Sanding for End Grain Cutting Boards

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Forum topic by GerardW posted 10-06-2014 01:37 PM 1104 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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44 posts in 1820 days

10-06-2014 01:37 PM

So the good news is that I started the christmas gift projects early this year. The bad news is that it is not proceeding as swimmingly as advertised.

I am making end grain cutting boards from 8/4 cherry and hard maple for christmas gifts, mostly following the plans at woodwhisperer for this same project. I don’t have a drum sander, and my tablesaw is not quite as calibrated as I would like it to be, so I’ve put together a jig to use my router for planing the end grain surface after the final glue up, and got a bottom cleaning bit for the operation. Of course, after this there are still some machining marks on the board.

I tried using my ROS at 180 grit to remove the lines, and got most of them… but then at least one sidewas bothering me with a clear machining line. I went to a 60 grit hand sander to knock it down, which I did successfully. Hooray, right? And then I went back up through my grits with ROS to get to 220. Now I have a glassy, buttery smooth surface…. that somehow has some clear scratches on the sideI was working with 60 grit.

So…. how can this be? I would think that if there are scratches you would be able to feel them! And now that I have already sanded it up to 220, should I do the whole thing again at 60 to start from square one? Is mixing hand sanding and ROS what has caused this issue?

-- Gerard in Bowie MD

8 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile


4727 posts in 2349 days

#1 posted 10-06-2014 01:43 PM

Go to the ROS and start w/ 80 grit and work through all of the grits to 220. That should get it. You can wipe it w/ mineral spirits as you go and any scratches will show up.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View GerardW's profile


44 posts in 1820 days

#2 posted 10-06-2014 01:45 PM

Thanks Bondo for the reply. Sounds like a “do over” is in order… but let me ask something further. At which grit or when in the process should one expect the visible scratches to fade/disappear completely? Meaning, if I go at it with ROS at 80 grit and still see the scratches… change to a new 80 grit disc and keep going, or continue up through the grits and the scratches will incrementally fade? Don’t know if that makes sense.

-- Gerard in Bowie MD

View jmartel's profile


7891 posts in 2148 days

#3 posted 10-06-2014 02:03 PM

If you still see scratches after sanding at a certain grit, you need to go to a lower grit.

Lightly draw pencil lines all over the board. Sand it evenly until it’s all gone. Then do it again. Then move up to the next grit and do the pencil stuff again. Work your way up to 220.

Or, do just enough to get rid of the scratches, go up to 220, and call it good. It’s a cutting board, so it will be cut quite a bit on its own as it gets used.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View GerardW's profile


44 posts in 1820 days

#4 posted 10-06-2014 02:05 PM

Thanks jmartel- I will try the pencil marks. I agree that at some point it seems a bit silly to put so perfect a sanding job on something that will, if used for the purpose to which it is designed, get tons of scratches on it. My wife made me painfully aware of this fact actually last night as I lamented the scratches…

-- Gerard in Bowie MD

View paxorion's profile


1107 posts in 2043 days

#5 posted 10-06-2014 03:22 PM

For my first few cutting boards I was OCD meticulous about sanding to a super smooth finish. That stopped when I considered the use of the board. I t aim for a smooth finish, with the major offending machine (and burn?) marks are gone. Once mineral oil goes on, many of the imperfections are surprisingly blend into the rest of the wood.

PS: I also sand to at least 320 grit and do make sure you pre-raise the grain.

-- paxorion

View Tennessee's profile


2873 posts in 2512 days

#6 posted 10-06-2014 03:51 PM

Here’s what I saw last year at the Ellijay, GA Apple Festivel, which brings in over 2000 vendors.
Guys who had absolutely perfect boards, obviously with a lot of time involved, with the appropriately higher price, were sitting on their boards.

The guy who had boards that obviously were done with a belt sander and ROS, and a quick oil finish, but not totally perfectly flat, and with a lower price since he had much less time in final sanding, his boards were flying off the shelf in front of him as he tried to keep up, counting the money.

I distinctly remember the other guy complaining to me when we got into a discussion on wood – he said he just could not justify lowering his price, taking into account the time he put into his boards.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View GerardW's profile


44 posts in 1820 days

#7 posted 10-06-2014 05:17 PM

Paul- I can absolutely see that argument!

And then I am stuck between a rock and a hard place when making a cutting board for my mother in law. :-)

Perhaps I should just set up a timer for how long I am willing to sand the boards so that everyone will know that I love them all the same?

-- Gerard in Bowie MD

View endgrainy's profile


251 posts in 1886 days

#8 posted 10-06-2014 08:42 PM

Haha, I love the timer comment. I’ve felt the same way trying to batch out presents. Then comes the part where you decide who can live with which defect. “Grandma doesn’t see very well, so she won’t notice this glue line….”

I find sanding end grain cutting boards to be one of the most tedious things I’ve done in my short time woodworking. It’s so painful, if I made them more often I would seriously consider a drum sander.

-- Follow me on Instagram @endgrainy

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