As usual, click any photo to bring up a larger version.
I needed a present for a family wedding and I decided that a barbecue platter would be a nice option. (barbecue or bbq? Which do you prefer?)
So what is the difference between a barbecue platter and a cutting board? It's true that they are similar to cutting boards. However, to me, there are two main differences.
First, I make them thinner, as they don't need to be that thick to carry a grilled steak inside from the barbecue! I aim for a thickness of about one half inch. Second, I also add a "juice groove" to hold the meat juices.
First, gather up your scraps!
This project provides an excellent excuse to clean up all those skinny too-nice-to-throw-out wood scraps. Also, once you set up to make one, you might as well make two or three. I pull out all the scraps I have and lay them out and sort them by species and thickness and so on.
From left to right, ROUGHLY, I've got Ash, White Oak, Padauk, Teak, More Padauk, More White Oak, More Walnut, More Ash, Cherry, and Maple. And there are more pieces not in the photo. I love putting different strips together!
First, I joint and plane any strips that I need to, and rip them down to a more manageable thickness. I like to work with lots of thin strips of varying colours, so some of my strips will be one to two inches thick and some will be as thin as a sixteenth of an inch.
Here is my first platter in clamps.
I arrange all the strips in a pleasing manner and start gluing them up. These platters were all mostly symmetric, but that is not a hard and fast rule. All the thin strips make it more complicated to glue up, but the result is worth it.
My wood was varying thicknesses, so I had a lot of planing to do to bring the boards down to a nice thickness. I make my BBQ platters fairly thin -- roughly 1/2" thick, or thereabouts. Remember, these are not intended to be cutting boards! I use these just to bring the meat in from the barbecue after grilling. So they do not need to stand up to chopping.
The platters are then trimmed to length. My planer can handle up to thirteen inches of width, so that is my maximum width. For length I go with something in the sixteen to eighteen inch range.
After trimming the corners on the bandsaw, I clean up the edges on my Homemade Disc Sander.
An important touch are the juice grooves to catch and hold the meat juices. Typically I would make a template and use a template routing bit to cut the grooves. But then all your bbq platters need to be the exact same size. Instead I experimented with freehanding it on some scrap using a router edge guide on my trim router, and it seemed to work. Yes, I'm taking a chance that I will slip when going around the corner, but hey, I'm a woodworker, I could fix it!
But I did not slip. I just worked slow and kept a solid grip on the router, keeping firm pressure against the edge of the wood, and being very careful at turning the corners. Needless to say this method would not work if you had 90-degree corners!
(A CNC machine would be another option, and I do own one. Unfortunately, the spindle head on mine is fairly underpowered and not really suitable to this amount of carving, in my view. As in many aspects of woodworking, there are many ways to accomplish the same goal!)
I filed a small notch in one of the corners. This is an experiment for me -- the idea is that here is a place where we can drain the meat juices, if needed. I later added this to my own BBQ platter and found that it works fairly well.
And here are some final "glamour shots" of my finished platters. I ended up making three of them.
I use Clapham's Salad Bowl finish on my platers, (and also on cutting boards). It is totally food safe: A mixture of Beeswax and Mineral Oil. It smells like honey when you wipe it on.
Bonus Steak Photo...
(This is actually a five year old photo of my own BBQ Platter when it was new. These new ones have not seen use yet.)
Thanks for reading!