End Grain, Checkerboard Chopping Block

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Project by Brad_Nailor posted 04-24-2019 06:38 PM 2121 views 2 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I was commissioned to build this 3’x3’x4” chopping block. It’s made of walnut and maple in a checkerboard end grain style with a solid walnut border. I used the same basic procedure I have used a hundred times in making smaller end grain cutting boards only because of the size I had to split it into three separate slabs. Once those were fabricated I glued them together to make the finished board. I also had an issue with once the slabs were complete, the thickness was too large to fit in any of my machines, so I had to resort to getting help from my hardwood dealer who also has an industrial caliber wood shop. They did the wide belt sanding of the slabs, and also trued up the edges using a full size shaper. I was going to try it using a straight edge, straight bit and a spiral compression flush trim bit but decided it would be better to let them do it in a single pass on the shaper.

I did a lot of planning, creating a full AutoCAD drawing including cutting guides and materiel lists. Certain pieces had to be thicker than others so I could build in some extra for truing up the glue edges. You can see in the drawing I made notes about the types of blanks to produce the pieces as well as where the dividing lines for the slab are

The client had done a kitchen and made a space for this beauty by cutting the draw out of a draw top cabinet and reinforcing it. This was a drawing of how it would look placed

A sample of one of the blank drawings. I ended up fabricating these in sections as well …basically because I didn’t want to do 6 foot long glue ups

I think it was about 350-450 board feet of materiel’s. He had purchased some back when he was thinking of building it himself. After watching a few videos of how to make end grain boards he decided to relinquish the project over to someone with more experience! Here is a shot of all the raw materiel’s planned and ripped to size. The left hand pile is all oversized pieces to build in extra around the outside edges and along the glue lines

Then it was glue up time. I had 7 different patterns, and 13 separate glue ups to get the required pieces. I also built in 3 spares for each pattern type in case of defects in the wood

Gluing up the blanks:

the finished blanks

Drum sanding all the blanks to finished width:

Then Slicing up the blanks to make my pieces:

The outside slices in clamps ready for the second glue up. the center slab is already glued up in this photo:

Then it was the long process to glue up each slab. I did it in sections, 3-4 slices at a time to make it easy to manage the edges and line up the pattern before the glue set up. Then I would fully clamp and wait 45 minutes for the glue to set up, break open the clamps and add more pieces on. Here are videos showing the process of making one of the outside slabs:

So after that x3 I was left with glued up slabs. Next step was to have them sanded flat. They wouldn’t fit in my 16-32, so I brought them to my local hardwood dealer to push through his $30k Timesaver..

Then after that he used a straightedge and a huge expensive top bearing straight bit loaded in his industrial shaper to true up and straighten all the glue surfaces. Here they are sanded flat and trued up ready for final glue up:

Then it was time for the final glue up. I decided to do it in two separate glue ups..

After that it was back to the HW dealer for the final wide belt sanding. At this point I was moving out of my house and my shop was packed in a 20’ POD. So i did the final finish work in the clients garage. Final polish sanding and grain raising


After this we moved it into its final resting place, did some shimming to make sure it was sitting flat with no rocking. We also added a solid piece of Walnut to cover that plywood sub backsplash, but unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of that at the moment.

All tolled..around 450 Bd Ft of lumber, almost 1/2 gallon of Titebond3, 2 16” drum sanding sleeves, 30 ROS discs 150, 220, 320 grit, and about a quart of mineral oil and beeswax. Final weight was 160lbs. I started out keeping track of my hours but didn’t stick with it..I regret that because I have gotten inquiries for making more of these and I would have liked to know my labor to price it correctly. I worked on it part time and on weekends and it took me from March of 2018 to Aug. 2018 to complete. But I also sold my house, packed my shop, and moved during that time.

I will tell you that I charged way less than I should have because my client was a friend that I work with. My friend at the hardwood dealer that I worked with on this project told me that he would have charged upwords of $5K to do this for a client if they walked through the door with just the idea..and almost had a heart attack when I told him what I charged for my labor!

I was glad that my assumption that my techniques for building the normal sized end grain boards held true to this monster. I was really worried that it would have failed along the way and I would be on the hook for paying for all the raw materiel’s in the event of a failure. I am happy to report that 7 months later it is still prefect…and as I suspected not a single knife blade has touched it! They even insist on people using coasters if they put drinks down on it!


12 comments so far

View madts's profile


1961 posts in 3838 days

#1 posted 04-24-2019 06:45 PM

One massif beast. Very Well done.


-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View recycle1943's profile


7090 posts in 3121 days

#2 posted 04-24-2019 08:45 PM

what a massive endevor and a HUGE success. That has to be one of the most impressive boards out there.

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View JL7's profile


8793 posts in 4463 days

#3 posted 04-24-2019 08:49 PM

AMAZING! 160#’s! Everything looks spot on, great work! Hope your friend realizes the great deal…......

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View Pdub's profile


926 posts in 4678 days

#4 posted 04-24-2019 09:02 PM

That thing is a BEAST!!! Very impressive build!

-- Paul, North Dakota, USAF Ret.

View EndGrained's profile


29 posts in 2724 days

#5 posted 04-24-2019 10:51 PM


Congrats, and many thanks for sharing your impressive build


-- George, New Brunswick "Storms Never Last"

View oldrivers's profile


3151 posts in 3065 days

#6 posted 04-25-2019 02:20 AM

Very nice, an exceptional build, congratulations.

-- Soli Deo gloria!

View savannah505's profile


1907 posts in 5085 days

#7 posted 04-25-2019 04:53 AM

VERY NICE !!!!!!!

-- Dan Wiggins

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3672 posts in 5211 days

#8 posted 04-25-2019 05:40 AM

What a beauty! . . . and what a beast! It certainly is a showpiece, but you need to do something to convince them to use it. I’m amazed at how great our end-grain board continues to look after years of use. You’ve almost convinced me to make a smaller version of yours for butchering venison! (I couldn’t handle even your smaller sections before final glue-up.)

Congratulations on a masterpiece!


-- Voltaire: “Those Who Can Make You Believe Absurdities, Can Make You Commit Atrocities” There are 112 genders (not including male and female)

View Ivan's profile


17331 posts in 4366 days

#9 posted 04-25-2019 09:31 AM

Magnificant! Very smooth top surface. You can play chess, not only cut meat here.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Mojo1's profile


286 posts in 4189 days

#10 posted 04-25-2019 11:32 AM

Awesome, I have thought about making something similar for my wife’s kitchen.

View JADobson's profile


1449 posts in 3609 days

#11 posted 04-25-2019 03:57 PM

Looks fantastic. Must have been a beast to work with.

I’m a little confused on the b/f needed for this project though. You say you needed 450 b/f of lumber. My calculations (36”x36”x4” = 5184”^3/144”^3 = 36 b/f). Even accounting for waste that seems like a huge difference. Am I missing something?

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany — Instagram @grailwoodworks

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2545 posts in 5456 days

#12 posted 04-26-2019 02:54 PM

Thanks for the nice comments! It was quiet a project.

Looks fantastic. Must have been a beast to work with.

I m a little confused on the b/f needed for this project though. You say you needed 450 b/f of lumber. My calculations (36”x36”x4” = 5184”^3/144”^3 = 36 b/f). Even accounting for waste that seems like a huge difference. Am I missing something?

- JADobson

I could be off a bit i wasn’t sure what the Bf was on the stuff he gave me but I had to purchase an additional 200 bf and the walnut had a lot of defects I had to cut around. I don’t think you can use conventional length width and thickness bf calculations with end grain. I am definitely sure it was more than 36bf! The bf calculations for the blanks would be closer to my number


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