End Grain Cutting Board

A few months ago my friend and I joined two large butcher block counters together for a large kitchen island. After everything was all said and done, I had two sections of butcher block left over from the install. Instead of moving it into the garbage, I must have moved it out of the way at least a couple dozen times because I wanted to eventually turn it into an end-grain cutting board. I’m not sure why I waited so long to get started because it was a super fast and simple project. Plus now I have a good looking cutting board in our kitchen!
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You can watch a video of the build here:
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Starting off with a butcher block really only saved me one glue up. After it was done, I kind of wished I would have just picked up some maple and walnut and made it a little better. Plus, it turns out the IKEA butcher block counters aren’t always free of voids or holes which I had to fill later.
Glue-up
I cut the strips the same size as the original counter and then picked the best side of each to be on top. Using two PVC pipes as props to glue everything together, I slathered it with glue and then rolled it out using a cheap ink roller. The PVC pipes come in handy because it gives me space underneath to run the clamps.
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After waiting most of the day for the glue to fully cure, I scraped off any squeeze out using a paint scraper and then cut the board to the exact size I wanted. I used a belt sander to get any leftover glue off and knock down any high spots. This would have been a good time to use that drum sander that I don’t have. It would have also been smart to just run it through my planer before I cut it to size. I was hesitant to run it through the planer after it was cut to size, because this would have severely messed up the edges, forcing me to cut it down even more. However, if I would have done it before I cut it to size, none of that would have mattered and it sure would have saved me a bunch of sanding.
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I dug into my scrap pile and pulled out some walnut left over from my mallets. After cutting it to size, I got to wait for another glue-up to dry before moving on. I sanded the top again to make sure the trim was flush and then gave the top edges a 1/4″ round over using my small trim router. I then used a 1/2″ round bit in the router table to make handles on all sides before everything got it’s final sanding.
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I doused both sides in a food safe finish, mineral oil. I did this at least half a dozen times or until the grain wouldn’t soak up anymore. I then wiped it off and then continued to wipe it off every 20 minutes until the mineral oil stopped bleeding back out. After everything was dry it got a nice coating of bees-wax to finish it off.

 

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For a project that took very little time and cost almost nothing to make, I think it turned out very well. I hope that I will get a lot of use out of it over the years unless I make a new one sooner than later. Then somebody else will probably get some use out of it. If you can’t tell, I’m already thinking of making another one or 20 and improving upon the design. I’m thinking about adding more wood types and trying out some fancy patterns in the top. Plus this project would have been easier and faster if I ran it through the planer after the first glue-up.

Lessons Learned

  • Two coats of mineral oil and then bees-wax will make for a good food safe finish. It’s a good idea to let it rest and fully dry between the coats of mineral oil. This way you make sure you get ample penetration which will help keep it looking good for years.
  • Instead of using whatever glue you have around, make sure you get something waterproof like Tightbond III. Tightbond II is pretty common in most shops but it is only water-resistant. It will probably last for a while but will eventually might start to fall apart after repeated washing.
  • Use a dang planer or drum sander if you have one. I think even a hand plane would have been better than using the belt sander. It ended up fine but took a lot longer than anticipated. If you do use a planer, just make sure you have extra on the edges because it will mess up the end. (You could also add-on a sacrificial board during the glue-up process.)
  • Butcher block might not be as solid as you would expect. I don’t think it was worth the time savings of one glue up to use it. (One again, it did turn out good but I think it could be better.)

 

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