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I have an end-grain cutting board of "Chinese Ironwood" like this one from the Wok Shop. I've used it heavily for the last 16 years, and it shows very little sign of wear.

However, I have to sharpen my knives more often than it feels like I ought to after use with an end grain board; like every 3 uses to maintain a keen edge. This has brought me to wondering: what exactly is "ironwood" usually, and is it one of those woods that wears down knives faster, like teak or bamboo?

All I've found so far is a thread on Chowhound that's little more than speculation. It doesn't seem to be this plant, which would never be large enough, and the same goes for acacia.

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Based on its density when compared to other hardwoods, I would say it would (see here). Also, having used one (I had a nice circular board, when I lived in China actually) and I noticed it as well. Just like you say, in order to keep a good edge on my knives I was sharpening more often than I was accustomed to with my endgrain cutting board (made myself out of maple and walnut) as well as my bamboo one.

  • How do we know that high-density woods cause knife wear, though? Teak and bamboo are bad for knives becuase they have silica grit particles in them, not because they are hard. – FuzzyChef Jul 12 at 17:01
  • I have extrapolated that from working with metal and other materials where denser materials wear down other tools of mine in the past. If you think about it, a knife blade, when sharp, is essentially a long, thin, point - right? What happens to a point after repeatedly bumping (in this case semi-violently) against an object? It dulls, when the object it's hitting is denser than itself it dulls faster. – J Crosby Jul 12 at 17:08
  • The idea behind endgrain, though, is that's not supposed to matter. The knife edge is supposed to go between the grain fibers. – FuzzyChef Jul 12 at 21:19
  • Theoretically, you are correct. However, as density increases the elasticity of the wood decreases so the change of your knife actually going between the grains decreases (woodproducts.fi/content/wood-a-material-1 - talks about wood density and elasticity).In the case of Ironwood (doesn't matter which variety) it is essentially inelastic for the purposes our conversation, so in this case the chances of the knife going between the grains is slim. – J Crosby Jul 12 at 21:26
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    Er, that link says the opposite: "The elasticity and durability of wood increase as its density increases" – FuzzyChef Jul 12 at 21:35

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