This is going to be a relatively short entry. I get asked a good deal about wood varieties, grain orientation and "what should I go with?"
Rule 1. Wood varies. Within a species, within a single tree. It just does. But in general...
Rule 2. From softest to hardest: cherry, walnut, maple. Or at least what I'm buying. While I personally prefer walnut, and while I can definitely feel the difference between a maple board an a cherry board in terms of resistance, I think that in general the distinctions between them are going to be relatively minor for you. A board that's well cared for vs one that isn't will be the main difference in your boards functionality. That said...
Rule 3. So you're just really particular and you want durability and stability? Maple. Granted, it will also be (nominally!) harder on your knife.
Rule A (Yes, I'm switching from number to letter because this one is important). End grain is better on your knives than edge grain, which I will also call long grain, simply because I think switching between saying "end" and "edge" gets a little bit confusing.
Rule B. But, in my opinion, getting a huge end grain countertop isn't the way to go, unless you really just want it for aesthetic appearances and are willing to pay for it.
*Rolls up sleeves* So, let's get real here about cost. End grain just costs a lot more to produce. First off, sanding end grain is extremely time consuming and exhaustive. Like you wouldn't even believe. I still don't believe it. Also, end grain is a bit more prone to warping--calm down! It's okay! It's not like your end grain cutting board is guaranteed to freak out. The warping I'm talking about is actually pretty minor (even *IF* it does happen) on an end grain cutting board. Part of that is because the boards thickness relative to it's width and length. My end grain boards are two inches think to provide ample surface area for gluing, creating a more stable product. But two inches of thickness for a piece that's 24 x 96? All the sudden that seems pretty skimpy and I recommend beefing that up to allow for greater surface area for the glue. Naturally, that adds to the cost. Oh, and did I mention that I have to surface this either by hand or via a ridiculous jig? It's slow work. In any event, I think you can see where I'm going here...
Edge grain, aka long grain, is a great choice for a countertop. Okay, yes, it's rougher on the knives, but take a look at a butcher shop. Very rarely do you see a butcher with a new, giant end grain chopping block. They may have one they picked up from an estate sale that's pretty sizable or they may have new long grain counters, but rarely do you see both. Why? 1. Buying something used from decades ago is usually cheaper than buying new and 2. you know it can endure because it has already endured and 3. They're chopping so frequently (at least 40 hours a week if not 60), that they have to sharpen their knives frequently anyway, so edge grain or end grain? In this instance, it probably doesn't matter. Long grain for a counter top is great because it is so utilitarian and durable.
Question 8 (I admit it, I'm making this up): So which wood would I recommend for a butcher block counter top? I say it's up to you. You just have the following to consider....
What do I color do I like?
What do I intend to use this for? Functional or ornamental? (ie-will I be cutting on this countertop or do I have a separate cutting board?)
How hard/stable do I want my piece to be, even after considering everything I've just read?
My two cents!
Oh right, I have a blog. Whoops!
This bit is a little different than the last few blog posts, because this blog post is all about story-time!
So, if you've been following me on instagram via facebook and twitter, then you know I've been working on an awesome 7 foot in diameter table for Ben Leventhal from Kitchen Surfing (quick plug: if you want a chef to come by your house on Saturday night to make food for you, your spouse and your three friends, then Kitchen Surfing is for you) and Moriah, a friend and a Brooklyn knife maker, has been welding together the legs. So, long story short: the table didn't fit up the stairs. Nope. No way. Yeah, I know, a very big oops. So, how did the members of Kitchen Surfing, Moriah and I get it up there? See the diagram below (please ignore the cutesy "My drawing" comment... it seemed really clever after getting the table upstairs and drinking some laphraiog at Lucy's Lounge to help me "recuperate")
So I kind of Macgyvered this. The table had a moving blanket attached a la truck clamps and one more truck clamp that was fastened on the bottom half of the table. From this truck clamp we tied two ropes to the left and right side of the table. These two ropes were pulled by three guys while I pushed the table up the ladder, held very steady by Moriah. Having taken on my fair share of ambitiously large sculptures and installations in undergrad, I saw this as completely feasible. I think Moriah and those at Kitchen Surfing were a bit more doubtful. Oh, and for the record: yeah, I don't recommend doing this. I'm just stubborn and once I set my mind on something, I want to make it happen. While I don't like taking on these challenges, once they are in front of me, I kind of love them. Don't worry Mom and Dad! It was a lot safer than it sounds, but I can't go ahead and endorse this method for anyone who happens to come across a blogpost.
Okay, it's late so I'm consolidating news
1) I'll add a picture of the custom cutting board and matching knife rack I just finished up. I normally would just shoot an instagram photo of it, but it's cool enough that I'd like something a little bit more "profesh." Remember, if you want one, contact me here http://www.brooklynbutcherblocks.com/pages/contact
2) Oh one last thing, Gentology is selling my knife racks a slight discount. Check it out!
3) I have a business phone number now! Brooklyn Butcher Blocks' new number is... (347) 946-2540 !
A long time coming, but it's finally here. Oh, and I apologize for the weird formatting below. Shopify (my site provider) decided to stop understanding that "enter" meant "create a new line indicating that this is a new paragraph," so that's why there's a hellaciously long paragraph at the end.
So, if you've ordered from me, then you know that each piece comes with a care card that details how to mantain your coveted piece. I've included that text below and will expand upon it later with some brutally honest anecdotes.
Coat with mineral oil once every couple weeks, or as much as needed.
For a more resilient finish, apply beeswax/mineral oil mix with a soft cloth. Wipe off excess.
Dampen a wiping rag with 1:1 ratio of water and white vinegar. Dry immediately with clean rag.
Use of bleach is not recommended.
Stabilize the board by placing it on top of a dish towel before cutting.
Wash with sponge or rag, dish soap and warm water.
Don’t ever put this board in your dishwasher.
Avoid using a scrubby pad and never use a steel brush; sponges and wiping rags are best.
Avoid using a serrated edge on the board as it is particularly harsh on the board’s surface.
Those of us dealing with food safe wood products tend to encourage our customers to apply mineral oil frequently. We do this for a few reasons: (1) mineral oil does evaporate unlike a finish such as varnish (2) you can't really oil it too much, so whynot make sure it's kept treated? (3) if there is an issue, such as a split, we know that the board was kept stabilized if it was treated so it helps us determine what may have happened.
While we're talking finishes
, don't do vegetale oil or olive oil or canola oil (etc). These spoil. Some people request tung oil, which I'm happy to do upon request, but I'll tell you why I don't use it as my go-to. I am not a fan of tung oil primarily because it is a finish that will show a knife mark a little bit more. In my opinion, the awesome thing about mineral oil is how it can permeate into a board, making the finish and the wood one and the same. Tung oil on the other hand, dries hard and sits on the surface as opposed to richly soaking into the wood. Perhaps this is just a finicky preference, but it's mine so I use it as my standard. One more thing about treating your board with mineral oil: let the oil sit on the surface for 15 minutes or so to let it soak in and make sure you do *every* *single* side. Top, bottom, front, back, left, right. Wipe off any residual oil. I'd recommend using a paper towel so you can just toss it afterwards. You won't really want to use a cloth soaked in mineral oil until after it goes through the wash. If you then feel like applying Bees Buffer, use something soft like a t-shirt cloth to buff the wax into the board. We offer both oil and Bees Buffer on our Store Page.
I encourage the use of Bees Buffer because it does make the board extra water resistant and it adds a nice luster the surface. So in short, mineral oil is required and wax is greatly recommended.
I don't recommend bleach for cleaning because... well it's bleach and if vinegar can do the job, why use bleach? Alternatively, you can leave salt on top of the board over night. You're also welcome to use your dishsoap and water. I tell people to dry the boards immediately because water is really a board's worst enemy. They just don't mix, so I try to minimize an interaction between the two.
While we're talking about moisture, let's talk about storing your block.
A board is best left upright overnight. You could leave it flat, but if it is resting on the counter day after day, moisture will inevitably build up and it will ruin your piece. Just flip it up. The 2" height is plenty to let it sit up.
I think at this point you've gotten the rule that boards and water don't mix, so obviously the dishwasher is the last place for your piece.
Okay, but I bet the last two "DON'Ts" on the card are throwing you for a loop. "No steel brushes? No scrubby pads? No serated edges?"
Look, you can use all of those things and in retrospect, the "no scrubby pads" may have been a little bit of an overreaction, but a steel brush will mar the surface of your board and create unnecessary marks. I've seen butchers use steel brushes to clean their blocks, come keep in mind they typically cut on a workhorse that's been used for 40 hours a week for decades. Their surfaces are going to look worn after a week from so much use. I disuade people from using serated edges because, if you think about it, a serated edge isn't too unlike a saw and why would you want to take a saw to your cutting board? Honestly, these two last ones are entirely your call, but the directions I give are intended to make your board to work well and look good. That cover's that.
I've recommended a lot in this blogpost, but I still have to recommend that you stay tuned to the blog, facebook and especially twitter. I know I've been kind of quiet (catching up on orders I got from the writeups on Gizmodo and a few other blogs), but there's going to be lots of stuff to update you guys on. First off, I'm moving. I'll still be in Brooklyn, but I'm moving my shop from
Gowanus down to Sunset Park. Alas, I do love Gowanus, but it has become nigh impossible to find noise-friendly workspaces. It is also difficult to find workspace below 2 bucks a square foot (per month). I have worked in Gowanus since I first started working for Joel Bukiewicz of Cut Brooklyn in September of 2009. I moved my shop to Gowanus in August of 2010. Meanwhile I moved from apartment to apartment until I found an opening in Gowanus in August of 2011. I worked here and I wanted to live here so I could work here more. My New York experience circled entirely around Gowanus. So what I once considered my place of work will now exclusively be my living situation. So, cheers to you Gowanus for being such a great place for me to work! There's my ode to Gowanus. That having been said, I'm eager for this move. A bigger space with a big communal shop area will generate a lot more efficiency and more spare time to start making a few new things.
If you follow me on twitter and facebook, you'll see photos of the new shop and its buildout! The first thing we got to do is build a new wall, so expect to see some pictures of that this weekend.
Okay, I'm exhausted.
First off, thank you to everyone who was patient who had ordered a piece back in nearly November and got their piece just a week or so before Christmas. I realize some get puzzled at such delays, but it's pretty simple. I'm largely a one man operation, and while making each block is a lot of labor, it's actually more difficult to just keep everything straight. There's also something to be said for just getting 30 packages out in a week via one pickup as opposed to sitting around every day waiting for UPS to pickup six packages.
Some of you may have noticed, but during the holidays I get more volume and I frequently print off the shipping label a day or two before the package actually ships out. What this means is that when you get that email that says, "your package shipped!", it actually probably hasn't. That's one reason why I recommend following me on twitter @BKbutcherblocks. During the holidays, I'll post the last names of customers whose packages are being shipped. Also, on a side note, if you want some real one of a kind items (literally stuff I won't ever be making again), "like" the facebook page.
Now that that's out of the way... jeezum crow, did I get some site traffic immediately after the holidays. The ever so popular 12x18x2 end grain walnut and the alluring 12x18x2 end grain brickboard popped up on blogs in the USA and abroad, from Gizmodo to Cool Material and Uncrate (or so I think. For whatever reason, the Uncrate page about me won't load on my computer. I heard about it through a friend). While I can see some eyebrows being raised at having a butcher block being written about on Gizmodo, I take it as an appreciative nod to its simple design and patterning. In any event, I am truly humbled and honored that anything I've done was featured on Gizmodo, or well, frankly any and all of these sites. They all seem to have a good reputation and an eye for design, aesthetics, functionality and craft. This got me thinking... I should really assemble an updated list of press I've recieved. I had no idea how long the list had already become. You could say that it was... im-press-ive. Terrible, I know. Anyway, links the blogs are below as is a list of press I've recieved thus far.
Think Big Chief
And for the record, BKBB has garnered attention from The New York Times twice (both times by Florence Fabricant no less), Gizmodo, Bon Appetit (magazine and blog), The Kitchn, Gear Patrol, Tasting Table, The City Cook, The Food Seen on The American Heritage Network, Grub Street, and the New York Magazine, Josh Applegate of the renowned Fleisher's (butcher shop), the Epoch Times, L Magazine, Village Voice, Andrew Zimmern, Tom Colicchio, OpenSky, Joyus, and Fab. I think there's more actually, but that's all I got at the moment.
I'm currently waiting in Columbus, Ohio and about to leave for LaGuardia Airport shortly. Needless to say, I'm already pretty packed with orders (seriously, like Christmas) so if there's some lag, it's simple a volume situation. It's strange: it can be pretty quiet and steady for weeks and then I'm sprinting to catch up despite having stock. Back to the old grit!
ps-I'll have an article about board care soon, I promise!
Just a head's up: I'm experiencing a heavy load (obviously). If you've ordered a piece through me but haven't gotten it yet, you will prior to Christmas. Come the 18th, shipping costs will increase to accomodate faster methods of shipping. By the 22nd, I don't think I'll be able to take any more orders that require shipping, and you're probably only looking at 12x18x2 end grain walnuts at that point. On a side note, check out the new maple and walnut bread board!
PS-if I haven't gotten back to your email regarding, my sincerest apologies, it may have just gotten lost in the shuffle of email notifications regarding orders, custom work for January, and more.
First, Hurricane Sandy. Gowanus got lucky compared to the rest of Brooklyn, Manhattan, various parts of New Jersey and the Caribbean. While my apartment stands and it has heat and electricity, and while my inventory remains undamaged, my shop is without power. It looks as though the problem should be resolved by the end of the week, but the landlords have given no promises. What does this mean for my customers? If you've ordered one of my standard pieces, then the orders shouldn't be delayed that much because I have some stock left. If you ordered a custom piece from me, there is more of a delay. Your piece is probably glued up but still needs to be sanded and without electricity that is impossible. In short, there is a delay. My apologies, and I will try to get out everything as soon as possible.
Second, many thanks to Jenn from www.jennsager.com! I'm just going to gush here for a second. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh! Do you believe this? Do I even believe this? Check this out! I got a site! With an online store! I am sure it's more than evident that the last site was made by yours truly... turns out my aesthetic in woodworking does not translate well into the digital world.
As you can see some serious changes have been made, all for the better. The store is seriously awesome. I can easily upload new products as I make them. Time allowing, this means you will be seeing more one of a kind pieces, such as a table. I'm very excited about this.
Also, I can easily access and change, we also have new, beautiful, hi-resolution photos showing off my pieces. You can more accurately see their color and grain, and as an appreciator of all things wood, this is of insurmountable importance to me. Granted, each piece is a little bit different, but these new photos will definitely give you a good idea of what my work looks like.
The contact form has returned, and I'm going to try to figure out the mailing list in the ensuing months. Don't worry, you aren't likely to be getting weekly updates from me via email. I figure one email every 1-3 months. If you want to know what's going on with the shop, I encourage you to follow me on twitter (@bkbutcherblocks) and facebook (www.facebook.com/brooklynbutcherblocks)
Oh, and how could I have forgotten: BLOG. I'm going to write about a wide variety of subjects, ranging from new restaurants I'm trying out to articles about how to treat your board that include videos to what I'm working on most recently in the shop. At some point, I'll also probably write about how much I love Nick Offerman, who plays Ron Swanson on "Parks and Recreation" and is a woodworker himself.
First blog post complete!