Wenge - would you use it for a cutting board? - Router Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-17-2017, 09:41 PM Thread Starter
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Default Wenge - would you use it for a cutting board?

I've read a number of reviews on other sites as to which wood(s) are best for end grain cutting boards (other than the classics, hard maple, cherry and walnut) and the opinions on using wenge seem to be all over the place. So the basic question, is wenge acceptable for end grain cutting boards and if not why not?

I certainly don't want to include it if there are good "health" reasons not to. If the issues are simply it's too "hard" and therefore difficult to work with that's another issue.

Thanks in advance.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-17-2017, 10:50 PM
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I read a blog about using woods that have known toxicity issues but I think those issues are mainly from breathing the dusts. I know that's the case with red cedar. The article I read suggested that some of those woods might cause an allergic reaction in a very limited number of people. Otherwise they should be safe to be used in cutting boards as there is very limited exposure of contact with food and very little transfer of any possible oils or chemicals.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-17-2017, 11:51 PM
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I would only use wenge if you make sure the pieces ares 100% Quatersawn, so when a clear is put on it the wood it looks like ebony. Make sure there is Zero Cathedral Arches. I say this because of the way the pores are on wenge cathedral arched flat sawn lumber, it tends to blow out even long after sanding and sealing. The right pieces of Wenge, the super tight grain Quartersawn, the stuff I can hardly tell if it's wenge or ebony, isi what I look for when choosing Wenge. This is exactly why I use Wenge, I call certain pieces poor mans Ebony. A lot of the Quartersawn and especially the flat sawn arch grain wenge has a weird grain that is deep, stay away from it, especially if there is a whiteish or greyish color to it. It's these pieces that may come off in some form in a cutting board. I can take pictures. If you choose right and seal it right I can't see the right pieces of wenge ever effecting anyone, but the wrong pieces could. I use Wenge often, maybe every other day and it's one of the few woods I 100% have to go hand choose myself.

I use hundreds of woods and am allergic to zero, but when I get one little splinter of Wenge I can feel it, I am certain it's poison. And breathing Wenge makes me feel weird. Of course I am getting way more exposure than anyone using it as a cutting board would in 10 lifetimes. I believe a splinter of Wenge could probably put certain people into shock. I am sure you can google and if the information says anything other than that Ill be very surprised. I am betting Wenge dust causes dermatitis and splinters on the verge of making someone septic. I know this from using the wood myself, I hate the splinters and had one yesterday and my wife can't go near it unless it's sealed.

I see plenty of wenge on cutting boards, but be careful if you are selling or giving them away. Just choose pieces you are certain can't shed pieces later and seal it for food exposure.
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Last edited by dovetail_65; 09-18-2017 at 12:05 AM.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-17-2017, 11:58 PM
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lifted from the wood data base.....


Workability: Can be difficult to work with hand and machine tools. Blunts tool edges. Sands unevenly due to differences in density between light and dark areas. Very splintery—care must be used when handling unfinished wood with bare hands, as splinters have an increased risk of infection. Very large pores can be difficult to fill if a perfectly smooth/level finish is desired.
Odor: Wenge has a faint, slightly bitter scent when being worked.
Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, breathing Wenge wood dust has been reported to cause central nervous system effects, abdominal cramps, irritation of the skin and eyes, and is a sensitizer. Also, Wenge splinters tend to take longer to heal and are more likely to go septic (get infected) than splinters from other woods. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-18-2017, 01:36 AM Thread Starter
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@dovetail_65

Thank you for the detailed review. I would appreciate a photo of what you consider acceptable and I'll post a photo of what I have on hand for comparison.

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-18-2017, 02:20 AM
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Take a look at this inlay I made in the gallery and the black in the star. The lines are so very thin in the Wenge from a few feet away it looks jet black. It could be ebony, even painted. There is zero cathedral grain. In some wood the cathedral grain looks good, in Wenge not so much unless the look is called form in the design. Put some sealer on what you have, if it's 100% jet black it's more than liklely fine. If it looks like it has a rough texture and appears that if you run your finger over it the wood would be rough(even though it may be smooth), almost like bark, then dont use it. If there are light spots that aren't jet black, don't use it. I usually have huge pieces which are much more difficult to get how I want them to look, if you bought small pieces it is more than liklely fine.

I'll pull out some sticks tomorrow afternoon from my stock and take some pictures of what I have on hand in lumber form. Hopefully I have something bad that slipped through.

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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-18-2017, 08:02 AM
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I have some Wenge for guitar back and sides but have yet to build with it. Years ago I worked with a small amount for a project but don't remember much about working it, so this is all good info to have - thank you! And the piece you've shown is beautiful, btw!

On the cutting boards, most are 'sealed' with mineral oil and/or Beeswax. Is that still the case with Wenge, will that work ok?

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Wenge - would you use it for a cutting board?-wenge-set.jpg

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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-18-2017, 03:20 PM
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Bob posted some info, above*;
"...Blunts tool edges"
Right there is the best reason NOT to use it! Unless of course you really enjoy constantly having to sharpen your carving knives.


*Router Forums - View Single Post - Wenge - would you use it for a cutting board?
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-18-2017, 05:43 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you one and all for your comments. I have elected NOT to use the wenge in the cutting board. I've posted 2 photos of the end grain of a small piece that I believe illustrate the points that dovetail made as well. The darker of the 2 (W1) is that same piece after it had been coated with butcher block oil. If you expand them out you cans see that the wood is indeed quite porous and a number of the "white" flakes that Dovetail described are also visible.

So it's back to cherry, walnut and hard maple. Perhaps a piece of oak but I'm not sure on that one yet.

Thanks again.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-18-2017, 06:14 PM
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Splintery- one of the reasons wood cutting boards are not used in restaurants or any commercial food preparation. Odd but some woods are antibacterial due to acidity. Yet we have to use plastic!
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