Once the structure of our cutting board is done, we can sand. Start the edges (and only the edges) with 80 grit. This is coarse enough to get out the rasp marks, but only just. And sand with the grain. If you don’t, the scratches from the sandpaper will be highlighted. It will be smooth, but it will look like a cat used it as a scratching post. Sanding with the grain: very important. As you sand the inside radii on the handle, you can see that if the radius is too tight, or if you’ve got a lot of little details, trying to get some sandpaper in there is not going to work very well. This is why the shoulders on my particular pattern are the gentle curves that they are.
Once the edges are all sanded, it’s time for the big key to a smooth, satin surface that will remain even after washing. The key is: water.
That’s right, water. See, when wood gets wet, it raises the grain. We want smooth. So we’re going to pre-raise the grain, and abrade it off. This is called “whiskering”, and we need to do it between grits Then it will remain smooth even after washing.
Rinse the board under the tap, then wipe it dry. It should be damp, not sopping. Let it dry. Then go back to the shop and start with 150 grit. This time, when the edges are done, and using a sanding block, sand the faces. If you don’t use a sanding block, you will put ripples into the surface of your board.
Here’s a procedural note. What ever aspect you are trying to preserve is the one you sand last. If we wanted blended edges that looked amorphous, then we would sand edges last. This will ease the border between the edge and face. We’ll get into that in the next project. But here we want the border to be smooth, but distinct. So we sand the face last. It doesn’t seem like much, but it makes a difference.
So we continue sanding, whiskering between grits, up to 400. After we sand with 400, we’ll whisker and sand again with 400. Put down some paper towels for the board to sit on. Take a paper towel, wet with mineral spirits, and wipe down your board. You’ll see that this washes off the dust, but it won’t raise the grain anymore. Let your board dry on the paper towels you put down. Once it’s dry, rag on a coat of finish. We want an oil finish here, as a film finish will flake off when you cut on it. I use this stuff. It’s available in most hardware stores, it’s food grade, and the emulsified beeswax gives it a nice sheen. You want to goop it on pretty thickly, then let it set overnight and soak in. In the morning, buff it clean with a paper towel or clean cloth, and it’s done! Way better than plastic.