I have been chopping an awful lot of root vegetables making seasonal warming winter soups and stews. I recall Dieter Rams’ ten principles that include ‘good design is aesthetic’ as I look for a board with form and function. A beautiful object that we use every day can bring with it a daily dose of joy and elevate a small task from the mundane. As such I have had a roving eye out for chopping boards.
I love the simplicity, and idiosyncrasy of the boards from Hampson Woods (pictured left). Made from London Plane, and sourced directly from the arborists that have cleared once mighty trees from the city whose name they bear. Every board is unique, hand carved from rough cut pieces in sympathy with the form of the wood. Finished with olive oil, the resulting boards have a delicate beauty, perfect food platters for home, cafes, delis or restaurants. The boards with a handle are priced from £35, there are also geometric boards (245 x 140 x 17mm) priced from £25.
If Hampson Woods make best use of materials on our doorsteps, Haidee Drew‘s ‘Handled’ Chopping Boards are made of bamboo sustainably manufactured far further afield. The shape of the handles are inspired by traditional silverware from the Victoria and Albert Museum providing a decorative edge to a utilitarian product. Bamboo is a fast-growing (some species grow up to 1m a day) and can be cultivated without pesticides, it is also extremely strong, so offers great durability as a chopping board. The boards retail from £40 for a board 170mm x 335mm x 20mm.
Sustainably sourced ash and beech are the canvas for Lee Borthwick‘s Grain and Hairy series of boards. Lee strives to reveal the beauty of natural materials. Each board has been scorched using a technique called pyrography to highlight its unique grain. The boards are then oiled and ready for use as food platters, or simply as objects to provoke contemplation. Prices start from £35 for a 5inch (12.7cm) board.
For the minted version, I return to savour the work of Eleanor Lakelin, characterised by sculptural vessels and forms in wood from British trees that have been felled in the UK. Eleanor uses traditional woodturning and carving techniques with great empathy for the natural form of the wood. Sandblast, bleach or fire are then used to further tease out the grain creating fossil-like forms before finishing with natural oils. The same techniques are used to make solid wood food boards either in olive ash or sycamore. The olive ash has a deep chestnut colour with a beautiful grain. The boards (diameter 300mm or 400mm x height 50mm) are turned, lightly sandblasted and scorched around the rim before being oiled to bring out the grain. In contrast, the sycamore boards are a light, creamy colour. Also turned on the lathe, the sycamore boards have a distinctive hand carved rim with a dimpled effect. Each piece has its own story, priced at £260, for 40 x 300 x 300 mms.
Posh Salvage offer a range of chopping boards made from reclaimed teak. Prices start at £35 for the rectangular board pictured, 37 cm x 18cm, 3cm thick. Teak has long been used for general construction and boat building in Java, Indonesia because of its strength and durability. Now new infrastructure built from concrete and steel is replacing the old plantation grown teak. Long planks are salvaged to make furniture with off cuts and smaller pieces suitable for chopping boards. Some of the pieces have some even have hand carved graffiti, if not the Posh Salvage range includes boards decorated with wholesome reminders that you are what you eat.
By way of complete contrast, TopGourmet, supplier to the catering industry, produces very understated, functional chopping boards made of Richlite. Richlite is a paper-based fibre composite made from FSC-certified and post-consumer waste paper content. The boards are dishwasher safe and heat resistant to 180c and priced from £14.50 for a 150mmx200mm board.
It seems inevitable that most of the boards are made of wood. Wood has wonderful aesthetic, tactile and renewable qualities, and with a little care it is extremely durable. I was expecting a few surprises in terms of alternative materials, but may be they are yet to come.
Picture credits: Lee Borthwick, Haidee Drew, Eleanor Lakelin, Hampson Woods, Posh Salvage, Top Gourmet