Flattening end grain

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Forum topic by Thomas Keefe posted 08-16-2010 10:24 PM 8656 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Thomas Keefe

131 posts in 3433 days

08-16-2010 10:24 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question purpleheart mahogany cherry maple plane sander

I am completing an end grain cutting board. After the final glue up I needed to remove some dried glue squeeze out and flatten out the board. It was very difficult but it is over now. However, I may never make another end-grain anything again! I am just wondering if there is a better way.

I used three different planes to start. I started with a block plane (regular, not low angle). Alternated between not removing any stock (blade retracted too far) and not being able to push the plane through (blade extended too far). After becoming frustrated with this I moved on to alternating between my #4 smoother and #5 jack plane. It was a little easier to push these through so I was able to remove more stock. However, the blade did not last too long. After collapsing from exhaustion, I used my sander (ROS) with 60 grit paper. This worked pretty well (and didn’t wear me out) but left the surface wavy. The board uses purple heart, mahogany, cherry and maple. I think the difference in hardness led to the wavy surface. Finally, I dug out my cabinet scraper. This worked pretty well but was not very aggressive. (Probably should have resharpened it but I am not very familiar with it yet.)

I am wondering what advice you can offer for leveling end grain. Thanks.


27 replies so far

View TexasTodd's profile


24 posts in 3631 days

#1 posted 08-16-2010 10:54 PM

Sounds like a great reason to buy a drum or wide belt sander to me! End grain boards are very hard to flatten and level without one.

-- Todd in Houston, Texas

View gerrym526's profile


274 posts in 3832 days

#2 posted 08-16-2010 10:58 PM

Todd’s right about a wide belt sander doing the job quickly. But before you rush out to spend lots of bucks on a new power tool (not that there’s anything wrong with that) you should check with your local hardwood lumber yard, or a local cabinet shop.
When I build glued-up table tops for my projects, I take them to my hardwood lumber dealer who has a wide belt sander. They will usually sand them to uniform thickness for a nominal charge.

-- Gerry

View Jonathan's profile


2608 posts in 3075 days

#3 posted 08-17-2010 02:16 AM


I see in your workshop that you have a router. You might try building a router sled? That would make fairly short work of leveling everything out and you’ve already got the tool to use. Then just throw in a straight bit and go back and forth, shaving the board down to an even thickness.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18286 posts in 3700 days

#4 posted 08-17-2010 02:30 AM

I just posted a consensus question about jointer/planers vs drum sanders. That is one of my considerations of beginning to lean towards a sander.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View JasonWagner's profile


527 posts in 3204 days

#5 posted 08-17-2010 02:33 AM

I use flexible hand scrapers along with 40 grit ROS to start. The best thing to do is get good at your glue up so you don’t have to do much in the first place. Lots cheaper than buying a drum sander. There are some pretty cool guides on how to build your own, but it’ll still set you back ~$300 and a good amount of time.

-- some day I hope to have enough clamps to need a clamp cart!

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3133 days

#6 posted 08-17-2010 03:53 PM

I am particularly drawn to card scrapers for cleaning up the boards. I think you can get a good surface fairly quickly and follow up with 120 grit sandpaper for cleanup. I believe the 60 grit might be too aggressive. After the glue-up is cleaned, I think the planes will work easier and the blades would last longer. I think part of the problem might be the planer blades trying to cut through the dried glue. If the hand planing is too laborous, then the blades probably need a sharpening or the depth is set for too heavy a cut. Here is a video tutorial on card scrapers by Todd Clippinger.. Avoid using a power planer on the cutting boards. From my understanding, they stress the joints too much and can cause some real headaches.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Jonathan's profile


2608 posts in 3075 days

#7 posted 08-17-2010 04:22 PM


Thanks for posting that link to Todd’s video. I hadn’t seen it yet, and do not yet have any scrapers. This basic, yet seemingly effective use and sharpening of a card scraper has peeked my interest in them, so thank you for that. I’m used to sanding up until the finish work anyway, so that part of it would be nothing new to me. Guess I’ll be getting a scraper or two now to try out, especially since they’re not a “big ticket” item.

I’d also have to agree with you on trying to run an end grain board through a planer. Although I have not witnessed it in person, there are plenty of horror stories on LJs about boards splitting, cracking, or shattering, and even worse, becoming dangerous projectiles in the shop. I know you can glue on sacrificial pieces on the ends, etc. to help with the edges coming apart, but that doesn’t help relieve any stress in the center of the board. I’ll stick with less-risky methods for now, especially since I don’t own a planer to run one through. With that being said, I am anxious to use my new (to me) drum sander on my next end grain board with some low-grit paper! Then I’ll probably clean it up with a card scraper after it’s flat to remove the rough-grit lines from the drum sander, then hit it with the ROS like I normally do. I think this method will save me some time and dust from the ROS.

I’m always anxious to learn new skills since I’m just a beginner. Be that the use of a new tool, or an intricate skill. And a card scraper certainly sounds like it’ll be an affordable tool to have, and a valuable tool to use as it’ll save me time and effort and maybe a penny’s worth of electricity every now and then! :)

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View mnorusis's profile


153 posts in 3167 days

#8 posted 08-17-2010 09:20 PM

Just my thoughts on card scrapers.

I have 1 Bahco card scrarper and the Lynx 3 card scraper set (both from woodcraft).

I haven’t had an enormous amount of luck with the Lynx scrapers (although I haven’t put them through true paces yet). But the Bahco scraper has been an absolutely outstanding purchase for me. I just finished (last night) a built in desktop (hard curly maple) and after glue up, I used the card scraper to get everything flush and scrape out the planer chipout. I’m in love with that tool at the moment.

View mnorusis's profile


153 posts in 3167 days

#9 posted 08-17-2010 09:23 PM

One other thing, I read somewhere to put a rectangular fridge magnet on the back of the card scrape where your thumbs go b/c it can get pretty hot if you’re doing a lot of scraping. I also ended up wering thin gloves (like very light/thin winter gloves) b/c I got blisters on my thumbs.

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3139 days

#10 posted 08-17-2010 09:36 PM

before the socalled blessed electronage there was a plane (and still is) called a butchers plane
its a bevel up Jack plane and do a fanstastic job on endgrain cuttingboards


View tbone's profile


276 posts in 3708 days

#11 posted 08-17-2010 10:07 PM

That router sled that Johnathan describes works fantastic for end-grain cutting boards and glued up tops that are uneven after being unclamped. I’ve even seen sleds made for belt sanders that—if designed for safety—could do a good job.
But if you like your hand tools, then I’d look into that butchers plane that Dennis describes.

-- Kinky Friedman: "The first thing I'll do if I'm elected is demand a recount."

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3358 days

#12 posted 08-17-2010 10:32 PM

I second the router sled solution. I have already purchased the materials to make one after experiencing the same thing while reconditioning a couple of my son’s cutting boards. The router would have been quick and also do a good job with just some sanding to do afterwards.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Thomas Keefe's profile

Thomas Keefe

131 posts in 3433 days

#13 posted 08-18-2010 08:02 PM

Thanks for all the suggestions. The router sled and the butchers plane both sound very

Dennis, I did a couple of google searches on the butcher plane and only found a really
old Stanley metal plane. Are there more recent incarnations of this plane? Also, would
a low angle block plane be a good replacement?


View spclPatrolGroup's profile


233 posts in 2919 days

#14 posted 08-18-2010 08:22 PM

Also if you like hand tools, a nice low angle plane would work well.

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 3916 days

#15 posted 08-18-2010 08:24 PM

This was the reason I bought a drum sander.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

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