General Info About Butcher Blocks
Butcher block is a construction of assembled hardwood used as a heavy-duty chopping block, island top, table top, or cutting board. The most common hardwood used is hard rock maple although walnut and teak are also common. Two styles of lamination are used, end grain and edge grain, to create blocks. The cutting surface is finished with a renewable oil, cream, or soft wax that seals the wood and rejuvenates wood fibers damaged by routine chopping and slicing tasks.
End grain is the classic and most common lamination style. Square or rectangular blocks of wood are glued together in the same vertical orientation as when the wood was part of a living tree. The finished construction creates a "checkerboard" surface rather than one assembled with parallel rails (edge grain).
In usage, the end-grain surface is the most durable and the one preferred by professional chefs as it allows the knife edge to bite between the wood fibers, reducing knife slippage and blade edge wear while working. The vertical grain orientation also shows less wear over time, and the grain restores itself well when refinished with block oil or cream.
Many professional chopping blocks are up to 16" thick to provide plenty of mass that resists the pounding of large, heavy cleavers. Kitchen blocks in the home typically are 5" to 10" thick. End-grain island tops are 2.5" to 4" thick. Many cutting boards with end-grain construction are available, too. Thicker than other styles of cutting boards, they are thus heavier and less portable around the kitchen.
Edge grain is the most popular style in households thanks to its cost advantage over end-grain construction. Edge-grain construction consists of glued assemblies of wood staves (boards) stacked on their sides. The resulting work surfaces consist of parallel rails of wood with showing the edge of the grain also running in a more or less parallel direction. Shorter pieces and premium longer pieces will have unbroken parallel rails from end to end. Finger joints will visible is the rails are of different lengths.