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Hi everyone. I've searched for an answer to this question everywhere and can't seem to figure out what is wrong. I'm hoping the community has some advice for me!

The problem: when I'm ready to finish a cutting board, the finish I use fails to seep into the end grain. For the most part, it just hovers on top and threatens to create a film unless I wipe it off. When I started making boards 4 years ago, I didn't have this problem, so I think it's my technique somewhere. I originally learned from Marc (woodwhisperer) and for the first couple of years never had this problem. Obviously I've changed something, but I can't put my finger on it. And FYI, I plan to continue using this method because I like the results.

Let me be more specific about my technique:

  • I'm using a variety of tight-grained woods including maple, purpleheart, walnut, and cherry. It's not specific to where I've sourced the wood. Often cherry will let the finish through, but as one would expect, the denser woods are more resistant and often won't let anything through.

  • I use a drum sander to flatten the cutting board after the second glue up. I didn't have this tool when I started, so it's a variable. I sometimes use it to flatten the board - starting with 40 Grit then moving up to 100. This leaves pretty deep lines in the wood, so I have to use my ROS and start with 50 to get them out.

  • ROM Sanding: I used to sand down to 220 grit before applying the finish. When I first started having this problem, I was concerned that maybe the finer dust from the 220 sanding was clogging up the pores, so I stopped at 150 then 120. That didn't seem to help. either.

  • I follow Marc's instructions on how to apply the finish: first coat, wipe it off, then put the board on its side to let it dry for at least 12 hours. I lightly sand between applications. I wipe the board down with mineral spirits lightly applied to a paper towel to get off all the dust after using a tack cloth.

  • I've tried leaving the board sanded to only 80- grit and that didn't help. I was thinking that if I left the surface rougher, it might soak up the finish. To no avail.

  • I've turned my board over to try and come at it from beneath, but I get the same issue.

  • I've tried diluting the salad bowl finish even more in case it was still too thick…and that didn't help.

I'm running out of tricks here, people. Does anyone else have the same problem and/or does someone see a solution somewhere? Thanks, in advance!

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