End vs Edge GrainTo understand the difference between an end grain cutting board and an edge grain butcher block you must understand the fibers of wood and how trees naturally grow. The fibers in a piece of wood can be compared to a bundle of straws. These fibers run the vertical length of a tree while it is growing. If you took a slice from the tree level to the ground and looked directly down upon that slice, you would be viewing the end grain of the tree. Using the straw analogy, if you stand the bundle of straws on end and viewed them from the top, you would be viewing the end grain. If viewing a tree from the side you would see the edge grain of the tree. This is the same as laying our bundle of straws on its side.
End Grain BlocksEnd grain blocks are the ultimate cutting board. When a knife cuts the top of the block, the knife passes between instead of cutting the wood fibers. Cut marks are nearly invisible over time, so your end grain block will not need re-sanding as often as an edge grain block, if at all. Because you are not physically cutting the wood fibers, your knives will stay sharper longer than when used on any other cutting surface. End grain blocks are much more expensive because the process of making one is more labor intensive when compared to the process of making an edge grain cutting board.
Edge Grain BlocksWith edge grain the grain is running length-wise through the board. Thus, when you cut on an edge grain block you are cutting the wood fibers. Even though you are cutting the wood fibers, it is still a vast improvement over plastic or glass cutting boards. Wood is a much softer material, so even edge grain wood boards will not dull your knives as fast as plastic or glass. Wood is also more attractive than plastic and will outlast any plastic cutting product on the market today.