End grain cutting boards #1: End grain cutting boards

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Blog entry by Darryl Jones posted 05-26-2010 03:31 PM 8097 reads 3 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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Ok so I have heard a lot of people talk about making end grain cutting boards, and most of them have horror stories relating to disastrous results from running them through a planer. I myself have made no less than 14-15 end grain cutting boards and I ran every single one through my Delta portable thickness planer with very little issue. Of course the last edge that comes out will be “flaking” off but that could be solved by adding an extra piece of sacrificial stock during the second glue up which can be cut off later or simply trimming undesired material off the edge of the board (my method is the second one). I wonder if it is a matter of material choice, machine choice, or technique. All of my boards have been made from different combinations of maple, walnut, cherry, and purple heart. Like I said previously, I have an older portable Delta 12” planer and I have described my technique above.

Another question that I have is about the surface maintenance of the board. I finish all my boards with generous amounts of mineral oil. After rinsing the board after cleaning the grain raises slightly, do you all find this to be true as well? I have a theory that I haven’t tested yet which would be to wash the board under lightly running water (not submerging it), then let it dry and sand again and retreat (in much the same way that you would treat material when applying a water-based finish). Please share your thoughts on this.


-- Dread Knot Wood Shop

6 comments so far

View sras's profile


4799 posts in 3129 days

#1 posted 05-26-2010 04:31 PM

I too have had no issue with using a planer. I think the major elements that work for me is I knock the high spots off with a sander first, then I radius the edges before planing (an alternative to the sacrifical strips) and finally I take extremely light passes – around .008 inches at a time. Teh edges get rounded over again at the end.
Even if this works for us, people still need to be very careful with any power tool. When things go wrong they can turn ugly.
I have hot had any issue with grain raising with mineral oil. I sand to 400 grit before finishing. The wetting then sanding method should help.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View DocT's profile


109 posts in 3438 days

#2 posted 05-26-2010 04:37 PM

I too have run all of my end-grain cutting boards through my thickness planers (both a 12” lunchbox and 15” Delta) with no catastrophies! Like you said, it is easy to trim away the slight “flaking” left along the edge, but I have settled on a technique which, so far, has been foolproof: I run a very slight chamfer along the trailing edge with a 45 degree router bit. The only key here is that the chamfer is at least as deep as the pass through the planer. You can make multiple passes through the planer as long as you make a pass across the router first, or, if you are more like me, I make a deeper router pass and then multiple passes through the planer because I often finish my boards with a chamfer.

As to the issue with grain raising, I go through several cycles of wetting and light sanding including one after mineral oil application. And, because I’m in a hard water area, I do all of the pre-oil wetting with distilled water. The after-oil can be done with tap water. Some boards seem to raise grain no matter how many times you wet them or how lightly you sand. Those boards definitely get a good rubbing with beeswax!


View newTim's profile


607 posts in 3607 days

#3 posted 05-26-2010 07:53 PM

Great topic and great advice. After hearing all the folks advising against using the planer for this task I couldn’t help conjuring up images of my Dewalt 13” exploding, throwing parts and blades and splinters all over the shop. Thanks for the chamfer idea. I’ve been able to avoid the sanding chore by trimming each board on the table saw taking just enough to remove any saw marks and ensuring the thickness of each board is uniform. I then make sure the final glue up is flat even if it requires glueing a few boards (rows) together and then glueing the larger pieces together. This also works when I make a board that is too wide for my planer anyway.

I’ll have to give it a try. Thanks again for your info.

-- tim hill

View Will Stokes's profile

Will Stokes

267 posts in 3354 days

#4 posted 05-26-2010 09:29 PM

For what it’s worth you guys gave me the courage to give a go. I too have conjured up images of my Dewalt 12” exploding, planer knives flying out at me, and just plain utter destruction. I tried the put a bevel on the board, then run it through. It worked just fine. I took very small passes, 1/128” or less each time. This seemed to work quite well. I’m still going to sand the board obviously, but this will certainly save me a lot of time. Getting through all the glue is what always took me so long so this will be a big plus. Unfortunately I noticed i over-torqued the center of the board while doing the 2nd glue up. It’s very subtle but you can see slight waves in the lines. I had to square up the ends again very carefully. Oh well, you live you learn! :-)

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1567 posts in 3565 days

#5 posted 05-26-2010 09:31 PM

I round over just the trailing edge of the board on both sides and have not had any splintering or problems. My boards are all 12’ or longer.

Good info regarding the raised grain DocT I have been pondering what to do about that. I gave one to my mom at Christmas and she said it became rough after washing so I re-sanded and applied more oil.

With the latest batch of boards, I have been sanding to 400 grit then burnishing to a soft shine before applying oil, we shall see how that works out. I will also try the wet sanding routine too.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View CaptainSkully's profile


1599 posts in 3558 days

#6 posted 05-27-2010 03:59 PM

Our pizza peel was finished with mineral oil using the one coat an hour for a day, one coat a day for a week, one coat a week for a month kind of process to saturate it. We wash it off after every use, and there is no grain raising. I can’t imagine end grain raising that much since the grains swell cross-wise.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

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