Most kitchen cutting boards are made from maple. It is a relatively hard wood that is not very absorbent, and as such is an ideal surface for carving. As with any wood, however, maple eventually will wear down, and repair or replacement will be necessary.
Over time, the cutting board becomes stained, knicked and cut up so that carving and cleaning become difficult.
A cutting board with a modest amount of wear can be sanded periodically to restore a smooth surface. This stopgap remedy can be employed only a time or two before replacement is required. Sanding is applicable only to cutting boards constructed of solid material. Those made from veneer plywood will likely require replacement.
Restoring a worn cutting board is a relatively simple job, especially if you have a power sander. It's an undertaking for the garage or workshop not the kitchen since you'll be generating a fair amount of dust. Lay the board on a stable surface, being certain that it is dry. It might need to air dry for a day or two. Also, protect the face plate or "pull" with masking tape so that the painted or stained surface is not damaged during sanding.
Start the sanding process with a coarse sandpaper such as 50-grit. You'll be doing a coarse, medium and light or "finish" sanding, so be careful not to take the surface too far down.
The coarse sanding will even out the irregularities that exist. When using a power sander or a hand-sanding block it is best to use an even back-and-forth motion and work in the same direction as the grain for the most professional result.
Once most of the unevenness has been eliminated, use a 80 to 100-grit paper, then finish-sand the surface with a 220-grit paper.
Remove the masking tape at the face plate and complete the restoration process by hand rubbing several coats of mineral oil into the surface. Remove excess oil with a clean, dry cloth.
For cutting boards that resemble a topographical map, replacement is in order. As with the restoration process, you'll want to remove the cutting board from its opening and work on it in a garage or workshop.
Start by removing the face plate of the cutting board. This can best be done using a block of wood and a hammer. Lightly tap the block with the hammer while alternating sides to avoid splitting. Clip any nails which protrude through the back of the face plate with side cutters.
This is a good time to paint or restain and varnish the face plate if it's on the worn side. Doing this at this point will give the new finish time to dry while you fashion the cutting board.
Cutting board replacement material can be found at most major home improvement centers, lumber yards and cabinet shops.
Laminated strips of maple or birch glued together are ideal replacement materials for your cutting board, but can be costly. Edge-glued pine panels are less expensive and more readily available. Unfortunately, pine won't last quite as long. For that reason recommend maple or birch.
You'll want to be sure that the replacement material is equal in thickness to that being replaced. It should be just slightly smaller than the opening in the cabinet.
Use the old cutting board as a pattern for the new one. Place the old board over the new piece of material and scribe a pencil line at the perimeter. Make sure that one of the four sides is aligned with the manufactured edge of the new material. This side will be used where the face piece is joined, for a more uniform joint. Cut the material with a jigsaw and a finish blade.
Next, lightly sand the sawed edges smooth with a medium grade sandpaper (80 to 100-grit). Also, sand the cutting surface smooth with a 220-grit fine sandpaper.
Attach the face plate using wood glue and adjustable clamps. Be sure to wipe up any glue that might ooze from the joint once clamped. Allow the glue to dry overnight and remove the clamps.
Complete the job by rubbing in several coats of mineral oil or another non-toxic wood finish. Remove the excess with a dry cloth.