Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Oct 1, 2013 05:01 AM

Endgrain Boards - Does sixe of each *endgrain block* matter

Looking at a couple of chopping/cutting boards. (boardsmith, brooklyn butcher, etc). There is somewhat of a spread in price and which they hover from $150'ish -$300 for the same sized board. All built by a *small crafter*. All 3-4 of these boards I'm looking at, the blocks are staggered - supposedly for better strength.

The 2 most expensive, are using wider blocks - thus about 10 rows versus let's say the other 2 using smaller block heights, at 18-19 rows. Is there a functional difference in strength with the larger blocks (aside from less glued joints).

I'm going to presume 10 rows is more stronger than 18 rows of = depth of the same sized board. Is it worth the $150 more is the ?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. <'m going to presume 10 rows is more stronger than 18 rows of>

    I have no idea, and will not answer what I don't know. However, I do think you bring up a very good point: <Is there a functional difference in strength>

    Does it really matter in a practical sense? And what kind of strength (in what direction) are we talking about anyway? Also, I am not seeing how 10 rows of wider blocks will be stronger than 18 rows of narrow blocks, but I am sure someone can answer. I can, however, see larger blocks will cause more just because it is easier to get smaller and narrower blocks.

    Wood is a funny which can be difficult to predict. I have seen pictures of expensive wood blocks split, and I have seen many cheap blocks survive.

    1. CK -

      When I'm talking rows, I'm talking the depth (front-back). And I suppose that also applies to the width, as where some of these can be X larger cut width-wise, and one manufacture staggers them with primarily wider/longer cuts width-wise with maybe 2 or 3 rows with a bunch of *squares* in them.

      I think for all intents and purposes, the maintenance of wood is more important and functionally, it will probably be the same.

      It may just boil down to the *minute $ factor*, similar to what does a $150 blade get you and what does a $300 blade get you..

      Everyone spouts *thicker is better*.
      I'm leaning on 2" as the ideal thickness on the board.
      Too high - the board get's heavy. No one wants to use it and wash it and it becomes a large decorative piece.

      I'm all for supporting local - turns out the local guy is the most expensive of the bunch.
      The 2nd most expensive seems to be be a good mix of price/build.

      The latter 2 are lesser price, one being 66% LESS than the most expensive, 150% THICKER than the most expensive - they just use more smaller ~cuts of wood~ in the board.

      1. Maybe I can help with an explanation.

        Larger individual blocks mean less glue joints, your knife edge contacts less glue and more wood helping to preserve the edge. Smaller blocks could also mean the builder is using a lesser quality wood and has to cut down the size of the blocks to avoid the resident splits, cracks and knots. Cutting down the size of the individual blocks also reduces the rows of blocks in the board.

        1. Hi! I just wanted to second BoardSmith's comment but also add some info that might help others when seeking info on this topic.
          Wood glue is actually STRONGER than the wood fibers, so the number of glue joints should not negatively affect strength (if done correctly). Sounds weird, but it is true! If you glued two boards together, it would take more pounds of force to break the boards apart at the glued seam than it would to break apart a board through its own fibers. Granted, the demo I saw of that was using a 3/4 or 1" board, edge glued. Now, if you took a monster cutting board that was 3" thick, I really don't know if the same applies. But, I slightly digress, the short answer is that more glue joints is not a factor when it comes to board strength.

          The more important factors that could impact the overall strength of the board would be the quality of the build, and the woods used to build it.
          With regard to build quality, you could have very strong wood and a good glue choice, but if the person gluing the boards together applied too little glue, the cutting board will have issues with strength. Nobody wants a glue starved joint in a cutting board (or, anywhere else for that matter). With an end grain board, the potential for screwing up a glue joint doubles. The person assembling the board could also apply inadequate (or, too much) clamping pressure to the board, which could also result in a strength issue. Additionally, if the boards were not properly milled before the glue up, then the board might have some problems.

          With regard to woods used, the strength of the board could be compromised if the board contains oily woods. Your good builders won't be using those woods, but some others will. If you see "exotic" in the description, steer clear. Many can be twice, or three times as hard as rock maple, but some of these woods are far too oily for use in a cutting board. If the wood is naturally oily, a good glue joint will be impossible to attain. The force to break apart oily glue joints is 1/2 to 1/3 the force needed to break a board along its fibers. Once dry wood is glued together, obviously you will oil the heck out of it - that is FINE and will NOT weaken a board! You just wouldn't want that oil there when the glue is applied. Random note - the use of exotics in cutting boards is debated due to safety issues (nothing is for sure, and only dust and shavings have been known to cause any real health concerns, but when in doubt...)

          Sorry for the long reply, but I just wanted to clarify the issue for anyone shopping for a board :)

          1. Great reply vwjen! May I offer some extra information.

            Glue joints, if made properly, are stronger than the wood itself. The trick is getting a perfect joint. Proper prep of the joint is absolutely essential and there are tricks of the trade to doubling of even tripling the glue surface contact area without looking like it.

            Agreed, you can use to much glue which make an unattractive joint and one that is weaker, You can use to little glue as well. Using proper clamping pressure is essential as well. o much resluts in crushed wood and to little weakens the joint. Even using to much there is no way to force all the glue out of a joint. All that is really needed is about the same as a coat of wall paint, 0.001" to 0.0003".

            The big deal here is the amount of glue joints in a board. The glue is always harder and less forgiving than the wood and all the knife people I know want less glue and more wood to cut on which will help to preserve the "scary" sharp edges they covet.

            One final thing, if a maker is using smaller blocks you can be somewhat sure he is using a lower quality wood and having to cut out a lot of defects.

            5 Replies
            1. re: BoardSMITH

              Second that. I wouldn't want to use one of my Wusthof chef's knives on a poorly made board with lots of glue joints. If some excess glue on a joint can chip a chip a planer blade, then it could certainly damage a knife (which is much more expensive to replace!).

              I think if you spend $500 on a set of good knives then spending half of that amount of money on a board that protects those knives is a bargain.

              I don't know Boardsmith at all, so this recommendation is unbiased. As a woodworker who knows what to look for, I would buy one of Boardsmith's boards. I have seen his comments on other threads, and I have checked out his site. He is very knowledgeable, and his boards seem to be incredibly well crafted. They might seem expensive, but you have to factor in quality of wood, all of the machinery it takes to craft a good board, the cost of replacing blades and other supplies, and the time it takes to make that board. If someone is selling a cheap board, they had to cut corners in one of those departments, and that means the quality is bound to be sub-par.

              1. re: vwjen

                <I think if you spend $500 on a set of good knives then spending half of that amount of money on a board that protects those knives is a bargain. >

                I think it is great to buy a $250+ beautiful board, but I must say that one does not need to spend that level of money in order to protect the knives.

                Recently I am test-driving a knife. As you can see this knife was able to smoothly cut through a yellow page booklet, and I have been able keep these knives at this level of sharpness without necessary using $250+ cutting boards.

                Again, there is nothing wrong with an expensive beautiful board, but one does not need it to keep the knives safe. A BMW or a Porsche is nice, but a Honda or Ford can keep you plenty safe.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I wouldn't argue that you can't keep a knife sharp on a less expensive board - unless is is made of a subpar materials and has glue lines thick enough to see with the naked eye. Granted cheap boards PROBABLY won't last you longer than five years without showing their age, but hey, not everyone cares about that.

                  Perhaps I should have elaborated, but my comment was already bordering on essay length :)

                  I guess my main point was that if you spent a bunch of money on the knives, why not buy a lifetime board - one that will serve you and protect your knives for as long as you live? It is an investment. A BMW or Porsche wouldn't be an investment. They loose value faster than a Honda. Why? Because the Honda will serve you for a LONG time.

                  Now, a $500 board made out of wenge (which is actually toxic, but I see a LOT of boards in boutiques made from it) , THAT is a BMW. A total waste of money for something not as good as the Honda.

                  If you can afford a BMW, get the Honda with all the options. If all you can afford is an old Ford, then buy the best darn old Ford you can buy :) I just upgraded an old Ford myself...

                  1. re: vwjen

                    <Granted cheap boards PROBABLY won't last you longer than five years without showing their age>

                    This gets back to some of the debates people have about nonstick pans too. Some nonstick pans like Scanpan and SwissDIamond can last for a much longer time than average nonstick pan, but these Scanpans and Swiss Diamond pans are about 5X as much as typical nonstick pans. So the same question may apply here. A $250 board may (and a big may) last longer, but is it going to last 5 times as long as a $50 cutting board? I don't know.

                    <if you spent a bunch of money on the knives, why not buy a lifetime board>

                    I think that is part of the problem. Wood is natural material, and very unprediable. As far as I know, there is no guarantee that a $250 cutting board will last twice as long as a $125 cutting board. There is nothing wrong with buying a lifetime board for $250, but there is not a guarantee that a $250 board will be lifetime. Conversely, there is no data to show that a more expensive board ($1000) will last 4X as long as a $250 board.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      A terrible analogy to follow-up on CK's blurbs, but a wooden cutting board is also similar in said *premium* brands of cars in that you do need to maintain them. Don't get them too wet, oil them now and then, lay them flat, etc. If you don't maintain them.....

                      Where'as other boards/board materials can be tossed in the dishwasher, etc.

                      I'm sure anybody looking or considering a premium wooden cutting board knows the rules of the playground already and is already somewhat of a knife/board enthusiast. I'd figure I'd at least put this out there in this thread should a noob come across this threads.