Build It | End-grain Cutting Board from Scrap Wood

End-grain cutting boards made from scrap wood can be an easy and satisfying woodworking project. The end-grain construction makes these boards gentle on knives yet durable for generations of use. With a few scraps of lumber and basic tools, you can create a beautiful and functional cutting board that will be the highlight of your kitchen.

Selecting Wood for an End-Grain Cutting Board

Choosing the right wood is an important first step when making an end-grain cutting board. Here are some things to consider when selecting wood:

  • Hardwoods: Look for dense hardwoods like maple, walnut, cherry, oak, ash, or hickory. The dense grain structure makes them resistant to wear. Avoid soft woods like pine which can show knife marks easily.
  • Appearance: Pick woods with interesting grain patterns or colors to make a striking cutting board. Contrasting wood types can be arranged in creative ways.
  • Cost: More exotic woods can get pricey. Consider more affordable woods if cost is a concern.
  • Scrap availability: Cutting boards are a great scrap wood project. Use smaller leftover pieces from larger boards and dimensional lumber.
  • Moisture content: Look for kiln or air-dried wood that is fully cured to 6-8% moisture content. This prevents future warping or cracking.

Some excellent wood choices are maple, walnut, cherry, oak, and purpleheart. Avoid porous open-grain woods like mahogany which can harbor bacteria. Domestic hardwoods are ideal, but some tropical woods also make sturdy end-grain boards.

Sizing and Planning End-Grain Cutting Board Dimensions

Once you’ve selected your materials, it’s time to map out the size and shape of the cutting board. Here are some tips:

  • Functionality: Consider the size of meats, vegetables, or other foods you typically prepare. Allow room for cutting and transferring chopped ingredients from the board to a pan or bowl. A surface area of about 20″ x 15″ is versatile for most home kitchens.
  • Thickness: Aim for a finished thickness around 1.5″. Thinner boards can warp over time. Thicker is sturdier but heavier.
  • Weight: Larger and thicker boards can get heavy and unwieldy. Make sure the user can comfortably lift and maneuver the size you choose.
  • Edge style: Square edges or more rounded profiles are both attractive. Rounding the corners slightly makes a board safer to handle.
  • Wood supply: Take stock of the piece sizes and dimensions available in your scrap wood supply. Optimize the cutting board size to use the stock efficiently.
  • Grain alignment: End-grain boards should be square with the endgrain running vertically through the thickness. So width and length dimensions are less important than thickness.

With some planning, you can design a personalized cutting board sized perfectly for the intended use and user. Keep functionality, wood supply, and visual appeal in mind when deciding on dimensions.

Preparing Scrap Wood for an End-Grain Cutting Board

To yield beautiful end-grain cutting boards, the scrap wood pieces selected need some special preparation:

  • Milling: Mill boards to uniform thicknesses around 1″. This ensures proper alignment in the finished end-grain pattern.
  • Squaring: Make sure boards have one flat face and one straight edge at 90°. This allows aligning multiple pieces precisely.
  • Surface preparation: Sand boards to 120-150 grit for a smooth glue-ready surface. Remove any grit marks before gluing.
  • Moisture equalizing: Allow milled boards to acclimate to your shop conditions. This prevents future movement or cracking after glue up.
  • Selection: Set aside boards with defects to use elsewhere. Select the most attractive pieces for the cutting board face grain.
  • Cut planning: Cut your milled boards into square segments fitting your planned end-grain pattern. Contrasting wood colors and types can create striking designs.

With properly milled, squared, sanded, and cut boards, you’ll have the ingredients to make a professional quality end-grain cutting board from scrap wood. Take time at each preparation step for best results.

Tools Needed to Build an End-Grain Cutting Board

Building an end-grain cutting board requires just a few essential tools:

  • Table Saw – To accurately mill boards and make square rip cuts. A crosscut sled is also very helpful.
  • Jointer – For milling one flat face on rough boards and preparing a straight edge on each board.
  • Thickness Planer – After jointing, boards can be milled to a uniform thickness.
  • Belt Sander – Quickly removes saw marks and flattens glue joints between segments.
  • Orbital Sander – Used with 120-220 grit paper to finely sand boards before and after glue up.
  • Bar or Pipe Clamps – Used to apply even clamping pressure during glue up. At least 2 clamps recommended.
  • Wood Glue – Titebond III provides a strong, waterproof bond for end-grain cutting boards.
  • Drill and Drill Bits – For creating juice grooves or handles if desired. A 1/4″ bit is commonly used.
  • Mineral Oil – For protecting and maintaining the wood after construction is complete.

With these essential tools, scrap wood can be transformed into a stellar end-grain cutting board. Investing in quality tools helps ensure precision and best results.

End-Grain Glue Up Process Step-By-Step

Once your boards are prepped, it’s time for the glue up. Follow these steps closely for a seamless end-grain pattern:

  1. Apply wood glue on each board segment. Spread evenly across the entire surface.
  2. Assemble boards in order of your planned pattern with endgrain facing up. Align carefully.
  3. Use clamps to fully compress joints. Gradually tighten clamps for even pressure.
  4. Allow 24 hours drying time while keeping boards flattened with clamps. Longer dry time is OK.
  5. Remove clamps and scrape away any dried excess glue squeeze-out.
  6. Sand lightly with a belt sander to flatten surface and smooth glue joints.
  7. Inspect for gaps or misaligned segments. Re-glue if needed for a tight seamless surface.
  8. Repeat glue up process until full cutting board thickness is achieved.
  9. Allow several days curing time before final smoothing and finishing.

Follow these best practices for hassle-free glue up results and strong end-grain bonds. Minor gaps won’t affect function. But avoid over-sanding between glue up steps.

Smoothing and Sanding the End-Grain Cutting Board

Once fully cured, the end-grain cutting board needs final smoothing and sanding:

  • Belt sanding – Aggressively flatten the top and bottom surfaces with 60-80 grit belts first. Watch for uneven spots.
  • Orbital sanding – Switch to random orbit sander with 120-150 grit to remove belt sander marks.
  • Gradual progression – Move up through 180, 220, 320, and 400 grits for increasingly finer sanding.
  • Sand both faces – Sand top and bottom equally to prevent cupping or distortion.
  • Finish sanding – End with 400-600 grit for a glassy smooth finish ready for oil.
  • Edge sanding – Break sharp corners slightly and ease edges with 220 grit. Be careful not to round over.
  • Remove dust – Wipe board clean between sanding grits and after final sanding. Tack cloth works great.

Take it slow through the grits for the best possible surface smoothness. A proper sanding progression is the key to achieving a flawless, splinter-free end-grain finish.

Applying Oil Finish to an End-Grain Cutting Board

Oil finishing will protect, maintain, and enhance the natural beauty of your end-grain cutting board:

  • Choose oil – Food grade mineral oil is ideal. Avoid vegetable oils which can turn rancid. Walnut oil also works well for lighter woods.
  • Initial coat – Apply a liberal amount of oil across the entire board using a clean rag or paper towels. Let soak 15-20 minutes.
  • Wipe dry – Thoroughly wipe away any excess oil not absorbed into the wood. Remaining oil will feel tacky.
  • Cure – Allow to cure about 24 hours for oil to fully saturate the wood cells.
  • Re-apply – Apply another thin coat of oil. Wipe away excess after 5 minutes.
  • Maintenance – Reapply oil monthly or whenever board starts looking dry.

Consider using beeswax paste wax as a topcoat over the cured oil for extra protection and sheen. Buff well with a cloth.

End-Grain Cutting Board Maintenance

To keep your handcrafted end-grain cutting board looking great and safe for food prep:

  • Wash often – Use warm soapy water after each use. Avoid harsh detergents. Rinse and dry completely.
  • Re-oil regularly – Every 1-2 months is ideal depending on use. Letting oil soak in overnight is best.
  • Avoid bleaches – Chemicals like chlorine can react with wood and dry it out. Don’t soak in bleach water.
  • Sanitize gently – For extra sanitizing, spray with vinegar and wipe dry. Limit soap contact time.
  • No dishwasher – Frequent dishwasher cycles will degrade oil finish and damage wood. Hand wash only.
  • Protect finish – Reapply beeswax or board conditioner if oil finish starts looking worn or cloudy.
  • Inspect for damage – Watch for excessive knife marks or deep cuts which warrant sanding.

With proper care, an end-grain cutting board becomes better with use as the wood absorbs oil over time. Follow these tips for lifelong beauty and utility.

Troubleshooting Common End-Grain Cutting Board Problems

End-grain cutting boards are durable by design, but some minor problems can arise:

  • Warping – Can occur if board dries out, is over-washed, or wasn’t properly equalized before glue up. Light sanding and re-oiling usually fixes.
  • Cups or bows – Result when top and bottom faces aren’t sanded equally. Sand problematic face until flat and reapply oil.
  • Splinters – Are a sign of either insufficient final sanding or dried out, neglected board. Address with fine sanding and/or re-oiling.
  • Discoloration – Some woods can darken or spot if left wet too long. Let board dry fully before re-oiling to refresh color.
  • Bad odors – Can signify growth of bacteria in neglected board. Scrub with vinegar and re-oil. Avoid leaving wet boards stacked.
  • Cracks – Check humidity levels and oil regularly. Small cracks are normal and don’t affect function. Epoxy fill deep cracks if desired.

With maintenance and care, your handmade end-grain cutting board should stay gorgeous and functional for generations. Correct any minor issues promptly by sanding and re-oiling.

Design and Pattern Ideas for Scrap Wood End-Grain Cutting Boards

The creative possibilities are endless when making end-grain cutting boards from scrap wood. Play with different patterns, segments sizes, shapes, and wood species combinations. Here are some ideas to spark inspiration:

  • Contrasting stripes – Alternate light and dark colored wood strips. Vary widths for interest. Maple and walnut is a popular pair.
  • Checkerboard or grid – Use small segments of two or more complementary woods. Interlock in a grid or checkerboard motif.
  • Picture frames – Frame a unique wood centerpiece with a border of contrasting wood. Add multiple borders for more intricate framing.
  • Segmented circles – Arrange varied wood slices in a bullseye or concentric circle pattern. Combine triangles, hexagons etc. as well.
  • Mosaic or tile – Irregular scraps can be fit together like a mosaic with interesting grout lines. Use tiny offcut pieces.
  • Words or initials – Cut out letter shapes from contrasting woods and arrange into names, initials or words.
  • Woodburned details – Add further personalization and artistic flair with woodburned designs, borders, or messages.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with segment sizes, angles, species arrangement, and geometric versus freeform patterns. Let your scrap wood supply and creativity guide you.

Incorporating Unique Details and Special Features

Add functionality and visual flair by including unique details like:

  • Juice grooves – Cut narrow slots along edges to catch and funnel away fruit and vegetable juices for a cleaner cutting experience.
  • Handholds – Router out finger grips or handle slots on the short or long edges to make lifting and moving the board easier.
  • Hanging holes – Drill holes in corners to hang the board when not in use. aids storage and display.
  • Woodburning – Use a woodburning tool to personalize the board with artistic designs, letters, brands or monograms.
  • Inlays – Small strips or blocks of contrasting wood or other materials can be set into the edge or surface as decorative inlays.
  • Edge profile – Shape or route decorative edges. Bevel just the top surface or full bullnose rounded edges.
  • Cutouts – Remove sections with custom shapes for added visual interest.

Getting creative with special details and features makes your handmade end-grain cutting board a true showpiece.

FAQs About Making End-Grain Cutting Boards from Scrap Wood

What are the benefits of end-grain vs. edge-grain cutting boards?

End-grain boards are more gentle on knife edges. The wood grain structure naturally resists cutting and dulling of blades. End-grain boards are also more durable and resistant to wear and impacts over years of use.

How many pieces of wood do I need?

This varies on size but figure about 3 board feet of wood per square foot of cutting board surface area as a rough estimate. Cut pieces about 1″ thick before glue up.

What’s the best way to join boards together?

Proper edge gluing is key. Use waterproof wood glue and clamp evenly until fully cured. Remove any dried glue squeeze-out before sanding smooth. Avoid over-sanding between glue ups to maintain alignment.

What wood species should NOT be used for cutting boards?

Avoid open-grained tropical woods like mahogany which can harbor bacteria. Also avoid soft woods like pine which dent and show knife marks. Stick with dense domestic hardwoods like maple, walnut, oak, cherry etc.

How thick should an end-grain cutting board be?

A good minimum thickness is 1.5″ for stability and durability over time. Can go thicker but weight becomes a consideration. Avoid thinner than 1”.

What’s the best finish for end-grain cutting boards?

Food-grade mineral oil is ideal and safe. Provides moisture protection without any film buildup that can crack or peel. Reapply monthly. Topcoat with beeswax or board conditioner for extra protection.

How do I sanitize and clean an end-grain cutting board safely?

Wash with warm soapy water after each use, rinse and dry fully. For deeper periodic cleaning, spray with diluted vinegar to sanitize then reapply oil. Avoid soaking in water.


Constructing an end-grain cutting board from scrap wood makes for a rewarding DIY woodworking project that results in a beautiful, personal, and functional kitchen item. With a basic set of tools, some preparation of your scrap wood pieces, attentive glue up, thorough sanding, and a protective oil finish, you can create a cutting board that will be passed down for generations.

Allow your imagination to guide you in designing unique patterns or special features like juice grooves and woodburned details to make it your own. Experiment with different striking combinations of wood species like walnut and maple for contrast. Be patient and take it slow through each construction step for best results. Soon you’ll have a stunning end-grain cutting board handcrafted by yourself using wood that may have otherwise gone to waste. Get ready to enjoy the process and many years of compliments from guests in your kitchen.