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

Second Gluing

After have your 8 crosscut stacks. Twist them 90 degrees onto their sides so you see the end grain of each piece. Ready your clamps for gluing again, and repeat the pattern matching process here. Because of the first pattern exercise you did, now you’ll see that pattern is repeated more or less across each new “stack” piece. Spend a few minutes to move your stacks around to make the final pattern you want on the cutting board. Once you’re satisfied, glue again just like the first time, and leave enough open on the clamps to fine tune the placement of each piece.

Pick a horizontal line in the pattern that you will use to align your pieces all the way across. I usually use the middle piece of each slat and make sure that one row is aligned. Most of the time all the others will naturally be in alignment as well, but occasionally, you’ll have one or two slight variations. Once aligned, begin to tighten your clamps. I use two clamps underneath, one on top in the middle, and then a couple of smaller clamps keeping the middle slats from bowing up due to the pressure. Continue to tighten until you see glue coming from your joints, then give the clamps one or two more turns to get them extra snug.

You simply cannot build an end-grain cutting board without a proper set of clamps.

Final cleanup

After the piece has cured, use your table saw or jointer to square the piece up, cutting any sides you may need to cut to make it even on each side. Now use your sander to sand both sides smooth, getting rid of any remaining glue or irregularities. I use a 120 grit at first and then move to a 240 grit to finish it off. I also like to put a bevel on the edges with just a 45 degree sanding angle on all edges with the 120. This step could be done with a router as well. When you’re satisfied with the finish from the sanding, you can proceed to the last step which is oiling the board.

Always remember to oil with mineral oil after you build an end-grain cutting board.
Gently rub your mineral oil in the board until it can take no more.

You can’t build an end-grain cutting board without mineral oil.

You do not want to finish your board with any sort of stain. This will only end up leeching into your food. That’s not good. Secondly, you don’t want to add any sort of polyurethane or varnish. Again, you’ll cut it up over time, and it will end up in your food. Instead, a basic cutting board or mineral oil will work. It is food safe, and it will not go rancid over time like vegetable, olive, etc. oils will. Anything other than mineral oil will go rancid eventually, so don’t be a hero here.

After I build an end-grain cutting board, I usually oil the new board several times. The first time you do it, the end grain will actually suck the oil in to itself, and within minutes the liquid oil will have disappeared. Do this a few times until the oil stops soaking in. Then repeat a single feeding of the board once a day for 2-3 days afterwards. Eventually, the wood will be saturated with the oil, and can take no more. This is what you want. Wipe it clean, rinse, dry, and you’re good to go. Keep in mind though, you’ll need to repeat this process at least once a month to keep the board oiled.

Some folks will use a board butter which is a combination of bees’ wax and mineral oil. This butter keeps the board moist much longer, and can save you some time

The easiest way to build an end-grain cutting board is to follow these instructions!
Finished board, ready to go.

Overview of how to build an end-grain cutting board.

The process to build an end-grain cutting board isn’t that difficult. It is, however, a precise and measured process with a few tedious steps. As you build, you’ll find different tips and tricks for your particular setup with your particular equipment. But always feel free to reach out with any questions you might have as you dive into this project. Like what you see here? Visit a few of my other projects on this site.

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