The edge on your knife is extremely thin and the steel very hard, this is the key to what makes Japanese knives so sharp. This does of course mean that you need to consider what you're cutting your ingredients on and a quality cutting board will help protect your blade and help keep the edge sharp for longer.
There are a number of different types of wooden boards and they're not all the same!
End grain cutting boards
The superior board of all the available wood boards is the end grain cutting board. Made from hard woods including cherry, maple, cedar, walnut and teak and traditionally used in the manufacture of butchers' blocks, end grain boards are glued pieces of wood with the grain perpendicular to the surface of the board. This allows the wood fibres to absorb the impact of the knife blade by allowing it to go between the wood fibres.
This prevents the edge of the blade rolling, denting or chipping and therefore preserving the sharpness of the blade. Any cuts to the board soon "heal" up when wiped down with a damp cloth, the grain swells a little to repair itself.
The thickness of an end grain board is usually over 4cm high, this enables the board to be resurfaced many times. The thickness also provides stability and a tough durable surface.
Edge or Long Grain boards
In comparison to end grain, these are manufactured with pieces of hard wood with the wood fibres running parallel to the surface of the board. These boards are much easier to make and are therefore cheaper but offer a reasonable option if you're not quite able to stretch to an end grain board.
Good quality end and edge grain boards are manufactured with food grade glue and finished with non toxic oils. Olive and vegetable oils are not suitable as they turn rancid, tainting food. You will need to re-oil your board periodically. Instructions should come with any good board.
Wooden boards often can't be used in commercial kitchens and so a quality synthetic board is the only alternative.
Fortunately, there are a range of excellent synthetic boards from manufacturers such as Parker Asahi, Hasegawa and others. They provide a forgiving surface that again helps protect your knife blade when it comes into contact and they're easier to clean and maintain in a professional environment.
They're also designed for home use and provide an excellent alternative to wooden boards.
It is very important to note the difference between a high quality synthetic board and a cheap plastic board is like night and day. The high quality boards typically have a rubberised cutting surface of some sort which allows for better grip of your produce and a more forgiving area for your knife to land on when each slice is completed.
What to avoid!
Quite simply, if you want to protect your knife avoid:
❌ Cheap plastic
❌ Cutting on a plate or worktop
Ultimately, the work surface your knife makes contact with every day can be a part of your knife protection and care routine or dull your blade quickly (or worse) so take care when choosing.
If we can help guide your choice, as always - please don't hesitate to ask.