In the previous post, we discussed how to care for butcher block. We covered how to clean butcher block and the importance of moisturizing butcher block so it doesn't dry out and crack. But before you buy butcher block, it's important to consider how you plan to use it and the specific look you want.
This will help you determine if end grain, edge grain or face grain is best. If you go to a lumber yard and look at 1 x 6 board, for example, you'll see that it has three surfaces. If you stand the board on its end, the surface at the top and bottom is the end grain. If you lay it on its edge, the one-inch edges are the end grain. If you lay it flat, the six-inch sides are the face grain.
End grain shows you the wood when cut across the growth rings and graining. End grain butcher block typically looks like a bunch of squares.
If you think of wood as a tight bundle of microscopic straws, end grain would show you ends of the straws. If you bring a knife down on top of these straws, it splits them apart. That's why end grain butcher block is the most durable, almost self-healing, and easier on your knives.
If you plan to use your butcher block for cutting every day or a few times a week, end grain butcher block is the way to go.
Edge grain shows you the wood cut along the edge and with the grain. Edge grain butcher block is usually made of strips of wood that can be lined up evenly or assembled in a pattern that resembles a hardwood floor.
Going back to the microscopic straw bundle analogy, edge grain would show you the sides of the straws. A knife would cut the straws lengthwise, making it less durable than end grain. Edge grain is also a bit more economical because it's not as labor-intensive to make.
If you plan to use your butcher block more as a utility surface or for food preparation rather than actual cutting, you may want to go with edge grain.
In most cases, face grain isn't used for butcher block because it will show knife marks faster than end grain or edge grain. With face grain, lumber is laid flat and joined at the edge to make a tabletop, countertop, or even cabinetry.
Bison Woodworking discusses each butcher block project with the customer before any work is done so we know how you plan to use it and the look you want to capture. Contact us if you'd like to have custom butcher block piece designed and built.