Rough Timber Boards & How to Fix Them

One of the most common questions we're asked by new cutting board & cheese paddle owners is: "Why has my new timber cutting board roughened after its first wash"? Surface roughening of a new timber board is completely normal and thankfully, restoring the original smooth surface is a simple process requiring no special materials or tools.

So what's causing the roughness? The final production step before we oil a wooden cheese paddle or timber cutting board is to sand the surface with a very fine grade sandpaper. When sanding, small flakes of sanded timber are rolled into the open pores of the timber, this is especially pronounced when finishing a very porous timber such as white oak and even more pronounced with the lighter sapwood parts of the tree.

This new board has a completely smooth new surface, note the dark colour of the timber indicating it's been well oiled.

When a new board is first washed the water expands and swells the small rolled up flakes of timber, lifting them out of the pores and causing the initial roughness. These detached timber flakes will typically wash off the board with the first couple of washes, leaving the pores of the board mostly bare. The open pores of the timber are the cause of any residual roughness.

This newly washed board shows lighter areas which need oiling and timber flakes lifting from the surface, typical of a new board.

So how do we fix it? A new board should be washed with warm to hot water and a kitchen scourer, salt can also be added to help with the scrubbing. Scrub in the direction of the grain until the surface starts to roughen. Any loose flakes of timber can be rinsed off then rub dry and allow the board to air.

All naturally finished timber boards will require oiling to maintain a healthy surface. Dry, un-oiled timber is more susceptible to damage and is not as attractive (think driftwood at the beach, or an old weatherboard house). We recommend one of the following oils to treat your board:

Damaged timber often appears lighter toned and is prone to splintering or cracking.

Read more on our care page for more information about oil choice. Apply the oil liberally to all sides of the board and rub in with a cloth. Allow the oil to soak in for 10-20 minutes then wipe clean. Some oils such as tung oil and linseed oil will require a curing time of 12-24 hours.

We give all our cutting boards and cheese paddles a healthy soak in oil before they leave out workshop, however it takes a few months to build up a good base of oil in a cutting board. Our general rule of thumb for board oiling frequency is:

1 - 2 Months old Oil every second week
2 - 6 Months old Oil every month
6 - 24 Months old Oil every 3 months
24 Months onwards Oil every 4-6 months

With proper care and regular oiling, your new cutting board should smooth out over the first 3-6 months and eventually exceed the smoothness of its original new state. Please get in touch if you have any questions.

Over time your board will build up a base of oil and eventually smooth and require less oil such as this endgrain board.

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