• davidswallow

Really expensive, or a really good investment?

Updated: May 13, 2020

Are end grain butchers blocks worth it?

I’m frequently asked to quote for making a butchers block, and spend a long time setting a price which is fair. There is no point trying to wring out a few quid extra if the customer feels they have been overcharged; far better that they love it and tell a friend.

But sometimes there comes no response to the quote, which often makes me think. Maybe they changed their mind, or found a design elsewhere they liked. It’s tempting to go back and see if you can negotiate, but it‘s my belief they may value the board less, not more, and that I am devaluing my craft, not promoting it.

Butchers blocks cost a fair bit, there is no denying that. But there are good reasons for this. First, they should be made from high quality, very dry timber, such as maple or oak. Dry timber is expensive but from bitter experience I know that using moist timber makes the board warp until it is more like a bowl.

A good board will be made over several days. I like to mill it flat and smooth, then let it rest just in case it does want to bend. This gives me a chance to flatten it for good. Then you cut strips, get them square, swear a little when one is not quite right or reveals a hidden knot. Then you glue it, leave to dry, and then cut it apart all over again, but this time you cut it the other way to make the familiar block shapes like in the picture. Then you flatten it, sand it, round the edges, add finger grooves, sand it again, add ‘jus grooves’, sand a million more times until it‘s lovely and smooth, then coat it in food-safe oil and say ‘wow’ as the end grain pattern emerges.

Then, like sending a child off into the world, you despatch it to the new owner and hope they will love it as much as you do. And if you have done everything right they will, for many years to come. So, to answer the question I posed, I believe they are a really good investment; a good end grain butchers block will last years, be kind to your knives, and be an asset to your kitchen.

To view my range of boards, click here

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