The Great Board Hunt

I had been collecting rare vintage parts much of the winter, and having a good measure of success with it. Now that I had almost everything in hand to build the TNT rig, it was time for the simplest item of all: a board on which to build it. I set out for the city one fine Spring day to get a board. I had two options in mind. One, I would buy a hardwood board and cut it to length. Two, I would buy a kitchen cutting board that was about the right size and thus have less finishing work to do.

I went to all the lumber yards and big box home centers that sell lumber. I looked at maple boards, oak boards, poplar boards, and a few other species which escape me now. To say these things were hideous would be to give them too much credit.  The wider boards were all made from glued up narrow strips. The strips were not all laid flat when they were glued; some stuck up as much as an eighth of an inch above the others. Most of the boards were warped, split, or both. Many had a rough, irregular surface. I would never be able to sand these things down and make them look decent, and if I did, the board would be no more than a half inch thick when I finished.

On to plan B. I visited big and little stores that sell kitchen items, in search of the “just right” cutting board. Hmph! To begin with, I found very few square or rectangular ones. Most were round, oblong, triangular, octagonal, heart shaped, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Whatever happened to just plain old rectangular cutting boards for Pete’s sake? The few of that shape I did find were ruined by having a large hole cut to form a handle or a juice groove all around the perimeter. Good grief! I did find one store that had 18″ x 24″ cutting boards that looked like I could possibly cut the size I needed out of the center, thus discarding all the edges with that hideous groove. The things were of horrible quality though. They were obviously made of scrap wood, many narrow strips glued together. A given strip wouldn’t even be the same width from end to end. Nevertheless they had been forced together and glued, bowing the strips under pressure as necessary to accomplish that task. The groove around the edge was the worst milling I’d ever seen, very rough as though the bit that did the job was extremely dull and/or the work was forced at  far too  high a rate. I decided to forget it and have a look on the internet. Surely I could do better there.

After two weeks checking every online retailer I could think of or dredge up through searches, I was still without a board. Again there were lots of fancy shapes. There were some rectangular boards but many were either very thin or very thick. I did find a very few that seemed suitable, but they were more than $100. I find that a bit pricey for a small slab of wood!

In the end I decided to go back to the one big box store that had those hideous 18″ x 24″ cutting boards. I sorted through the stack of 16 such boards, and selected the best one for my purpose. It had the least light to dark color gradient and was also the least warped of the lot. In fact, it was darn close to perfectly flat. Better yet, at $17 it was cheap!

I cut out my desired size board from the center, using a table saw. After a few hours of hand sanding it didn’t look all that bad. Since woodworking and wood finishing is not my thing I decided to forget about traditional 1920s style finishing. Instead I opted for a technique I had used successfully (after many failed attempts) for woodwork in my newly renovated kitchen. I applied two coats of stain and two coats of wipe-on satin finish polyurethane. I will leave the reader to judge the final outcome when the rig is completed and photographed. Meanwhile I offer this photo of one part of it which was cut away in the making of my project. This may serve to convey something about the original “quality” of the board (click thumbnail for full size photo).


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