End Grain Cutting Boards

I made my first cutting boards in January as gifts for my mom’s and brother’s birthdays. Cutting boards are a fun project, because their function is simple—the goal is just to have a flat wooden surface to cut on—but there are also a lot of opportunities for creativity.

For this project, I decided to make end grain walnut cutting boards. Here’s a picture of the finished project first:

Cutting boards finished, from above
The finished boards!

Now, on to the details!

I went to my local lumber yard, Fine Lumber, and picked out one piece of 8/4 (i.e. 2” thick) walnut that was about 9’ long by 7” wide. This cost $140 at about $12 per board foot. My plan was to make three cutting boards out of this, each about 12” x 18”.

End grain cutting boards are made by cutting the wood into strips and then gluing the strips back together so that the end grain is facing up. They’re a little easier on knives and resistant to deep gashes. I also like the way they look.

Here’s a preview at what my process would be:

Drawing showing the 9' x 7&dquo; board cut into three
I'll first divide the board into three pieces, each about 3' long.

And here’s how we turn one of those three pieces into an end grain cutting board:

Image showing the cuts. First, the board is cross-cut in half. Then, the two pieces are glued together along the length. Then, the board is cross-cut into strips. Finally, each strip is flipped onto its edge, alternating, so the end grain is facing up before it is all glued together

Alright, let’s get to the build:

Picture of walnut board chopped in half
First, I chopped the 3' long board in half.
picture of my son, Sammy, scribbling on a board with pencil
Next I ran the boards through the planer to get them flat. I don't have a jointer, so I used a homemade sled with shims as I passed the boards through the planer. My son Sammy helped me mark the boards with pencil so I could see where I needed to remove material.
Picture of the two pieces clamped and glued together
Next, I glued the two pieces together. I glued the lighter-colored sapwood sides to each other. I selected this board at the lumber yard because of the diagonal sapwood that can be seen on the endgrain, which is what will create a diamond pattern on the finished piece.
Picture of one board after the glue up
Glued together and run through the planer.
Picture of the board being chopped into strips on a table saw
Now, I cut the board into 1.5" strips. I used a cross-cut sled on the table saw to do this, with a stop block to make sure all the pieces were the same length. The cross-cut sled was another recent project. As you can see, the kids helped me design it 🦄.
Glue applied to the boards
At this point, I played around quite a bit with flipping and arranging the pieces till I got a pattern I liked. Once I was happy, I glued them all together with Titebond II Dark. After applying the glue and taking this picture, I flipped the boards and then clamped.
Picture of boards clamped together
Clamped with a caul in the middle.
Rough looking board about to be run through the planer
After the glue dried, I ran the board through the planer to get it flat. I was hesitant about running end grain through the planer, but I didn't have any issues. I first sanded a chamfer on the back edge so it wouldn't tear out and then took very light passes through the planer.
Picture showing black epoxy filling knots. A Christmas tree can be seen in the background.j
Filled a couple knots with black-dyed epoxy. I arranged the boards beforehand so these would be on the bottom. This picture was taken on New Years Eve, so I think I was allowed to still have the Christmas tree up.
Router table set up with board ready to be run through
Now it was time to route a chamfer on all the edges. I used a 45-degree chamfer bit in my router table.
Router table set up with fence and cove bit. Board is standing up on edge
Then, I routed finger holds on the sides. I used a cove bit in my router table for this.
Picture of the cutting board
Getting close! Chamfers and finger holds routed. Now I just need to sand and finish.
Picture of two cutting boards being sanded
I skipped over a few days while I built the second cutting board. I used a slightly different design on the second board, that I won't go into in this post. Now, I'm sanding the boards to prep for finish.
Picture of a cutting board immersed in mineral oil
Bath time! I soaked the boards in mineral oil for about 30 minutes on each side. I then wiped off the excess and let them dry overnight before applying board butter (a beeswax and mineral oil mixture).
Cutting boards finished, from above
The finished boards!
Cutting boards finished from the side
Social media post from my brother. Shows a fresh loaf of bread on the cutting board
Getting to give these to my mom and brother and see them use them was the best part!

Thanks for reading!