Turning straw into gold

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Project by Elyasaf Shweka posted 10-01-2014 06:18 PM 3523 views 5 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I apologize for this exaggerated title, but i guess it reflects the process i went through this project:
From waste to 8 Walnut ‘wild’ end-grain cutting boards.

[This is my first attempt for a proper standard end-grain cutting board. my first boards were all 3d end grain boards, and now i realize i jumped too far straight to the most complicated patterns without trying the basics. but then again, even though i thought this would be a classic end grain project, seems it didn’t come up that way. guess that what happens when you learn how to be a carpenter from youtube.]

a few weeks ago i went visiting one of our carpenters’ workshop (i work daytime as a contractor). He was cleaning his workshop, after finishing a big project of making 82 stairs of solid walnut, for a private residence. since the shape of that staircase was oval, he had many leftovers from that project. he was throwing a big pile of walnut scraps, which looked useless: dozens of triangle shaped scraps, 1 meter long, 4 cm on one side and 4mm on the other, not even and not planed, many with defects. i couldn’t see that wood go to trash, so i loaded my car, without knowing exactly what im going to do with that. i could only fit in half of the pile.

back to my tiny workshop: first, i planed each piece from both sides. then, i glued them one to another, in opposite directions, so one two pieces together gave something that is close to straight timber. since its the first time im doing such a big glue-up, and i was out of tb3 glue (not avliable here in israel, i foung only tb2), i did it in 3 small glue ups, and then glued it all together. by the way, my glue up table is a broken folding ironing table. very handy, and for free! you can see it laying on my table.

then, i cut the board into stripes and glued it again in end grain pattern, (this time clamping the length, thank you pony clamps! :) with every other stripe facing down, which gives a mirror look to every couple (book-like shape). but since the scraps were triangles to begin with, the pattern wasn’t static, but it went gradually. this made the unique unstable pattern. i know not everyone like this, mainly because it may look not ‘precise’ enough. i guess that the price you pay when you get stuff for free. on second though, if i had made a frame from a stable pattern, it would maybe look more ‘calm’. see pictures below:

at this point,crossed my mind the idea of making a nice table or a butcher counter top from this end grain walnut piece, but at the end i didn’t go that way.
next stage was sanding. i have a shop built drum sander (you can see it in my projects page), but it was really hard to push it all the way through. the piece was big, my workshop is small, and the heavy friction of the end grain asks for a powerful push to resist the slippery granite-table of my machine. so i went to another carpenter i know, which owns a powerful big drum sander. that made this task quick and easy. no doubt, the good friendly relationships i got (due to my work) with many professional carpenters – is priceless.

next stage was cutting it into small boards, sanding, installing feet and finishing with tunng oil.
from the big piece i made 5 boards in different sizes. i still have 3 more boards to finish, waiting patinely in my shop.

When it is a full size cutting board, i prefer not to make a handle, but i do the bevel hand hold which works well for me. i also like the airy look that the bevel gives to the board:

I am constantly looking for a decent feet for my boards. i know most board makers prefer rubber feet, but i think it looks cheap and too technical. until now i was using stainless steel glass-shelf holders, which were installed from both sides of the board, but it was too expensive. here you can see them on a small cheese cutting board:

UPDATE: i improved a bit the way i connect the feet.

I use Brass threaded spreading inserts, which accepts 4mm threaded set screws. First I drill a hole that accepts the inserts. then, when i screw the set-screw in, the insert splits into the wood and lock itself. but since i cant use a regular machine screw, I use the set screw which accepts allen key. this enables me to go to handles store and pick from thousands of cheap possibilities.

untill now i made 8 boards from less then half of the pile that i took. i can only regret that i took only less than half of the original quantity…

-- Only by the 4th time I realized how it was suppose to be done in the first place.

19 comments so far

View jfk4032's profile


348 posts in 1944 days

#1 posted 10-01-2014 06:33 PM

Way to pull out nice lumber from what would have been trash and then converting them with thought and effort into beautiful end grain boards.

-- ---Joel; Central MD...rookie empter nester and getting back into woodworking!

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 1904 days

#2 posted 10-01-2014 07:17 PM

Outstanding! The only questions I have are, “What are the inserts made of and where did you get them and what were they for originally?

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Micah Muzny's profile

Micah Muzny

185 posts in 1150 days

#3 posted 10-01-2014 07:26 PM

Very nice! Rumpelstiltskin would be proud ;)

View Elyasaf Shweka's profile

Elyasaf Shweka

79 posts in 943 days

#4 posted 10-01-2014 07:33 PM

Dallas – this is what i used, but for 4mm screws. 4mm is the standard here (israel) for drawer handles.

-- Only by the 4th time I realized how it was suppose to be done in the first place.

View redryder's profile


2394 posts in 2519 days

#5 posted 10-01-2014 08:15 PM

I would worry that the metal feet would scratch counter tops and slide around too much.
Not so?????
Great boards with interesting designs. I wish I had access to your sander….................

-- mike...............

View Elyasaf Shweka's profile

Elyasaf Shweka

79 posts in 943 days

#6 posted 10-01-2014 08:19 PM

redryder – you can easily fix that by sticking rubber/plastic pads on each foot. something like this, comes in many sizes:

-- Only by the 4th time I realized how it was suppose to be done in the first place.

View drewpy's profile


568 posts in 774 days

#7 posted 10-02-2014 02:47 AM

Great looking boards. Thanks for sharing.

-- Drew in Ohio -- "The greatest wealth is health".

View majuvla's profile


8664 posts in 2285 days

#8 posted 10-02-2014 03:55 AM

Nice expression for verry nice boards.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View kaerlighedsbamsen's profile


1167 posts in 1130 days

#9 posted 10-02-2014 12:00 PM

Looks great. Wish i had woodworking friends like yours..

-- "Do or Do not. There is no try." - Yoda

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 1904 days

#10 posted 10-02-2014 12:48 PM

Thanks, Elyasaf Shweka, I was thinking they looked something like brass plumbing fittings.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View helluvawreck's profile


22669 posts in 2284 days

#11 posted 10-02-2014 02:09 PM

All of these look great. Congratulations.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View Ken90712's profile


16862 posts in 2606 days

#12 posted 10-02-2014 05:30 PM

Nice score and boards very well done.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View bushmaster's profile


1250 posts in 1700 days

#13 posted 10-04-2014 03:33 AM

wow you should have went back and got the other half, very nice work.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

View Brett's profile


49 posts in 746 days

#14 posted 10-06-2014 01:31 PM

Great work, Dallas I would also recommend checking out
I have been receiving my supply from this supplier for a while now, highly recommended!

-- Brett, United Kingdom,

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 1904 days

#15 posted 10-06-2014 02:17 PM

Thanks, BrettUK, I live in the Republic of Texas and I don’t know if we get mail from the US let alone the UK, LOL.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

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