I had some requests on a tutorial of how I put together the end grain butcher block top for the island Jay and I recently built (Once the base gets the final coat of paint to match the kitchen cabinets one of us will post that as a project but here are a few pictures of it almost done)
I took a couple of in process pictures while I was making the top but not as many as I might of had I known I would be writing a lesson on it. So if I miss anything or seem to skip any steps let me know and I will go back and try to fill in the blanks. (if you need a more basic series on how to construct an end grain board check out degoose’s class here )
Raid your scrap pile for all of your cut offs from other projects. You do want to start with pieces that are joined and square or you will pay later with bad fitting glue lines. At this point size is not a factor.
Here is part of the pile of walnut, cherry and white oak that went into this top. The customer only wanted woods darker than cherry so no light colored woods in this one, but personally I like the look of maple, ash and beech in here as well and and pieces with spalted grain are particularly nice. I used just a few touches of bloodwood as and accent color (to reflect the red in the rest of the kitchen).
Decide on an over all width for the finished board. For this top I made 3 12”x22”sections since that is what would go through my 15” drum sander and then glued them up at the end to get the finished size required of 22”x36”. (It is actually more practical to make several of these boards at once if you want them to be a regular cutting board size as you will see once you have read all of the steps.)
Sort the boards into similar lengths and widths. I had left overs from other boards that were all around 17” long 1 1/2” thick of varying widths. I had another pile that was cut off from a larger project so they were 36” long and 2-3” thick.
Start building long grain boards. This top took 6 boards to make the one finished piece. The thicknesses are random and based on what wood cut offs you are using and really is not important. My boards ranged from 1 inch thick to 2 3/4” thick…but they were all 12 1/2” wide to get to the 12” that I wanted after final trimming of the board.
Here is a picture of the strips that went into my thinnest board. You will notice that there are two “units” of walnut and bloodwood at the end of the strips. This is actually crucial in the design but I didn’t take any process pictures (sorry). The process is to take smaller pieces and laminate them together to use all those smaller scraps and accent woods. Then turn on their side. Square up the edges of “unit” so they will mate nicely with the other strips.
Play with the placement of the strips until you get a random pattern of grain and wood species that appeals to you. Then glue them up (I use Titebond III).
Here are the strips laid out in the order that I came up with ready for glue to be applied (Sorry about the lighting!). You can see here there are a couple of “units” that I created with a thinner strips. This time I glued up the three strips of oak and walnut, let them dry and squared them and then glued the bloodwood to the top of them to get to the same thickness and the rest of the board. There is a similar unit of cherry. oak and walnut. Again, just make sure you square each of these up before you get to this step or you will end up with slipping glue lines and have to plane off a good amount of material to get the board back into square (eh-hem—not that I am speaking from experience here!)
All clamped up…
Take the clamps off and scrape the glue before it gets super hard. Depending on the thickness of the board I left them in the clamps from 30 – 60 minutes. After glue is dried run the board through the thickness planer or drum sander to get a nice smooth surface on both faces.
Here we are board #1 with a little bit of mineral spirits to see the grain. This board is 12.5”x17”x1”
AND repeat! Use the next bunch of scraps of whatever thickness seems common. Build “units” and then them into another long grain board. Here is board #2 with mineral spirits to bring out the grain. This board is 12.5”x17”x1 1/2”
And repeat again! Here you see 5 boards (Again, sorry for the lighting!) of various thicknesses and lengths but all constructed with the same method.
Next decide on the thickness of the board. In this case it was island top so I wanted the finished thickness to be 2 1/2”. I cut the sections at 2 3/8”. For an end grain cutting board I would not go below 1 1/2” finished thickness.
Set up your table saw to cut that thickness using your crosscutting method of choice. Here I was using our Jet saw that has a cross cut sled with a stop block. You can use the fence and a miter gauge as well. Make sure you are cutting square. Cut ALL of the boards with this set up in as many slices as the board will yield so that you have to the minimal amount of sanding later.
Final patterning of the design. Flip all of the units 90 degrees
You notice I said at the beginning I said it was made from 6 boards but I only picture 5. At this stage I realized I needed one more board to get to my finished size. I went back and built the last one and added it in. I also realized that I wanted more walnut in the mix so that one had big chunks of dark wood in it.
Now “randomize” the pattern. I flipped them all around until I got them just the way I wanted them in my three 12”x22” subunits. Pay attention to making sure that the species are spread out somewhat evenly across the board. And then labeled them.
Glue up. In this case I glued the board into 2 smaller units and then in to the 12”x22” units
I ran these 12” wide sections through the drum sander to get them all to the same thickness starting at 40 grit and working my way up to 220. Just put all of the boards through before you make any adjustments so they all end up at the same thickness.
I then glued the three boards together
If you were doing a smaller cutting board you would just have to glue up the board from the segments you created. If you do not have a drum sander you could use a random orbital sander but I have a hard time keeping my surface flat in endgrain with that method. And it takes way more elbow grease than my elbows contain. As it is is you still have to finish the board with the ROS as the drum sander leaves some streaks even at 220. So ROS the whole board with successive grits up to 320. I just round the edges a bit with a sanding block (no router).
Then finish the board with two thick coats of mineral oil and 2 thick coats of mineral oil and beewax (24 hours between) Again there is a lot of good info on LJ about sanding and finishing so I am not going to repost all of that :)
Wow! That was way longer winded than what I expected but hopefully it is helpful!
Any questions/comments are appreciated and welcome…
-- "It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail." -Abraham Maslow