Cracks in Maple Butcher Block...Please Help

Discussion in 'Cooking Equipment Reviews' started by ilovecookie, Jan 28, 2014.

  1. ilovecookie

    ilovecookie

    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    I purchased a 30"L x 30"W x 16" Thick Monarch Chopping Block recently from MMB (through a local restaurant equipment store). MMB had it in stock, so they shipped it to my local store, who then delivered it to me right away (ten days ago). When it was delivered, I noticed that some joints in the front appeared dark (almost black), but felt smooth -- I guess these might have been cracks but had been filled in. All the joints on the top and the sides looked tight, so I accepted the delivery, and have been oiling it once a day since then, with Emmet’s Elixir Butcher Block Oil. I haven't used it for cutting.

    http://www.butcherblock.com/shop/monarch-12-end-grain-chopping-block/

    Now it started to show real joint cracks on the front and back. I think these joints are the same ones as those which had been filled previously. The longest joint crack is in the front; it goes from the bottom of the block all the way up to the top, and I can see the corresponding crack on the top, which was not there on the day of delivery.

    What could I do to prevent further cracks? The house has been really dry lately (16%-24% humidity), due to the cold weather and central heating. I have lowered the thermostat to 60F most of the time, and put a freestanding humidifier next to the block. The humidifier has been running non-stop for two days, but it's unable to increase the humidity by much.

    Should I fill the existing cracks immediately with wood filler or beeswax? The care instruction I received from MMB says to use wood filler, but the online resources suggest beeswax. If I use wood filler, what kind should I use? I assume it should be a food-grade filler? Also, some of the Emmet’s Elixir Butcher Block Oil that I applied probably has got into the cracks. Do I need to clean the oil out of cracks before applying the filler?
     

    I would highly appreciate any suggestions. Thank you very much!

    Edit to add:

    Attached is the care instruction I got from MMB.

     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2014
  2. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,333
    Likes Received:
    83
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    I'd return it for a refund.  Something like that should never happen to a block under usual circumstances.

    Secondly, you can make your own b'block oil using a mixture of mineral oil (found at most hardware stores) that will also double as honing oil for your oil stones.  To a heated pint of mineral oil I add 1 cc (you can eyeball the size) of beeswax.  Beeswax can be ordered from Amazon.com or your local beekeeper.
     
  3. ilovecookie

    ilovecookie

    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2014
  4. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,333
    Likes Received:
    83
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    PM sent.
     
  5. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,333
    Likes Received:
    83
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Not unless you're living way out in the desert which is where I'm originally from.  What's happened to yours should not be happening - even after a couple of weeks unless you've subjected it to some wierd totally wierd HVAC stuff.
     
  6. ilovecookie

    ilovecookie

    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    I am on the east coast. I don't think there is anything unusual about my HVAC stuff. The only thing that's not ideal is the low humidity when the central heating is on. I have four zones (forced air), all of which are programmed to run between 60-68F in winter; they used to run between 60-72F but I just lowered them all, trying to see if that would help increase the humidity.
     
  7. mikelm

    mikelm

    Messages:
    1,691
    Likes Received:
    37
    Exp:
    Home Chef
     'Cookie -

    You need a humidifier to keep the humidity in your house at 35 percent or a little higher.  With that level, you will be comfortable at a somewhat lower temperature, and save a little on your heating bill.

    Your cracked cutting board is not only defective, it's a health hazaqrd. (You didn't run it through the dishwasher, did you?)  Any crack is where the microbes and bacteria hang out. 

    A wood board should never crack if you take proper care of it. If the seller won't take it back, throw it away and buy a different brand.  Boos is always good, and you should contact The Boardsmith, who hangs around this site- his products have gotten some very good reviews from members here.

    There was mention of mineral oil- get it at a drugstore so it's USP;  you will be using it around food, after all.  Don't use any other kind of oil - they all sooner or later go rancid.  I've never bothered with the beeswax addition, but a lot of people like it. Oil and wipe the new board daily for the first week, weekly for the first couple of months, and then more or less monthly.  After each use, wash with hot soapy water, rinse well, towel dry, then set on edge to dry completely. It should last longer than you will...

    You might also consider using a separate board for all your meat cutting.

    Happy chopping! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif

    Mike
     
  8. ilovecookie

    ilovecookie

    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    Mike -

    It's a freestanding butcher block that weighs 450+ lbs, so no, I haven't put it in the dishwasher or soak it in the sink. The humidity should improve once I get the whole-house humidifier fixed.

    I contacted my local restaurant equipment store today, and sent them my pictures of the joint cracks. They are going to forward the pictures to the manufacturer, and will let me know in the next few days what my options are. I hope the manufacturer will accept a return so I could start over.

    Thank you for explaining the oiling procedure. I wasn't sure if I was oiling it too often, but now I am relieved.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2014
  9. mikelm

    mikelm

    Messages:
    1,691
    Likes Received:
    37
    Exp:
    Home Chef
    'Cookie-

    I apologize; obviously I didn't read your OP very carefully.  I can understand how a 450-lb block would be  little awkward in the dishwasher.  I wrote my post visualizing an ordinary kitchen board, not an industrial-size block.

    That makes my advice "just throw it away" a little too flip, too.  If the manufacturer stiffs you on a replacement, we need to discuss how to fix it. There's some pretty good woodworking experience aviailable on this site as well as the cookstuff.  If the manufacturer won't give you any help on repair - which glue, how to clamp, etc. -  bring it back and I bet we can come up with some effective ideas.

    One thing for sure, you're going to need some impressive clamps. (Which you may be able to rent.)

    Let us know, and good luck!

    Mike
     
  10. ilovecookie

    ilovecookie

    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    Mike - No problem at all; my original post was quite long!

    The manufacturer contacted me this morning. I have to admit I didn't expect them to respond this fast. They said it's a commercial meat block, not a piece of fine furniture, and it's normal for cracks to develop during dry seasons, and even if they replace it, the replacement block will be about the same. They said that once spring comes and the humidity goes up, the cracks will likely close up.

    They suggest that I fill the cracks immediately with natural-colored plastic wood, which should be available at hardware stores and home centers like Lowe's. They said the natural color will match the maple color quite well. I was also suggested to use a putty knife to apply the plastic wood filler, and then use acetone (fingernail polish remover) to get rid of the excess. I confirmed with them that I don't need to remove the oil from the cracks before applying the filler.

    My husband thinks I should try what the manufacturer suggested, because it's not going to be fun for him (and movers) to move this monster block downstairs to the ground level to return it (if I can) to the local restaurant equipment store or the manufacturer.

    Is there any food-safe plastic wood filler? I know next to nothing about building materials. Husband thinks beeswax might be a safer choice. What do you think?

    Thank you!
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2014
  11. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,333
    Likes Received:
    83
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    I'll try to remember to ask my local butcher about this one.
     
  12. mikelm

    mikelm

    Messages:
    1,691
    Likes Received:
    37
    Exp:
    Home Chef
    'Cookie-

    That's a tough one. I can tell you several FDA-approved foodsafe glues, but filler?/img/vbsmilies/smilies/confused.gif?  Don't know of such a thing (not to say it doesn 't exist, but I've never heard of such a situation.)

    Another problem occurs to me- if increased summer humidity somehow affecte the wood so it closes the gap, and you've filled that gap with something that won't compress, it seems this would set up stresses adjacent to the split as the wood tries to return to its former (unsplit) shape. (Maybe I'm overthinking this.)

    Finally, we need some inquiries to professional butchers to find out if this kind of cracking is at all common or accepted in the professional field that uses these things. I have certainly heard that such hiding places for bacteria are very bad as a general culinary rule!

    Well, I'm not much help so far, but certainly interested in helping research the problem.

    By th way, I'm assuming at least some of the cracks are in the chopping surface of the board. I suppose cracks only on the sides would be less alarming.

    Mike
     
  13. the boardsmith

    the boardsmith

    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    14
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    Cracks of any kind in a block that size from a nationally known manufacturer are entirely unacceptable in any fashion.  And to tell you that the next one will crack like that one is bordering on the absurd.  Given their reputation for high quality blocks, I would expect there is a problem with either their manufacturing procedures, glue or with the C/S rep who gave the advice.

    Filling isn't much of an option either.  I am not aware of a wood filler that would be considered food safe except for maybe a childs crayon.  But if you fill the cracks then the cracks continue to open up, you are in no better a position that you were to begin with.  Low humidity would cause the board to shrink across the entire length and width and not is just a few isolated areas.  It might swell enough  in the warmer months to close the cracks but that is doubtful.

    Sounds more like your problem is a glue related problem.  Either too much, too little or a poor quality can contribute to problems down the road.  (I had a problem with my glue last year and it was traced back to a faulty batch of glue that allowed the joints to separate.)  Once the wood has been glued, there is no way glue will stick to glue if you try to inject glue into the cracks then clamp the board.  It simply won't work and is a waste of time.  Unless you are willing to saw the joints apart, smooth out the saw marks then glue again, nothing will help much and will only be a temporary fix.

    Stand your ground and suggest strongly to the manufacturer their block is defective and needs to be replaced.  If the replacement cracks the same way, then return to block for a refund and get another brand.  Your block should not be separating like this.
     
  14. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,333
    Likes Received:
    83
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Here's a discussion comparing Boos versus Boardsmith et al cutting boards.  And in that discussion BoardSmith wins.

    (EDIT) And checkout this discussion.  BoardSmith, again, wins.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2014
  15. ilovecookie

    ilovecookie

    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    Mike - The majority of the cracks are on the sides, not the top, but yes, the top does have some. We decide not to fill the cracks, for all the good reasons you and David stated.

    David - Thank you very much for sharing your insights. I am going to talk to my local store again, about replacing / returning the block.
     
  16. the boardsmith

    the boardsmith

    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    14
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    Just saying, I am not trying to bash MMB, they are to large of a company with to good of a reputation and I am not tyring to shill for business.

    If you would be willing to send me a photo or two I would be able to give you some additional insight into the cracking problem.  You can contact me through the web site contact page and we can get a discussion going which might be able to help you.
     
  17. ilovecookie

    ilovecookie

    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    No worries; in fact, I seriously considered your cutting boards. The only reason I haven't got one of yours is, I cannot find a suface in my kitchen to place the board so that the working height is slightly lower than my 35"H countertop. When I remodel my kitchen, I will make sure there are different counter heights so I have some flexibility.

    I emailed you the same pictures that I sent to MMB via the local store. It would be great if you could take a look. Thank you very much!
     
  18. mikelm

    mikelm

    Messages:
    1,691
    Likes Received:
    37
    Exp:
    Home Chef
    I hope 'Cookie is on the way to solving this...

    Some general remarks about cutting boards-

    When my son was starting his cabinet/furniture-making business, he found that making cutting boards was a way to generate some quick cash flow. He used enough material to justify buying a semi-tralier load of hard maple cut-offs from an installer of bowling alleys! Since they were scraps, the price was right, and they were quite usable for boards.

    He also did some research, and found several technical reports from the Food Sciences Institute at the University of Wisconsin (part of  their Milwaukee branch, if I remember correctly.)  Their conclusion was that wood boards are actually more sanitary than plastic or composition ones because they absorb any small amount of uncleaned bacteria down into the pores in the wood (this doesn't include cracks) where the bacteria dies.  I gather this has not influenced many health departments with respect to restaurant kitchens, but I fee quite comfortable using the several boards that he or I have made.

    When you make a cutting board you realize just how right is Norm Abrams' observation that a woodworker can't have too many clamps!  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif

    Mike
     
  19. the boardsmith

    the boardsmith

    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    14
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    Cookie sent me the photos and I have to say I was flabbergasted.  I don't think I have ever seen anything like it.
     
  20. ilovecookie

    ilovecookie

    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    Mike - I've talked to the retail store about doing a return due to my dissatisfaction with the overall quality. The store is waiting to hear from the manufacturer about the details of the return process. The snow storm(s) on the east coast have slowed things down, but I hope the issue can be resolved by next week.

    The Boardsmith suggested that I post some pictures so that everyone else can see what I was trying to describe. Attached are pictures of the entire block, some good areas on the top and the side, as well as some not-so-good areas. The cracks are not large, but definitely noticeable in real life. I already sent the "bad" pictures to the retail store last week, who then forwarded it to the manufacturer. The manufacturer had seen these "bad" pictures before they contacted me last week. By posting the pictures here, I am not suggesting that other MMB blocks have or will have similar problems. I sincerely hope mine is the only problematic block they've sold.









     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2014