Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why it's called a Bread Board End

     Everybody knows what a breadboard is and many of you have probably heard of the bread board end but let me take this blog as a way to explain it.  The bread board that came with our house was simply a piece of Baltic Birch plywood with an Oak cleat nailed on to match the cabinets -- badda boom badda bing, slap it together and you're done!  Well, let's go to the traditional route.
     This bread board is made up of three pieces of hard Maple.  To conceal the unattractive end grain, another piece is applied to the end of the board.  Since this piece is placed against the end of the others you have to take the wood movement into consideration.  The main boards have the grain running perpendicular to that front piece which can be a problem.  It needs to have room to expand or contract depending on the atmospheric conditions.  That's accomplished by cutting a tongue on the end of the board and a groove in the center of the piece placed on the end, here's the end:

Piece of the End of Breadboard
    I used a small plunge router with a 1/4" straight bit to cut this groove.  Notice the deeper sections towards the ends?  This is where the full length tongues will go.  Don't want the tongues to be too wide either.  I plan on using a knob on this board as well, that's what the hole in the center is for.

Breadboard & Breadboard End

     Here's what you have going on.  A 1/2" rabbeting bit was used with a router to create the tongue on the end of the board.  It's full length for about 1/8 in depth and then the tongues are 1/2" deep.  I've darkened in the areas that will need to be cut away.  Remember my power tool for grunt work and hand tools to refine it philosophy?  I'll use a bandsaw to waste away most of this, then:

Chisel to Square Corners
           And .....

Rabbet Plane to Fine Tune the Tongue

     Now, all of this may seem like a lot of effort and work just to make a board that will be cut up when slicing bread, tomatoes, chicken, etc. but it's these little touches that separates mass produced, make a quick buck product from one made to the highest standard.  Like Diane says, it's going to be hard to take a knife to this thing but it must be done!  Kind of like buying a new pick up and getting that first scratch in the bed when you're hauling rocks -- it's inevitable.
     Here's a little rant, as I thought about how that piece of Birch ply with the Oak cleat was serviceable for all these years I too questioned why go to all of this trouble.  It's all about the process involved and using your mind to solve the issues.  It's sad to me that people who do work in the wood industry have probably never been exposed to the issues involved to make this "simple" breadboard.  Look at this:

What it Took
     The end of the breadboard is pretty complex.  The pencil and ruler were needed to locate the joint after the brain had figured out how to do it.  The chisels were needed to refine it and cut that little recess on the tongue for the screw.  The small carving chisel (center) rounded out the recess for the screw head to fit in to and the rabbet plane brought the tongue to thickness so that it fit neatly into the groove.  The small router plane was needed for the thin part of the tongue where the rabbet plane was difficult to balance.
     Know what though?  One person could have programmed a CNC machine to do all of those processes and a minimum wage flunky could have fastened the board in place on that machine!  Each board would be spit out faster than I could accomplish the lay out!
     Progress and technology is a good thing but I've always said: "it can suck your brains out!"  Hopefully there are enough folks like me around that want to share this craft and keep it going.  Next will be shaping of the front piece and finishing.


  1. wow, didn't realize how complex that can be. for some reason, the "they" around here say we cannot put breadboards in kitchen cabinets anymore!. mine are used for cutting dry things ans are my extended counter space when canning, etc. don't ever want to give them up.

  2. I very much admire your abilities and your philosophy of holding on to the skills and crafts that got is where we are today. As you know John, when the zombie apocalypse is upon us, I'm looking to you to help us survive!!!

    1. Ah yes, the Zombie Apocalypse, didn't we mention that at lunch! The thing that concerns me is that the schools aren't teaching those basic thinking skills -- just how to click your mouse! Showing my age but remember the thing when calculators first became prevalent? Went something like this, a young person does it by hand then checks with the calculator while the older (more experienced) user may use the calculator but then double check it by hand!!