Is it possible to fix this?

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Forum topic by Autorotate posted 01-07-2017 05:26 PM 808 views 0 times favorited 2 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Autorotate's profile


43 posts in 1725 days

01-07-2017 05:26 PM

Topic tags/keywords: end-grain cutting board checker butcher block walnut maple mahogany

Hello all,

I am a fairly new woodworker and have done several larger projects, but I have some how really messed this up. This is my first end grain checker board pattern cutting board.

All material (Walnut, Maple, Mahogany) was jointed, planed, and ripped to 1”. After first glue-up I planed the entire board to 1 1/2” thick. And the crosscuts were also 1 1/2”.

I did it how I always do the rest, but I do not know where I went wrong. I think it may have been hitting the edges two times on each side before planing and then cross cut (after it had its first glue-up). As soon as I flipped the boards to expose the end-grain I immediately knew I messed something up. Please see the photos attached.

One thing I did notice was the 1st piece is 1/16” shorter in length than the last (No clue how) and the first 4 pieces have a difference of about 1/16” thickness on each side of same piece (again, no clue how).

Is there any way possible to fix this so the checker board pattern actually aligns properly? I would hate to waste this.


2 replies so far

View Mike_D_S's profile


605 posts in 3020 days

#1 posted 01-08-2017 05:35 PM

When I look at the pics, I don’t see anything that looks glaringly bad about your layout. You may need to post some additional pics with a closeup look at the particular problem.

I only built my first end grain board recently and have only done 6 so far. If you are looking for perfect checkerboard, you have to really watch out for tolerance stack. When you say your boards were ripped to 1”, is that +-.002 or +-0.010. It’s not that hard to get off a visually noticeable amount when you start adding the variations of each board across the whole glue up.

Potential problems and fixes:
1. Bad alignment across the board. If the problem is in the initial glue up, then there is not much you can do here other than jog the pieces to minimize the visual difference. People’s eyes are drawn to the center line of the board, so if the center pieces are lined up perfectly the offsets to the outside just won’t be that noticeable to most people.
2. Outside alignment bad. Just glue it up and then trim the outside by an equal amount all the way around so the outside row is the same on both sides. It’ll all end up looking even to most people.

The very first board I did had tolerance stack issues due to my drum sander being 0.006 high on one end. So when I gang sanded the strips to the “same thickness” I actually ended up with one side that had all the strips a tiny bit wider than the other. When I glued them up and then cut and flipped, the outer squares were all offset by 1/32 or slightly more.

Irritating to me, but I donated that board to a fund raiser auction for the school and a lady paid $100 for it. after the auction I was giving her some care instructions. She talked a lot about how she loved the pattern and clearly to her eye, the offsets weren’t even an issue.

So my best advice is just glue this one up and focus on the next one.

-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1726 days

#2 posted 01-08-2017 06:56 PM


Your last photo makes it appear that the board is glued up and the issues have been addressed. I have difficultly seeing any flaws in the bottom-most photo.

Regarding the specific problems you mentioned…

One thing I did notice was the 1st piece is 1/16” shorter in length than the last (No clue how)

This sounds like the first glue-up (top most photo) was not square. An out of square glue-up probably resulted from the individual sticks varying in thickness and one or more sticks had a slight taper. As a result one end, measured edge to edge was 1/16” thinner than the other end. The fix is to ensure each piece is the same thickness all along its length or squaring the first glue-up before cross cutting.

The first 4 pieces have a difference of about 1/16” thickness on each side of same piece (again, no clue how).

I am not sure what thickness means after cross cutting, but then I am not the brightest bulb on the tree. 1) It could mean measured across the end grain. 2) It could also mean as measured across the long grain face.

1) If thickness is as measured across the end grain face is the problem, then it suggests that the first flushed up glue-up (top most photo) varied in thickness across the glue-up. This cause could go back to the method used to flush-up the first glue-up faces. Too much material could have been removed from one area of the glue-up face. If a powered surface planer was used, then perhaps it is out of adjustment or you encountered a little snipe. If done with a hand plane or sander, marking the board with a pencil would provide marks that witness to high and low spots on the surface. These witness marks could help control how much material is removed.

2) If thickness is as measured across the long grain, then perhaps the table saw fence or sled is slightly out of alignment and cutting a very slight taper. Alternatively, a little saw dust could have kept the reference edge from setting firmly against the fence.

If the final glue-up has not yet been done, the only idea I have is to re-mill the individual cross cut strips straight and flat all to the same size. Unfortunately this could throw off the pattern you going for. Since I have difficulty seeing any problems from the bottom-most photo and apparently MikeDS seems to share my difficulty, proceeding with the project may result in one where the only person who knows of the problems is you. No one else will notice.

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