So it's happened... you have a cutting board, perhaps even brand new, and it has warped, it rocks on the counter, it wobbles on the table... what can you do?
First off, let's take a look at why this is happening. All of the wood we use, and most producers use, has been kiln dried which means that the moisture content has been greatly reduced. If you were to add water to just the top of this plank, you'd expect that area to expand and for the bottom to remain dry--that causes it to bow.
We flatten every cutting board before it leaves our shop, which means that the particular slab of wood has a specific moisture content at which it is flat. Alter that, and it'll develop a bow (and will likely eventually crack).
Because this is so difficult to really mitigate perfectly, we recommend stabilizing the cutting board on a dish towel. This will help hold the cutting board in place and reduce rocking. Some cupping/bowing is just part of the territory of a wooden cutting board. Why doesn't this happen to your furniture? Well, why doesn't it usually happen? Because cutting boards are regularly being exposed to a lot of moisture in a way that furniture just isn't. Y
Wait, what's that you say? but the warping so much worse? It isn't just wobbly, but it's the bottom of a rocking chair? Good News!
II. The Fix
You can actually fix this right at home. There are a few techniques but we'll only cover one here because the others involve steam and ironing and I think that'd be better demonstrated with a video.
So here's what we know: It's an issue of moisture content, right? One side is drier and the other side is wetter. Typically, the side with less moisture is the concave side. If you incrementally apply water to the concave side and do the unthinkable... leave it to soak in, that side should expand. Do it as necessary to balance it out.
III. An Anecdote of my own...
I'll end this blogpost with a little anecdote of my own from a year or so ago. We were working on a slab of end grain maple that measured 24" wide x 50" long x 4" thick. A lot of people will make the assumption that thickness wholly determines if a board will warp--nope! It's more an issue of simply going too thin. So when we're sanding our boards, we actually saturate them with water in between sandpaper grits (which determines how smooth your cutting board feels. you start coarse and go to finer grit). This raises the grain, so that way more grain is exposed, thus more of it gets sanded. If we were to skip this step, your board would feel drastically different after you washed it for the first time. Anyway, so we wet one side and let it be for 10 minutes. We came back into the shop and saw that it had bowed about an entire inch. Again, in ten minutes. Initially, I freaked out having never seen something this drastic. I calmed myself down after realizing that the board would even out once we got to the other side, and indeed it did. So the point here is: wood may seem hard or look geometric, but it's actually quite malleable in a number of respects. Remember that you're dealing with something that's practically alive, breathing (the irony of which isn't lost on me, since it is dead, afterall).
For my Gotham urbanites with a fondness for markets, I have some sad news to share. The New Amsterdam Market has officially closed its doors--at the absolute least--on South Street. In short, without a market, we won't be in the area selling our wares in the neighborhood. Obviously, you can still buy our products on www.brooklynbutcherblocks.com and we'll ship it to you. No problem. You can also still pickup at our (wood)shop in Sunset Park (DNR Trains to 36th street). The address is 67 34th st 11232. Floor and unit number as well as hours are on the about page of our facebook page. As an ode to the market, we're offering free shipping for the remainder of the Summer with the discount code "freeshipping."
I'd like to share my personal and professional history with the New Amsterdam Market and Robert LaValva
. New Amsterdam Market was the environment that allowed me to propel Brooklyn Butcher Blocks in December of 2010. I joined late in the game, but still loved the community and commerce for the 3 weeks I was there. Robert LaValva was so committed to offering a spot to Brooklyn Butcher Blocks that I still can't believe his generosity today as he surely couldn't have made a profit* on my booth for my first few weekends there. What's more is that I got to meet the illustrious Florence Fabricant in person. For the few that don't know, Florence Fabricant is just... I don't even know how to describe how pivital and important her role is in the world of food. When I first started and told my artist friends, "She's like the Roberta Smith... of food," and I think I would know say the inverse of Roberta Smith. In short, the opportunity to meet Florence Fabricant in person? Just unreal. Impossible! But it happened. She listened with open ears as I explained my craft and how Joel Bukiewicz and his company Cut Brooklyn
guided me and how he was also growing. A month later, and she wrote this piece about Joel and me in the New York Times
. This would not have happened without the New Amsterdam Market. And I cannot explain to you how much this article launched Brooklyn Butcher Blocks into the next level. What it did for someone with as much knowledge and experience as Florence Fabricant to back my craftsmanship (fun fact, she has also done some woodworking herself, if memory serves). Robert LaValva and his hard work facilitated a place for me to grow and allowed me to follow my creative urges as a way to make a living (a dream of mine since I was 6). And this was just my first month there. Like first month ever. Quick side note: for those of us who don't have trust funds, copious amounts of money or other monetary resources, it is people like Robert and their generosity who don't just help but *allow* businesses like mine to start with an advantageous position.
In 2011, The New Amsterdam Market was as important to my business as ever, and Robert was still as generous as ever. In 2011, I feel fairly certain that our feature in Bon Appetit would not have happened, and it is precisely because of the values of the New Amsterdam Market that we stood out. Our board was the *only* handmade board out of the bunch. There was an individuals name actually associated with the product, and people responded to that. The market also introduced me to a wide array of people of various crafts, and I learned a lot. These relationships weren't just professional, but also personal. Robert's enterprise built a true community, and while that's our natural inclination as humans to do so, Robert had the vision to bring like-minded people together. Commerce becomes community and community commerce. I noticed early on Robert's keen eye for aesthetics and form in constructing his market and I can say that the market did reach this goal for creating a community at the Seaport, an area becoming increasingly the land of tourists.*
In 2012, I had broken my foot while woodworking and my mobility was extremely limited. Robert LaValva had a project involving the creation of 60 new market tables and he pretty much came to my doorstep to discuss his plans. We discussed this multiple times throughout 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately, this never took off due to the same issues the market just finished facing. Regardless, Robert kept me in mind and was providing me with more opportunities.
So, here is to the New Amsterdam Market in the Seaport and here's one more to Robert LaValva.
Now that my story is over, I have to say that it is unexpected this year I will be attending more markets outside of New York than in. With that said, Chicago look for us at the Renegade Craft Fair and either the Ultimate Women's Expo OR the Randolph Street Market... Plans are still in flux. Also, Los Angeles you can expect to see us at Artisanal LA again this October and we're hoping to rope in another event while we stay the week in LA. If any Southern Californian locals have suggestions, please let me know.
*Okay, okay, technically the New Amsterdam Market was a nonprofit but you know what I mean wiseguy!
*And no hate on the tourists! We love ya and you're a part of our New York world too! It's just that, naturally, as a place caters to tourists it generally seems to cater less to the people living there and the New Amsterdam Market was a place for both camps, IMO.
Hey customer! So you want a custom piece? And you've sent me an email but you haven't filled out our custom order form? Why bother, right? Well here are a few reasons...
1) It saves us from going back and forth in email, thus saving us both time. There are things you may not even consider as factoring into cost. One thing that many people surprisingly omit is thickness.
Customer: How much for a 24x24?
BKBB: Unless you're living in Flatland, that might as well be a big fat zero
2) It saves me from going through emails.
I will admit to having avoided forms and instead started up an email conversation with a representative of a company. But now I understand by not doing so, one not only requires pretty meaningless work on the company's part, but (in our case) you also are delaying everyone else's orders by making me go through 15 email exchanges. For the record, I get about eight or so *new* emails a day. You can see how quickly this multiplies. You want your piece and I want your piece out of here ;) Hey, it's cramped here in Brooklyn! So let's speed this process up together
3) You don't even know what you want, but I do.
For example, another thing everyone fails to mention--the edge. Particularly which edges. A piece will be all done but we'll have to hold onto it for a few extra days all because I have no idea what the deal is with the edges
By all means, if you have any suggestions about how to improve our custom order form system, I would *love* to hear it. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
On another note, I am working on a blogpost that takes a look at some imrpovements we've made in the sanding portion of our shop. It should be pretty awesome, so keep your eyes peeled!
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!