How to Make an End Grain Cutting Board


An end grain cutting board is a beautiful and functional addition to any kitchen. End grain boards are highly durable, gentle on your knives, and stand up well to years of use. Though they require more time and material to construct than edge grain boards, the end result is well worth the effort. With some basic woodworking tools and techniques, you can make your own professional-quality end grain cutting board at home.

What is End Grain?

The end grain is the cross-section of the wood that runs perpendicular to the growth rings. On an end grain cutting board, the end grain faces up, so your knife edge makes contact with the hard end grain when cutting instead of the softer long grain. This preserves the sharpness of the blade.

End grain’s ability to self-heal as it absorbs moisture also makes it ideal for a cutting surface. When the wood fibers expand with moisture, the gaps close up, preventing food and bacteria from becoming trapped.

Benefits of an End Grain Cutting Board

  • Gentle on knives: The hard end grain does not dull knife edges like solid wood or plastic boards. Knives will stay sharper longer when using end grain.
  • Resists moisture: The end grain’s ability to self-heal prevents deep knife marks and keeps food from getting stuck.
  • Antibacterial: The natural enzymes in wood make it inhospitable to bacteria growth.
  • Durable: Properly constructed end grain boards can withstand years of heavy kitchen use.
  • Aesthetically pleasing: The striking patterns of end grain are an attractive addition to any kitchen.

Choosing Wood

The best woods for end grain cutting boards are hardwoods such as maple, walnut, cherry, or teak. Avoid open-grained porous woods like oak that can harbor bacteria. Exotic woods can be used as colorful accents.

Here are some wood characteristics to consider:

  • Hardness: Harder woods like maple hold up to wear better than softer woods over time.
  • Color/grain patterns: Pick woods with colors and grain that complement each other.
  • Cost: More expensive exotic woods add to the overall cost.
  • Availability: Common domestic hardwoods are easiest to find at local lumberyards.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Lumber: You’ll need about 15 board feet total of kiln-dried hardwood lumber. Using a combination of woods yields a striking end result. Maple or walnut work well for the bulk of the board, with accent woods like cherry, padauk, or purpleheart mixed in.
  • Table Saw: For ripping lumber into strips and cross-cutting to length. A miter saw can also be used for cross-cutting.
  • Jointer and Thickness Planer: These tools allow you to mill rough lumber into dimensioned strips of uniform size and thickness. You can skip these if starting with dimensioned lumber or have the lumberyard mill it for you.
  • Glue: Water-resistant wood glue like Titebond III.
  • Clamps: As many bar clamps as possible, to glue long lengths in one go.
  • Drum Sander or Belt Sander: Used after glue up to flatten and sand the board. A random orbit sander can also work.
  • Router: For easing edges and inlaying finger grips. A roundover bit softens sharp edges.
  • Food-safe Finish: Mineral oil and beeswax cream provide a protective finish that is safe for cutting boards.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Follow these steps to make your own beautiful end grain cutting board:

1. Mill the Lumber

Mill rough lumber into strips 1 1⁄2″ wide by 1⁄2″ thick. This thickness determines the final thickness of the finished board. Length of the strips will be determined later in steps 4 and 5.

Use a jointer to flatten one face and one edge of each piece, then send through a thickness planer to reduce to 1⁄2″ thick on the flattened face.

Finally, rip strips to 1 1⁄2″ width on the table saw. Cut more strips than you think you’ll need to account for defects and wood lost in final sanding.

2. Arrange Blocks in Pattern

Cut some strips into small blocks about 6″ long to test out arranging different color combinations. This allows you to experiment with patterns before gluing longer strips.

Once you have a pattern in mind, cut longer strips of each wood type to that determined length in the next steps.

3. Determine Number of Strips

Decide on the finished width and length size of your cutting board. It’s best to make it at least 18-20″ wide and 24-30″ long for stability and ample cutting surface.

Given the 1 1⁄2″ strip width, determine how many full-length strips are needed for the width of the board. Round up to allow for some thinner strips along the edges.

For example, for a 20″ wide board with 1 1⁄2″ strips, you’d need 14 full strips plus two thinner strips for the edges.

4. Cut Strips to Length

Cut all strips to a length 6-8″ longer than the final length of the cutting board. This provides extra material to trim flush after glue up.

Stagger shorter strips for interesting patterns vs having each row the same length.

5. Glue Strips Together

Using water-resistant wood glue, glue strips together one row at a time, aligning the ends and keeping rows straight. Use enough clamps to apply even pressure across the length.

Wipe away any excess glue squeeze-out once joints are fully clamped. Let cure fully according to glue instructions, usually 24 hours.

6. Cut Board to Length

Once all rows are securely glued, trim the ends of the glued panel flush on the table saw. Sand the edges smooth and square.

The panel is now ready to be rotated 90 degrees to cut the end grain strips.

7. Make End Grain Strips

Change the table saw blade to a thin kerf blade for smoother, thinner cuts on the end grain.

You want thin strips around 1/4″ thick to reveal more end grain. Cut strips along the length of the panel. Number of strips equals your desired finished width of the board.

8. Arrange End Grain Strips

Experiment with arranging the end grain strips to form the desired pattern combination.

Pay attention to the flow of colors and wood grains. Place darker accent woods strategically within patterns.

9. Glue End Grain Strips

Glue strips together using same gluing process as before. Make sure end grain faces up on both sides. Clamp tightly until cured.

10. Trim and Sand

Once the glue has fully cured, use a belt sander or drum sander to flatten the top and bottom faces. Start with coarse grit to flatten, finishing with fine grit.

For dressing the edges, a router with a roundover bit is an easy option. Breaking the hard corners prevents chipping and yields a comfortable grip.

Finish sand all surfaces until smooth. Thoroughly wipe away dust.

11. Apply Food-Safe Finish

Wet the end grain with mineral oil and allow it to soak in fully. Apply a beeswax cream on top of the oil to seal and protect the wood. Reapply oil and wax every month with use to maintain the cutting board over time.

12. Add Optional Features

Customize your board with optional extras like:

  • Juice grooves around the perimeter to catch drips.
  • Hand grips or finger slots for easy lifting.
  • Rubber feet on the bottom to prevent slipping.

Tips for Success

  • Careful milling of all wood strips ensures tighter glue joints and less sanding later.
  • Clamp tightly and give glue plenty of cure time. Use cauls to keep end grain strips flat as they dry.
  • Go slowly with sanding to prevent tearing out end grain. Fine grit sandpaper gives the smoothest finish.
  • Maintain the cutting board with occasional oiling and waxing to prevent drying and damage.


With patience and care, you can create a beautiful and functional end grain cutting board that will be proudly displayed and enjoyed for years to come. The end grain construction helps preserve your knives while providing a bacteria-resistant surface for food prep. Follow the tips above, take your time with each step, and you’ll produce a professional-quality cutting board on your first try.