In my recent shelf project I left a lot of end grain surfaces highly visible. In the hand tool world there seems to be a great deal of concern for “historical accuracy” in woodworking. Well, historically, it seems most craftsman preferred to cover or hide their end grain. “Secret” dovetails, stopped dadoes, and blind mortise and tenon joints were the norm (from what I have read). I don’t get it. I really like end grain.
You can learn so much about a board by examining end grain. From where in the tree did this board come? How was it sawn? How much movement can I expect? What direction will it likely bow or warp? How old was the tree? How quickly did it grow? Did it survive any droughts? I could keep going, but I think that gets the point across. End grain is very useful to the person building with it.
I really like the look of well finished end grain. I preferred planed, but sanded to a high finish looks good, too. I like looking at the growth rings. I particularly like to follow the grain patterns with my eyes as the wrap around the corners of the board in a way that veneered surfaces can not duplicate. It just screams – yes this is solid wood. This is not something that you have to be a wood nut to notice, it is readily apparent to even a casual observer.
I bought an antique chest a few years ago. The only reason I bought it was end grain. Why? The corners were thru dovetails so I could read the end grain. The sides of the chest were 20 inch wide boards! I figured that if we ever got tired of the chest I could recycle it into something else.
Considering my tastes I am luck that I live in the 2000’s, I’m my own customer, modern eyes like end grain, and I can do whatever I want.