Every piece of cut lumber has an end-grain surface and an edge-grain surface based on how it is cut from a log.
The difference between the end grain and edge grain in wood is that a board's end grain face has a rough surface that is hard to work with and requires a thick finishing coat, but the edge grain face provides a smooth and even surface that can be easily worked.
Also, the board's end grain surface shows the original cross-sectional pattern of growth rings with the tip of wood fibers.
The edge grain surface only shows a side view of the wood fiber with growth rings as layers.
Typically, a product like a cutting board can be made with either the edge grain or the end grain facing up.
This article discusses end grain and edge grain wood, their differences, and the cutting board-making process.
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Differences Between End Grain and Edge Grain in Wood
|Parameter||End Grain||Edge Grain|
|Appearance||Rough surface and aesthetic texture||Smooth surface and plane texture|
|Board producing cost||Very high due to its shape, and thickness||Cheap production cost as the shape and thickness is more machinable.|
|Usage||Heavy chopping, Fine chopping||Normal chopping, heavy and fine chopping are avoided|
|Absorbs more moisture and warps easily due to the vertical alignment of fibers.||Less moisture absorption due to horizontal fiber arrangement.|
|Purchase Cost||Very high||Preferably affordable|
|Material used||Teak, pine, cypress||Red teak, Pine, and cypress|
|Maintenance||Oil and beeswax should be used frequently and in more quantity as the board absorbs more moisture.||Comparably, needs less maintenance and less amount of oil/beeswax.|
The major differences between end-grain and edge-grain wood are their surface texture and grain pattern.
An end-grain wood surface has a rough surface with an aesthetically appealing texture because of the pointy end grains and the grain pattern of the growth rings.
The edge grain surface is smooth and flat as the wood fibers are aligned straight in a series of layers.
Since the wood fibers on an end-grain surface are vertically aligned, it exposes numerous minute internal cavities that absorb a lot of moisture. Hence they don't wrap quickly.
In contrast, edge-grain cutting boards will quickly wrap if you don't use them regularly.
Warping is a process where the wood reduces in size due to shrinkage over time.
Cutting boards of end grain are best suited for heavy chopping jobs like butchering. At the same time, edge grain cutting boards are a good pick for fine-chopping jobs.
End Grain - Explained
In the end grain face of a wooden board, the wood fibers are aligned longitudinally, clearly showing the light and dark cross-sections of the growth rings.
The chopping boards having the end grain face as their cutting surface is durable as the wood fibers space out and revert to their initial position when the knife is pressed and removed from the surface.
It also helps the knife blade maintain its sharpness, and the chopping board only incurs minimal damage.
Since it doesn't cause much damage to the wood fibers, no wood fiber material finds its way to your food, minimizing toxicity.
Chopping boards with an end-face cutting surface are ideal for heavy and intense chopping jobs.
These cutting boards are made by sticking together multiple small blocks of wood, making the manufacturing process hard and the final product expensive.
Since the end grain face of wood vividly shows the radial grain structure, they are also widely used in decorative applications like home decor.
Edge Grain - Explained
The wood fibers are aligned in straight lines in the edge grain face. Here you can't spot the curved face of the growth rings as the wood is cut across them.
Chopping boards with edge grain cutting face is the most common as they are easy to make and affordable.
When chopping on an edge-grain wood block, the wood fibers easily get damaged as it is in a horizontal alignment to the knife blade.
Also, there is a higher chance for the wood fibers to get mixed with the food.
This makes the edge grain boards unfit for heavy choppings, like meat cutting. You can only use them for fine-cutting jobs.
How are end-grain and edge-grain cutting boards made?
When a tree log is cut into slices in a slumbering position, the cut surface of the wood pieces will have an end grain face.
Similarly, when the log is cut from the top in an upright position, the cut surface of the wood pieces will be edge grain faced.
A similar cutting process is followed in making cutting boards.
Wood is cut into small blocks and glued together in various patterns, shapes, and styles to give a unique look.
Choosing the right type of wood is also essential when making cutting boards. Teak, maple, bamboo, cypress, etc., are the most used.
Once the board is made, it's polished using an abrasive shaping process like sanding.
Finally, the wood surface is oiled to provide a better finish. Usually, mineral oil is used as it is durable, free of toxins, affordable, and easily available.
The reason to use oil as a coating is to reduce the toxicity of wood. Some woodworkers also use beeswax to maintain the board surface.
End-grain boards absorb more oil than edge-grain boards, so they are treated with a thick layer of oil.
You should apply the oil coating once in a while to maintain them properly.
Selectively choosing end-grain or edge-grain faced wood can help better customize your woodworking project.
They primarily come into play when making butcher countertops, decors, table tops, etc.
Choosing the right wood for your cutting board depends upon your usage and design expectations.
Many use an edge-grain cutting board, as it is readily available and cheap, but if you are looking for a smooth cutting surface that doesn't wear off knives quickly, get an end-grain board.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I mix end grain and edge grain wood to make a cutting board?
Yes, you can mix end grain and edge grain wood to make a cutting board, but using end grain and edge grain wood together in a cutting board is not recommended as the wood fibers on them are aligned in different directions resulting in the trapping of liquid in their surface, weakening the adhesive. These types of cutting boards will quickly fall apart.
How to measure the hardness of a cutting board?
You can measure the hardness of a cutting board by using the Janka hardness test. It finds out the resistance of a piece of wood to wear and force.
Can I place a hot pan over the cutting board?
Yes, you can place a hot pan over the cutting board, as wood can hold heat up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, it won’t create a char mark or damage the board in any manner.