Looking for a cutting board with character? How about one that can add to your woodworking skills? Our flounder design, based on a well-known resident of the Atlantic Ocean, brings form and function into the kitchen. Use the fish’s tail for a handle when serving cheese and similar snacks, then clean and store the cutting board on the wall for a decorative touch.
You’ll find machining the recess for the maple insert a lesson in working with guide bushings.
First, Rout a Recess For the Inlaid Cutting Surface
Rip and crosscut a piece of 3/4-thick stock to 9×18″ for the fish. (We selected walnut.) Then, cut a 3/4-thick piece of contrasting stock to 9×18″ for the cutting surface. (We chose curly maple for its fine-grain, durability, and appearance.) Crosscut a 2-wide piece from this second board, and then plane the remaining piece to 1/4 thick. (See Tip no. 1 at right on avoiding snipe.)
Make a simple router template for cutting both a recess in the fish and the inlaid piece. To do this, start with a 9×18″ piece of 3/4-thick plywood. Transfer the full-sized Oval Template (solid line) shown on the pattern insert to the center of the template. Bandsaw a diagonal entry kerf, then saw out the oval, keeping your blade inside the line. Next, glue and clamp the entry kerf. After the glue has dried, drum-sand the sawn edge to the line.
Lay the template over your walnut board, aligning all edges. Then, attach it at the corners using 1 1/4 flathead wood screws (countersunk). Next, bandsaw into three pieces the waste oval. (See Step 1 on the Full- Sized Oval Template located on the pattern insert.)
Fit your router with a 1 1/4-o.d. guide bushing and a 1/4 straight bit set to cut 1 deep. (This allows for the 3/4 template thickness and a 1/4-deep recess.) Now, rout around the inside edge of the template in counterclockwise direction. Then, rout out the interior of the recess, following Steps 2,3, and 4 accompanying the pattern.
Remove the waste pieces. Next, switch to a 5/16 straight bit set to the same 1 depth. Rout the perimeter of the recess in a counterclockwise direction. (See the Routing the Recess drawing below).
Next, Machine and Inlay the Cutting Surface
Remove the template from the walnut board. Then, center it between the ends of the 1/4-thick inlay stock, and reattach it. Using double-faced tape, adhere the inlay stock to a larger piece of scrap plywood that’s clamped to your workbench. Change to a 5/8-o.d. bushing, and switch back to your 1/4 straight bit, setting it to cut 1 deep. Carefully rout around the perimeter to create the oval inlay. As before, switch to your 5/16 straight bit, and rout the oval to make a crisp, precise edge.
To prepare the oval inlay for insertion into the recess, sand a slight chamfer along the bottom edge of the inlay piece. To do this, fit your drill press with a 2-diameter drum sander, and tilt the table about 10° as shown opposite page.
Test-fit the inlay piece, being careful not to let the inlay get stuck in its recess before you have a chance to apply glue. Sand if necessary, then apply a uniform layer of glue to both mating surfaces. Now, tap the inlay gently into place using a mallet and a piece of pine or other soft scrap-wood. After the glue has dried completely, sand the inlay flush with the walnut stock.
Cut Out, Carve, and Finish Your Flounder
Copy and cut-out the Full-Sized Flounder pattern shown on the pattern insert. Center the oval on the pattern over the inlay, and adhere the pattern to your stock. Next, bandsaw the flounder to shape, keeping your blade just outside the line. Now, drum-sand to the line, then remove the pattern.
Fit your table-mounted router with a 1/4 keyhole-slotting bit, and rout the back face where shown on the pattern. Next, switch to a 1/2 round-over bit, and rout the top edge of the flounder all the way around. If desired, flatten the round-over, using the sectional profiles shown with the pattern as a guide. Now, sand the rounded edges. (We used a contour or “flap” sander on our drill press, but you can also block-sand. For an even more tapered edge that’s truer to life, we gently sanded the edges of the fish with a stationary belt/disc sander, rocking it on its top edge as we removed material. This approach requires a lot of care and checking.)
Using the Flounder pattern as a guide, pencil in the mouth and gill slits on the workpiece. Next, using a straight-edged carving knife, carve the mouth and gill slits to shape by first making 1/8-deep stop cuts. (A stop cut is an incision, usually at 90° to the work surface, made along a pattern line. It allows you to carve to the line without chipping out wood beyond it.) As you move the blade toward the curved edge of the workpiece, allow it to cut to 3/16 deep. Next, remove the waste wood behind the cut by slicing up to the stop cut using a gouge, chisel, or your carving knife. Continue refining the gills and protruding mouth using files and sandpaper. Make the surfaces as smooth and blemish free as possible.
Lay out the fin cut lines along the edges and tail fin. Next, carve out the fin cut lines, working your way around the fish. (We used a 1-mm no. 12 V-tool. A wood burning tool would work well here, too, and would speed up the detail work a great deal.) These grooves should reach 1/16 deep so that they stand out in the finished piece.
Lay out the eye-hole center points where shown on the pattern. Next, drill a pair of 3/8 holes 1/2 deep. (We used a brad-point bit on our drill press.)
To make the eyes, first drill two 3/16 holes 1/2 deep in the 2-wide piece of leftover 3/4-thick maple stock. (See the Eye Detail accompanying the Exploded View drawing.) Next, cut V»» lengths of 3/16 walnut dowel stock, and glue these into the holes. (See Tip no. 2 right.) After the glue dries, sand the dowels flush with the maple. Using a 3/8 plug cutter in your drill press, cut 5/8-long plugs centered over the dowels. Then, cut the 3/4- thick maple stock to 5/8 to free the plugs.
Finish-sand all surfaces of the cutting board. (We used our random-orbit palm sander with 220-grit sandpaper for the flat surfaces. On the contoured areas, we hand-sanded and used our flap sander.) Now, apply several coats of salad-bowl finish. (We applied five coats total, allowing each to dry. After the final coat, we wiped the board completely dry. To order a salad-bowl finish, see our Buying Guide.) Once the finish has dried, apply four self-sticking rubber feet. (You can purchase these at a home center or hardware store).