End-grain or 'butcher block' chopping boards are favoured by professional chefs for their durability and due to the fact that they are much kinder to knife blades than face-grain or edge-grain boards. In an end-grain board, the wood fibres are perpendicular to the cutting surface (think of a bunch of straws held upright), which means that the knife blade is not continuously slicing the wood fibres as it is drawn across the board. A sharp blade will therefore stay sharp for longer, and the board itself will last for decades as the end-grain swells when cleaned with a damp cloth, effectively healing itself.
Medium: 300 (length) x 210 (width) x 35 (thick)
Large: 420 (length) x 300 (width) x 35 (thick)
All boards come fitted with silicone bumper feet and stainless steel screws.
The look of end grain can vary considerably between boards, even those cut from the same tree, and so no two boards will look identical.
End-grain boards take 2-3 times as long to make as edge-grain boards, and as much as 5 times as long as face-grain boards. The wood in chequer- or chess-pattern boards is selected from two planks, cut from different sections of the oak tree, resulting in different cross sections of the growth rings appearing in the end grain. Each board is planed smooth and then sawn into strips along its length. The strips are then glued back together, alternating one strip from each board across the width. After clamping overnight, the new board is then cleaned up and planed smooth again.
The next step is to saw this board into strips across its width, and rotate each strip 90 degrees, so that the end grain is facing upwards. It is only at this stage that the final colour and pattern of the board can be seen. These strips are then glued together once more. A third board of pine or spruce is then planed to the same thickness, sawn in half, and glued to each end of the board. The pine acts as a sacrificial piece and is required for sending the end grain through the thickness planer, an otherwise dangerous process. The board is brought to final thickness by removing one tenth of a millimetre of material at a time, and requires an average of 20 passes to safely make it flat.
After rounding all the edges with a handheld router, the board is then sanded with increasingly fine grits of abrasive paper, starting with 80 grit, and progressing through 120, 180, 240, and finally 400, cleaning between each stage. At this point it is essential to ‘raise the grain’ of the board before applying finish. The fibres on the top of the board have been flattened by the sanding process and will tend to stand upright again the first time they encounter water, leaving a rough surface. To avoid this, the board is sprayed with water, left to dry, and then sanded again at 400 grit to remove the last of those fibres.
Pilot holes are then drilled in the underside of the board, ready to accept the stainless steel screws which will hold the silicone bumper feet – much grippier than cheaper rubber equivalents.
After being thoroughly vacuum cleaned, the board is then submerged in a bath of mineral oil for an hour, turned over, and left for a further hour. It is then removed and left to dry for 12-14 hours. The final step is to apply a generous amount of our own Board Balm, a food-safe blend of mineral oil and beeswax. After the mineral oil has been absorbed, the beeswax is buffed into the surface, leaving a smooth and flat board, ready for many years of service.
Caring for Your End-Grain Board
End-grain boards should never be placed in a dishwasher, and should only require cleaning with a damp cloth. They can be quickly cleaned under a running tap but should be dried with a towel straight away, or left to air dry in a vertical position. Repeated contact with water will eventually dry them out, especially in the middle where they receive most use. An occasional application of our Board Balm will nourish and revive them. Properly maintained end-grain boards should provide many, many years of reliable daily use.
I hope you enjoy your new board, and thank you for supporting our small family business. Happy chopping!