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The looks as well as the function and durability of a wood surface determine the orientation of the wood grain in relation to the top surface of the countertop.

There are 3 basic grain orientations or ways the wood can be placed to form a countertop or table surface:

  • Face Grain which is also referred to as Plank Grain
  • Edge Grain
  • End Grain
Face grain orientation tends to be considered more decorative because it reveals more of the wood's beautiful grain. Wood planks are glued together with their wide surface positioned as the countertop surface.
Edge grain results from assembling the countertop surface with the edges of the boards (or 'staves' as they're sometimes referred to) in the upright position, forming the work surface of the countertop. Edge Grain
End Grain End grain countertops result from orienting the ends of the boards upwards so that these surfaces form the work surface of the countertop. This is traditionally how butcher block countertops and cutting boards are made.

So what's the difference and why choose one over the other?

Face grain wood countertops show off the wood's beauty and are a good choice for a decorative countertop. They also tend to be the softer variety of the three styles or grain orientation, meaning less dent resistant than edge or end grain.

Edge grain is typically more durable than face grain and is a better choice for use as a work surface than face grain countertops.

End grain wood countertops make a durable work surface, suitable for cutting operations and are less destructive to cutting utensils. This is because the cutting surface tends to "separate" the wood fibers and move aside rather than cutting through them. This is why they are often used in butcher blocks.