Face (or Flat) Grain, Edge Grain & End Grain – the Differences

Tree trunks are typically cut into planks of wood. In constructing a butcher block, the woodworker must decide which of the plank’s sides will face upwards: its Face, Edge or End.

edge, end, blended grain styles

End grain butcher blocks feature the ENDS of wood planks.

End-grain boards are constructed by fusing together short rails or blocks of wood, ranging in length from 1 inch to 10 inches or longer, each standing on end. Looking down on such an array one would see dozens of rectangular ENDS of wood pieces (hence the name, end-grain). Each rectangular END displays a small sample of the source tree’s grain pattern. It’s what one would see if examining a cross-section of the tree’s trunk. Melded together, these small rectangles create a checkerboard array with moderate to pronounced color variation. These fibrous ends are able to absorb sharp edges without dulling them.

In edge-grain (or vertical grain) butcher blocks, plank EDGES face upward.

In such butcher boards, the EDGES of planks face upward. In their making, wood rails are laid on one edge (the shorter of the wood strip’s two sides is its Edge; the longer side is its FACE). When viewing the surface of an edge-grain board one sees the grain pattern of a tree that would be revealed in a vertical slice of the tree. In edge-grain blocks, wood slats run the full length of the board. As a result, edge-grain butcher blocks have no unsightly butt ends or finger joints, and show relatively little color variation.

Face/flat-grain butcher blocks feature wood strips that are wider.

Remember, the face side is the longer of the two sides of a wood rail. That’s face-grain butcher blocks incorporate wood slats that are wider (face) than they are thick (edge).The result is a cleaner, more expansive look (i.e., fewer seams) even compared to edge-grain boards.

Blended-grain butcher blocks are an offshoot of edge-grain boards.

Blended style is sometimes referred to as jointed-edge grain style. But instead of using uniform-sized wood rails, each spanning the board's full length, blended-style boards use different sized pieces to span each row of the block. Consequently, boards made using this style have seams that run in both directions – along the board’s width as well as its length.