Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What is it about Cutting Boards?

 What is it about cutting boards, pastry boards, dough boards, bread boards? The everyday homey boards we all use in our kitchens, and our ancestors did the same. Cut the same bread, kneaded the same dough. Maybe that's the appeal, we use pretty much the same boards to do pretty much the same things. OK, I don't guess they served brie and crackers, but maybe they did!
 I'm showing a few groups of antique boards we've had over the years.  Look at the two taller boards at the back here, they have pencil writing on them and looked to be used as a carpenter's tally sheet.
Here's another big group from last year.

How old are these boards? What are they made of? How are they made? How can you collect them?

Most of the boards you will run across at shows, online etc. date from the late 18th C. (1780 or so) to the 1940s or so. You can pretty much tell from the color of the wood, the shapes, etc.

Here are 2 18th C. ones from my collection. The larger one, a pastry board only has 2 edges. Very unusual. The smaller one is an 18th C. door panel converted to use as a cutting board. Look at the deeper colors and the wear to the soft pine wood.
Here are a group we had from MN, probably late 19th early 20th C.
How are they made? Most boards are simply cut out of a piece of wood. A little later they started adding "breadboard" ends. This prevented splitting of the board. Remember wood always shrinks across the grain, and with all the washing they endure, you can see boards often shrink and get cracks. Cracks in a simple board will cause the board to split in two, bad idea. If you have breadboard ends, you might get a crack in the center of the board, but you can still use it.
Here's a bread board with "breadboard ends" added on. This demonstrates what they look like, and you can also see that the grain on the ends goes the other way, so it will not split like the larger part of the board. Problem solved. The breadboard ends are sometimes held on with dowels, like this example. Often they're held on with square nails, and also the later round nails. It's one way to tell the age of the board, as the round nails were made mostly after the Civil War. It's also a nice example of an oak board, which is not common, for some reason. About half the boards you see are pine, because its cheap and easy to cut.
 Here's a nice pine one, with bread board ends all the way around, that's an unusual touch.

The other half are hard wood, such as maple and birch, because it will last a lot longer. Here's a beauty in maple, an elongated octagon.
Here's another one, this time a piece of left over wood used as a cutting board, look at all the cut marks. This one is a rare walnut example.
Here's a good example of a form called a "pastry board", or "noodle board". It has strips of wood added around the edges which keeps the flour from flying around. This one is pine, and has a nice hanging hole. These are also popular as the larger size is convenient for hiding your sink or stove or?
Sometimes you can find the boards in paint, whether original or added later to brighten up a kitchen. This blue one is pine.
Here's a nice musard one, with breadboard ends.
The boards come in many pleasing shapes. This tombstone form is one of the most popular right now, the name comes from the form at the top of the old tombstones. This example is pine, and not too old.
 Here are a couple with nice age on them.
This one has nice age and a great coat of old green paint.
Another popular form is the octagon. This one has nice age.
This one was pine, and a bit larger.
Here's a nice round one, a form you don't see too often.
Another favorite form is this thin style. You see these once in a while, and they're usually only about 1/4" thick.

Here's sort of a make-do cutting board, the top of a barrel used as a cutting board. Hey, make do with what you got!
Look at the round cutting board with a slight domed top surface, and lathe turned rings around the edge. These were used for cutting meat, and the juices could run down the dome and be caught at the edge.
Here's my collection of fishy cutting boards. (My husband loves to fish!) There are many charming forms for cutting boards. There's the ever popular piggy, they're pretty common, as are state forms. I have also seen strawberries, dogs, cats, rabbits, flowers, flower pots and sprinklers, mice, pine trees, apples and probably more I can't remember. These make a fun collection.So there are many collections you could make with cutting boards. You can collect all tiny ones, or all huge ones( I've seen them up to 6' long!). You can collect paint or treen. You can collect different woods or different areas of the country. Think about a group of different octagonal ones. And of course different shapes. Maybe all Scotties? What is nice is that they are still reasonable affordable, and are available all over the country. And I think its safe to say they are all American, so far no icky imports and repros. So have fun and let me know if you come up with some creative ideas.