Long Grain/Edge Grain/End Grain Cutting Boards

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Forum topic by Chris posted 10-14-2015 08:12 PM 4087 views 1 time favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Chris 's profile


178 posts in 2119 days

10-14-2015 08:12 PM

Hey all,

I have never made a cutting board, but I am inspired to give it a go with all the beautiful projects on this site. I just bought a couple good long rougher stock cherry, walnut, and a little hickory. Originally, I was going to make an end grain cutting board bc they seem to be the best of the best … but I am running into a problem. The walnut, cherry and hickory are about 7/8” thick … and all the tutorials out there seem to start with stock that is 1 1/2 – 2 inches think. Then, the more I read, the more I get nervous about putting an end grain cutting board through my planer … but this wouldn’t be an issue if it was long or edge grain right?

Do the pros really outweigh the cons when it comes to end grain versus long grain cutting boards? What do I do with the thickness of my lumber issue if I decide to go with end grain?

I am a rookie .. don’t be shy. I know these are probably questions that have obvious answers I am just doing research before cutting real nice wood. Thanks in advance.

20 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5796 posts in 3028 days

#1 posted 10-14-2015 08:17 PM

There will be other much more experienced with cutting board opinions than mine, but I don’t think I’d try an end grain board without a drum sander.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View ShaneA's profile


7084 posts in 3133 days

#2 posted 10-14-2015 08:34 PM

The long grain boards can go thru the planer without issue. End grain boards have gone thru planers before, but there is an element of risk, and I believe it is hard on the planer itself. A few negative things can happen doing so.

The stock not being 6/4 isn’t really too big a problem. You can use whatever thickness you have, you will be cutting the stock once you glue up the 1st blanks anyway. There will just be more squares to glue up if using thinner material.

If you are super careful during glue up, and use a belt sander or maybe router sled, you can get the end grain pretty close to flat. However, a drum sander would be the best option.

View splintergroup's profile


2988 posts in 1757 days

#3 posted 10-14-2015 08:57 PM

Fred and Shane seem to have hit on the key point, the finish surfacing. A planer will have difficulty with cutting end grain, primarily chipping/flaking off the trailing edge as it goes through the planer. If your glue up is fairly flat, you might get by with a belt sander. A sharp hand plane with good technique can work well, also consider a router and cradle.

With edge grain, the planer will do fine as well as all the other techniques used for prepping a piece of lumber.

Thickness of your stock doesn’t really matter as long as you can flip/turn the pieces to get to your target board dimensions (as an aside, you probably want to keep the final board around 1” thick. Thinner will tend to warp more if left on a wet countertop and thicker just adds weight)

Watch out for mixing grain directions and wood species. Remember that wood expands much more in width than length with changes in moisture content. If you have the grain going in opposing directions, one piece will expand more than the other and this may lead to glue joint failure.

View Chris 's profile


178 posts in 2119 days

#4 posted 10-14-2015 09:46 PM

Well .. The planer is not mine it is a friend’s so I am going to go with long grain cutting boards to reduce the risk of disaster and at the least .. wear and tear on the machine.

Hopefully, long grain cutting boards hold up to some abuse too. It seems like there are enough posted on this website that they should be good for something! Thanks all for the replies.

View jdh122's profile


1102 posts in 3352 days

#5 posted 10-14-2015 11:56 PM

Long grain cutting boards hold up to abuse as well as end grain ones. The main advantage to end grain cutting boards is that they’re easier on knives. You’ll be just fine…

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View bondogaposis's profile


5553 posts in 2886 days

#6 posted 10-15-2015 01:06 AM

I personally do not run my end grain boards through the planer. I am very careful to cut the pieces accurately and really take care during glue up to minimize the sanding. I have a jig I use to keep the pieces in alignment during glue up. I am able to sand them w/ a ROS that way and it is not too bad.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View thenetdog's profile


11 posts in 2794 days

#7 posted 10-16-2015 03:11 AM

I have done end grain boards with maple and they run fine through my lunchbox planer. You just have to assume that the edges will get chipped out and make your board one inch larger than your target size so you can trim a half inch after you plane it. Just take very small bites when planing and try and use some stops under the head when you get to the final thickness so you don’t get any snipe on the ends. Also use the mineral oil from the pharmacy to finish it – works fine for me.

View nerdbot's profile


97 posts in 1896 days

#8 posted 10-20-2015 01:27 AM


Since it’s your friend’s planer I think you’re on the right track with the long grain boards. I run my end grain cutting boards through my planer with all the usual precautions, but I also have a couple set of planer knives (each set is double sided), specifically because end grain planing is very rough on the knives. One set is specifically for cutting boards (one side for planing for the glue ups, the other, newer side is for the end grain planing), while the other set of knives is for all my other projects.

View Betsy's profile


3392 posts in 4431 days

#9 posted 10-20-2015 03:25 AM

There is nothing wrong with face grain or edge grain boards. They will show scratches sooner than an end grain board – but if you use only straight edged knives they will be fine. Some of the most elegant boards going are flat grain – so go for it.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View TheJBitt's profile


34 posts in 2493 days

#10 posted 10-20-2015 12:15 PM

+1 on Bondogaposis’ comment.

Using a random orbital sander on your endgrain boards is a very workable solution. If you get the glueup to align closely then you won’t have much sanding to do. On my first board the glueup was a far cry from perfect and I ended up sanding for almost an hour… but it looked amazing when I was done.

The only thing I will say about how end grain boards hold up vs long grain is that long grain boards show knife marks more easily. Any cuts that go accross the grain will stand out because they break the pattern. With endgrain, there is very little grain pattern to break so knife cuts will blend in (also, the nature of end grain prevents the knife cuts from being too gnarly).

-- I make great sawdust. -Jon in Warsaw, IN

View dbockel2's profile


108 posts in 1485 days

#11 posted 10-20-2015 03:48 PM

planing end-grain (especially on my little portable Porter-Cable) is doable but can also have catastrophic results from time-to-time depending on if the board gets lifted, how the glue joints go through, and things like that. I may have done some damage to my planer doing end-grain but it’s the only way I know to get the end-grain finish smooth and beautiful like I want. Heed the advice of those who say to go VERY light on planing end-grain—stripping off a minimal amount with each pass should give you better success.

The problems I have encountered are usually a major kick-back on the machine which is probably accompanied by the board breaking somewhere in the middle and becoming trash. It can be frustrating so take your time with it. I recently bought a carbide scraper to help clean the boards up before putting them through a planer—I think it helps quite a bit just to get some of the glue lumps off that can cause the planer to hiccup.

View Chris 's profile


178 posts in 2119 days

#12 posted 10-20-2015 04:12 PM

I really appreciate all the advice in this thread. Since making this post I am had to re-glue up my edge grain cutting board 3x because of mistakes on that process. ha! Needless to say … I don’t think I would be able to get a super clean smooth result if I tried to make an end-grain cutting board without using the planer anytime soon.

Glue up is a lot more difficult and stressful than I thought it would be. Doing more research on that now … Thanks again for all the advice on this thread. If it was my own planer I think I would give it a go with light passes .. but for now its just edge/long grain cutting boards and improving the glue up process.

View dbockel2's profile


108 posts in 1485 days

#13 posted 10-20-2015 06:45 PM

I find the 2nd glue up on end-grain boards is really tough—as hard as I try to make perfectly straight cuts on my TS I never end up with perfectly straight edges and have often had to fill small cracks in with wood filler (which drives me nuts). I have built straight line sleds to try to get better cuts, got a new blade on my TS but still seem to have the same issue. Maybe I just need to take more time.

View ForestGrl's profile


450 posts in 1621 days

#14 posted 10-20-2015 08:40 PM

I find the 2nd glue up on end-grain boards is really tough—as hard as I try to make perfectly straight cuts on my TS I never end up with perfectly straight edges and have often had to fill small cracks in with wood filler (which drives me nuts). I have built straight line sleds to try to get better cuts, got a new blade on my TS but still seem to have the same issue. Maybe I just need to take more time.

- dbockel2

Quite possibly either a tune-up issue or a fence-stability issue.

-- My mother said that anyone learning to cook needed a large dog to eat the mistakes. As a sculptor of wood I have always tried to keep a fireplace. (Norman Ridenour)

View bondogaposis's profile


5553 posts in 2886 days

#15 posted 10-20-2015 10:12 PM

Chris, PMed me and asked for a picture of my alignment jig. I thought I would post it here for everyone to see. It is not much, just an open sided tray, but it really helps.

It measures 25” x 14” x 2”. I keep it well waxed to keep the glue from sticking to it. If you don’t want to buy a whole sheet of particle board at the BORG, just go to the shelving section, they have smaller pieces there. The way I use it is to clamp the strips into the long side. I don’t glue up more than 4 strips at a time and often only 3 strips. I will also clamp the strips vertically to keep them in alignment with a deep throat clamp or using cauls. I build the cutting board 3 to 4 strips at a time until it is done. I then remove the board and run it through the planer. I then go to the table saw and crosscut the strips for the end grain boards. Then it is back to the jig to glue them in alignment 3 at a time, being careful that none of the strips slip out of place, clamping longitudinally, horizontally and vertically. When the glue sets up I sand w/ a ROS starting w/ 40 grit to knock down any ridges, even with all of this effort there will still be some ridges between strips, but they will be manageable, hopefully. A really sharp card scraper can help too to get everything level. Once level then you can run through the grits to 220. That is where I stop for end grain boards. This is an end grain board I just sanded out today.

It took about 1 1/2 hours, to get level, most of that time is with 40 grit on the ROS.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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