Back in the day, chopping blocks were made by slicing logs into rounds, which were hard enough but tended to split under the butcher's blows. Later, wood scraps were fused end—grain up to form slabs that could be gouged, sanded, oiled, and handed down—for decades. Butcher block has since found a home in residential kitchens, joining high-powered stainless-steel ranges and vent hoods as signs of a serious cook. Today, with top chefs doing nightly knife battle on TV, butcher block's macho appeal is stronger than ever. So what makes these tables different? The choice of the hardwood, direction of the grain, thickness of the slab, height of the table, girth of the legs—and price, of course.