How to Make a Yakisugi Cutting Board

Yakisugi Cutting Board
If you had ever used a cutting board made out of pine you surely noticed that it’s cheap for a reason: it’s far inferior to those made of hardwood (or plastic) in regards of durability and hygiene. The main problem is that the wood being so soft it wears away easily, and even worse, it can quickly absorb a lot of moisture and besides bending, warping and cracking this poses serious health hazards due to the fact that it’s impossible to properly clean and dry. Moisture and food residue are the perfect breeding ground for the nastiest bacteria, but wait, before you throw out your cutting boards, there’s a simple and inexpensive solution: Yakisugi.

Yakisugi is an ancient Japanese wood preservation technique that consists of charring, cleaning and finishing the wood with natural oil. It’s mostly used for exterior projects but it also works wonders on cutting boards (soft and hard wood alike) because: the surface becomes tougher, waterproof and if you finish it with beeswax it will have antifungal and antimicrobial properties; so without further ado, let’s get to it:

Tools and Materials to make a Shou Sugi Ban Cutting Board

Tools and Materials:

  • Cutting board
  • Propane torch
  • Wire brush
  • Lint free cloth
  • Beeswax

Charring and Cleaning the Wood

Char the wood until it becomes completely black.Charred Cutting BoardClean off all the brittle charcoal with a wire brush.Then wipe it with a lint free cloth, take your time, you want this to be really clean.Shou Sugi Ban Cutting Board

It’s best to do this outside or in a well ventilated place (with no smoke alarms) because it involves a fair amount of smoke.

Start by charring the wood with the propane torch until you completely burn the entire surface, welder’s gloves are a good idea at this point as you need to handle hot wood.

After the board has cooled take the wire brush, ideally a medium-hard one, and brush off all the top layer of brittle charcoal, then use one side of the lint free cloth to thoroughly clean off all the fine dust, use a dust mask, maybe.

You may even wash the board with water at this point, but then you’d have to wait until the wood completely dries off, which can take longer than a day and ain’t nobody got time for that!

Applying the Finish

Melt a bit of beeswax over the torchand smear it all over the board.Cutting Board Covered with BeeswaxNow you need to melt the wax on the board so that it can penetrate the wood grains.Then take the clean side of the cloth and wipe off the excess melted wax.The finished board, as you can see, there are no white spots, all the wax that wasn't absorbed by the wood is cleaned off.Waterproof Pine Cutting BoardYakisugi Cutting Board

As a personal preference, I finished the cutting board with beeswax, mostly because I don’t feel comfortable with mineral oil, natural oils may go rancid over time and beeswax is 100% edible, natural and has scientifically proven antimicrobial properties; I’m going to eat off of it, so why not?

You need to gently melt one side of the beeswax block over the propane torch and smear the molten wax over the whole surface of the cutting board.

As the wax cools it hardens in place so you’ll need to use the torch to melt it again, hold the torch further and gently hover over the board, try to keep the wax liquid for a couple of minutes so that the wood can absorb the maximum amount.

Then use the clean side of the lint free cloth to wipe off all the wax you can – while heating with the torch, there shouldn’t be any white spots (a.k.a. hardened wax) left on the board and you’re done.

Maintenance wise: you can reapply the wax anytime you see fit.

Thanks for reading, now go and make your own.

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