End grain cutting board - I guess I am missing something

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Forum topic by MrStyle posted 12-21-2016 12:37 PM 958 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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87 posts in 1875 days

12-21-2016 12:37 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

So I am making my first end grain cutting board for Christmas and have a few questions.

the board is a hard maple and purple heart combo and I am at the sanding stage.

I used a router sled to get the board basically the same size and smooth and I have used a belt sander to sand out the minor waves left by the router bit with an 80g paper. I have also done a couple of passes with a 150G ROS and the surface is really really smooth. So is there a good way to tell when you have sanded enough on end grain ? I am looking for the scratches from lower grit sand paper but cant see them or might be mistaking them for the end grain itself.

My problem is I read all the posts about sanding for hours and hours or days on end grain cutting boards and at this point I am not sure if I am really awesome at this ( not likely) or just too simple minded to know whats wrong ( more likely).

So photos for the experts to check out

So here are my questions:
1. Will scratches show up at the mineral oil stage?
2. Any technique to determine when the sanding is done?
3. In the pictures you can see some discoloration in the maple almost like bloching which I think is from the router bit – i hope to sand these out – but even after focusing on a single area no change has occurred so maybe it is just part of the wood itself. Should I pursue the removal of these blotches?

any suggestions would be helpful – and yes I know I am late on this to make it by Xmas – I wont have it fully cured but it will hopefully be presentable to my wife by then.

9 replies so far

View nakmuay's profile


81 posts in 1498 days

#1 posted 12-21-2016 01:07 PM

My advice is to throw a small layer of mineral oil on there and see what it looks like! I plane and scrap rather than sand, but a thin layer usually shows any blemishes. If it looks good add more, if it doesn’t keep sanding. Now this could be an old wives tale and complete junk, but I heard somewhere that if you only finish one side and leave it, it can cause bowing. So I make sure I have enough time to finish that day before I add any oil. Might be a myth, I don’t know….

View OSU55's profile


1862 posts in 2134 days

#2 posted 12-21-2016 01:18 PM

Wipe mineral spirits on it. If it looks good, oil it. Use DNA if your concerned with MS not fully evaporating. “Fully Cured” with mineral oil? Mineral oil doesn’t cure or dry, so don’t worry about the time. You can wipe some on 5 minutes before you give it to her. It has to be re-applied continuously anyway.

View bondogaposis's profile


4988 posts in 2496 days

#3 posted 12-21-2016 01:25 PM

I sand mine down to 220 grit. I doesn’t take long once you have leveled the board. Change grits when you can no longer see the scratches from the previous grit. The posts you read about people sanding forever are because they are leveling the board w/ a ROS.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View jfk4032's profile


365 posts in 2671 days

#4 posted 12-21-2016 01:52 PM

Agree with Bondo, once you level your board sanding up through the grits to 220 shouldn’t take more than an hour or two at most, even with that purple heart. I have a drum sander to get my projects perfectly level, then it’s just a matter of using ROS to methodically take out the machine scratches left from the drum sander.

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

View brtech's profile


1042 posts in 3067 days

#5 posted 12-21-2016 03:31 PM

OUS55 our experience with mineral oil is different. 5 minutes after I wipe on mineral oil, it’s oily to the touch and very shiny. An hour or three later, it’s dull and while if I wiped it with a clean paper towel it would show some oil, it doesn’t feel oily. I usually flood it with MS until it seems like it won’t take any more, wait an hour, do that again, wait another hour and wipe off any remaining shiny spots first with a rag and then with a paper towel. Then it’s ready to use. But I can’t get a good finish in 5 minutes.

MrStyle, while I’ve always sanded my end grain boards to 220, I don’t think anyone can notice the difference between 180 and 220, and may not notice anything past 120. On long grain, it’s different, and you can even see/feel a slight improvement with a few minutes of 400 grit. OTOH, with a couple of days use, it won’t matter any more :)

View JoeinGa's profile


7739 posts in 2151 days

#6 posted 12-21-2016 08:37 PM

I used to work at the “big orange box” and for our monthly ladies workshop I used to make 4 or 5 cutting boards to give away. I agonized over sanding these things till they were like glass. I’d put layer after layer of butcher block treatment and sand between coats. Then sand some more.

One day my wife asked “Why do you put so much time and effort into finishing these boards? You DO REALIZE that the ladies who win these are gonna CUT THEM WITH KNIVES over and over, ruining all your sanding efforts!”

“Yes” I sighed, “But they’re gonna look DAMN GOOD when I hand them to the winners whose names are drawn!”

Now when I make cutting boards, I use the ROS up to 150grit, and then let ‘em fly ! :)

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View OSU55's profile


1862 posts in 2134 days

#7 posted 12-22-2016 01:44 PM

brtech – sure it takes hours before the wood stops soaking up mo, but mo never dries so requires no dry time. OP is giving it to his wife, so there is time after she gets the gift to fully soak it. Wiping some on 5 minutes before will suffice vs an actual finish that does need cure time.

View MrStyle's profile


87 posts in 1875 days

#8 posted 12-22-2016 04:40 PM

thanks for all the input – I took the advice and applied some Howard's butcher block/cutting board to the board and no scratches were evident. I applied a generous amount as per the instructions, let sit 30 mins and wiped down the surface. I then applied a second dose and let sit overnight and a final coat this morning.

Note – not sure if my use of the term mineral oil was incorrect or not…

I will apply Howard's butcher block conditioner tonight and one more time after that if required.

Overall I am pleased with the results – learned a great deal that is for sure. I made some mistakes in the process ( espcially in the creation of the router sled – I had to make two before I found one that works for me.. here is the router sled I modeled. This version of a router sled allowed me to see the bit more – which made a big difference and showed me a better way to hold the board in place.

Not sure if I could prove it but I think that “how to make a cutting board videos” are only eclipsed by cat videos on the internet. For anyone that needs some assistance in narrowing down the list, I found these very helpful

1. Wood Whisperer – Really good detailed walk through of the process of making an end grain cutting board – well worth watching.
2. Steve Ramsey – really good review of a software layout tool as well as some discussion about mistakes he made – which helped me.
3. MTM – various videos – this guy is crazy talented in cutting boards and gives the a view into the whats possible
4. David Picccutio Make something – nice video about inserts with some nice explanations.

View Eric S.'s profile

Eric S.

40 posts in 765 days

#9 posted 12-24-2016 01:22 AM

If I spent hours sanding hours sanding my boards, I’d have to sell them for a fortune. They go through the drum sander at 60-80 grit, then get the roundover bit on the router table. Then it’s 120 and 220 with the random orbital for a few minutes, and I’m done. If something feels off, I might touch it up by hand, and if it’s a presentation only board (not for cutting) I may go to 320 grit. A coat or two of mineral oil, then my beeswax based polish and they’re photographed and ready for sale.

-- Why waste the money buying it, when I can spend twice as much on new tools, a week online researching new techniques, and a month building it.

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