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What's the best wood for a cutting board?

So you're shopping for a cutting board, but you're just not sure which way to go?  Well we have a quick summary here, but first know that all of our woods are sustainable forested and are regionally sourced.

1. Walnut

  • Nickname is Goldilocks
  • because it is not too hard and not too soft
  • Dark, chic look
  • Hides stains and knife marks better because it is dark in color

2. Cherry

  • Reddish heartwood and blonde sapwood
  • Softest wood we offer
  • which means it is easier on a knife's edge
  • but also is prone to expansion and contraction
  • Rich history in fine furniture

3. Maple

  • Nickname is "The Industry Standard" and for good reason
  • Durable and hard
  • A little harder on your knife's edge (emphasis on 'a little')
  • Tight grain
April 20, 2018

A few words about our Pun T-Shirts

Time to time, I like covering our products in greater detail in a blog post, as I don't want to bog down each product page with a plethora of text.  In the shop, we're prone to throw out at least one wood related pun daily.  It only seemed fitting that we get a few of these down on some t-shirts.

"Hard Wood" we feel is a pretty obvious pun, and I ain't explaining it further.  This was partially inspired from my high school track couch, who said of the Simpsons: "you know what's great about that show is that there's a lot of smart humor for people who gravitate towards that, but there's also just Homer burping which can appeal to another demographic."  It's an easy crowd pleaser, and everyone gets it.  

"Millin' Like a Villain" is a play on "chillin' like a villain."  Milling, for those who don't know, does not refer to "milling about" as in "being lazy."  Rather, milling is the process by which we turn raw lumber into a pre-finished state that reveals the wood grain.  Of course, you'd know this if you attended our Woodworking Classes.

My personal favorite, "Wood Work For Food," is a triple entendre.  The first meaning is that we create works made out of wood for the purpose of food.  The second is that we would (and do) work to earn a living, of which food is a part, so "we would work for food".  The third is much like the first, which is that the piece you own is literally woodwork for food.

April 20, 2018
Brooklyn Butcher Blocks X The Grommet

Brooklyn Butcher Blocks X The Grommet

We are excited to announce that we are now working with The Grommet.  You can see our page here: https://www.thegrommet.com/brooklyn-butcher-blocks  Being featured on the Grommet is more than just another e-commerce platform to us, but it is like a badge we wear with pride.  They only select makers who have demonstrated innovation, hard work seen in their blood, sweat and tears, and that they have strong values.  

The founders, Jules Pieri and Joanne Domeniconi, have done quite a bit, even before The Grommet (which is actually the 3rd start-up Jules has been a part of).  Jules started as an industrial designer, but after seeing the enormous impact consumer products have on our economy and society, she became an executive at Keds and Hasbro.  She was rightfully named one of Fortune's Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs in 2013 and 2014.  Joanne has a rich background in creating and launching consumer products.  She spent over 20 years at Stride Rite as the Vice President of Product Development.  She turned the company around, boasting 11 straight quarters of increased sales and profitability.  

But what brought them to start the Grommet is clear: focus, morality, and drive.  We are so happy to get to start working with the Grommet, and look forward to having our relationship grow.

May 01, 2017

Why Mineral Oil?

I haven't gotten this question in a few years, but I thought it would be worth summarizing a conversation I had into a blog post...

Why mineral oil?  Isn't that a petroleum based product ((((Cancer!!!!11))))?

So this could be a moment where we list a bunch of scientific studies and really get into the whole debate... but instead, let's just say "okay, it'll give you cancer... so we won't use it... and we will use something else."

 So what do you use?  Well, a lot of people jump to vegetable oil.  And that turns rancid.  So you can get sick in the next month or maybe get cancer in your 70s.  I know what I'm choosing.  What about walnut oil?  That could work, but a lot of people are deathly allergic to nuts and nut based products.  There's tung oil of course, but it is sourced from China and South America and I've tried to keep all aspects of producing within the USA.

To close, I'd like to make the point being made here is that we are all exposed to a lot of substances, particularly in a city, and concerns over a petroleum based product being used as a finish for your cutting board should probably be on the bottom of your list of concerns as you're barely consuming any of this mineral oil if any at all.  Compare that to air pollution which you inevitably must breathe.  Or whatever makes your phone work.

April 22, 2017

An update to the tales of a warped cutting board

Well, first things first: Treat your cutting board with mineral oil or bees wax.  But sometimes, that isn't enough.  A customer recently emailed me stating that their beloved family cutting board had warped.  They contacted me asking if there was any way for me to try to fix it for them, and I was happy to oblige... but see what a short 8 hours will do...

So, great news - came home from work yesterday to find that we left the A/C off, and the heat must have helped the block dry more thoroughly. It is much less warped than it was when I first sent the request on your website. I think that I will try to even it out over the next week using the method on your site (now that there is a much less intimidating warp to deal with). 

Wood is a funny and fickle thing, particularly as a cutting board.  This is why we recommend a towel on the underside as it will effectively eliminate this problem of rocking.  So...why does this happen to your board and not furniture?  I mean, furniture takes more skill to make and requires more skill, so that must be it right?

There are a few key things to keep in mind when comparing boards to furniture.  (1) boards interact with water on the daily, indoor furniture might once it its life (2) While both are utilitarian objects, boards get much more of a beating with a knife than a chair does with someone sitting in it (3) furniture is finished with an array of different things that are more durable than any FDA approved food grade finish, like mineral oil.  These things are what make your board more fickle than your furniture, and that's not even mentioning how end grain is effectively a bunch of straws, so it is more likely to suck up water and as such warp.  Frequently oil treatments will nullify this effect however.  What it might now effect though, is an environment that has become drier than it was accustomed to.

April 18, 2017

Best Wood for a Cutting Board?

Shopping for cutting boards, huh?  Okay, let's skip the introductions and just get the point--the literature on cutting boards seems to rival that of Shakespeare, every popstar ever, and all religions combined.

Teak: It's hot and popular.  You'll frequently hear how great it is--it retains its oil meaning it require less upkeep and is less prone to expanding/contracting.  It is dense and has a tight grain, which keeps it looking nice.  I say it is a little too hard for a knife.  Lastly, it is my opinion that teak is kind of ugly.

Maple: It's the industry standard and for good reason.  It is durable, but you'll need to keep it up.  It's also dense, which gives it a great heavy feel.  Admittedly, this isn't our most popular product, likely in part because it is just so available.  One advantage is that it seems to match virtually any kitchen, but as a draw back, you'll notice a beet stain pretty quickly.  

Cherry: I wouldn't get cherry except for the coloration alone.  Too soft, in my opinion.  Granted, we are slitting hairs (or should I say wood fibers?) but I definitely notice it wears faster.  Your home chef probably won't notice it, but Mighty Quinn's BBQ certainly has seen how quickly it wears when you're chopping meat on it for 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.

Walnut: I call it a happy medium between Cherry and Maple--it's the "Goldilocks."  Very nice on your knife, and it takes a stain well since it is so dark to begin with.  Walnut is probably the single most popular wood for us.  Part of the appeal is its chic look.  I consider this an added benefit more than anything though.  

Oak: No. It's terrible.  Yeah, we offer it, in part because we kept getting requests and some people just really really wanted it.  We aim to please!  So why do I opt out on Oak?  It is ridiculously porous, and might as well be a pile of straws sucking up water.  This means it bows exceptionally easily, despite it being a harder wood.

Beech: My personal favorite, as it is the Maple of Europe.  It's an industry standard, it is dense, often underappreciated, and only gets more pretty with age.  It slowly becomes a deep dull red.  The grain is also really tight, meaning you won't have to worry as much about it soaking up water like Oak.  

February 23, 2017

Granite Countertops or Butcher Block?

You're looking at your kitchen renovation, and you're going through the plethora of options that lie before you--am I right?  Let's say you're going to stay simple and all you're doing is putting in new cabinets and counter tops and you will probably upgrade the sink and move it over some.  Even this simple kitchen renovation is going to eat up a lot of your time--cabinet style, color and drawer opening method are just the beginning.  While you're addressing all that, you also need to make some choices about what you might be looking at the most: your countertops.

Unless you're one of the few who intend to chop on your top like a butcher, I'm going to actually going to start with aesthetics.  (And look, if you are looking to chop on this like an episode of Chopped, then you definitely should be getting a wood top).  

First, keep in mind that unlike granite, wood will change in color overtime.  If you got the natural route, you'll eventually get stains (hey, stuff happens), but that isn't actually what I'm talking about.  Even if it is varnished, the extent to which it is exposed to the sun will change the color, often making it lighter.  Think keeping it in the shade will keep it neutral?  Nope.  Eventually, it will change however little for however many years.  Granite won't.  Does this make granite better?  We don't think so--we come with the premise that you're taking something that was once alive and it changing is part of its appeal.  It's exactly that which gives wood its warmth.

Second, wood will expand and shrink; granite won't.  If you're going with long grain (aka face grain or edge grain), then you don't need to worry really.  The change you'll see is minor and you'll probably not even notice it.  End grain?  Oh, that will shrink and expand A LOT.  We've seen it do so as much as 7% over 6 months--and this is with the wood already have been kiln dried.  A lot of this has to do with the fact that homes tend to be drier and warmer than lumber yards and shops.  Obviously, it doesn't shrink forever.  At this point, any further change will be nominal.  However, for this reason, we recommend only using end grain on kitchen islands--and never for tight spaces.

Third, wood can chip--but--it can be repaired; granite cannot be repaired (at least to my knowledge!).  I think this area is the smoking gun for wood.  Chipped granite just means getting a new granite top, and that's the worst news.  Or it means it sticks around for years.  I take it back, that's the worst news.  Wood stains?  So you can sand it.  There's a dent?  You can potentially fix it with a hot iron and a towel.  It chipped somehow?  A new piece can be glued on to replace it.  Obviously, none of us want this to happen, but if it has to happen, it's actually if it happens to wood.

Conclusion?
We think it is largely personal preferences and design choices, but the one key advantage wood has is its flexibility when compared to granite.  Lastly, if you want to slice and dice like a butcher then go with a classic butcher block.

February 19, 2017

Chopping Block Calculator

So we've just introduced our custom order calculator and I couldn't be more excited.  It greatly simplifies the ordering process for most customers.  Just click on countertops in the main menu, and browse from there.  As of now, it only applies to people picking up who do not need more services, like templating or what-have-you.  

I must admit, I'm proud of this addition as I've been working on it off and on for the past six months.  Well, this iteration of it.  Truthfully, I've probably been working on it for over a year.  Fortunately, my desire to tackle calculus meant revisiting Algebra and that helped form my thinking when creating this formula.  It's also taught me the importance of excel.  

Any customizations you have on smaller pieces can be made by adding it into the textbox upon purchase.  Check it out and please let me know if you have any problems.

nils@brooklynbutcherblocks.com

January 27, 2017

Storytime: the iBlock, the first cutting board to hold your tablet

In a meeting of new world and old world, one might find more similarities than differences.  Simplicity and functionality led me to design the iBlock.  Granted it took a long while!  I really burned the midnight oil on this one.  I had just started going full-time with Brooklyn Butcher Blocks in 2013, and I felt like I needed something really unique and new to everybody, not just me.  And the pressure was on, because in about 14 hours, I was headed to a small artisanal themed trade show in Los Angeles.  Yikes!  Fortunately at around 10pm, I had just happened to have my iPad sitting on top of a cutting board--not because I was testing the idea, but because I just needed a place to set the tablet--and when I looked at it from across the room, it had just clicked as something so obvious.  I have to admit, I felt like a bit dense that it took me so long but I knew it was going to be a good idea.  I mean, the Skimm featured it in 2015, so I suppose I wasn't too off the mark.

While I still enjoy going through a classic cookbook, I find myself surfing the web for the majority of my recipes.  I was tired of my iPad always falling over on its flimsy mount (which just took up even more valuable space) while scrolling through Epicurious.  Then it occurred to me: why not combine my cutting board and my tablet mount?  I really wanted the look to mirror that of some tablets out there, so it has a marble like finish, and the look of the dock is straight forward and consistent.  Additionally, this board is reversible.  The raised back serves as a stop to keep the cutting board flush against the edge of a counter when cutting.  You can see the design more clearly in the profile shot.  Ah, how I love something that serves a dual purpose.

Gear Patrol and Cool Hunting have also thought this butcher block is particularly rad, among others(it spread like a wildfire on a few tumblresque design blogs).  Plus it caught the eye of Playboy in Argentina.  Yep, it's just that sexy.

January 07, 2017

A little bit more about our American Flag Cutting Board

I've long had a fascination with the American Flag, and I own about 20 or so of them myself, so I feel as though this piece is long overdue!  I actually used to carry one in my wallet, folded up in classic military style.  The design is a new territory for us as its design is based on a symbol as opposed to our usual "structure informs design" motif as seen with our Brick and Mortar Boards inspired from historic Brownstones.  When choosing the coloration, we wanted to select woods that reflected an older, or weather worn flag.  Something that stood the test of time.  Something that embodies the Star-Spangled Banner and its line "Our Flag Was Still There."  This notion of endurance was extended to this future heirloom to ensure that your American Flag Cutting Board would last generations.

While the first American Flag Board was end grain to help distinguish it a little bit more from what was more commonly seen out on the web, featuring more imported hardwoods like Purpleheart and Padouk (they're still FSC certified though, aka sustainably forested).  In terms of determining waste and production, the end grain is a bit wasteful and tricky to just make every now and then.  That's why I decided to make a long grain version, which I've actually come to prefer far more (that's just me though).  When choosing woods, I thought it make more sense to select domestic woods to make it American-made through and through.  Maybe we could call it Roots-to-Hands? Maybe not.  The first few long grain versions had flat sides.  I wanted to add a bevel or something to the edges, but it cut off the stripes on the top and bottom when you looked at them from certain angles, making it seem like a mistake.  Fortunately, I found the edge for the boards, which they have now.  The eye picks up on the curvature of the sides, so even though it may appear that those stripes are thinner, the mind can kind of pick up the slope.  What I really love about those though is that they are a pleasure to pick up and really fit well into your hands.  Lastly, the choice to keep it starless.  I am typically not one for cutting corners (the only corners we cut are corners, har har) but the stars were proving to be a difficult part to produce--which is another huge reason why I decided to not make this board for years.  While sifting through some college projects though, i found an old stamp I had made to serve as my signature.  It was an American Flag that featured no stars.  Given that, I thought it was actually quite fitting to make the board without the stars.

January 07, 2017