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I've made a number of cutting boards...as a rule, by laminating a bunch of boards together face-to-face, with their edge grain exposed on the top and bottom of the assembled board. Some folks prefer to make them with the end grain of the boards forming the cutting surface.
Typically, these are made using closed-grain hard woods such as cherry, maple or walnut. I don't think open grained woods such as oak are as good for these. Try alternating the boards for a striped look. Glue everything together using waterproof epoxy, polyurethane glue or two-part resorcinol glue.
For added protection against everything coming apart, I often run a 1/4" diameter, 20-pitch threaded rod through the laminated boards at both ends of the cutting board, then make a wood cap with counterbored holes on the insides that slip over the nuts on the exposed ends of the threaded rods...then glue the caps into position, covering-up the rod nuts.
Hope this info helps.
Blotchy Cherry Finish
Unfortunately, you're going to have a difficult time. Depending on the way the wood has been cut from the log, Cherry is notorious for this problem.
And, since you've used a penetrating stain such as Minwax, it's going to be very difficult to resolve the problem. Before staining a tight-grained wood such as cherry or maple, you should ALWAYS first apply a stain blocker such as PreStain (available from Woodworker's Supply --- www.woodworker.com) or a wash coat of shellac. Most readily available shellacs are of a two-pound cut variety. With a shellac such as this, you would mix it one-to-one with denatured alcohol and apply a thin coat of this mixture, then allow it to dry thoroughly prior to staining. My suggestion is that you practice with some scrap before applying it to the real mantlepiece.
The best answers I've found to this problem are in the June, 1998 issue of Fine Woodworking magazine (Issue # 130)...page 46...an article by Jeff Jewitt. Just go the Fine Woodworking website (www.finewoodworking.com), log in and access this article through the Archives area.
However, now that you have the problem, you have one of three possible solutions:
1) Plane the wood down until you're past the stain and start over. Depending on how much stain you've applied, and how long it's been on the wood, you may have to remove from 1/8" to 1/4" of the wood to get past the stained area. That's a lot, I know.
2) Apply a commercial wood bleach and start over. Unfortunately, this will remove the wonderful color and patina of the natural cherry...which you'll have to replace with some sort of stain.
3) Cover your mantlepiece with Cherry veneer
Wish I had better news for you. This is an often-encountered problem that has ruined many a project.