Woodworkers, would you help me figure out how much wood to order for a project?

Thanks to lots of help from the Dope, I’ve been building a workshop—going from a fix-it area to a burgeoning crafting area. And, as a good beginner, I first made a bandsaw box and frame, and now it’s time to make a cutting board.

For raw materials I am going to order turning blanks. They’re roughly square already and easier to find/order than planks (or am I looking in the wrong place?). I’m ordering through Woodcraft because they’ll ship to store and I’m going to rent space there for a few hours—they let you have access to all their equipment (I still have a long way to go in filling my shop) and will show me how to properly set up and use it.

I want to make an end-grain cutting board with three types of wood. Thinking through the process here, I want its overall dimensions to be X by Y by Z. The Z dimension will determine the turning block size (so they’re square cubes); I’m trying to figure out the overall length I need.

I am starting with 2” squares because that’s a common size (and hence greater availability) and because when trimmed down/faced it should make for a hefty butcher’s block-style board.

By multiplying (X/2) * (Y/2), I get the total number of blocks I’ll need.

I’ll use that to make a grid of those blocks and then a coloured pattern of the three types of wood.

That should give me the number of each type of wood blocks I’ll need.

So that (number of blocks) * Z = the total finished length of turning stock that will go into the project.

I need to add something for kerf and sanding, which is where I’m coming up short. How much should I add to each block? A full quarter inch? Half inch? I would think that it would make a difference if I’m getting 6" or 12" lengths (fewer kerfs), but does that add up enough in a small project to be a factor?

Lastly, I want to make four (but am ordering enough for five as insurance), but that should be a process of multiplication, correct?

Absolutely any guidance or direction will be greatly appreciated—Thanks!

I don’t mean to sound critical but I have made dozens of end grain cutting boards and I think you need to stop and rethink. Buying turning blocks will be very expensive and although they might look square, they are not. They are no where near square enough to make tight glue joints. I would recommend buying milled lumber. You will need roughly 4-5 board ft. I recommend sticking with cherry, walnut, hard maple, and maybe purpleheart. Stay away from oak and other big-pored species. I also recommend watching some vids as to how to cut and paste.

Be critical all you want — I’m learning!

By “watching videos as to how to cut and paste,” you mean the glue-up/clamping process to get everything even, right? (i.e. not computer c&p or something about my post.) That’s one of the reasons it’s worth it to me at this stage to drive a couple hours and pay a hundred bucks to a semi-local Woodcraft store.

I’ve talked with the owner several times, and he’s been extremely helpful (I’m doing as much research on my own so as to avoid wearing out my welcome). One of the things he recommended is glueing up in pairs rather than trying to set the whole thing at once. Plus, in addition to showing me how to set up machines I don’t own or have experience with, he’s going to let me show him some things I’ve ‘learned’ through the Internet but have had no feedback on. Setting up the tension and guides on a bandsaw, for example.

So if you meant to watch to learn more about this project, you’re very right. As a beginner, I need all the help I can get!

About the boards, I recognize that I’ll have to joint/plane the turning squares (if I end up with those) and will have to buy a good half-inch over my loose-target square dimension. But I’m not yet seeing a more viable option.

My problem with milled lumber is finding the right materials. I’m kind of constrained (by my own hand) to buying from Woodcraft for this project. If for nothing else, politeness for his help so far. Or to be a bit more mercenary about it, wherever I’ve found milled lumber it will take a long time (in terms of the holiday) and be extremely expensive to ship.

Looking on their site, I see a selection of board foot lumber, but it’s sold in 10-board feet packs—of each kind of wood. I’d find a use for the leftovers, but am not quite ready to make that large an investment in supplies.

I’ve searched their site a lot, but don’t see any other options for milled lumber (though one could easily be staring me in the face).
If you find any flaws in this or can point me to a better option, please do (though I can’t really shake the personal commitment to going though them on this early project).

In the meantime, if I want a 15"x24" cutting board (so I can start with the 2” turning stock and work them down to ~1.5"), I need 156 blocks per board (8 wide by 13 long). 156 blocks * 1.75" per block means I’ll need 273" total (1.5" for the block and .25 for kerf/sanding, if that’s a good figure to use).

Something strikes me as off on that because that’s ~23’ for one cutting board. But I can’t tell where my math is off—hence the thread.

I want to buy enough for four: 3 gifts and 1 in case I screw up.

So 23*4=92’ (now the 10-foot packs aren’t looking so bad).

Since I want three colours, that means I need 31’ (372”) per species (assuming even colouring).

I’m going to stop here because I’m figuring I’d need 13 2x2x30 cherry blocks, which at 16.75 per block means $271 for just that color.

Either I’m doing something wrong math-wise or it’s absurdly more expensive to go that way, even counting for buying elsewhere and paying for shipping. Hmmm…
Another issue I have at the moment is their widths seem to be in the range of 7/8". I could glue up faces, but would have to introduce a time and effort cost that may be more than paying for the turning blocks.

Local lumberyards tend to be better options than Woodcraft or online sources - are there none in your area? (Where do you live?)

Yes I was referring to gluing and clamping. Woodcraft sells milled lumber. I like to use 6/4 but one could use 4/4, just have to make more cuts and glue joints. Gluing up that many separate blocks, while not impossible, will be very difficult. Here is a thread re. making cutting boards.

Following advice, I kept searching for minimally local (downstate NY) supply or something more than turning blocks. Didn’t quite have the luck I expected, but do like where I ended up.

To make a long story short, I eventually ended meeting a local craftsman who mostly mills his own lumber. I spent a couple hours and $175 in his shop and ended up with two slabs of rough-sawn walnut and one of maple, all about 1.5’x4.5’x2". The walnut dated from 1999; the maple from 2008, were neatly stacked and spaced, so they should be fully cured. I’m (obviously) still learning, but the $175 seemed fair for what I’ve seen.

Now I need to decide what’s next. Either make the four-hour round trip and spend $100 at Woodcraft, or put that money towards a jointer and planer. I have a bandsaw, circular saw and mitre saw in my burgeoning shop. In theory, I could spend around $600 for the two machines and do everything here. But that’s the $600 I had set aside for a table saw, and everything I’ve read has said that I’ll get more use out of that than a jointer and planer. Plus, these are rough-sawn planks, and I imagine there’s something to reading the wood and knowing how to make best use of it.