End grain cutting board

It’s time for a bit of YouTube woodworking. Buckle up and follow this piece of American walnut on its journey from a timber yard in north London, through its physical and spiritual redefinition into an end-grain cutting board, all the way back to America to be presented as a wedding gift.

The wood
I’ve never worked with walnut before, it turned out to be quite lovely to shape. Here’s the board right off the rack, a bit over an inch thick rough sawn. I knew there’s be a decent amount of wastage with this project, so I made sure to do some rough math and calculate the volume of wood I’d need in the board:

End grain cutting board theory

In short, the way to make one of these is to start with a big board, get it really flat and square, cut it in half and glue it together, get it really square, then cut it in half and glue it together, get it really square, etc. until you arrive at the final size/shape you want. Squareness and flatness are really important, as any error will propagate and create gaps. This being my first one, I tried not to spend as much time considering the final pattern that I’d get on the surface, and more effort on just execution.

It’s a massive pain to plane really long things, so the board got chopped in half. Not only does this make it easier to flatten, you also tend to lose less material through the process:

To actually get it flat, I ran it through the planer/thicknesser then touched it up with the no7 plane to get it square enough to my specifications. I ended up getting one board a bit thinner than the other. I could’ve thicknessed the thicker one down so they’d be the same size, but that would’ve been a lot of wastage, so I decided not to. The boards were then glued together. This step is quite important, as if there are gaps in the glue-up, or warping in the boards, that will show in the final product. I missed taking pictures of a couple of steps here, but it is after gluing the boards together (thanks @ryanf for your help!) and cutting a straight line with the track saw:

And here it is after ripping the other edge parallel on the table saw:

And even though that gets it pretty straight, any tiny little gap would show, so every cut made on this project had to get planed down:

Cutting and making the pattern

Next up was to start the process of cutting the board into slices. Here’s the first one, quartering the board (one rip, one cross cut) in the previous picture. After cutting, they’re again planed square. You can see the pattern start to emerge that’ll end up on the board:

Then a glue-up. Don’t forget to use the plastic sheets to prevent glue from getting everywhere!:

I cut the board in half again, planed the edges, then did another glue-up:

This left me with a piece roughly the size of the final board. The next step was to plane both sides as flat as possible, cut it into strips, then rotate them to expose the end grain.

Cutting on the bandsaw. I used the bandsaw as I needed a smaller kerf as my margin for wastage was fairly low at this point. Extra care was taken and test cuts on scrap were done to make sure I had it set to cut straight:

The strips from that step were rotated in place and glued together. If the board wasnt flat before the prior step, I would’ve created a bowed surface. For good measure, I flipped every other strip to hopefully cancel out any error from the top and bottom planes not being parallel:

final steps

Each time I did a glue-up, the surfaces needed to be flattened again as the pieces would not always be flush. In the prior steps, I did this with a hand plane, but for this one since it’s all exposed end grain that would’ve been hard. The two main options here would be to use a router sled or CNC machine; to build experience I chose to go with the CNC. Huge thanks to @Kyle, @archie, and @petra for their assistance and guidance here:

And this is what the flattened surface looked like after some sanding:

I had some light burn marks, those needed to be sanded out. I started at 80 grit (would’ve gone lower if I had the pads) and took it all the way down until the burns and milling lines went away. I made sure to go evenly over the entire surface to prevent deformations. The edges of the board were done with a hand plane.

I don’t have a picture of adding the chamfers, but that was done with the trim router. I made a mistake and wiggled it at one point, but I just went a little bit deeper around the entire thing and that covered it up. The big danger moment of the project was up next when adding the finger holes, which was done in the router table. I clamped two stops to the fence to limit the travel of the board and practiced the motion a few times before going for it. For the first pass, I had the bit barely exposed to take a light pass, and I’m glad I did as I let the board wander a bit so the cut was not straight. I added another stop to the table to keep the cutting board against the fence, and that helped keep the remaining cuts straight. Luckily when I got to the final pass at full depth, it was enough to cover the earlier mistake:

The last shaping step was to engrave a G to the corner to personalize it for the recipient. I first tried to do that in the laser, but due to poor planning, it didn’t fit:

I ended up doing this on the big CNC. Archie showed be the beauty that is v carving bits, which ended up being excellent for this job:

I sprayed down the board with water to raise the grain then sanded. This warped it, which freaked me out, but after I let it dry for a couple hours it went back to normal. My understanding is that this is because of uneven drying on both sides of the board, as well as end grain being particularly dimensionally unstable. As of right now, the board is still soaking up copious amounts of oil:

I’ll add more pictures when it’s finally finished.


Another piece of legendary quality mate :star_struck: great work once again! :muscle:


This is absolutely wonderful- such a gorgeous pattern too and the CNC engraving is a brilliant little touch. Though I’m shocked you’re not using Ash for once Max😂


epic, just epic mate,
i’ve been trying to make for a few months :))
This gives me more confidence that i can finish mine. :))


That’s absolutely gorgeous! Spectacular work

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That is beautiful!
Where did you get the wood from, and how much was it (if you don’t mind me asking!)


Thanks! I got mine at E Robert’s. I’ve also gone to SL hardwoods in the past. This was a 2.7m inch thick board, cost was somewhere around £60 if I recall correctly.

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