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This is possibly the most minimal and simple cutting board you can make with the least amount of tools and know-how. Before I get to the tutorial, let me begin with the story on how it all started. About a year and a half ago I returned from my journey through Central and South America with a nice lil’ gal. We happened to return 1 month before Christmas and thus were expected to give eachother a fine present in traditional American style. Now – I have a tendency not to go along with societal expectations, but rather do what I feel is right…and something about Christmas never really felt right. The expectation of buying some electronic gadget, or fancy clothing, or other general meaningless knickknack – didn’t really seem genuine. In the end it usually adds up into an ‘arms race’ of families and friends spending more and more every year. If you go back and give less one year – our society has taught us to notice that and put a feeling of shame on it. And what happens to all of that junk in the end? I think most of it goes into storage units, attics, closets, and landfills.

Well I had had enough of that and decided to start something new. The new rule, halfheartedly yet optimistically agreed to by my girlfriend – that nice lil’ gal that she is, was that we were to make something by hand for eachother for every major gift giving occasion. Over the past year or so this has proven to be quite the challenge…as a handmade gift takes much much longer to give/make than one bought online. (Our last Christmas gifts were finally presented to eachother this June!) Both of us are learning that in order to create certain things – new skills need to be acquired and knowledge of certain tools needs to be gained. Every gift we have made so far has so much meaning and thought behind it as well as a boatload of memories of how much we screwed up while making them. It is a lot of fun and I would recommend it to everyone out there looking to make life a bit more interesting. So far on the list – a wood and glass night light, a leather purse, a tree stump drill bit holder, fine art drawings, wood and steel noteboards, and a walnut pencil, oh and this cutting board below…now let’s get on down to it.

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I went to my local hardwood store, not the big name brand places…but a smaller guy with a huge selection of many species not normally seen anywhere near a Home Depot. I looked over every board of Walnut, my favorite due to it’s darker color and nice grain patterns. It’s important to look down the long edges of the board to see how straight it is. The straighter from the get go…the easier it will be to work with. No board is perfect, but it’s best to get one that’s close. I chose this piece because it was pretty straight, and also it had a nice light color near both edges, with a dark contrast in the center.

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The board itself was about 10 feet long and about 1 inch thick – so it was a little unruly getting it strapped onto the car in gusty winds…and luckily it didn’t rip my roof racks right off. At home I clamped it to a pair of saw horses to prepare for the first cut.

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Looking over the wood I decided what section I wanted to be the cutting board based on the pattern and knots. In a cutting board you can have the knots in it for show, but it may cause trouble down the line when that board gets wet and dries several times. The knot could pop out. I liked this knot a lot though so I decided to make a small cheese board out of that section and use a clearer section for the cutting board.

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I used a square to mark the cross cut of the first piece – later to become the cheese board.

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Once the cheeseboard section was cut, I measured out the length needed for the cutting board. I did this more by feel – eyeballing it to see what dimensions looked best. I then marked the crosscut with a square and sawed away.

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On the tablesaw I made a ripcut (length of the board) to get the cheese board width down to size. You can also do this with a handsaw and a bit of sweat. Shown above and in the next two photos is the cross cut for the cheese board to get the length right. I held the board up against the miter gauge to slide it into the saw. In general it is safer to use a crosscut sled for this part…but again these cuts can all be done by hand with a handsaw.

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Once both pieces were cut down to size, I then had to take care of the rough edges  that came with the board as well as those from the table saw.

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The fancy way of smoothing out a rough edge is to use a router table like a jointer with the bit on the left. The simple way with a bit more work is to use a hand plane or even just sand the heck out of it for a while. Since I am into learning new tools and techniques I finally set up my router table and easily fed the boards through, cleaning up all edges in seconds. In the photo below you can see a divot on the top board where the tail end of it fell into the bit too much. I need to do a bit more research to figure out why. The next bit on the right above, it to cut 45 degree angles into the corners of the boards, giving it a nice bevel and protecting the edges from splintering with heavy use.

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I hate hand sanding, it is slow and monotonous…that’s why I acquired this electric hand sander which makes it easy, fast and fun. The sander hooks into a vacuum so there is virtually no dust at all. I used a 120 grit initially to sand out any major markings in the wood, then switched to 320 grit for smoothness. Again this can all be done by hand with the basic sheets of sand paper…but you may regret your sweaty pits.

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For a little custom touch I used a wood burning tool and personalized the boards. It’s always the small things that make handmade goods priceless. If you do anything like this – make sure to protect the wood while in a vice, by putting a soft cloth between the wood and metal.

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At this point I wet the wood on all sides to raise the grain. I then dried it quickly with a heat gun. Raising the grain allows you to re-sand everything back down to a super smooth surface. This is very important on a cutting board that will get wet – as you want it to stay as smooth as possible afterwards.

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After re-sanding everything I applied a healthy coat of all natural walnut oil with a soft cloth.

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This is always my favorite part for the reason seen above.

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Here’s a great brand of walnut oil. After applying I let it sit for a day to soak in and dry out.

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I then took and objective look at both pieces and realized that something was wrong. They were too straight and uniform looking. I needed to add more of a handmade touch. I decided a good way to do this was to add a subtle angle into the edge of one side of each piece. For this I used a hand plane and it was easy work. You can also use a piece of sandpaper attached to a wood block. For the cutting board – I didn’t make this angle go too far in so as not to disturb the practical useability of the board.

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The cutting board needed something more. Again the straight edges bothered me. I think this is a result of using a machine to cut/smooth out the edges versus a handsaw and sandpaper. With machines you get almost perfect looking pieces. To stray from that I decided to add in a natural looking corner using a coping saw. by using a coping saw I was assured that I would not be able to cut in a straight line and the cut may look more natural.

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After doing this I had a slight heart attack. It was a big move and on a nearly finished piece, I wasn’t completely sure I wanted it after I did it – but it was too late.

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In my drill press I put a cylindrical sanding bit in place and used it to tidy up the cut corner.

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To create a bevel on the cut corner I used this mini plane…which did nothing but rough up the edge…so I stopped using it. Sanding worked fine at this point and once I was done sanding it all down I decided the heart-attack-causing cut grew on me and I was happy with it.

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As a final step I used a walnut oil, beeswax and carnauba wax mixture to coat the entire sides of both boards. This brand is food safe and looks great when it is all rubbed in.

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On hindsight – I don’t think the wax is entirely necessary as it feels like it washed off within a fe uses. The oil however is very important to protect the wood in the long term. You should re-apply every month or two to keep the wood from warping or cracking.

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I hope you enjoyed this simple tutorial on how to make a cutting board. I have quite a few other how-to articles and tutorials on this site, so check around.

Let me know waht you think and if you have any questions in the comment box below.

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The storm arrived as soon as our plane touched down. It was 80 and sunny the day before, it will be 80 and sunny the day after we leave…but for the five days in Portland it will be cloudy cool and a bit of a downpour. That’s certainly ok with me, because seeing Portland in any other way would seem, well…a bit unnatural.

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This place gets rain and it gets green, very green. Especially to a Cowboy living in the arid Deserts of the Southwest. By the third hour my eyeballs were bleeding, green. I became green blind. The last year and a half in the desert has sucked every last memory of green from my brain. I have been left with only the idea of green as a word with a definition and one that appeals to me: pleasantly alluring. One that has pleasantly lured me to the Pacific Northwest.

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The trip to Portland was indeed to find green as well as to find more spectacular plant life than the tumbleweed and cactus. Though they tend to expose their own unique beauty, especially when not oft encountered. Portland has always been a city of mystery to me, one that I have wanted to explore for the past 8 years or so. There are a lot of incredible makers up there making a lot of fine work.

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I get the feeling that this town may hold one of the largest populations of artists in relation to its size than any other town in the U.S. Could this be a side effect of the weather, or the inspiration of all the nature that surrounds it?

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In my travels I have repeatedly found that nature inspires me, it frees my brain, lets me think. The busy-ness of our man-made world ends at the beginning of the trailhead. It disappears at the cliff’s edge, it sinks deep into the lake, no longer disturbing us. Nature is where our minds belong, at least its where mine does.

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Several months ago I wrote about a trip I took to the mountains of Colorado. The point is that you should always take time to get out and get away from your daily work to let your brain breathe. A funny thing happens after a short time away. Getting out of your normal routine gives you space to think and be creative (this also includes turning off that phone). Just be.

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After spending quite a bit of time in the green forests around Portland, the beach was next.

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The coastline of this part of the country only looks good to me on a nice cloudy, dark and windy day. It just fits with the moods evoked from this ocean, the large rocky cliffs that dive into it and the crashing waves that bury it.

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Go bury yourself in some nature and see what becomes of it. You never know what that creative side will do when you let it free.

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  • Ryan - June 19, 2014 - 9:34 am

    Great pictures. Beautiful part of the country.ReplyCancel

    • Mr. Lentz - June 19, 2014 - 11:57 am

      Thanks Ryan, it is definitely worth returning over and over again.ReplyCancel

The greenness is stunning, almost disorienting. Especially after living in the stark Deserts of the Southwest for over a year now. I’m back from a recent trip to Portland…and working on pulling together a few shots to post on here shortly. Here’s one of the first.

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Every wallet should solve a money carrying problem and every good design solves a problem in an efficient and functional way. Today I am checking in with y’all as I continue with my desire to keep imagining a smaller, simpler wallet. A wallet that is so small it will slide into your front pocket and you wont even notice it. No bulge, no real weight. I find that I often head down to the saloons down near the beach and I’d rather only carry a credit card, license, and maybe a little cash. No need for anything fancy there – just something secure and a little bigger than the contents it’ll hold. It’s always a good idea to do a bit of research and see what already exists as a solution. After all – there’s no need to reinvent the wheel – and you certainly don’t want to spend hours creating a new idea only to find that it’s been done already. I usually grab my sketch pad where I roughly draw every idea that comes to mind. I don’t hold anything back here, just let it all loose. If you try and restrict your ideas based on whether or not you think they will work or not – you will lose out on some of that creative spark. A lot of my end results are typically a combination of some of the crazy ideas with a few of the more practical ones. Below, in the initial phase I edged more towards…crazy.

 

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In the initial prototype I wanted something that had a little zing to it. I chose to expose the contents of the wallet for looks only to realize that, in reality, this is extremely impractical. All of the contents can easily slip out, there is just too much room. Since this was my first favorite in the sketchbook, I decided to stick with it, but modify it a bit.

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After sketching out a few modifications, I decided to try a smaller exposure, but as you can see above – it doesn’t do much visually. The card is only barely peeking out, so there really isn’t much purpose for the exposed corner.

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I then decided to close things up and be very practical. I also wasn’t sure if both Men and Women would go for an exposed corner, so I scrapped that idea altogether. In the third phase of prototyping I also realized there was an opportunity on the backside to place an easy access slot. This way you can get your most used card or two just by thumbing it out. I think it also added to balance the front out with the back by adding an angle into the otherwise rectangular shape. The wallet was still having a few minor problems though – if you look at the flap on the front it doesn’t quite bend correctly. There wasn’t enough room for the flap to fold over itself. Also – on the back, the card slot was encroaching a bit too much into the flap.

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The final design came after a few more rounds of moving things around by a couple millimeters. Above is the final shape in Western Brown.

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The Simple Snap Wallet with fit around 6 cards and a little cash – or even more if you give it time to stretch. The cards fit snugly and the low placement of the top rivet allows for your fingers to easily pull them out.

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The slot in the back was narrowed quite a bit to keep a tight grip on the credit cards.

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These guys are available in Sun Tanned Natural, Western Brown, and Desert Night Dark. I have been using mine every weekend. The entire process of designing a wallet, from concept, to sketch, to prototyping, to final model can take several weeks. After the final version is ready I then test it for a while to make sure it is indeed a practical and useful idea. If it passes my tests…it’s in the shop.

As part of living in our modern society we are expected to also live by a standard of social norms – or a group held belief of how members should behave in a given context. Ultimately it is our decision whether we will let these standards of our society become our own laws for living, or whether we will use them merely as an option, a secondary path to fall back on if our own dreams falter. I have always believed in doing what you want. It is what makes me happy, and today I was shown this video below by a good friend, and in it are some very inspiring words that deserve a dedicated blog post in its honor. The video is about ‘Slomo’, a resident San Diegan who had a mid-life epiphany that he didn’t have to follow society’s preconceived notions of how he needed to run his life. He was a doctor of Neurology and Psychiatry for years…then he became … well… if you have 15 minutes you should watch it to the end. I have seen this guy a few times down at the beach, truly inspiring.

Now, continue onward towards your dreams – I’m hard at work on mine.

  • Sudhir Purohit - April 19, 2014 - 8:58 am

    I want to make wallets out of leather boots which are available in missing no and in stock lots here in India,can u help me?ReplyCancel

    • Mr. Lentz - April 19, 2014 - 9:26 am

      That sounds like a good idea Sudhir, if you email me I may be able to point you in the right direction. Cheers!ReplyCancel

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Last Saturday I filled one thousand of these guys…

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All in one day and all as part of a new idea I have about the quality of handmade leather goods. You see, high quality leather deserves high quality care. As such I decided to develop my own formula for keeping your handcrafted premium wallets, belts and more in the best shape possible. My handmade leather Spiff N’ Shine is all natural, mixed by hand, filled by hand, labeled by hand (ahem, with the help of one obliging lil’ lady and payment of an ice cream sundae).

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This concoction is the same formulation that I use to initially oil and wax each piece of leather in my shop. A great leather conditioner made from Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Beeswax, and Carnauba Wax – it is 100% natural and contains no animal byproducts…like mink oil. In fact – the truth is – I have heard great things about working with mink oil, but have chosen to stay away from it due to the entire, somewhat shady, industry behind how they get that mink oil (not good). As it turns out really high quality leather will break in on its own without the need to infuse it with other chemicals. It will shape to the person, develop a unique and rich patina based on its use and environment. The leather will age into a work of art all your own.

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But back to filling tin cans. It ain’t glamorous and I should probably think about wranglin’ up some gents to fill them for me in the future. It’s  a tricky business and quite a challenge figuring out a unique way to keep the mixture hot and fill these tins. Every wallet and belt will come standard with a tin of my leather conditioner, as a gift as well as a guarantee that what you are gettin’ is the finest of fine.

 

 

  • James Shane - February 18, 2014 - 9:45 am

    Wonderful! Will you be offering this product on your website for purchase sometime soon?ReplyCancel

    • Mr. Lentz - February 18, 2014 - 9:57 am

      Hi James, in fact these are all shipping for free right now with every leather item ordered. Thanks!ReplyCancel

      • James Shane - February 18, 2014 - 10:04 am

        Thanks! I’m looking to snag some from you as I have began making my own wallets recently. If you happen to start selling your concoction, I will definitely be a buyer!ReplyCancel

        • Mr. Lentz - February 18, 2014 - 12:16 pm

          I would highly recommend making your own. It is not too hard and the materials are fairly easily found. Search around the internet for a good recipe and experiment away! That’s what I did for a while until I found what worked well for me.ReplyCancel

A few weeks into the new year and it is time to take a look back and see what happened in 2013. Mind you, I quit coffee cold turkey yesterday (for the 432nd time), and am writing this with taped up eyelids dosed on pain meds. Let’s see if I can get through it. Here we go:

2013, just like 2012 was a year of massive change for me, Mr. Lentz. In the beginning of the year I had just returned from an 8 month journey through Central and South America. I was in culture shock. There are a lot of things you don’t get while traveling and one of the biggest ones that bothered me was the lack of some solid mental stimulation. Traveling is great, it is fun to see new things, new places, new people…but I ultimately missed what I had begun in my workshop in Boulder, CO. That is – designing, building,writing…all around creating. This keeps me busy and gives me a feeling of fulfillment like no other South American ancient ruin can compete with.

So…once I returned to the States, I packed up my stuff in Boulder, CO and headed out West to begin my work anew.

I started from the very beginning, taking a close look at my previous designs and reworking them. Ultimately creating entirely new ideas that were much more refined.

I did the same for my rings, creating new designs, using better materials and in more efficient ways.

I took a break and philosophized a bit about creativity and why you shouldn’t care.

 

Then I made a few more rings…

 

I expanded on my ideas a bit, trying to push them to the limit of what was possible. Out came this Grass Knuckle.

I took the time to write several tutorials, which I am proud to say have helped numerous makers like myself begin in the world of makin’. The one below is about how to build a quick, cheap and sturdy workbench.

Then I threw together an idea about a wood and leather lunch box. It came together nicely, but I am still looking to improve the design.

Several fans requested a simple leather wallet tutorial…so I made one. I realized that a lot goes into a simple leather piece like this just to get it looking right.

Partly due to my own forgetting of the steps to make a leather belt (there are many) – I made a tutorial of one. This guy now sells in my shop, it’s a fine piece of work.

There were a few ideas I had to scrap. The one below is a leather and dye combo I do not use anymore – in favor of natural dyes I make by hand.

This phone wallet below was scrapped. It included a secret interior pouch…that was extremely time consuming to make.

Many new wallets were born this year. The time taken to conceptualize, design, template, create, refine and finish for sale in the shop is immense! – But worth every second. I love designing new work, the best part is when I condition up the leather with my own hand made leather balm (extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, carnauba wax), the leather glows with deep and rich colors.

Constantly experimenting with new ways to create natural colors from vegetable matter…I added two more color options Dust Storm and Stallion – though soon to be combined into just the Stallion.

For a brief period I created a desertscape for photographing my leather goods. This proved hard to maintain in the longrun and I quickly switched back to wood backdrops.

Realizing the importance of getting away is crucial to the creative mind. I took a break in Colorado, hiked a fourteener and let my mind be free and wander without anything or anyone to tell me what needed to be done next. I recommend this for everyone – take a nice solo week and drive off somewhere towards nature. You will be glad you did.

Some designs from the past were revived for a custom order. Only to quickly disappear again back into the past.

Mistakes were made, plenty of them. In fact it is quite common as a craftsman to fudge things up every now and then.

I burnt some leather too.

Then I created even more leather designs, a purse, cuff and the belt from my tutorial.

 

Towards the end of the year I disappeared into my workshop, not seeing the light of day for weeks on end. It got busy. Very busy, very quickly. It was a blast and I worked my tail off.

Looking back is kind of crazy, just reading through this and realizing how far I have come since my travels ended. There are a lot of new ideas and projects coming along that I will be sharing on here shortly. I have a few fun powertools…still waiting to be unpacked due to the craziness of the Holiday Rush). With them I plan to make bigger things – things for the home and maybe some art. This next year looks like it will be a busy one as well, but I am preparing for it in advance. That’s the great thing about making mistakes – hopefully you remember them and learn a bit from them. I think it’s important that when we are all sittin’ back and thinking about the new year ahead of us, that we also look at the year behind us and continue on that path of improvement. Cheers the 2014!

  • Ang - January 30, 2014 - 5:22 am

    I randomly came across your website while searching for leather working tutorials – your photography is amazing especially love the photo of your Dad. Your landscape photos are incredible too, and obviously informs your other work. Where can I see more of your photography online?ReplyCancel

    • Mr. Lentz - January 30, 2014 - 8:56 am

      Thanks Ang! Actually I used to have a whole other photography website a while back. I decided to merge the two to slim down the amount of upkeep. In this upcoming year I hope to do a lot more photography work as it is a real passion of mine.ReplyCancel

      • Ang - January 30, 2014 - 9:05 pm

        Yes. Please do! I’m actually surprised that you’re not a professional/commercial photographer. I really appreciate your work.ReplyCancel