Behind the Design: How an End Grain Butcher Block Cutting Board is Made

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I was always under the impression that I could get away with using an $4 bargain bin cutting board. I own two–a plastic one and another that looks like something similar to wood. They work for a while, but eventually look like they’ve been dragged behind my car–cut, warped, stained and burned.

But those end grain, butcher block cutting boards. Mmmmm-hmmm. I could never bring myself to pay the price for what seemed an overpriced slab of sticks, hewn, designed and manufactured like any other, but after watching how Nova Scotia, Canada-based Larch Wood crafts their own, my mind is completely change.

Making a butcher block, end grain cutting board begins by machine-sawing Larch logs (aka Tamarac, aka Juniper) into a perfectly square piece of lumber, which is then further sawn into several boards. To maintain the integrity of the wood (prevent splitting, rotting, etc.), 20 pallets at a time are dried in a kiln for 16 to 20 days, then stacked and weighted to prevent warping.

The dried wood is then cut into several lengths for different sized cutting boards, which will then be ripped and planed into thin ‘sticks’ of wood about 1 ½ X 2 ½ inches. Those planks are feed through a molder, which whittles the planks down further to the exact size needed for the cutting board. All planks are inspected for defects and scrutinized for the end grain patterns.

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Once the desired pattern arrangement is laid out, each piece is glued together and placed onto a massive rotating machine clamp, squeezed together and set to dry before moving to being planed and cross-cut, sequenced, glued and clamped a second time, completing the final layup of the board and the first look at its one-of-a-kind appearance. The boards undergo a rigorous series of sanding, beginning with a rough-grit drum sander to remove excess glue and bring it down to final thickness. The sanding operations get finer and finer with a router operation in between to round the edges.

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Once completely smooth the board is seasoned with a combination of beeswax and mineral spirits, set to dry and buffed to bring out the luster of the grain. The end-result is a simply beautiful, completely unique cutting board made to last a lifetime. Certainly more so than that $4 slab of plastic.

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Larch Wood also manufactures end-grain countertops and custom flooring. You can see more of their products on their website and purchase the butcher block cutting boards here.

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