Butcher Block Projects 101: Getting Started

Butcher Block Projects 101: Getting Started

Butcher’s blocks are kind of like the tanks of the chopping block world. They’re generally built tougher and sturdier as they’re used for cutting meat as opposed to cutting boards which are generally used for cutting vegetables and fruits. Butcher’s blocks are typically used in butcher’s shops although there may be some of you reading this that own one yourselves.

What Is Butcher’s Block?

Butcher’s block can be made of various types of wood – usually teak, birch, walnut, or hard maple. The distinctive rows (or columns, whichever you prefer) that you see in butcher’s blocks are the result of the heavy-duty cutting boards being made by cutting and attaching straight cuts of wood together. There are three ways that you can build a butcher’s block; face grain, end grain, and edge grain.

The Three Types of Butcher Board

Edge grain is the hardier, more stable kind of butcher’s block and is commonly used for countertops due to its durability. It’s the cheaper of the three choices and is constructed by laying longboards on their sides and putting them together so the long and narrow edges can create the surface.

End grain is like the Hulk of butcher’s blocks. It is the strongest and although you might not associate this with the Hulk, it’s the most expensive of the three types. End grain is made by assembling small, rectangle-shaped blocks with the growth ring visible. If you’re looking to cut something, then end grain is what you’re looking for. It hides knife marks and because knives slide into the grain, the edges of the blades take less punishment.

Face grain isn’t exactly the best of the three types of butcher boards for kitchen counters because it’s not as great as taking punishment as the other two. It’s liable to be scratched and marked when cutting. Face grain is made when you lay the boards flat so the surface is made up of their full widths and is streamlined.

How to Hold Your Butcher’s Boards Together

We just discussed the different kinds of butcher board constructions, but the one thing that they have in common is how you get them to hold together. What separates a butcher board from a bunch of wood pieces is that they need to be glued together.

The first thing you’ll do after you’ve cut the wood to length for your board, you’ll want to lay them out in the order you want to arrange them in (for the sake of having the board’s final look organized and planned out). Once done, you’ll take each long cut and apply the glue to each piece vertically and stack one on top of the other until the board is put together to make the pattern that you’ve chosen. Your glue should preferably be something food-safe like Titebond III.

To make sure that everything holds, you’ll need to clamp it all together tightly. For this, you can use either parallel clamps or pipe clamps. Be sure to clamp the boards at both ends and in the middle, horizontally.

This was a very basic rundown on butcher boards and their construction. Butcher boards are rather small woodworking projects (in terms of size if not necessarily effort) and we just wanted to give you a quick little rundown of what butcher boards are about. If there’s anything else about butcher boards that you’d like to discuss or share, then you all know to head down to the comments section. Stay smart, and keep safe when either at work or play, everyone!

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