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How To Make End-Grain Cutting Boards

Kitchen Centerpiece

An end-grain cutting boards are a work of art. Some folks decide not to use them and keep them in perfect shape on your counter or kitchen table. Other folks like to put them in the daily grind. Their kitchen centerpiece has scars and knife wounds that prove the kitchen is active.

Either way, they are a please to look at or use like they are intended. The best part about end-grain cutting boards, they look super expensive but they are not too hard to make if you have your woodworking shop ready to go!

Quick overview

Making an end-grain cutting board isn’t hard but it does take some hardwood and some time. (equipment to make it too of course!). The key to making end-grain cutting boards is the order of operations. If you complete the tasks in a simple order, you are sure to have quality results when you are done!

The process of making end-grain cutting boards lends itself to batch work. So, making multiple cutting boards at the same time is super easy.

We will also share some tips and tricks along the way!

Steps:

Design and Material selection/prep

Ripping strips

Glue-up #1

Jointing/planing

Crosscutting

Glue-up #2

Flattening

Edge treatment (round-over/chamfer)

Hand holds

Sanding. Sanding. Sanding.

Mineral Oil

Design and Material Selection/prep

Design and selecting your material go hand in hand. You can review your lumber supplies and see what you have on hand to make a random style cutting board or even a thoughtfully planned out board that has a specific design. Making that design is super easy with CBDesigner (Cutting Board Designer). It allows you to plan out your cutting board pattern and it tells you what size strips you need to cut and how to glue them up.

We made three boards with our scrap wood in the shop and the fourth board was walnut and maple that we used the CBDesigner. All the boards came out looking beautiful!

Ripping strips

Now is when you need to refer to your design and material selection and rip your material at the table saw to random width or designed widths that you laid out in the program.

Make sure to use a push stick as your strips maybe skinny and dangerous to push with your fingers.

Pro-Tip: It is well worth the time to install a ripping blade in your table saw. A combination blade will get the job done but it will take more effort to push your material through the saw and also the results will be less than desirable. With a glue-line ripping blade, you can make ripping cuts with ease and have a surface that is glue-up ready right off the saw.

Glue-up #1

With all your strips cut and ready for the first glue-up, there are a few things we need to prep before we start.

You first need to have a fair number of clamps that can apply even pressure from both the top and bottom. Something that will help a great deal with clamping pressure is if your outer strips are a bit wider. They will act like cauls and apply more even pressure than if a then strip was there.

The next thing we needs to prep is our glue and our application methods. Being these are cutting boards, they will no doubtingly get wet. This will require a glue that can hold up to this moisture. Tightbond 3 is the perfect glue for this application. It is waterproof and has a longer working time. With our glue picked out, we now need something to apply it with. We used a GluBot and a rubber brayer initially and then quickly realized the brayer wasn’t the ideal solution. We then went to a thin to medium nap paint roller. This worked incredibly well! You could also use a glue bottle with a roller built in, we are confident that would work as well.

With our glue and equipment set, let’s get started. Flip all your strips up towards you and apply glue to the top surfaces with the exception of the last panel. Don’t be stingy with the glue! With all the glue applied, put the strips back down and start applying pressure.

Let the blank cure for 3 hours.

Jointing/Planing

With the initial blank glued up and dried, we can now run it through the jointer and planer. We found the jointer wasn’t necessary unless the material you started with wasn’t entirely flat.

We went straight to the planer and skip planed it so it was flat and smooth. Skip planning is when you flip the board each time you go through the planer.

Crosscutting

With the panel now flat and smooth, we can head to one of two tools. The table saw or the miter saw. Regardless of what you have or prefer to use, we need to crosscut our blank. The thickness you decide to cut them is going to determine the rough thickness of your cutting board. Remember we have to flatten and sand after the next clue up so if you need to add a little extra thickness, now is the time.

Pro Tip: Use a stop block on your miter saw and table saw to ensure all the crosscutting length are consistent. In addition to a stop block at the table saw, make sure you have a spacer to prevent kickbacks.

Glue-up #2

With our blank now cut into small section, we can glue them up just like before but making sure the end-grain is pointing up and down.

Flattening

With the rough cutting board now glued up, we need to flatten it. We have a few options depending on what equipment you have in your shop. The easiest is a drum sander with 150 grit sandpaper to quickly bring the board to thickness.

If you don’t have a drum sander, you can build a sled for your router and use it to flatten your board. Here is a great link for that!

Edge treatment (round-over/chamfer)

With the blank now to thickness, we need to treat the edges with some sanding and also add some round-overs or chamfers to ease the edges and make it more comfortable to handle.

We sanded the edges on the edge sander and then applied a small round-over at the router table.

Hand Holds

With the board nearly done, we need to had some recesses to allow your fingers to get under the board and pick it up.

We failed to get photo or video of this process but we use a cove bit at the router table.

A simple way to accomplish this is to set the fence slightly under the halfway point of the bit. Then set two stops on the router fence. Use the stops and pivot the cutting board into the bit and slide it from right to left to make the hand holds and then pivot off the other stop.

Sanding

Sanding is unavoidable with nearly any woodworking project but with an end-grain cutting board, it is especially hard do to the end-grain nature of the project.

We brought in Bosch’s 1250DEVS dual mode 6″ sander specifically for this job. It has a turbo mode that is extremely aggressive and makes quick work at removing the vertical sanding lines from the drum sander or the router marks from the router sled. When you are ready, simply put it back in random orbit mode and sand like normal. It took hours of sanding and turned it into minutes.

We also paired this sander up with their VAC140a dust extractor that makes this process virtually zero dust.

Mineral Oil

With the cutting board complete, dip your board in mineral oil. If you don’t have enough mineral oil or a container large enough. Keep applying mineral oil with a sponge or paint brush. With the cutting board being all end-grain, it will be very thirsty.

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