Steps // How to Make an End-Grain Cutting Board
1 ×

Overview

 
Step One // How to Make an End-Grain Cutting Board

Overview

overview illustration of end-grain cutting board
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Tom’s plan was to slice this rough-sawn scrap into strips and assemble them into a cutting board with the wood grain running vertically. This creates an attractive mosaic that also serves a practical purpose. “On edge-grain cutting boards, every knife nick shows,” Tom says. “But when a knife blade hits end grain, the fibers separate. The board is undamaged and the blade stays sharp.” Even better, the pine’s high resin content makes it naturally antibacterial.

You can pay $100 or more for a similar end-grain cutting board. Or spend a few enjoyable hours in the shop building your own one-of-a-kind piece. If that sounds like an appealing use of your time, just follow the steps ahead.

 
2 ×

Find the Right Scrap

 
Step Two // How to Make an End-Grain Cutting Board

Find the Right Scrap

Kevin O'Connor and Tom Silva look at some salvaged longleaf pine
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

This 2-inch-thick plank of salvaged longleaf pine—about 3 feet long and 1 foot wide—provides all the wood needed for this project. Run it through a planer to flatten both faces, then use a miter saw to crosscut it into two equal pieces and to square up the ends.

 
3 ×

Rip Into Strips

 
Step Three // How to Make an End-Grain Cutting Board

Rip Into Strips

Tom Silva cuts strips with a table saw
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Use a table saw to trim the weathered wood from either side of each board. Next, rip the boards into strips that are the same thickness on all four sides, as shown. A push stick helps keep fingers safe.

“As we worked on this project, the wood’s lovely aroma filled the entire shop,” Kevin says.

 
4 ×

Alternate the Grain

 
Step Four // How to Make an End-Grain Cutting Board

Alternate the Grain

alternating the grain on wood strips for an end-grain cutting board
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Place the strips on a workbench and divide them into two groups. Turn each strip so that the direction of the end grain varies from one strip to the next. This ensures that the finished block won’t cup or split when the wood gets wet and dries out.

 
5 ×

Glue

 
Step Five // How to Make an End-Grain Cutting Board

Glue

gluing the strips for an end-grain cutting board
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Set aside one strip in each group and turn the others a quarter turn counterclockwise. Apply and spread the glue on the turned strips, as Tom is doing, first with an acid brush, then with a stick. Rotate each strip back a quarter turn, then place each set-aside strip against the exposed glue on one side of each assembly.

 
6 ×

Clamp, Then Cut

 
Step Six // How to Make an End-Grain Cutting Board

Clamp, Then Cut

Kevin O'Connor looks on as Tom Silva clamps the glued strips together for an end-grain cutting board
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Clamp the assembled strips into two panels; use a damp rag to wipe up any glue that squeezes out. When the glue is dry, in an hour or so, clamp a stop to the miter-saw table 2 inches from the blade. Trim the panel ends. Butt an end against the stop as you cut each panel into identically sized strips.

 
7 ×

Stagger the Strips

 
Step Seven // How to Make an End-Grain Cutting Board

Stagger the Strips

staggering the strips for an end-grain cutting cutting board
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Place all the strips so the end grain faces up. Shift each one sideways so that the glue joints in each strip are offset from the ones in the neighboring strips. Use the same gluing technique as in Step 5 to make a single panel, and glue a sacrificial 2x to each end. Clamp the panel and 2xs for about an hour.

 
8 ×

True the Edges, Plane the Faces

 
Step Eight // How to Make an End-Grain Cutting Board

True the Edges, Plane the Faces

Tom Silva runs an end-grain cutting board through a benchtop planer
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Use a circular saw and edge guide to trim one side square to the ends. Trim the other side with a table saw. Now run the board through the planer to smooth out the faces. The 2xs prevent the ends from chipping. After planing, slice them off with the miter saw.

On using a thickness planer
Metal check.
Before you start, make sure the board you’re planing has no embedded nails. They can ruin planer knives.
This end first. If the grain on the board’s side has a slope, feed the board into the planer beginning with the end that the grain slopes down toward. Feeding it the other way may tear the surface rather than smooth it.
This side down. If the board is cupped from side to side, place the concave side against the planer table and flatten the convex side first. Then plane the concave side.
Just a little at a time. Set the planer depth to remove only about 1⁄16 inch of wood at a time. That enables the planer blades to spin at a high rpm for a smoother surface.

 
9 ×

Rout the Edges

 
Step Nine // How to Make an End-Grain Cutting Board

Rout the Edges

rounding over the edges of an end-grain cutting board with a router
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Using a router, round over each vertical corner, then rout a cove in the board’s top and bottom edges, as shown. The cove makes the board easier to pick up. Smooth all sides with a random-orbit sander, starting with 100-grit sandpaper and finishing with 320 grit.

 
10 ×

Coat with Oil

 
Step Ten // How to Make an End-Grain Cutting Board

Coat with Oil

Kevin O'Connor coats the end-grain cutting board with mineral oil
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Rub mineral oil onto every side of the board. After 20 minutes, wipe off any excess; reapply, wait, and wipe again. This food-grade oil warms up the wood’s color, repels water, and protects against stains. Unlike a cooking oil, it won’t turn rancid. Reapply regularly.

 

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