End grain cutting boards are highly desired among chefs and homeowners around the world from a few key properties that they posses.
To understand these properties let’s imagine wood on a microscopic level. At this level end grain can be imagined as a bundle of straw. The fibers of the wood are all facing upward and this directionality gives us the properties that are so valuable in end grain cutting boards. Since the grain is pointed upwards, it will essentially ‘absorb’ any cuts or scratches on the surface. Going back to our analogy of a bundle of straw, the knife will separate the straw, but it will move back together when the cut is finished.
This property is even more noticeable with proper cutting board maintenance. When you reapply a finish that penetrates the wood, it will help to bring the grains of wood nearly back to their original structure. For all my end grain cutting boards, I use Howards butcher block conditioner, a food-safe combination of mineral oil and beeswax that does an excellent job of restoring and protecting the wood. Depending on use, I reaply the butcher block conditioner every 2-4 weeks with a soft cloth.
However there are a few cons to end grain cutting boards. They come at a much higher cost that their side grain counterparts due to the difficult process of making them. They are very time consuming to make and if you don't have a lot of experience in the woodshop, they can be frustrating.
Summary of the process (I will write an article on this in the near future):
The main difficulty of the process is the lamination of the end grain and the process of surfacing it. Many quickly realize that you will get horrible tearout feeding an end grain cutting board through a planer- unless you have a helical cutterhead on your planer. This can be solved by using a router sled or a drum sander if you don't want to buy a $3000 planer. Router sleds are the cheaper option but a drum sander is an outstanding investment if you are going to be making a lot of end grain cutting boards. I personally own a Supermax drum sander that does a beautiful job of surfacing my cutting boards. Rasing the grain is also a critical process, and can be seen in an article I wrote- How to Raise The Grain of Wood | Woodworking Tips & Tricks
With proper care of an end grain cutting board, it can quite literally last a lifetime. The combination of durability and visual appeal they posses make them highly desirable. Below are some images of end grain cutting boards I've made. To buy one of your own, go the my shop.
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Owner of Woodworking by Asher