Using ash for end grain cutting boards?

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Forum topic by ProfPenguin posted 11-10-2013 12:42 AM 10600 views 1 time favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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31 posts in 1849 days

11-10-2013 12:42 AM

Topic tags/keywords: ash end grain cutting board

I’ve been doing a bit of reading about using ash for cutting boards and while flat grain boards seem to be quite acceptable, most people seem to dislike the idea of using ash for end grain boards. The reason being, end grain boards with open grain woods, absorb liquids and harbor bacteria.

Doing some shopping, I see a handful of end grain ash boards for sale and can’t figure out if there is something I’m missing? Are they using it purely because it’s cheap? Or is there some trick to filling the pores?

Thinking about it, I can’t see a reason filling the pores with dilute, food safe, wood glue would not solve this issue. Has anyone ever tried it? The wood glue should fill the small capillary pores that could harbor bacteria. The only problem I can forsee is applying the mineral oil after the glue has hardened. Maybe I will get some blotchiness, maybe not?

I think I’m going to need to give this a test. Let me know what you think!

3 replies so far

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2216 days

#1 posted 11-10-2013 01:47 AM

I’m not sure how or if you could pull that off. If you were going to go through all that trouble, you may as well resin impregnate it.

With that said, there are tons of myths about wood cutting boards that are surprisingly accepted as true. The “bacteria harboring” is the biggest one and 9 out of 10 woodworkers repeat and spread this false understanding.

The University of Wisconsin did a study on how much longer bacteria can survive in wood cutting boards vs plastic cutting boards. They went in with the assumption that obviously bacteria would survive longer, but how long? Well, they found the exact opposite. From the article:

The scientists found that three minutes after contaminating a
board that 99.9 percent of the bacteria on wooden boards had died,
while none of the bacteria died on plastic. Bacterial numbers
actually increased on plastic cutting boards held overnight at
room temperature, but the scientists could not recover any
bacteria from wooden boards treated the same way.

I avoid oak and ash not because of safety, but because I don’t think it will wear as well after repeated scrubbings.


View JoeinDE's profile


444 posts in 3291 days

#2 posted 07-22-2014 03:37 PM

According to the woodwhisperer, you could get around the absorption of the end-grain ash by using varnish (GF salad bowl finish) to fill the pores of the porous wood (ash or oak) without (and this is key) building up a layer of varnish on the surface. I’m guessing this is what is being done for the end-grain ash boards.

I just used end-grain ash in a butcher block for the first time. I am going to use the pore-filling with salad bowl finish technique.


View BoardSMITH's profile


121 posts in 2231 days

#3 posted 07-22-2014 04:10 PM

Is Ash a good wood to use for a cutting board? Depends on the type of knives you are using. For Cutco and other low end knives, Ash is okay. If you are using the high end Japanese knives, Ash is to hard.

Oak has open pores which will be hard to clean. Ash has pores that are much smaller, about the size of maple so it is okay there.

The wicking action of wood is what kills the bacteria. Moisture and bacteria are wicked into the interior of the wood where the bacteria die due to a lack of water. Filling the pores with a plastic coating like resin or polyurethane, (salad bowl oil) stops the wicking action for the most part and makes an end grain board about as sanitary as a plastic board. Mineral oil is about the easiest and most effective way to protect a wooden cutting board and it doesn’t smell like paint when applied, doesn’t outgas for days after application and will not flake off when cutting and chopping. Finally, as stated above, the wood doesn’t harbor bacteria, that is an old wives tale that gets tossed around a lot by the “experts” who might build one a year. Is a lot like the “experts” schedule for oiling, just an old wives tale.

-- David

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