Questions & Answers
How long have you been doing this?
Since the 7th grade. The owner actually started working with wood before that, but when he began Jr. High, he had to get overrides from school counselors to take wood shop every semester, doing this up until he graduated high school, and continued on through college and graduate school. 25 years later, it's still fun.
Why do you only work with a couple of wood species?
It's because these surfaces have to be hard and extremely durable. Every type of wood has a hardness scale assigned to it. There are actually several you can use. Since I'm a science nerd, we use Physics. Newtons (named after Sir Isaac Newton), are a measure of FORCE (N). The higher the (N), the more dense the wood is. Cherry, Black Walnut, and Hard Maple have pretty high numbers. We're not going to send you something that won't last.
Do you really use the hard sciences (chemistry, microbiology, physics,etc.) in the shop?
Do you use hidden metal clips, bracing, or other techniques to strengthen the boards?
Absolutely not. Those are actually cost saving measures.
Why do I have to wait several weeks for my order?
Because we do not keep an inventory at Cotton and Dust®. A lot of this has to do with environmental reasons (moisture levels, temperatures, etc.), but mostly it's so we can custom make each board specifically for you. Good things tend to take a little longer.
Is the glue you use safe for the products you make?
Yes. We use Titebond III, which is certified food safe.
What do you use to condition the boards before you ship them out?
Mineral Oil. That's it. Food grade mineral oil is found in any pharmacy or grocery store.
Can I just use vegetable oil or olive oil to condition my board? I already have them in my kitchen.
That's really not a good idea. There are basically 2 types of oils, mineral/non organic -based, and vegetable/organic- based. Simply put, non organic means "non-living", and since your cutting board is not living, a MINERAL (non-living) based oil is best. We have many derivatives of mineral based oils including shale oil (crude), baby oils, etc. A food safe mineral oil is digestible by the human body (it's actually a natural laxative, and many times will say so on the bottle). Vegetable oils are just that, vegetable-based. They contain various organic substances like olives, nuts, seeds, etc. Examples are Cotton Seed Oil, Olive Oil, Canola Oil, Sesame Seed Oil, and the like. If you put a vegetable-based oil on a cutting board, you're not treating it at all. Two things will happen: 1) It will eventually gum up the surface, collecting all kinds of debris and dust, and 2) It will begin to smell rancid.
What about Bees Wax mixed with mineral oil? This seems to be a popular treatment.
Yes, it is a popular thing to do. Mineral oil is mixed with the correct amount of Bees Wax to treat your board. It's also recommended for monthly treatments. However, we don't use Beeswax because if there's one thing that wax does well, it's build up, and then break down. The problem with wax breaking down on the board's surface (usually activated by heat from warmer foods or environments on or about the board), is that since wood is porous, wax will eventually clog those pores. Also, wax loves to attract bacteria over time.
So what schedule should I use for conditioning my board?
Apply food grade mineral oil once per month. Prop the board up against the back splash and let it sit overnight. Wipe off any excess with a paper towel the next day.
Should I wash my board when I get it?
Yes. It came from a wood shop, so there will be some residual runoff when washed. Do this with warm soapy water and HAND dry. If you do have have some of the oil and wood runoff, it may stain certain counter tops like Formica. These can be removed by simply applying a bleach solution to the counter surface. This is why it's very important to wash the board well when you get it out of the box.
Can I put my cutting board in the dishwasher?
NO! Never do this. This will not clean the board, it will ruin it- quickly. Some dishwashers shoot water heated upwards of 170 degrees F. In fact, some newer dishwashers have their own internal water heating elements. The average hot tub water temperature is around 110-115 degrees. 170 degrees will kill most organisms on your dishes, but it will split the wood and cause separation between seems. We can tell immediately when a board is run through a dishwasher, and it only takes ONE time. It's important to note that we cannot recondition boards run through dishwashers (See Terms and Conditions). They just are not the same anymore.
HAND WASH WITH WARM SOAPY WATER AND TOWEL DRY. PROP THE BOARD UP AND LET IT AIR DRY. NO WOOD SHOULD BE EXPOSED TO WATER FOR PROLONGED PERIODS OF TIME.
Why do your END GRAIN cutting boards cost more?
End Grain cutting boards require twice the time to assemble and finish, as well as more board feet of material.
OK. What is a "Board Foot"?
A Board Foot may not be what you think. Where as a linear foot is an actual line measurement, a board foot is measure of VOLUME. It uses fractions to determine thickness. Without getting too detailed, that's pretty much all you need to know. We don't want you to fall asleep.
I heard you hand shape all of your cutting board edges. Is this true? Why not just use a machine?
There is a machine for this purpose, which is called 'Shaper'. Others may use a router or a router table, however the problem with this is that when dealing with really dense material, the motors in routers simply cannot keep up. A shaper is basically a glorified router table on steroids, but can do so much more. It's very popular with cabinet and door makers, has much more power and is designed for very, very heavy use.
As far as hand making the edges, this is absolutely true. we have numerous sanders in the shop to put the edges on. We do this for two reasons: 1) it keeps the building process more active and less automated, and 2) it gives us the opportunity to thoroughly inspect each board before it is approved to leave the shop.
Which is safer to use for a cutting board: wood or plastic?
This is why I believe everyone needs some sort of science background. Even a basic one would suffice. Keep in mind that plastic is a newly (within the past 75-100 years) synthesized (man-made) polymer structure. It's chemically synthesized. It's creation has also completely changed medicine. Plastic incubators for premature babies, plastic lines and syringes, bottles, etc. In fact, the first baby incubators for preemies were made out of wood. Plastic is cheap to produce and purchase and has major advantages, but not when it comes to cutting boards, and all of it boils down to basic chemistry and microbiology. The simple question that needs to be asked is, what happens to plastic when it's heated up (dishwasher, hot foods, etc)? You see, heat, is an excellent way to break a bond in a molecule. Especially a synthesized one. In fact, heat is an extremely common catalyst to cause a reaction in chemistry. We just aren't comfortable with this in the kitchen when it comes to your food. After all, you're the one eating it.
Wood on the other hand, has antimicrobial properties in it already. We would argue that it's much easier to protect from cross-contamination from a wood surface than plastic. Try this for an experiment: call your local health department, and ask them which is safer- wood or plastic? They will no doubt say either plastic or stainless steel for food prep surfaces. This is simply not true. When you handle your food properly, If you work on a wooden cutting board, you will come out ahead.
Here is some good reading on the subject:
Will I dull my knives if I use a Cotton and Dust® cutting board?
Yes. Using your knives will eventually dull them out. Keep them sharpened.
Do you really have a strict Rat Pack music policy in your shop?
Yes. Sinatra, Martin, Davis, among others- are continuously played all over the facility. Even overnight. We firmly believe that a drunk Frank Sinatra in Vegas could easily outperform most of today's auto-tuned singers. Besides, who wouldn't want a big band behind them? Really.
Is it normal for my cutting board to have cracks or knot holes in it?
It depends. All wood has hairline cracks or "fractures" throughout the fibers. This allows the wood to expand and contract as it should. Some cracks are indeed noticeable, and we would never allow a piece to leave our shop with a fracture that would affect its overall strength or reliability but you have to realize that just as a tree can be beautiful and functional, our cutting boards serve the same purpose- with some minor "Beauty Marks". These are a part of nature. We will know if something is wrong before it leaves our hands .