A Gorgeous DIY Cheese Board to Impress Your Guests
For me, cheese is probably one of my favorite food groups; like it should be a food group of its own so that I have a valid excuse to eat a ton of it. And when I refer to cheese, I’m not talking about those cheap presliced or shredded cheeses. I’m talking about buttery, triple-creme Brillat-Savarin or a pungent Morbier with a thin layer of ash running through the center. Cheeses like the Spanish Manchego; a creamy, ripe Camembert; a bold Roquefort blue cheese; or fresh, handmade Mozzarella. I don’t think there’s a cheese I’ve met that I didn’t like to some degree or another and I’m sure there are a few of you out there that can totally agree to that, am I right?
My go-to party appetizer will always be a cheese and charcuterie board, hands down! It’s beautiful, easy to put together and the best for filling up your guests. Especially if it’s one of the main things you are serving. That being said, I have gathered a growing amount of cheese boards over the years to accommodate this love of cheese.
This DIY cheese board project started when I was out shopping one day and I saw this 3 ft long, live edge wood board, with handles on each end. It was stunning, $90.00, and pretty scratched up. I brought it to the front to see if they would give me a discount (never hurts to ask, right?) I was denied such requests, so I looked it over and figured I could easily make this on my own. And that is how my latest, and largest, cheese board came to be.
If you tuned in last week, you would have seen our Al Fresco Wine and Cheese Dinner Party which featured this lovely DIY cheese board and a full spread of yummy cheeses, charcuteries, fruits, and condiments. It was a huge hit and so worth the time it took to make – which honestly was not that much time!
We sourced this really cool piece of live edge wood from a place here in Minneapolis called Wood from the Hood.
They reclaim fallen or discarded trees from urban neighborhoods here in the Twin Cities and transform them into usable lumber for things like table tops, flooring, elements in architectual design, furniture from archute.com, etc. They facility is amazing and I was in heaven walking around there seeing all of these huge trees getting turned into beautiful slabs of wood. Not to mention the projects they were using them for! People, this beautiful piece of live edge wood was only $10.00!!!
People, this beautiful piece of live edge wood was only $10.00!!! So clearly I picked up two different options. My original intention was to recreate the wood cheese board I passed up while shopping – the one with handles at the end. However, when we were going through all of the available boards, this gem stole our hearts! Putting handles on it just seemed out of place, hence the second option. That option will be a future project with amazing brass handles and a rich dark wood tone. Eek, I’m so excited! But for now, this DIY cheese board is all things perfect and wonderful!
Are you ready to see the step-by-step process and make one for yourselves? Then continue onwards…
Materials & tools needed
1 live edge wood board or milled edge board, at least 2-3 ft long
Detail sand paper in 80, 120, 220 and 320 grits – to fit a corner hand sander
Butcher block conditioner or mineral oil
2 clean cloths or staining pads
Corner hand sander or orbital hand sander
If you wood board has a lot of imperfections get the following:
Painter’s tape or masking tape
Toothpicks or wood stirring sticks
3 small, short edge plastic containers for mixing the epoxy. I also used some extra ceramic tiles we had laying around.
Razor scraper or plane
DIY Cheese Board – Step by Step Instructions
1. Find that perfect board
Ideally, you want to find a “food safe” type of wood. Some woods, such as rosewood, can cause an allergic reaction. Hard, tight-grained woods such as cherry, maple, walnut, bamboo, and teak tend to be the best option as they don’t score easily when cut on. Cuts, scratches, and openings can be the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. This will mainly be a serving board and not a consistently used cutting board, however, it’s better to be safe than sorry. The boards I ended up purchasing had a few splits and imperfections, so that meant I needed to fill them with epoxy to avoid food getting stuck in the cracks and holes. A bit more work than I would like, so if you can find a clean, perfect piece of hardwood, then spend the extra money! But for $10, I will go the extra mile to get the gorgeous end result!
You can use a live edge board like I did, or a milled edge board like the ones you find at Home Depot or Lowes. The choice is yours.
2. Sanding is everything!
You want a very smooth surface for your cheese board. That means sanding down the top and edges until they are silky smooth, removing all bark. There were a few edges along my board that had splits and were rather jagged. As you can see in the photo directly above and to the right, I sanded them down until they were even and rounded. The splits will eventually get filled with epoxy. The board also had a massive, rough knot jutting out in the middle edge, which is what drew me to it. Such a cool character flaw. There was a lot of dead wood that needed to be sanding out however, to make that edge incredibly clean and smooth. It’s a live edge board, so it doesn’t need to be a flat, sanded down edge either. Let the edge flow and ripple like an ocean wave. The goal is to make the ripples silky smooth and that’s it.
For sanding, I used a corner hand sander, but you can also use and orbital sander. The corner sander allowed for me to get into the crevices of the large knot and clean out any dead wood. Start with an 80 grit, to sand down imperfections. From there move to a 120 grit, to give a smoother base before moving to the epoxy step. After epoxying we will hit the board with a 220 and 320 grit, which we will cover in a bit.
Use a tack cloth or compressor to clean off all dust before proceeding to next step.
Notes: when sanding the epoxied areas is to avoid over sanding. It can overheat and strip out from the wood. Secondly, if your board does not need epoxying and it’s in perfect shape, skip the epoxy step, goes through all the grit levels for sanding, then head right to sealing the board.
Materials needed: Hand sander, sandpaper in 80 and 120 grit, mask to avoid inhaling dust, tack cloth or compressor.
3. Tape off the areas that need epoxy
Tape off any imperfections, knots, holes or cracks that need epoxy applied, so food cannot hide out and breed bacteria. Taping off these areas will help with easy cleanup and less scraping and sanding of the epoxy. Trust me, this step is a lifesaver! I first tested the backside to get the hang of epoxying and I didn’t do this step. I quickly learned that it adds more work. Scraping epoxy is not as easy as it seems, so the less you have to do, the better.
Materials needed: painters tape or masking tape.
4. Mix and apply epoxy
Read all directions for mixing and applying the Gorilla epoxy. Your first application of epoxy can be mixed directly in the plastic packaging supplied with the Gorilla epoxy and applied with the provided wood applicator. However, you will likely be applying more than one application, especially if you have larger knots or want to seal imperfections on both front and back sides. If this is the case, use toothpicks and a few extra plastic lids or even smooth surface ceramic tiles you may have laying around.
Mix epoxy thoroughly according to directions and apply to as many areas as possible within the 5 minutes recommended. Add enough epoxy so that it mounds slightly up above the surface of the wood. With larger holes or knots, I recommended a few thin applications instead of one thick amount. If found that once a thicker amount hardened it was hard to scrape down to the surface of the wood.
Remove tape right after you’ve applied the epoxy – to avoid the tape getting caught under the hardened epoxy.
Materials needed: Gorilla epoxy, plastic containers, and toothpicks.
5. Allow epoxy to harden
Epoxy should set for about one to two hours before you can start working with it. Test a small area to see if it’s ready to scrape. If it pulls instead of cut clean, then wait another hour. I found on very large areas if it sets for too long, such as overnight, it becomes very difficult to scrape off.
6. Scrape off epoxy
For this step, you have a few options depending upon your comfort level. You can scrape off the extra epoxy using a razor scraper, a plane, or the blade of a plane (sans the plane itself) held in your hand. After trying all 3 options, I found the blade of a plane was the easiest for me. It’s very important that the blade of your plane is very sharp, otherwise, it will not slice the hardened epoxy.
Make sure when scraping, not to gouge the wood. You simply want to take it down to the surface of the wood. The smoother the better, however, it will get a final sand in the end which should help with any spots that are raised a small amount above the surface.
Now, when I suggest to you these options, remember that anytime you use any sort of blade or sharp object, they are sharp! Therefore it is so important to always be very careful! Safety first and never cut towards you, always away from you. If needed, wear gloves to be extra safe. Go slowly and take your time.
Materials used: razor scraper, plane or blade of a plane
7. Sand epoxy and entire wood board
Of course, I didn’t take a photo here, ugh… was too excited to jump to the last and final step. However, this step is so, so important. It’s what will give you that silky smooth finish. Once you’ve removed the extra epoxy, now it’s time to sand those areas down so everything is smooth and flush with the surface of the wood.
Using your hand sander and a 120 grit go over each spot few brief few moments. Allow some time in between sanding a single spot to allow the area to cool down. Epoxy can overheat and clump up instead of smoothly sand down. Once each spot of fully sanded and clean. Change your sandpaper to a 220 grit. Sand the entire board until it feels smooth to the touch. Finish off the board with a 320 grit so it’s silky smooth. Clean entire surface with a tack cloth or compressor to remove all dust particles.
Materials used: hand sander, sandpaper in 120, 220 and 320 grit, tack cloth or compressor
8. Seal surface of cheese board
You’re on to your last step! Woo hoo! This is by far the easiest and most satisfying step as you get to see the wood transform before your eyes. Remove cap and carefully warm up the butcher block oil in the microwave (about 2 minutes on 50%.) This helps the oil to penetrate the wood. Using a clean staining pad rub the butcher block oil into the wood board, going with the grain of the wood. Let sit for 30 minutes then wipe away any excess. Let dry 30 minutes and repeat application 2 more times, drying in between. Buff wood with a clean pad and allow curing overnight.
Last but not least, throw a big party to show off your new and gorgeous DIY cheese board! Your guests will definitely be impressed and may request one of their own. They do make great presents, hint hint!
Materials needed: Butcher block oil or mineral oil, 2 staining pads