End grain boards are made by cutting the piece of lumber into blocks, and gluing the blocks together with the end grain up, forming the top surface of the cutting board.
Edge grain boards, on the other hand, are usually made of strips of wood. After the piece of lumber has been cut into strips, there is a choice of which grain to put facing upwards.
When the edge grain is up we have an edge grain cutting board. If the face grain is up we have a face grain cutting board. In the typical maple cutting board the strips of wood are glued together randomly, resulting in a mixture of the two types of grain. These are mixed grain boards. Sometimes they are called flat grain boards (flat grain is a term that can apply either to edge grain or face grain).
What's the difference between an end grain cutting board and an edge grain cutting board? We'll compare the two below, but first we'll briefly explain wood grain. Any piece of lumber has three surfaces that woodworkers refer to as end grain, edge grain, and face grain. The drawing shows a log and a piece of lumber that has been cut from it. The three types of grain are labeled:
Feet on a cutting board is a matter of personal preference. Feet offer the advantage of improved stability and reduce the chance of warp as air flow beneath the board is increased. The single greatest disadvantages of feet is that they prevent the board from being reversible and may make cleaning and maintenance slightly more difficult. Feet can be applied at any time but once applied should not be removed.
Wood cutting boards are not dishwasher safe and should not be immersed in water. To clean your board hand wash only with warm soapy water. Mild disinfectants may be used. Dry the board after cleaning with a paper towel or a dish rag. Do not let the board air dry as drips on the underside allowed to soak-in could damage the woods and finish.
The appearance and performance of your board can be maintained with a simple monthly maintenance regime. When the board is clean and dry, apply a light coat of mineral oil to all surfaces (avoid the rubber feet if so equipped). Mineral oil is available at pharmacies for a minimal cost; a 250 ml bottle will last for several years.
Alternatively, apply a thin coating of a bees wax - mineral oil paste, let dry overnight and buff clean. At Alan Rudson Custom Woodworking we make our own paste using pure bees wax from a local Vancouver Island apiary and high grade mineral oil.