now my brain is going. I've seen softer rosewood used too (1750ish on the Janka).
Any thoughts?
Thanks again!
Ash is okay to use, just way to hard for the Japanese knives. Heavy as well.

Rosewood, if you can legally get it, is a bit to hard as well.

Stick with those woods that have either edible sap or edible nuts. If the product of the tree is okay to eat then the wood will be okay to use as well.
Cool! That's what I thought too.
Rosewood would make for a nice one, but talk about an expensive material for a board!
I figured it would be pretty close for hardness.
Thanks for the input and for making me a bit more educated! :)
I had no idea what larch was until I just read that it's also known as tamarack! The only reason I have any idea what a tamarack is, is because they line the fairways on one of my most played golf courses!
They don't strike me as a hardwood type of tree, but who knows!
Is acacia a good wood for boards? It is described as a hard wood but not sure if it is too hard for knives or not?
Dave recommends woods between 800 and 1600 on the Jenka hardness scale, and Acacia is typically around 1750. So I'm guessing it's too hard.
Btw, I got two smaller/thinner sapele cutting boards a few months back and really like them. As far as wood goes, it looks the best out of all my boards (I also have ash, black walnut, and cherry). It is a bit harder in Janka (1510), but I looked into it before ordering because I didn't want an exotic wood that was tool dulling due to high silica content. Apparently sapele is not high in silica.

Have you ever worked with Sapele Dave?

The only thing I wonder is if the interlocking grain structure (which looks great) defeats the purpose of the end grain. Though the wood is rated well in terms of non-dulling, they said some dulling of tools does occur because of the interlocking grain structure. Oh well. They are just small boards, so I mainly use them with paring knives and petties. No hardcore chopping really.

The Janka scale is a standard for flooring which is usually side grain. Shouldn't end grain should be harder?
Acacia is used a lot for cutting boards and furniture and can be found mostly in India and that region. I have seen Acacia boards in BB&B. It looks a lot like walnut but there are more voids and filled areas.

Larch is, I believe, a softer wood. Since I have no experience with it I can't make a pronouncement about its suitability for a board. There is a maker in Canada who is all over Larch on his web site.

Sapele is one of the two species of African mahogany that can be found here. The other is Khaya and they look almost identical. Either is okay for use in a board. You are right about the grain, it twists and turns more than any other wood I have seen and can produce some incredible looking grain patterns. I made four table tops for a restaurant in DC last year and used Sapele. Some if the iridescent grain patterns were spectacular.

The Janka hardness scale is a general scale used for wood, not just flooring. A ball .444 inches in diameter is forced into the grain and the averaged pressure required is the Janka scale. It is done on the side grain and I don't know if there is another scale for end grain. If there was I doubt there would be much difference.
Rosewood is quite easy to get. What is VERY hard to find is real Brazilian rosewood because they banned the cutting of it a long time ago. Prior to that, it was the wood of choice for steel string acoustic guitar backs and sides. What you see now is either NOS like the secret stash that Martin and a few other guitar makers and tonewood dealers have stashed away or reclaimed stump wood. Last time that I heard, Brazilian rosewood was like a $2500 upgrade on a Martin or Santa Cruz guitar. East Indian rosewood is what you see mostly because it is plantation grown along side tea bushes. The toughest stuff to get is "real" or Cuban mahogany. That stuff hasn't been readily available since at least the mid 50's. By the time the "golden age of electric guitars" came around in the mid 50's. Gibson and others had stopped using it. That stuff is the wood that the $1,000,000 antique Chippendale tables are made from. A huge Cuban mahogany tree in the Florida Keys got hit by lightning about a year ago anit was auctioned off. The winning bidder was the US government. The GSA bought it to use for a major interior restoration project on one of the historic buildings in Washington.
Now I get to scare folks about your "edible sap or nuts" comment. Cherry fruit is edible, but cherry wood and bark have cyanide in them. On horse farms in Kentucky, they fence cherry trees and have to make sure to police up fallen branches so the horses don't eat them.:eek2::D
Now I get to scare folks about your "edible sap or nuts" comment. Cherry fruit is edible, but cherry wood and bark have cyanide in them. On horse farms in Kentucky, they fence cherry trees and have to make sure to police up fallen branches so the horses don't eat them.:eek2::D

Shame on you for trying to scare folks! That's not nice.:nono:

I've looked on the internet and can't find any information about cherry wood/bark containing cyanide. What is the source for your scary information? Could it be the SWAG method? I would think if the wood or bark is so deadly to horses they would have the trees removed.

BTW I don't use bark.:laughat:

Further investigation by my crack research team has revealed that the wilted leaves of the cherry tree, not the wood or the bark, has compounds that will convert to hydrogen cyanide when eaten by livestock. In the researchers opinion, based on the additional study, the wood of the cherry tree has been deemed safe to use. :trickydicky:

Film at 11:00. :film:
LMAO David, nicely done.

Interesting info too, thanks to both ******* and David for droppin' the knowledge.
LOL. Supposedly, apple seeds also contain trace amounts of cyanide compounds. Yesterdays old wives tales can be today's FDA warnings and the basis for tomorrow's cheesy lawyer commericials.:lol2: