Help with Sanding Strategy for End Grain Cutting Boards

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Forum topic by BoardsByBullard posted 07-05-2017 12:46 AM 3156 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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22 posts in 1405 days

07-05-2017 12:46 AM

Topic tags/keywords: rotex 1250devs end grain sanding

Hey Guys,

Been lurking for the last 6 months and I’m in the process of trying to better wrap my head around sanding strategy for End Grain Cutting Boards. I know the answer in the future is pretty straightforward; get a Helical Planer and a Drum Sander already… Both items on the wishlist quite a ways down the road…

For now I wanted to go over what I’m doing, what I’ve had success with and what I would love some input on…

First End Grain Board, Simple checkerboard pattern I glued it up with a bit of a twist and mostly flattened it out with a good old fashioned Stanley #7 (chipout galore on the edges but nothing I could cut off w/ the table saw) and finished it with a Bosch 5” RO Sander 80-150-220-320 Other than the plane needing to be sharpened a couple times and the sanding taking an hour or so the end result was very nice…

Second Board – Lets do something challenging (In for a penny, in for a pound right?) I attempted to make a 12×12x1.5 3D pattern (26 strips of varying widths from 1/8”-7/8”). I managed to glue this one up much better than my previous board but with this many pieces and a couple glue up challenges this one didn’t have much twist, it ended up super uneven, especially towards the edges where the strips were thinner.

My first attempt was to use my 5” RO with 80 grit paper and about two hours later I had one side feeling smooth but nowhere near flat… I cleaned up the other side and decided that it was time to rethink strategy.

Second Attempt – I picked up a 4×24” Belt Sander (I went with a Harbor Freight 4×24 belt sander, I figure I’ll let it earn a few hot suppers over the next 90 days and if its melts I’ll bump up to a proper PC or Makita). I believe it has an 80 grit belt installed by default Well about 15 minutes later I can quickly say the sander won decisively. I spent another 45 minutes with the RO sander with an 80 grit disc cleaning up all the deep scratches from the belt sander. I’m pleased with the results but not with the timing…

So here we go…

Right now my sanding quiver consists of a Bosh ROS20VSK (which is AWESOME), A Rigid 5” RO Sander (quietly dying in a cabinet somewhere) the Fancy new HF Belt Sander and a bunch of Diablo Sanding Disks (80-120-150)

First… Recommendations for Sanding Discs? I really dont have any basis for comparison here but are the Diablo discs from the BORG decent? Should I be looking at other options?

Second… Sanding Pads – I believe the Bosch comes with a medium pad stock and that there is a soft pad available. Is this something worth looking in to? I’m wondering if a softer pad would make targeting deeper scratches easier.

Third – I’m wondering if a 6” RO as a intermediate step between the Belt and the 5” would speed up the process. I’m thinking more power and 40% more surface area cant be a bad thing, especially for end grain… I’m leaning towards the Bosch 1250DEVS but I keep hearing that the Festool Rotex is the second coming of sanders… Is it really worth 2x the price of the Bosch? Am I just crazy here even thinking about a 6” RO and having unrealistic expectations?

Thanks Guys!

6 replies so far

View jonah's profile


2136 posts in 4375 days

#1 posted 07-05-2017 02:25 AM

The diablo discs are adequate. They’re A weight paper, I think, which means the paper is very thin. They wear out super fast. Mirka, Klingspor, and others make much, much better discs.

As far as a 6” sander, I’d try a slightly less aggressive belt before I’d spend $250+ on a 6” sander. Try the belt sander with 80 grit then 120 or 150 grit. That might solve your scratches problem and all you have to buy is a new belt or two.

View BurlyBob's profile


8835 posts in 3342 days

#2 posted 07-05-2017 02:52 AM

I watched a YouTube video of a guy using a router sled to level his boards. I honestly don’t the end results but it might be an option for you to consider.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1997 days

#3 posted 07-05-2017 01:31 PM


Recommendations for Sanding Discs? I have heard it said that the speed that material is removed is increased when sanding dust is efficiently removed from the surface while sanding. This makes sense to me since sanding dust on the surface could reduce contact of the sanding abrasive with the surface; sanding dust would allow the sand paper to float on the surface. Therefore improving dust collection while sanding should help.

In an effort to speed up sanding, I have tried two relatively new styles of sanding disks for the random orbital sander. These are Mirka Abranet and Norton 04038 hook and loop sanding disks. Both styles provide ample opportunity for sanding dust to migrate through the sanding disks and into the random orbital sander’s dust collection system. Both disks also feature long lasting abrasives.

Of these two, I prefer the Norton. The Abranet mesh can tear and the torn disk must be replaced even though the abrasive on the mesh disk is still cutting. The Norton disk is backed by paper or maybe fiberglass, not sure; but it is more durable and can be used until it is no longer cutting.

I have no experience with 3M Clean Sanding Discs. These disks also may improve dust collection but use aluminum oxide abrasive and may not last as long as Abranet or Norton.

If interested in these options, this Amazon link may be helpful in your search…

Sanding Pads. I am not sure that much benefit would be enjoyed with a softer sanding pad when seeking to sand a panel (or cutting board) flat and smooth. Focusing too long in one area can leave the surface smooth but not flat. For smoothing and flattening a surface, I would think a firm pad and heavier weight sanding disks would be better.

Festool Rotex is the second coming of sanders… Is it really worth 2x the price of the Bosch? Am I just crazy here even thinking about a 6” RO and having unrealistic expectations? I have elected to stay with 5” random orbital sanders mainly because the sanding disks are less expensive. Since I tend to use two sanders with differing grits when sanding, I prefer to have an inventory of 5” disks that fit either sander. Also, I advance the random orbital sander across the width of a surface so that about 80% of the sanding disk overlaps and thus re-sands a large portion of the just sanded surface. Therefore, I doubt the 6” sander would speed things up much for me.

Which tool to buy is a personal choice and only you can conclude which tool offers the best value. When I consider competing tools, I try to determine whether the features offered by the more expensive tool are features that I would appreciate and therefore be willing to pay more to have. Since two Bosch sanders could be purchased for the same cost as one Festool, the Festool would have to offer some very nice features absent from the Bosch, like superior dust collection (both in terms of convenience and effectiveness) and significantly reduced vibration. While I have no Festool products, the company seems to enjoy a very good reputation for quality tools and therefore, once the sting from writing the check has passed, I am sure you would enjoy the sander.

For rough flattening and smoothing by sanding, a belt sander is hard to beat. It is, as you said, much faster. However, since it is such an aggressive tool, just a second or two of inattention can leave a divot and require much more sanding and loss of the material. To overcome this problem, a belt sander equipped with a sanding frame that works more like a plane, eliminates those divots. The sanding frames (sanding shoe) are propriety and therefore the purchase of the sanding frame would also require the purchase of the belt sander. Dewalt and Mirka sanding can be purchased…

View BoardsByBullard's profile


22 posts in 1405 days

#4 posted 07-05-2017 05:04 PM

Thank’s for the tips so far guys.

I have considered a router sled but I’m concerned about chipout with the fairly complex patterns I’m creating.

I’m going to look into different abrasives (Perfect timing here as I’m running low on the Diablo discs anyway) and see about pairing them up with a hard backing pad for my sander.
Finally I’ll pick up a couple finer grit belts to see where that gets me.

I currently use a shop vac for dust collection on my smaller tools so I’ll definitely keep that up. I too noticed a pretty substantial difference with the vac vs the bag I.

I really couldn’t find a reason to dump so much money into the Rotex over the 1250 but I don’t know what I don’t know and don’t really have the ability to try either before purchasing so I figured maybe an outside opinion was in order. I’n my research it seems that the Rotex has slightly better DC over the 1250 which while nice isn’t worth double to me… (Please correct me if I’m wrong here)

View ArtMann's profile


1483 posts in 1893 days

#5 posted 07-05-2017 07:33 PM

I use a Performax 16/32 drum sander with 80 grit as a starting point. If you are careful about your sawing and glue-up, you don’t need a planer. I have used my Jet combo planer with spiral segmented cutter head when absolutely necessary and it is better than straight knives but it was not made to cut cross grain and you will know that right away just by the sound of the planer.

Just for reference, I run the board through a Performax 10-20 with 150 grit a couple of times per side before using a ROS and it cuts down way more on hand sanding.

View Woodknack's profile


13556 posts in 3457 days

#6 posted 07-05-2017 10:19 PM

This is what keeps me from making end grain cutting boards. I’ve made smaller ones and no matter how carefully I cut and clamped, there was always spots that needed sanding down. On the small boards, it’s wasn’t a big deal but I hate the thought of making large cutting boards without a drum sander.

-- Rick M,

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