Running end grain through a thicknesser..

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Jeremy Nako

Established Member
13 Jul 2020
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Firstly.. I'm a complete woodworking newbie so please dont jump on me like a tonne of bricks !

I'm looking to make some end grain cutting boards. I've watched a million videos on Youtube to see what might be within my current skill set.

Pretty much all of them use a drum sander to level the board after the end grain glue-up.

And.. most videos say don't use a thicknesser on end grain as it's dangerous.

I have a Triton thicknesser arriving next week.

So.. could someone explain why its dangerous and if there are any ways around this or alternative ways of leveling the board.. baring in mind that this is very new to me so hand planing a level finish - at the moment - is beyond my skills, but something that I will be working on.
Do you have a Hand Plane? a 4-1/2 will do.

Take 50-75mm cube of close grained hard wood.
Plane one side With the Grain, in one pass.
Plane one side Across the Grain, in one pass.

Notice any difference? I suspect you will notice some.

Now multiply any difference by a factor of 10 or 12 as an indication of the loads on the planer knives.

Basically I'd expect a home workshop thicknesser fed an endgrain chopping board to produce either shattered blades or wooden bullets shortly before its drive mechanism gave up.
You will get at best a poor finish and at worst the thicknesser will rip out the sides of your blocks, a hand held sander will be a better proposition. Or a low angle block plane
I have seen end grain chopping boards run through a thicknesser but the maker has always glued on sacrificial strips of timber on the leading and trailing edges of the board matrix and then ripped these off on a table saw after planing.
The other technique is to use a router sled arrangement to get the worst of the unevenness removed and then ROS to finish.
A thickness sander would be ideal but not everyone has access to one .

As with all methods, taking very small cuts at each pass is the way to success.
Good Luck
CHJ":1ty5y7ts said:
........ I'd expect a home workshop thicknesser fed an endgrain chopping board to produce either shattered blades or wooden bullets shortly before its drive mechanism gave up.

I pushed an endgrain chopping board over the top of my planer, with sharp knives and a fine cut setting, and it was one of the scariest experiences I've had in the workshop. Luckily, the board was relatively flat to start with, and I'd used Cascamite, otherwise I dread to think what would have happened. The noise and vibration was frightening. ........and that's over the top of the machine. The thought of passing it underneath gives me the heebie jeebies.
I watched a video just this morning on making end grain chopping boards and the maker used a table saw for all of the end grain work then put it through a drum sander.
I think the answer is to be careful in the making of the board and getting the pieces of the same size in the first place so that when the glue-up is done and they are all flat. running over with an orbital sander. This would be the safer option and better for a new woodworker.
As someone has already mentioned a router with a sled is a good option if you have already glued up again followed by an orbital sander
It can be done but it’s less than ideal. As what’s already been said you ideally need sacrificial pieces fixed all around the board and VERY light cuts. It would also help to have a set of knives with a 15-degree back bevel at the cutting face so that it’s a scraping cut rather than a chopping cut, this requires even lighter passes.
Is it possible to turn the blades of a hand held planer into scrapers?
Seems like it could possibly work?

Might require getting some O1 steel the same thickness, but It's not hard to but a blade up against a square block and rub against a stone.

Edit: some grinding of the back might be required for clearance.
You could probably get quite close to the edges and do the perimeter using some other method.

Since you are a beginner I would advise you make long grain cutting boards to start with. Then you can survive your initial tool learning phases without damaging your machines and filling your pants . :wink: You can make end grain boards later when you have learned more skills and understand what works, what doesn't and what could be risky.

There’s more to end grain blocks than meets the eye. Also for the majority of people high quality edge grain is going to be a better fit to needs.

My main chopping board is a Boardsmith from the US. Without a significant investment in tooling, or spending a lot of time I don’t think I could have made a board to that standard.

It also weighs a tonne and would be impractical for a lot of people.

If end grain boards aren’t made perfectly you have glue gaps or misalignments that at best look naff, at worst make them less sanitary and prone to warping. Edge grain is easy to make, easy to maintain and is virtually identical in use.

If after a few months experience making edge grain you’ve got the basics down of preparing square stock, repeatable cutting to length, cleaning up the end grain, getting good glue joints, managing wood movement etc you have a market that will make end grain worthwhile then I’d step up from there.

Good luck with it
I'm just about to try out my skills using chopping boards so that's really useful advice, thanks!
We have a very good chopping board that is part end-grain, part long, alternating. Why not start with that? Take very light passes on the thicknesser, and stand off to the side.
Ttrees":18lpeglr said:
Is it possible to turn the blades of a hand held planer into scrapers?
Seems like it could possibly work?

I would imagine having backed-off knives in a hand-held planer would be absolutely abysmal to use, the lightweight nature of the tool would mean it would bounce and chatter all over the place even on the lightest cut as it does on a surface planer and you would end up with a terrible and inconsistent surface whilst at the same time giving you white finger.

It works in a thicknesser because you've got the power feed to keep it moving consistently and the downforce of the feed rollers to keep it going through steady.
No, it would be scary and likely not work too well, with danger of ploughing up your surface.

I do make these, and use a handheld belt sander - a cheapo 'Pro' from B&Q - which works fine. I do have a lunchbox planer but never use that for end grain.

It's worth taking a lot of care with the cutting and glueing, so that you have the minimum sanding. And when glueing, use cauls to spread the force evenly, and also use clamps that really clamp square.

Start with a small one for practice. It can be dedicated to cutting limes for gin & tonic :). They are not that hard to do and very satisfying.
Thanks to everyone who commented.

I think I'll give the thicknesser a miss on the end grain bit.. and maybe try a hand belt sander if really needed.
It definitely can be done. I made this a while back for Mrs. memzey and passed it over and under my planer thicknesser to get it all flat and level:

They key was taking very, very light passes, a few thou’ at a time, being patient and having very sharp knives. I was able to do this as I have a wixey DRO on my machine which gives me access to that level of finesse in terms of settings and the knives were dead sharp. Probably didn’t hurt that it’s a big old lump of iron as well. Not sure I’d have attempted it on anything less substantial to be honest but people do all sorts of crazy things.

Good luck whatever you do and post pics here of how it came out!