An Arabian merchant, scratches his way across the sand, a pouch of milk strung over his back, as he makes his day long journey across the desert.  The pouch was a new one, made from a sheep’s stomach because this was 4,000 years ago and people hadn’t thought of using a BPA free, imitation woodgrain Thermos yet.  For hours he walked beneath the blinding sun, step after step, making his way towards nightfall.

When he finally stopped, he pulled the pouch off his back, only to discover after hours in the arid land, his milk had become something else.  It had separated into a liquid and a solid.  Curds and whey, produced after sitting all day in the rennet filled sheep’s stomach pouch.  Thirsty and hungry, he drank the whey and ate the curds.  And THAT is the day you can blame your muffin top on.  The day cheese was born.

Or so the legend goes.

Nowhere in that legend does it say anything about how in 4,000 years people will still love, LOVE stinky old cheese.  Maybe not 4,000 year old cheese, but still, a nice aged white cheddar …

Today as part of the Christmas Pledge and with the help of Lee Valley and the world’s greatest palm sander (it’s a Festool), I’m going to show you how to make a genuine, imitation antique cheese board (or bread board if you’re one of those weirdo cheese haters) with a hunk of wood from the lumberyard, a jigsaw and a palm sander.



I’m sure you’ve seen antique cheese and breadboards before. They’re all over the stores and the Internet.  You’ve maybe even seen DIYs on how to do them, but I’m going to show you a few tricks that’ll make your “Antique” cheese board look truly authentic. All with the help of my longtime partner Lee Valley.

EVEN if you don’t think you’re handy, you can do this.  EVEN if you’re afraid of power tools, you can do this.  EVEN if you have no artistic instincts whatsoever, you can do this.

This is how easy it’s going to be.

(for the demonstration video I’m using new barn board pine from the lumberyard)


My Tools & Materials

A piece of 12″ x 1″ soft wood, at least 12 inches long.  (I’m using both genuine antique barn board & new barn board from the lumberyard)




Festool Palm Sander (the Mercedes of palm sanders, even made in Germany.)

Various grits of sandpaper for sander

Cotton Rags

Tack cloth

Piece of chalk

Food grade wood conditioner

Vinegar and Steel Wool stain


(for the demonstration photos I’m using a piece of old barn board)


  1.  Grab your piece of 12″ wide barn board and draw your cheese board outline on it.  You can find scads of examples of antique serving boards on Pinterest that you can use as inspiration for your shape. Cheese boards tend to be round and bread boards tend to be square or rectangular.  Just do what you think looks good.



2.  Clamp the wood to a sturdy surface like a table or workbench then cut the shape out with a jigsaw.




3.  Drill a hole into the centre of the handle if you want a hole to hang it from.  The size of the hole is up to you.  You can do something just large enough to run a piece of twine through with a regular drill bit for hanging it, or something a little bigger using a hole saw.  Or, you can have no hole at all.



4. Using a palm sander, (a Festool 125 if you’re smart enough to ask for one for Christmas) sand the face and edges of the wood. You don’t want to have nice clean cut marks. That’s a dead giveaway that you’re faking something old.  If you’re using old barn board or even barn board that’s already a bit discoloured from the lumberyard, once you cut it, the edges will look bright and new.  Bleh.  So sand and round out the edges.

Decrease the grit of sandpaper you’re using.  Start with 80 grit, move to 120 brit and sand again, and finally sand with a 180  grit.



5.  Blow off the sawdust from the wood and then use a piece of tack cloth to remove the rest of it.



6.  Now the fun part of ageing your new wood, or ageing the newly cut edges of your old wood begins.  If you’re using old wood, brush the newly cut edges with your mixture of vinegar and steel wool.    If you’re using new wood, brush the whole board including the edges. Let dry. The reason I want you to use this technique to stain the wood and not a regular stain is because a) it perfectly replicates aged wood and b) it’s completely food safe.

Alternately, you can skip the vinegar and steel wool and just condition the wood with your food safe wood finish, which will darken the wood and give it a glow.  Don’t forget the newly cut edges!





The better your tools the easier your projects will be. Seriously.

Knots are harder to cut through than regular wood, so when you get to them just be prepared.

Soft woods like pine, fir and spruce are much easier to work with than hard woods like oak, maple or walnut, but scar more easily with cut marks.

Take a good look at the wood.  It’ll tell you what to do with it.

Your chalk line will be thicker than your cut line.  Remember which side of your chalk to cut on to make your board the right size.

If you’re new and unsure of yourself with woodworking tools like a jigsaw, make a cutting board with only straight lines.  Curves are harder, so the straight lines will build up your confidence.

Don’t forget to round off any newly cut edges.

Don’t try to cut anything without clamping it down first.  Ever. Just trust me on this.

To make newer wood look like an older cutting/cheese board scar it using a knife or pizza cutter.


I made cutting boards out of 3 different materials.  Genuinely old barn board, new pine and barn board with lots of scarring and knots from the lumberyard that already looked a tiny bit aged.


There are plusses and minuses to working with both but my favourite was the lumberyard barn board that looked a bit aged.  It had the most character, best colour after conditioning and you can actually use it for food, unlike genuine barn board which I would advise against.  Because ick. The board with the big crack in it is the new barn board from the lumberyard.

I cannot get over what a huge difference using this sander made.  My own palm sander is a medium priced sander that I got at my local hardware store and after 10 minutes of using it my hand is numb from the vibrating.  NUMB.  Plus not a lot of stuff has been sanded away, and only the edges of the palm sander seem to really work. The centre of the palm sander doesn’t appear to do anything for some reason.

So when they asked if I’d feature the Festool sander for this post I said sure.  I didn’t really expect there to be any difference.  There was a difference.  There was a big difference.  I was using the Festool ETS 125 palm sander, but they have a bunch of different ones depending on just how serious you are about your woodworking.  My hand did not go numb after using it for hours. At all.  If you’ve ever used a palm sander you know that’s just craziness.   I have no idea how Festool does it.  The ENTIRE pad worked and sanded, not just the edges.  The dust bag ACTUALLY worked.  As in, … shock of all shocks … it collected sawdust.  which is a surprisingly rare quality in a dust collector.

I remember being in Lee Valley with a friend of mine this summer and he pointed out the Festool wall in the store and he said THOSE are the ultimate woodworking tools.  Yup.  Yes they are.

They’re the big cheese.

Make sure you come back here in exactly one week for a $250 giveaway from Lee Valley.


  1. Paula says:

    Very cool!

  2. Jennie Lee says:

    They’re really nice, Karen. Just FYI–a lot of Americans are in shock and mourning, right now. We might not have the heart for cheese boards. Or much else. For a good while.

    • Paula says:

      You aren’t the only ones…

      • Jennie Lee says:

        Thanks. I don’t want to use up Karen’s space, but we’re not all like him. Honest.

        • Flash says:

          We will survive.

        • Jennie Lee says:

          I can’t leave your statement like that. Many, many will quite literally not survive this. I’ve just spent hours on a website trying to help people cope with depression and suicidal ideation. And the avowed immediate purpose of the president-elect is, among other things, to do away with our healthcare. I’ll lose mine, but I’m not really sick. People who require drugs for things like cancer will not get them, and will die. This is no joke. I’ve been up all night. I’ve seen a lot of “my” candidates lose. This is different. The only thing I’ve felt like this in my 63 year life is when my “significant other” of 26 years left me. This will set our country back 50 years.

        • whitequeen96 says:

          I couldn’t have said it better. 🙁

  3. Debbie from Illinois says:

    Good stuff Karen!

  4. Mark says:

    There is a real difference in tool performance through reduced vibration. A friend has a Bosch jigsaw and it is so much smoother and easier to use than my (yellow-branded) model…

    • Karen says:

      I also have a Bosch jigsaw Mark and owned a couple others before it. It’s fantastic. LOVE it. Of course, I haven’t tried the Festool jigsaw, lol. It was really interesting to see that there was no vibration with the palm sander. Like, none. I didn’t even know that was possible with a palm sander. ~ karen!

  5. LOVE LOVE LOVE this idea!
    It is such a good idea that now I am planning on making a batch of these and, along with a loaf of homemade bread, give them as Christmas gifts! It’s midnight, but I am not going to bed without finding a bottle, some vinegar, steel wool and getting my stain cooking!
    Just an FYI to anyone unfamiliar with Lee Valley…Lee Valley is an excellent company, well run, honest and with excellent customer service. I SO look forward to receiving their catalogs…it’s as exciting as when the Sears toy catalog was delivered before Christmas (yes, I am that old). Lee Valley always has something new. Always something I just have to have.
    Thanks, Karen for such a fun project

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Susan! If you love getting their catalogue then, you’re going to reallyyyyy like Monday’s giveaway post. 😉 ~ karen!

    • Cred says:

      Blogs need ‘like’ buttons like FB.
      I love your idea for cheese/bread boards with a homemade loaf as gifts.
      (Thumbs up)

      • MaggieB says:

        And I would like to add to that – what an excellent idea – maybe not this year but definitely for next (going on the list) – or even what a cool idea to do the board and homemade bread for a housewarming gift. In Germany it is typical to give bread (never know hunger), salt (life have flavour), coin (for good fortune) – typically these 3 are given together – and then wine (prosperity and good cheer), broom (to keep house clean, or sweep away bad spirits), honey (sweetness in life) and candles (light and happiness).

        • whitequeen96 says:

          What a lovely tradition! I’ll have to keep that in mind; maybe even for New Year’s Day. Thanks for the info!

  6. Wisconsin Gal says:

    I’m an American. I feel like we just bought everyone a ticket on Dr. Strangelove’s bomb to the end of the world. I apologize. Great sanders aren’t on my mind.

    • Marie Anne says:

      Wish I knew what to say in comfort.

    • Kim from Milwaukee says:

      I’m with ya….so frustrated with this country right now….how the heck does someone as idiotic as him even run, let alone WIN???? I’m stupefied. I feel like Biff just got elected and we have to see his ugly face in a nightmare for the next 4 years. We’re living in Idiocracy.

      • Pam says:

        Ditto. It’s the nightmare that won’t end for four years. I’m trying to move towards acceptance, but it’s hard to get over the shock, anger, fear and sadness to get there.

  7. Takia says:

    Wow! Those are beautiful! I am in the process of building a new kitchen in my 1870’s home and I so see a project with some wood that was discovered in the rafters hanging on my freshly exposed brick!!!

  8. Jacquie says:

    You say that weirdo cheese haters could make it as a bread board. Sorry but people who don’t like cheese don’t deserve to have nice things 🙂

  9. Maggie Van Sickle says:

    I have a handmade board that an old friend made me years ago. I love it. It is a bit worse for the wear as it is so old but still works. Good job ás usual Karen

  10. trish oriordan says:

    I can’t even read this. Trump is our president and I can’t breathe. They look nice though.

  11. bill keiser says:

    Sometimes sanding part of the piece will make it VERY smooth, and the wood will look fresher/lighter. You can work on those smooth parts with a wire wheel. An angle grinder with the wheel is the best way, but you can get small ones that will chuck right into a drill motor.

  12. Julie says:

    Love the rustic look of these boards! Love to have one of those sanders, but not after looking at price! FYI…Lee Valley is our favourite store!

  13. Eileen says:

    hi Karen,
    any houses for sale in your neighborhood? Don’t need much, just space for me, maybe a couple of kitties, and my craft stash.
    Oh… and the cheese boards are cool.

  14. Sabina says:

    Another awesome tutorial, thanks Karen! Can’t wait to check out the sander also!

  15. Flash says:

    Is the sander election or air driven? I don’t eat dairy due to the treatment of the cows but this will make great presents for my bread baking buddies

  16. Gretchen Sexton says:

    Love the rosemary sprig on the board! (And that’s my favorite one too…)
    Great idea!

  17. Attygreen13 says:

    Dearest Karen,
    I feel like we’ve known each other forever. I’ve been a devoted reader of your blog for YEARS. I’ve cried with you, laughed with you, hated Brussels sprouts with you, even sympathy-stuffed potato chips in my mouth with you. So I hope that I’m not too forward in asking, seeing as how you live in Canada, if you might not have a spare room for a fellow potato-chip-lover who’s looking to flee her homeland due to political unrest. Think of it: I love to decorate, I will finish half the snack bag so you don’t have to, and we can laugh/cry on the same couch, instead of miles away. Much easier to wipe each other’s drool that way. Anyhoo, think about it. Holler.

    • Karen says:

      Dear Atty. Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. 🙂 Although apparently no one thinks so since the immigration to Canada website has crashed. ~ karen!

  18. Heather S says:

    Thank you for the great, detailed and uplifting post!! Usually I read your posts at my coffee break! I save them?.
    I decided I needed something fun and uplifting this morning to get going….
    Someday I will buy that festool palm sander! My husband has been borrowing a festool tracksaw from a good friend. Such quality tools!

    We bought a Miele dishwasher last year and I truly love it!! No more pre cleaning dishes!!! Yeah!!!

    • Penley says:

      I can’t believe how much I love my Miele dishwasher. It’s ridiculous. It has that top slider draw bit for cutlery instead of the basket and it has been a bloody game changer. Love it. Also can’t believe I have feelings either way about my dishwasher!

  19. Laurie says:

    They’re beautiful Karen! As an aside, my heart goes out to our American friends. I’ve never been so happy to be Canadian, and I was pretty happy about it before!

  20. Melissa says:

    Awesomely beautiful!

  21. Mindy says:

    My husband and I made a collection of these out of bamboo for my sister a few years ago. They turned out beautiful.

  22. Heather Yung says:

    What timing! I was making cutting boards for Christmas gifts, but I think I will go this route instead. I love, LOVE the look of the board with the crack in it! I would have normally passed on a piece of wood like that…from now on I will see the beauty in the wood instead! Going to go make a bunch of these to keep myself busy; as an American I am feeling absolutely sick . Thanks for reminding me there is still beauty in something “ugly”. (At least the wood isn’t “orange tinted”. :o) Have a great day!

    • Karen says:

      Oh yes, you have to look for the bad boards that no one else wants. 🙂 Those are the ones that make the most beautiful things. ~ karen!

  23. Connie says:

    Absolutely love this idea but I must say, in all my years of going to Estate Sale, Garage Sales, and Antique store, I have never seen old cheese boards.
    I must get going on this idea straight away.

  24. Shauna says:

    The pro5 orbital sander has sold out – I wonder if that’s due to your post. It’s the least expensive one and within reason to spend, so I wouldn’t be surprised. $545.00 is a bit too rich for me (the one you used), but you’ve definitely sold the benefits of it to me. All the reasons you state for not liking your usual sander is all the reasons I don’t like mine.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Shawna! That’s a mistake on my part. The sander that I used is $275. It’s the 125. If you click on the very first photo in my blog post it should take you to the correct sander. Still not cheap but not $600, LOL.

  25. You’ve done it again: Amazed me! Love your blog. It’s the only one I’m genuinely happy to find in my inbox. Might even try making that beautiful board. Thanks. 🙂

  26. Cred says:

    Love these, Karen. Beautiful.
    I love the leather lace just wrapped around the handle of the board, on one.

  27. Stephbo says:

    The older I get, the more I realize that you really do get what you pay for. These boards are such a great idea! I think I see Christmas gifts in the future!

  28. Jo says:

    My Sympathy for our American Friends. Making Canadian Bread Boards may help with the shock you must all be feeling. I think it will help me. Great Post Karen! Thank You Very Much!

  29. Mary W says:

    Another great post – thanks Karen. Love the idea and easiness of it. I LOVE cheese (born in Wisc.) and think a cheese, fruit, and cracker tray would be an excellent gift or party take-along. The tray could be the hostess gift for a weekend stay with friends. Many useful ideas with this. I also think that you could make a LOT of money by renting out your spare bedroom. The first thing I thought after the results were called – I’m moving to Canada – and moving in with you would be like getting your blog in 3-D. (LO) I would put LOL but don’ t have the energy or heart for the full LOL. Thanks again for your DIY, Mary in Florida!

  30. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Just what ya’ll need up there Karen…a bunch of depressed Americans…lol…forgive me but if I don’t laugh I might come running very fast past the border patrol screaming loudly…I like the cracked one best…it’s full of character!!!…now somebody up there…please save us!!

  31. Sarah says:

    Um, how do you keep your nails looking so perfect while cutting, sanding, and staining? All I do these days is grade papers (and nervously chew my cuticles), but my nails look all sorts of rapid and weirdly shaped. (I have the saddest nails.)

    • Sarah says:

      I should have led with the fact that I love the new(?) cheese board. Your nails were just so distracting!

    • Karen says:

      LOL. I knew I was making a video and taking pictures so I did them RIGHT before I shot the video and took photos and they’re still a bit messed up. Although I can say I do sometimes use Sally Hanson’s Miracle Gel (you can read my post on it here) and even though it doesn’t last even close to the length of time it claims to it does last longer than regular nail polish. ~ karen!

  32. Sonya says:

    Love the simplicity of the boards!

    Not every American is distraught over the election. We are Ready to take our small business to next level, leaving behind regulations that constrict. More money for us more jobs for Americans and more money to spend on diy?

    • Diane says:

      Thank you Sonya! I am a proud American and our newly elected President will see to it that we are once again a great nation. I also agree that small businesses are ready for growth, not strangled with regulations and high taxes.

  33. Leslie in Hampton says:

    I love this!! I am going to make some for Christmas presents for sure. Thanks Karen!!

  34. Amy says:

    Awesome project! I cut and sanded 4 different shapes this morning before work. I can’t wait for my vinegar/steel wool magic to get properly marinated.

    • Karen says:

      Oh good! Upload a picture when they’re done! And try one without the vinegar and steel wool mixture. The natural wood with just board butter looks great too. That’s what the board with the big crack in it is. 🙂 ~ karen!

  35. Karin Sorensen says:

    hand numb after using it for a long time. check!
    only uses the edge of the sander. check!
    duster bag doesn’t really do anything. check!
    Darn it, looks like i need a new sander….

    thanks Karen for once again enriching my life and telling me things i didn’t know i needed to know.


  36. Shelagh says:

    I will definitely check out the Festool line of sanders…I can only do about 30 minutes at a time as I have arthritis in both hands. Is there an equally good sander that doesn’t suck up the dust? I don’t want to scare all you woodworkers but wet felters also use older sanders for vibrating the fibres in wet wool so that they felt faster. As I currently wet felt with my arthritic hands only and can only work for short periods of time …anything that will hasten the process with less stress to my hands would be very welcome. Any thoughts? Thanks!

  37. Marti says:

    Yessirree. $10 worth of wood. $275 worth of sander.
    Because that’s how I roll. (Actually, I normally am this stupid, as you may recall, but it has to be unprompted, from the heart of my stupidity to get that to happen.)

    I’m going back to my knitting now.
    Because I’m most of the way done with all this year’s presents.
    And then next year, I can make cutting boards for everyone.

    • Karen says:

      Yup. That’s the way I roll. Actually they loaned me the $275 sander (which I think I’ve managed to keep) and an $800 palm sander! I didn’t even try it because I knew I’d absolutely have to return that one. Why taste prime rib when it’ll just make everything else in your life seem like rotten blood sausage?? ~ k!

  38. Amy says:

    Finally completed some boards!

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