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Project Information

I got this idea from Wood Magazine. They showed some easy to build designs for an endgrain cutting board. Since I had some scrap pieces laying around, I decided to put one together. After a trip to a friend's house to use his drum sander, I got what I thought was pretty close to done, but after it sat a while, I noticed some cracks in the corners. I used glue everywhere and had it clamped tight. It didn't crack until a week or so later. The pictures speak for themselves, but does anyone have any thoughts on how this happened and how I could prevent it next time? Man, I need a drum sander.

Thanks,
Jon

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it looks like the long grain on the piece of wood that is perpendicular in the middle shot contracted (shrank), pulling away from the end grain piece. That pulled the darker piece with it, resulting in the crack. Did you make sure that all pieces had dried to the same level of moisture content?

I might have tried a spline in the darker wood's corner, maybe extending into the butted joint. i am just a rookie woodworker, but I seem to recall that when you have an end piece of wood joined to a long-grain end of another piece, that type of joint is weak and needs some sort of reinforcement to tie them together.

Anyway, it looks great except for that splitting!
 

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Nice piece. Maybe I'm not seeing it the same way Hawg, but I kinda think the wood in the middle "expanded", not contracted, pushing the perpendicular end pieces "away" from the middle laminated board. Anyway, I'll be curious to hear other comments.
 

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I guess I kind of agree with Chip, It looks like the end grain blocks have grown. My experience has been that I am looking for trouble when combining cross grain with end grain and glue it seems that one will shrink or grow with changes in moisture with in a short time.
Merlin
 

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That makes sense, thanks for the advice! I like the idea of slipping a spline in there to add a nice look as well as a sturdy joint. All of the wood I have has been dried and the board I have running around the edge is some oak I had laying around in the shop. The rest of it is cherry, maple and walnut that came from the lumber supplier. I have wood delivered to the school so it is supposed to be kiln dried, and it has been in my shop for several months, and some of it has been there for a year or more. Like someone on a podcast once said, "Wood moves, I don't care how you glue it together, all wood moves." I guess the glue held!
 

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yes, i bet the wood expanded, and thats how it cracked, but very nice look to it! great work!
 

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Jon, though the splines will look good, I'm still not so sure they will create enough strength to keep all of that end grain wood from splitting the ends open, especially if it continues to expand.

I'd just hate to see you do all of that work and end up with the same result.
 

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Nice Design. What about gluing just the in the center of the trim pieces, leaving an inch or two dry at the corners. This may allow for expansion/contraction. Kind of like a breadboard end on a table. Just an idea.
 

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If you ask around about "cutting board ends", what you'll often find is a dado or a sliding dovetail channel on the end piece, and a full-length tenon or dovetail on the main piece, and then a pin or two fairly close to the center which holds the end piece on the tenon, but still lets the center piece expand and contract with its grain orthogonal to the end piece.

Oddly, a Google search on that phrase is turning up nothing of value, but I've heard it from several woodworkers, so I know it's fairly common.
 

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At least you can take this one to the tablesaw and salvage a smaller, yet perfect board!
 

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I don't know if the glue moisture would cause the wood to expand. has anything been put on the surface?
 

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The guys are right about the movement. The Egyptians and other ancient cultures used to quarry stone by drilling a line of holes, shoving wood into it and then pouring in water in. The expanding wood fractured the stone and then it could be removed from the ground. You can't stop wood from moving no matter what.

Your right Jon, you do need a dum sander.
 

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I do believe that Chip has it right; I would agree that the middle expanded. I would also add that woods expand at different rates, so using different types adds another variable in the mix.

Dan, DAGS on breadboard ends, you will find info, and examples. I've used this technique on table tops.

Jon, you can try and reduce the amount of material, and reduce the amount of expansion. If you were to hog out about half the thickness, leaving a ~1" border around the bottom, you will reduce the amount of stress at the corners. Also, finish/seal both sides, as this will reduce the rate of expansion and contraction

or

leave it alone. It adds character that you just can't buy!

Nice design.
 

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Ok, I have witnessed my cutting board cracking in the corners, and now I have witnessed it go back. The cracks are nearly closed today! I think I'm just going to finish sand it, coat it with Mineral Oil and call it complete. What a strange situation. It moved both ways! Check it out. I used a much higher resolution camera, so the second set of cracks look bad, but they are barely visible.

 

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Jon, because you used endgrain for the large, central surface it will absolutely expand both ways, each side expanding proportional to its length. And because that main slab is end grain it is going to expand even more than surface grain (think of it as exposing the ends of thousands of tiny straws that are now sucking in moisture). I don't think it will ever contract much because its function dictates that it will probably be damp quite often.

Give it many, many coats of oil (let it dry out really well first) to fill those little straws up as much as possible so water absorption is minimalized but I'm willing to bet the cracking is going to get worse before it gets better..

Enjoy what you did, use it and learn from it for the next time.
 

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We cannot stop the expansion/contraction with changes in humidity in wood, we have to learn to work with it. :)
I would be curious if it would have still cracked if the frame would not have been added? What I see is that any dimensional changes that occur will be greater left to right than front to back as the project is pictured, because wood (especially flat or riftsawn) will expand across its width parralell to the grain much more than in any other plane. So I think the center pattern of end grain pcs will expand and contract in unision as the grain is all oriented the same way, but adding the frame without allowing the center assy. room to move may be the culprit. Picture this….Your center will move alot (more in the left/right direction then front/back) but your frame as attached to the center will not be moving in the same direction, it will be moving up and down, perpindicular to the center.

Jon: Glad to see another Jock in my area. I live in Grand Island. We should hook up some time.
 

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Perhaps if you did not put the picture frame around the cutting board it may not have split. I did the cutting boards without the picture frame and there were no cracks.
 

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My guess would be that the banding grain is perpendicular to the end grain pieces, they expanded in a different direction as well as not as much as the end grain. This, plus all the things the other guys have said. I believe that if you would have left the border pieces off, no splitting. Just a guess.
 

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I've done two end-grain cutting boards so far. Neither had frames. Neither split. I also made sure that I was not using woods with vastly different expansion rates, and I oiled them profusely. I literally drown both in oil for two weeks solid, then reapplied it once a night for another week after the initial buff out, just to drive out as much of the moisture from the exposed cellular structure as possible.

I also gave the recipients instructions on regular preventive maintenance oiling.
 

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Thank-you JonH for posting this and the others for replying. I learned quite a bit from this discussion. :)
 

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You tried to cage a free spirit and the spirit won ! : )
I think your basic board would look better without the border and Oak isn't a good choice for cutting boards anyway , due to its open pores that collect bacteria , blood , etc.. I would cut the border off and maybe downsize the board to eliminate the cracked pieces because they will eventually break off anyway : )
Live and learn and keep up the nice work : )
 
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