Small Interior Projects
This page was last updated on 23 January 2002

Stovetop Cover/Cutting Board

With the limited counterspace available, it pays to eke out as much additional flat space as possible, wherever possible.  The top of the propane stove is prime real estate, but virtually unusable as is.  For the first season, we used a small, pre-manufactured cutting board over the top; this helped, but was far from perfect.  I decided to build something simple for the top.

The stove comes with a raised railing, of sorts, to help hold pots on top.  This also makes the perfect retainer for a stovetop cutting board.  I measured up the inside dimensions of the "railing", and also determined a good overall size for the cutting board.  The overall size ended up being about 14-1/2" by 20-1/2", give or take.

Using scrap mahogany and ash, I cut up a series of 3/4" x 3/4" strips, each at least 21" long (I didn't worry about the lengths as long as they were long enough) until I had enough to create a board over 14-1/2" wide.  Then I arranged them so that the mahogany and ash alternated strip to strip for a pleasing look.  I ended up with a double width of mahogany at each edge because I had more mahogany than ash, but this OK because I'll end up trimming the edges anyway.  There's also two strips of birch in there, third in from each edge in the picture.  This shows the strips just laid out dry; I haven't glued anything up yet.

The next day, I put my cold epoxy in front of my garage heater for a half hour or so to warm it up and make it easier to pump.  While it warmed, I cleaned the strips of wood with acetone in preparation for glueup.  

With so many strips of wood, there runs the real risk of the strips becoming uneven during glueup.    Sanding the strips smooth would be difficult because I've turned them all sort of on edge; that is, the softest face grain is on the vertical, which exposes the harder edge grain of each strip.  Cutting boards really should be made up of true end grain for the longest life and toughest cutting surface, but to create this would entail lying up the strips as is and waiting for it to kick.  Then, I'd have to resaw the panel  across the strips, creating new 3/4" strips of end grain. Then, these could be glued together again, creating a nice cutting board of all 3/4" x 3/4" end grain blocks.  I don't think I'm going to do this, although I'm undecided.  The edge grain is sufficiently resistant to cuts for what this board is going to be used for; it's not a chopping block, after all.

Front (top) of Cutting Board in the ClampsAnyway, I've gone off on a tangent here.  The point is, sanding edge grain is much harder than the face, and I want to minimize any sanding.  Therefore, I decided to glue up the strips with them laying flat on a shiny Formica panel that I have left over from something.  Any epoxy squeeze out will chip or clean off the shiny surface easily.  The surface is nice and flat, which means that the bottom of the strips should end up nice and even.  This will form the top of the cutting board; the other side will be hidden from view in regular use and won't need to be as flat and even when all is said and done, so if there's unevenness between the strips on one side it won't matter.

cutboardglueback.JPG (151022 bytes)I mixed up some slightly thickened epoxy and glued up the strips; there's 20 pieces of wood here.  As I covered each facing edge with epoxy, I placed it on the Formica countertop.  When they were all covered with glue, I secured them tightly with three pipe clamps, and made sure all the strips were flat on the countertop by striking them with a deadblow mallet.  When everything was nice and tight, I slid the whole arrangement off the Formica--sliding to break the suction--and checked the top surface.  The strips were, for all intents and purposes, even all the way across.  There's some epoxy squeezeout, and some minor unevenness, but nothing drastic.  A short time with a belt sander should take care of it.  What will become the underside of the panel is decidedly more messy, but that's OK--it doesn't have to be perfect because it will always be hidden.  I set the panel aside for the epoxy to cure for at least a day; I'll probably leave it longer to make sure the bond is strong before removing the clamps.

After the glued-up blank had a chance to cure for a couple days, I removed the clamps and prepared to cut the board to the proper size.  I had determined the overall size the top should be to fit properly in the space over the stove, and also where to install cleats on the bottom to hold the board in place by chocking it inside the framework at the top of the stove.  (Please click here to see a picture of the top of the stove to better visualize the situation.)

When I glued up the blank, I made sure that I had one edge piece that was nice and straight.  Using this known straight edge, I placed the blank in a homemade panel cutting jig I made for the table saw.  This is simply a piece of plywood with a runner attached to the bottom that slides in one of the miter grooves on the table; at the infeed end, I screwed a straight cleat.  With a straight edge butted up against the cleat, the whole jig can be passed through the saw, and the cut made will be a perfect 90 degrees from the known straight edge.  I cut both of the uneven short ends of the cutting board in this manner, measuring the proper length of 20-5/8" when I made the second pass.  This left me with a nice rectangular blank ready for sanding and finishing.

I began sanding the top surface of the blank with a belt sander and 80-grit belts to remove any unevenness and epoxy spill out.  I held the sander at 45 degrees to the grain of the wood to do this, then finished with the sander in line with the grain.  I did the same on the bottom of the blank, although I didn't worry so much about making this side perfect as it will never be seen.  I did get it pretty smooth, with no bulges or epoxy masses.

Then, I switched to my random orbit sander equipped with 80 grit paper and sanded off the belt sander marks on both sides.  I then used a router and a 1/4" roundover bit to ease all the edges of the blank, and also sanded a nice radius on each corner.  (No sharp corners allowed on boats!)  To complete the sanding, I switched to a palm sander and sanded to a 220 grit.

To hold the cutting board in place on the stove, I installed two ash cleats to the bottom.  I decided to install these with the grain so that the entire length of each cleat would be holding the board in place when the boat heels; I thought of installing them the other way, across the grain, to help stabilize the cutboardedge2.JPG (128446 bytes)piece, but I decided that with the epoxy and small size of the various wood strips that it would be unnecessary.  I double checked my measurements on the boat and cut two strips of ash to the proper length and chamfered the bottoms and ends with a router to ease those edges.  Then, I sanded them smooth and installed the two cleats with stainless steel screws. (Above)

The completed cutting board looks very nice, and will also look very nice in place on the stove.  To finish the piece, I applied several coats of consumable mineral oil to both sides.  This will require renewing from tome to time, but is the best and safest finish for a board on which food may be placed.

Project complete!

Glissando, Pearson  Triton #381

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