Thursday, June 9, 2016

Woodworking - End Grain Cutting Board

I don't have as much time as I would like to get out in the shop and do woodworking projects.  Since time has been an issue for a bit, I have stayed with simple "weekend" projects.  One of those was to create some end grain cutting boards.  The idea behind an end grain cutting board is that as you cut on the board, the knife edge will separate the grain of the wood but since you are not cutting against the grain but into the end grain the wood can minimize or repair the bulk of the damage done by the knife edge.  This idea has been used for a long time on butcher block tables.

One of the important aspects of making a cutting board is consider what kind of wood you should use for the project.  First and foremost avoid any woods that may induce any allergens into what ever you plan on cutting such as wenge, walnut, and some other exotic woods.  Traditional choices are hard maple and other dense woods.  That brings us to the second step in selecting your wood, make sure it is a dense wood and not very porous since you don't want to trap little pieces of what you are cutting into the board.

As I said in the pepper-mill project blog, I don't intend this to be a how to blog post but just a collection of my impressions and experiences.

For my first batch of cutting board, I went with hard maple and purple heart.  If you are not familiar with purple heart it is an exotic wood from Central and South America.  It has a very distinctive purple color but will darken over time as it is exposed to day light and may eventually come to look like a dark walnut in color.

I started off by cutting my maple and purple heart into strips 1 and 1/4" thick.  Then I glued those strips together to make an alternating pattern of wood.  After the glue had set, I once again cut those glued board in a cross cut pattern.

The gluing process took a weekend of in and of itself.   I also learned that you really can't have to many wood clamps.  The more you can mange to put on the project the better you can distribute the pressure and make sure the glue will set up evenly.  Also make sure you clean any squeeze out of glue during this process.  Any cleaned up glue will save you a lot time sanding later.

Once you board are cut, glued, cut again and finally glued the last time.  You are ready to sand, and I mean sand them for a long time.  The end grain doesn't clean up as quickly as it would if you just went with the wood grain itself.  I spend about 3-4 hour apiece on the first two board trying to get the glue stains out and smooth all the end-grain parts for the wood.  I would wet the wood and make the grian stand up and then let it dry and sand some more.  then repeat this process several times to make sure I had all the high points worked out.  The last item is to make sure you oil the boards with a food safe oil and you will periodically have to reapply the oil as time goes on.

Below I have a couple of pictures of the finished boards!

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