Building blocks: A contractor-turned-craftsman churns out custom goods for cooks.

Clay Greneveld’s chopping blocks feature hardwoods carefully woven into repeating patterns, like chevrons, and highlighted with exotic woods, like sassafras. Photo: Morgan Sayler Clay Greneveld’s chopping blocks feature hardwoods carefully woven into repeating patterns, like chevrons, and highlighted with exotic woods, like sassafras. Photo: Morgan Sayler

After retiring from the construction business, Clay Greneveld couldn’t sit still, so he launched a second career as a custom craftsman. For a short while he made pen sets, using acrylic and wood, but he found the work too fussy and the profits marginal.

Now, three years into his new venture, Greneveld has discovered his groove, creating chopping blocks and large serving pieces—such as Lazy Susans, platters, and bowls —in his Louisa woodshop. In fact, he’s got a full-time job on his hands. Greneveld’s business, Fox Haven Originals, is growing steadily through sales on his website and Etsy, as well as at craft fairs and Lake Anna Outfitters, in Mineral, Virginia.

Almost all of his hardwood creations are built-to-order. Greneveld sources rough-sawn wood from area mills or harvests materials from his own land, milling the pieces to dimension in-house. “I just had some trees drop, and I’m waiting for ’em to dry out,” he says. “I like to keep it local.”

Greneveld’s chopping blocks feature hardwoods carefully woven into repeating patterns, like chevrons, and highlighted with exotic woods, like sassafras. Instead of building handles into his pieces, he angles the lower edge so the blocks are easily lifted from a countertop. The blocks are typically about an inch-and-a-half thick.

The wood fragments that make up the blocks are joined with food-grade glue, and the finished products are tough. “I’ve tried to break them,” he says. “I took a few hammers to the joints, and the only place they broke was right in the grain of the wood.”

Prior to delivery, Greneveld treats his chopping blocks with mineral oil and beeswax, a jar of which comes with each piece. He recommends using the concoction about once a month to condition the wood.

Greneveld has sold chopping blocks to customers of all types—from “dishwashers to judges,” he says—who share an appreciation for his culinary craftsmanship. But the biggest fan of his work may be his wife, which is a good thing for Greneveld. “She is such a great cook,” he says. “I can’t even cook a steak right.”

His three favorite woods

Black walnut “The color of the grain is mostly black, but the wood has beautiful highlights—dark- and light-brown, yellow, and even red.”

Cherry “I love the color, which is red, as you’d imagine. The grain pattern varies from thin lines to thick ones.”

Maple “It’s light-colored, sort of blond, and contrasts nicely with the walnut and cherry. The grain pattern is long and parallel, and usually consistent down the length of the board.”

Fox Haven Originals, (804) 205-0288, foxhavenoriginals.com