Making a cutting board is a great woodworking project for both beginners and professionals. That said, there are so many types of timber you can choose from when making a chopping board, it can be hard to decide which one is best to use.
In this article, we will discuss one good option: beech. We will look into the advantages and disadvantages of using this type of wood for a chopping board and also discuss alternatives to using this timber.
Is Beech Good for Cutting Boards?
Beech is a tough hardwood with a few great qualities when used for a cutting board.
Its durability allows it to stand up to wear and tear from knives, while its closed pores make it resistant to absorbing liquids, odors, and bacteria. Because the timber is light in color, small pieces of food that get stuck in the grain can easily be identified and removed.
When using any type of timber there will be some disadvantages. A few possible issues that come to mind are its appearance and its proneness to shrinking. We will look into all of this later in the article. First thing first, let’s consider the food safety of beech.
Is Beech Food-Safe?
When deciding on a type of timber for a chopping board, food safety should be your number one priority.
Beech is considered a food-safe type of timber. This material has a natural resistance to bacteria and other contaminants, making it an ideal wood for preparing and serving food. Additionally, beech is a relatively hard wood. This causes resistance to scratches and cuts that could otherwise trap food and bacteria.
In saying this, it is always recommended to oil a wooden chopping board every four to six weeks with food-grade oil. This will prevent any bacteria from entering the wood grain.
Advantages of Using Beech for a Cutting Board
Now for the good stuff, let’s check out the advantages of using beech as a cutting board.
The workability of a wood species should be carefully considered when making a chopping board. The reason for this is that a cutting board is often made by cutting and gluing various pieces of timber together. If a type of timber has poor workability it may be very hard to cut and glue together, which affects its longevity.
The workability of beech is a big advantage in choosing this material for your cutting board. This timber cuts and machines very well and absorbs both glue and stains. These are important qualities, especially when making a chopping board.
Strength and Durability
Strength and durability are definitely something to look for when deciding on wood for your chopping board. Any type of woodwork that will be heavily used needs to be both strong and durable. Beech has both of these qualities.
Its hardness and density make it able to withstand a heavy amount of wear and tear, but it isn’t so dense that it will continually blunt your knives. The strength of this timber is comparable to that of maple. Its small pores and tight grain make beech a strong type of wood.
Both of these characteristics will ensure that your chopping board lasts a long time if you look after it correctly.
Disadvantages of Using Beech for a Cutting Board
As mentioned before, whenever you use wood to make a cutting board there will always be some disadvantages. Listed below are a few that occur to beech when used as a cutting board.
Proneness to Swelling and Splitting
Beech is known for being vulnerable to swelling and splitting, which can really affect its usability and appearance when used as a cutting board. When exposed consistently to moisture, the fibers within the material will begin to swell, which makes the wood uneven and bubbly. This can cause a chopping board to start splitting at the glue seems and along the grain.
To minimize this effect it is important to constantly treat the wood with a food-safe sealant or stain to protect it from water. Proper maintenance of beech can help preserve its appearance and prevent any issues with swelling or splitting.
This is more about personal preference as opposed to a functional disadvantage to using beech as a cutting board. The problem I find with using beech wood is that it isn’t very visually appealing.
Don’t get me wrong, you could stain this material to give it a more vibrant look, but there are many more beautiful-looking timbers out there. These other timbers will not require staining or an intricate design to create that visually appealing chopping board most woodworkers are looking for.
Alternatives to Beech for Making a Cutting Board
Despite the fact that beech is a suitable material for a cutting board, it’s worth keeping in mind that there are better options out there. These other timbers carry all the characteristics that make beech a good choice while leaving out the negatives.
The following three timbers are more visually appealing than beech and are also less prone to swelling and splitting:
- Maple is the industry standard when it comes to making cutting boards. This timber is straight-grained and has a beautiful light-to-medium brown color. Maple also naturally inhibits bacterial growth which is a huge benefit when used for preparing food.
- Teak is a lovely golden brown straight-grained timber. It is tough and durable and can withstand heavy use as a chopping board. Despite its toughness, it will not constantly blunt your knives. Amongst woodworkers teak is regarded as one of the best types of timber for a cutting board.
- Walnut is a softer wood than beech but still rates better for use as a chopping board. This is because walnut is more visually appealing, far less prone to swelling and splitting, and also doesn’t absorb food stains the same as beech does.
When selecting a type of timber for a cutting board it is important to find the one that has the qualities you desire. Beech is a good choice for a cutting board despite its negative qualities. The positives of this timber far outweigh the negatives.
To combat its proneness to splitting you will need to regularly oil it. The visual appearance can also be made more vibrant by adding a dark food-safe stain or oil.
However, as mentioned above, there are different types of timber out there that have all of the good qualities of beech with none of the bad.