Saturday, March 8, 2014

IKEA Hack, Part 2: Chip off the old chopping block

Question:  How do you stop cutting boards from sliding around on your kitchen countertop?

Answer:  Make them yourself in a better quality than what is commonly for sale in the American consumer market.  This post shows one way to accomplish that.  
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In Part 1 of this trilogy, I showed how to customize a piece of IKEA's Numerar 39" countertop for use in a typical tract home laundry room.  This post continues with a description of what we did with one of the sections of Numerar that we had to cut off to make the main piece fit the space.
The countertop turned out wonderfully, but...
...fitting it to the available space meant cutting off a substantial amount of the original piece.  There was no way I was going to waste all that good stuff.
We made the longer cut first, which meant that the end piece in the foreground of the photo above looked like this:
It was pretty obvious what this chunk was best suited for: cutting boards.  There's my ugly old stained plastic board positioned over the cut-off piece to show the size comparison.

I see no reason why this stuff shouldn't be made into cutting boards.  IKEA developed this product for use in the kitchen intending for food to come into contact with it, so I'm assuming that the wood has not been treated with anything potentially harmful. 
It just so happened that, because we needed exactly 30 inches in laundry counter depth, given that we did the longer cut first, this shorter end piece measured 12" x 30".  Which meant that it was naturally divisible into standard cutting board sizes of one 12" x 12" and one 12" x 18".  Keep that in mind if your own laundry room also proves to require a 30" depth.  When you cut the Numerar down to size, you automatically spawn two standard-sized cutting boards.  
As I mentioned in Part 1, we don't own a table saw.  So this is how we geared up to use the circular saw to get this job done.

Aside:  That animal you see sitting attentively was adopted from our local County shelter.  Please consider adoption if you are planning to get a pet - it saves a life, and a very valuable life at that (our dog is wonderful - we would not trade her for any purebred).  In this previous post I published some tips on how to select a shelter animal with the best temperament for you and your family.

We now return to our regularly-scheduled post:
One of our more romantic husband and wife portraits.
I'm there to keep the board from slipping.  My massive weight holds it in place.  

You'll notice in many of my posts that I'm often not smart enough to change into old clothes before doing manual labor.  I like to make work for myself in terms of extra laundry, I guess.  
Now you can see the two pieces relative to my existing board.  I would rather have slightly larger boards, but these are good enough given that I didn't have to pay extra for them.  My main complaint with my existing boards wasn't size so much as stability, but I'll get to that in a minute. 
The Numerar came with nicely rounded edges, but of course when you cut into it, you get sharp edges that need to be smoothed down.  
It's easy to accomplish that with a sander (I used a P120 sandpaper).  You just kind of rock the sander back and forth gently over the sharp edges to round them.    

My eyesight is not great, so on a project like this, I judge progress and uniformity as much by feel as by sight.  
The obligatory art shot.  
The offspring now sanded.
Here's where we separate the cutting board men from the cutting board boys and I describe my fuller inspiration for having done this particular project.
These are my existing two cutting boards, one plastic and one bamboo, and you'll notice two deficiencies:
(1) The boards themselves are not substantial.  They have almost no mass (they don't weigh much).
(2) Both of them have tiny, tiny, tiny rubber feet.  Literally, the non-slip feet on each of them are only a few millimeters wide.  Way undersized.  
Years ago when every middle class homeowner had matte finish laminate countertops, cutting boards like those might have performed OK.  But now a lot of us have granite or other stone product with a mirror smooth finish.  And what happens is that, once the countertop gets a bit wet, cutting boards like these will begin skating around uncontrollably.  They slip.  And slide.  Which is a supreme annoyance if you do as much cooking as I do.  I need a cutting board that stays in place.  

There are two ways to compensate for that sliding effect:
Number one - use heavier boards.  An ordinary consumer-grade cutting board might weigh a pound or two, but these two Numerar offspring weighed in at 5.5 lbs and 8.5 lbs respectively.   
Number two, use better feet.  This little gem is actually a pool cue bumper similar to this one.  In other words, it's what you'd screw onto the non-business end of a pool cue so that when you're winding up to take a shot and your pool cue slams the wall behind you, the damage is minimized.

There are a number of different models on the market and I will warn you of one thing:  this one is a rubber similar to tire rubber.  If you have OTHER than stone or granite countertops, this could potentially mark your countertop if it gets dragged across.  Find the product that will work best for you.  

Do you know how some ladies have everyday tableware and special occasion tableware (fine China)?  Well, this lady has everyday drill bits (which tend to get abused and torn up) and special occasion drill bits.  I figured this project called for a special occasion drill bit.  That red mark you see in the middle is not the blood of clumsiness - it's a red Sharpie mark telling me how deep to make each pre-drill hole.    
I set the feet in about an inch from each edge.  
There was an issue with these cue bumpers, however.  My husband attempted to order some off the internet with stainless steel screws, because the cutting boards will get wet (be washed) daily.  However, thems don't look like stainless steel.  
Thems don't act like stainless steel either (I accidentally stripped one, but just one).  They're cheap, soft metal that will swiftly corrode in kitchen use.  If you do this project, take one of the supplied screws with you to the hardware store and tell them you want the same dimensions in stainless steel.  I put the feet on these boards with the supplied screws just to see how they'd look and function, but we will be replacing these screws.  
Here's the finished larger board, upside down.  I nicknamed it "six feet under".  Get it??
In Part 1, I talked about finishing the Numerar with IKEA's own mineral oil product which is called Skydd (ironic because the one thing I don't want these boards to do is skid).  However, a cutting board is going to receive much more intensive use than a countertop, so I have a two step finishing recommendation for that.
I started by coating the things repeatedly in mineral oil.  By that I mean, at least six successive dousings.  This is raw wood, so it is amazing how much oil it soaks up.  It also tends to do so unevenly, as this close-up photo shows.  So it becomes important to make application after application.  
Once they were thoroughly soaked in mineral oil, I added this product on top:
Clapham's Beeswax Salad Bowl Finish.  
In my experience, all wooden cutting boards will stain with heavy use, but using a sealant that incorporates a food-grade wax will greatly reduce the extent of it.  

And here's the proverbial money shot, the finished and sealed larger board:
Now we're talking - this is closer to being a real chef's board.  I expect it to darken with time, so some of that yellow tone will go away.

This is what I was referring to in Part 1 when I said I couldn't stain the laundry room countertop because I needed all pieces of Numerar to remain the same color.  Design-wise, the kitchen is now tied in visually with the adjacent laundry room because of the cross-referencing (what HGTV designers call "repetition" of design elements), the use of Numerar in both places.  The art of these DIY projects is as much fun as the practicality.

BTW, if you'd like to know about that cooktop to the right of the cutting board, see this post.  It's a very special cooktop.  
The economics of the project start to become more attractive when you take into account what a comparable cutting board of the same dimensions would cost if purchased rather than DIY-made.
Well, that's a bit ridiculous, but the one below is probably more comparable.

Screengrabs from Google Shopping.   
This is probably more representative.  If you want a full six-quarter (inch and a half) thickness in any cutting board, you're going to have to pay for it.  
I may have spent $200 on the Numerar, but look at the value that derives from that investment.  Not only do I have a new laundry room countertop, but I also have two cutting boards that probably would have cost me at least $80 if I'd instead bought comparable quality boards in the consumer market.  And I haven't even used the longer of the two Numerar trim pieces yet, so there's even more value to be realized.

Thanks for reading, and good luck with your own IKEA hacks!
It pains me that this piece of reporting has apparently evaporated from the internet (I can't find it), but IKEA Houston reportedly does a million dollars per year IN MEATBALLS ALONE!  I distinctly remember reading this - I believe it was Houston Chronicle which asked them about their annual sales volume, but they are a privately-held company and they don't disclose that kind of information.  So they replied (paraphrased), "We can't tell you that, but we will say that we sold $1 M worth of meatballs out of our Houston store last year."  Wow, eh?  Wrap your head around what that store's overall revenues must look like.   And I'm betting that they could probably sell twice as much Numerar as they are able to stock (see Part 1 for a description of what appears to be a common shortage of it).  

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