Introduction: 2x4 End Grain Coasters: 3 Styles

About: Teacher. Climber. Craftsman.

I began my holiday crafting this year, and was motivated by the 2x4 contest to try something new. I like the look of end grain cutting boards, but pine and fir aren't typically regarded as suitable woods for cutting boards, so I scaled the project down into coasters.

This is meant to be a detailed instructable, but also present a variety of techniques and tool choices for your own projects. As much as possible I have tried to include references and alternate techniques to support a variety of different goals and shop set ups.

I made 24 coasters from one 2x4, with some material left over.

As a bonus, I also used some of the scraps to make a pair of earrings.


2x4 (I went with 92-5/8 inch so I could fit it in the Civic easly)

Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue (suitable for cutting boards too)

Step 1: Mill the 2x4


Cut the 2x4 into 4 equal length pieces. You could mill the whole 2x4 as one 8 foot length, but I find it easier to work with smaller pieces.

  • Alternatively, cut the 2x4 into 3 equal lengths. Each length will yield 3, 1x1 strips. You need 16 1x1 strips to make the 4x4, so this will leave you with a bit less waist.

Begin by running one edge of the 2x4 through the jointer. Remember, we typically run boards with the concave side down. Then, run one side through the jointer with the previously joined edge against the fence.

If you don't have a joiner, check out:

Table Saw

Use the newly jointed edge along your table saw fence, with the jointed side on the table to cut 1 inch wide strips. Flip each piece 90 degrees and run through the table saw again so that you have 1x1 strips.

*For greater variation in pattern and grain, you could choose to make some half inch strips as well.

You should now have 12 1x1x24ish strips.

Step 2: Glue Up!

First Glue Up

Glue 4 strips of wood together. For greater variety in grain, rotate random pieces in each glue up. The one handed quick clamps are nice, but they seem to cause pieces to slide more than other clamps. If you are looking for more tools to buy, Panel Clamps would be sweet for this kind of glue up.

With the creative use of blocks of wood, clamps and a rubber mallet, glue up each set as level as possible. I used a bench vise to keep the strips flat. The better the glue up, the less work you need a planer to do.

Allow to dry overnight.


Run each strip through the planer. Alternatively, get your hand plane...

Cut two of the strips in half. You only need to do this to two strips, so I chose the two that looked like they glued up the best. You can use the third to add more grain variety, make a mini block by cutting it into 4 pieces, or plan better from the beginning.

Second Glue Up

Glue up and clamp 4 layers. Allow to dry overnight.

Congratulations. Your just took 3 days to to turn an 8 foot 2x4 into a one foot 4x4!

Two parallel sides of this 4x4 block will be smooth (from the previous planing) and 2 will be rough. You could clean up the other two side now using a table saw or band saw, or you can do that to each individual slice later.

If your end product is circular coasters, you could turn this block on the lathe right now.

Step 3: Slice It Up.

Slice is Up

I used a sled in the bandsaw to cut each slice. Use a stop or mark to make them all the same thickness. I cut mine about 3/8 inch thick.

You could use the table saw for this, but you will have to cut each slice twice to get the full 4inch depth.

I then individually cut each coaster to my desired 3.5 x 3.5 size on the table saw by taking a little bit of each side. Be careful of tear out on this step. Pieces that have a corner chipped out can either be turned into circles, or can be cleaned up by rounding off the corners with the sander.

I then sanded the edges and faces with a belt sander up to 220.

Step 4: Add an Accent

Inspired by Drunken Cutting Boards by kludge77 and these cutting boards I added some accents to some of the coasters.

I rummaged through the scrap bins and found a piece of walnut that was about the same thickness as the coasters.

Tape the walnut on top of the coaster with double sided tape.

Cut your desired shape with a band saw or scroll saw.

Interchange the pieces and glue and clamp them together. Allow to dry overnight.

Sand and finish.

Step 5: Circles!

For those coasters that had too much tear out to hide with rounded corners, you can use the band saw to turn them into circles.

With a jig, this actually goes very fast.

I based my circle cutting jig on the one in this video from American Woodworker.

This will leave a small hole on one side of each coasters, but I don't mind.

  • Alternatively, you could use double sided tape to attach coasters to a sacrificial base, and cut several together at the same time. This way, none will have drill holes from the jig. The first time I did this though, I didn't use enough double sided tape and the coasters disconnected from the MDF.

Step 6: Finishing

Sanding (Edited 12/23/15)

After sanding several coasters with the bench top belt sander and by hand, I wanted a quicker, and better, way to sand. I made a simple jig to hold one coaster so I could use a random orbital sander. As the the jig is clamped to the table, the clamp also holds a strip of MDF that is pushing the coaster into the corner. The two screws on either side of the MDF keep it from buckling up. Everything sits below the surface of the coaster so that there is no interference with the sander.


I used two different finishing methods. Some of the coasters I finished with Tung Oil, and others I finished with Arm-R-Seal. The Real Milk Paint Co. has a nice writeup for Tung Oil.

The Tung Oil darkens the color a bit, but not as dark as the picture makes it look.

Tung Oil

Use a 50/50 mix of pure tung oil and mineral spirits for the first coat. Wipe it on, and let sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, wipe off any excess. Allow to dry for 24 hours before adding a second coat the same way.

I added two additional coats with pure tung oil (not the 50/50 mix), allowing 24 hours to dry between each, for a total of 4 coats. I did not sand between coats.

Arm-R-Seal Semi Gloss

I used a square of old t-shirt to apply 3 coats, smoothed with steel wool between coats, and allowed each coat a full day to cure.

Time will tell which finishing method is most durable.

Post up you variations of this project, I'd love to see what you come up with.

And if you like this, please consider voting!

2x4 Contest

Runner Up in the
2x4 Contest

Homemade Gifts Contest 2015

Participated in the
Homemade Gifts Contest 2015