How to build an end-grain cutting board (for the beginner)

If you’re reading this, you most likely know that a cutting board that uses the end grain for the cutting surface is actually much better for your knives and will likely last longer than an edge-grain cutting board. This post will walk you through how to build an end-grain cutting board for yourself.

How to build an end-grain cutting board for a beginner.

If you’ve read my posts before, you know I’m not a professional, don’t have a fancy wood shop, and I do all of my work in the garage. Hopefully, the novice will be able to follow along and replicate or improve upon my basic instructions here.

The Wood Selection

Before you begin to try and build an end-grain cutting board, your selection of wood might be the most important part. Not all woods work for this project because of the size of their grains. Most “hardwoods” will work well, but not all. You want a grain that is tight enough to minimize bacterial growth in the wood after use. A super soft wood would allow growth in the crevices, even after rinsing.

You’ll read that hard maple is widely accepted as the best wood for cutting boards. It has a tight grain and is hard enough to keep the cutting board healthy for years. Wood hardness is rated on the “Janka Scale,” and generally, the harder woods are what you want to look for. Somewhere between 900 and 1500 is the sweet spot for cutting boards.

For this project, I sourced 5/4 Hard Maple boards 6-7″ wide and 6′ long from a local lumber yard, (you can also find some good selections online if you want to skip this) These pieces are S2S1E (two sides are skip-surfaced and one edge is squared.) If you have access to a planer, this type of wood is your most economical. If not, then you’ll want S4S, which means the wood is surfaced on all 4 sides already.

Measure and plan before you attempt any cutting.

Spend some time on the Dimensions of your end-grain cutting board

The first step is to do the math to figure out your size options. To start, I estimated the height of the board (not thickness) that I wanted. I was shooting for something around 13-15 inches tall and 16-20 inches wide. Knowing the ballpark of the finished product will help you immensely with the math. With a proposed height of 13-15 inches, you need to figure out from your lumber how many layers you’ll need to make a “stack” of “slats” 13-15 inches high.

So the equation begins with “how do i cut this single board to make a bunch of slats that will build a stack 13-15 inches tall.” In this case, I figured that I could make 15 slats out of this board by ripping it on the table saw into three long strips 2 inches wide. Then cutting those 3 strips into 5 equal sections. The result is 15 slats that are 14.25″ long and 2″ wide.

Cut the “slats”

When making the cuts to build an end-grain cutting board, a square fence on your table saw is a must. Without this your final board will not be level. For this one, I planed the boards down slightly before cutting, just to make sure the joints would be completely flush.

Create your stack.
My “stack” of slats with the grains and colors alternating.

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