Small cracks in a wooden butcher block or cutting board aren't just a cosmetic annoyance; they can also harbor bacteria, rendering your butcher block unsafe to use for food preparation. While major cracks and warps require professional repair, smaller hairline fractures can be repaired at home simply with just a few odds and ends from the hardware store.
Here's how to get your butcher block back into useable form!
Mindful maintenance is key when you’ve got a wooden butcher block, cutting board, or countertop. Improper storage, drastic changes in humidity, or an overnight soak in even the smallest of puddles can leave you with a board that’s warped, cracked, or otherwise damaged.
When to Get Professional Repair
I want to reiterate here — if there's a major crack in your cutting board (more than a millimeter or two thick), or it's warped out of shape, your best bet is to take it to a woodworker for repair. They’ve got the proper tools (read: a work bench, clamps, a plane, an industrial sander, etc.) to fix a very badly damaged board. Otherwise, for smaller cracks, you can pick up the supplies and fix it yourself at home.
What You Need to Fix Small Cracks
In order to do this repair, you’ll need a food-safe wood glue or filler. Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue fits the bill — it's FDA-approved for using on food preparation surfaces, and easy to clean up since it's water-soluble when wet. Though the glue has no noxious odor, do wear safety goggles and a respirator mask while you're sanding it down. Particulates of any form can be irritating to the lungs, and sanding will release tiny bits of wood and glue into the air while you're working away.
Where to Buy Supplies for Repairing a Butcher Block
To get the glue deep into the cracked wood, you can use a plastic syringe to apply it, effectively pushing the glue into the fissure. Use a little extra — any glue that’s beaded up on the surface of the board can be sanded away once it's dry. Titebond III will be fully dry after 24 hours — read the label carefully to follow the drying instructions for whatever brand you've used.
Use an extra-fine grit sandpaper — you’ll want to sand away in gentle, small circles — just until the filled seam is level with the board. Lastly, rub in a good amount of board cream or mineral oil, and your board will be ready to go.
How To Repair a Cracked Butcher Block
What You Need
Plastic grocery bag or tarp (to line work surface)
Small plastic handyman syringe
Food-safe wood glue
220 (extra-fine) grit sandpaper
Board cream or mineral oil
- Prepare your work surface: Before you begin repairing the butcher block, line your work surface with a piece of plastic, such as a garbage bag or tarp.
- Fill the syringe: Load up the plastic syringe with wood glue, then apply it along the crack. Push firmly to ensure that the glue gets down into the fissure.
- Let the glue dry: Allow the glue to dry as directed on the package (24 hours for Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue).
- Sand down excess glue: When the glue has dried, put on the safety goggles and respirator mask, then use the sandpaper to sand down the excess glue until it is just filling the crack. Work in gentle, small circles until the surface is level and smooth.
- Apply board cream: Using the lint-free cloth, scoop up a generous amount of board cream and polish it into the wood. Apply it to the top, bottom, and sides of the block.
- To avoid future cracks in your butcher block, make sure that it is completely dry after each use, kept a good distance away from heat sources (like stoves or toaster ovens), and never allowed to sit in any puddle of water, large or small.
- Oiling the block regularly will help prevent cracking. Using board cream or mineral oil, oil it once daily for the first week, once weekly for the first month, and once monthly after that, or whenever it looks dry.
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(Image credits: Coco Morante)