A labour of love
A few months ago, I was at a craft show in Orillia and a very nice woman was looking at my cutting boards. We began a conversation, and she told me that she had an old cutting board that belonged to her grandmother. Apparently it was old, fairly beat up, cracked in two and had been burnt on the back after being left on a hot stove burner. In a not too hopeful voice, she asked me if there was something I could do with it. Her family wanted her to toss it...but she just couldn't part with it. I said sure...let me have a look!
She immediately raced home and returned with the board. All I could think was...wow. This board was pretty rough. It was round, and had a lot of detail carving on it.
But I could see by the look on her face it was important to her. So I told her to give me a few weeks with it, and I would see what I could do.
When I got home, I took the board out and looked at it. The board had to be at least 60 years old, or more I could visualize the thousands of meals that were prepared on this, the thousands of knife cuts, the conversations that took place. Soon, this became more than a restoration project. This was preserving a family history.
So I started. First, I had to properly rejoin the board (there had been a previously poor repair that had failed). Then came sanding - both on the front and especially the back to try to remove the burn mark.
The biggest part was restoring the letters (they spell "Bread") and all the carved vines and indents around the letters. These were almost obliterated in spots. So out came the hand carving tools and every detail was put back in.
At this point I realized I had WAY undercharged for this job. But honestly, I didn't care. This became MY board for a few weeks, and knowing how important it was to this lady, I wanted it to be as perfect as possible.
After a lot of hours, here is the final result. While there was no way to make the crack invisible and eliminate all the cut marks (there was too much wood missing) it is perfectly flat and smooth. All the details are back in. And the burn mark is gone.
The final payoff was the day I returned the board to the overwhelmed happy owner. She was a bit tearful, and vowed to put the board away for future generations.
When I make a cutting board, I know that with proper care it can last many lifetimes. On this project, I had the satisfaction that a board that has already been around for a few generations will last a few more. And when it's handed down, with the stories that go with it, I am proud to know I got to play a small part in that family's history.