Plaid cutting board

I've been making cutting boards for a while; they're easy to make, functional, a good way to use your off-cuts and make great gifts.

As far as making cutting boards are concerned, the level of skill (and tools) required to make them typically relies on the grain orientation. If you're making them for sale, the price tag increases likewise, for the same aforementioned reasons.

Face grain

Face grain board

Simply taking a piece of wood and cutting it into a square, rectangle, circle, oval … dead easy. You'll only require the most basic of cutting tools, even hand tools should be sufficient.

(Mostly) because of the grain orientation, these boards are more prone to warping and cupping as well as not being as durable as other types of boards due to the way in which the wood fibres are severed during cutting/use.

Side/edge grain

Edge grain board

Making side/edge grain boards is not that much more complicated, but you might need a jig or two, e.g. for cutting thin strips safely. The boards/strips are rolled onto the edges and glued up face-to-face, typically using a variety of contrasting woods. Gluing up strips of wood in this manner allows for the use of scraps/off-cuts.

Edge grain boards are tougher and more durable than face grain boards, due to the grain being packed together more tightly on the edge of the timber. Because the board is harder, it will last longer, but your knives are going to go blunt faster as there is more grain to contend with. These board are less likely to cup or warp as the wood will try to move in line with the thickness of the board, not the width.

End grain

End grain board

End grain boards require accuracy - accurate machinery as well as the craftsman being able to mill wood accurately, because you will be cutting strips of wood into blocks that need to line up in rows to make any of the interesting designs/patterns that can be achieved.

Because the wood fibres are orientated vertically, when you cut on an end grain board, you are not severing any of the wood fibres, but wedging the edge of your knife in-between the fibres. This has two advantages - 1.) your knife edge doesn't work as hard and will stay sharper for longer and 2.) the wood fibres wil re-orientate and the board will "self heal" as the fibres come together again after use. These properties are what make end grain boards durable and sought after even though the work involved in making end grain boards significantly incerases the cost/price.

My plaid pattern cutting board

This was another #toolstreestimber challenge, but I didn't participate as I only joined the group some months after the challenge. Nonetheless, I have never made an end grain board and decided that it was about time. This specific example I made with (from lightest to darkest) Beech, Moroccan Rosewood, Padauk and African Walnut.

You might notice that the first picture is not exactly the same as the rest; that's because I wasn't too happy with the finish. After hours and hours and hours of sanding, I bathed the board in oil and treated with some of my super secret cream, only to find that there were some light scuff marks left by the router bit I used to flatten the board and that the brand sat higher than measured, even after I carefully measured to ensure that it lands as close to the center of a block as possible.

Oh well … off I went to one of my fellow dust engineers to flatten once more, only this time with the help of his drum sander - totally worth the extra attention 👌

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