The power company cut down some right-of-way hardwoods on the back of my property and some of the logs looked so interesting, I decided to make a desktop just from the end grain, but I wanted more than just the hardwood so I added Southern yellow Pine (because I live in the South) and cedar (for contrast).
Step 1: Chain Saw Cuts
I used an electric 14" chainsaw from Harbor Freight to cut off slices of the logs in about 1" thick slabs.
Step 2: Squared Up With Table Saw
With my 60+ year old Rockwell table saw I got from my Dad, I first sliced a side to give me a starting flat edge. From there, I cut the other three sides to be approximately the dimensions of a cross cut of a 4x4.
Step 3: Trimmed Each Side of the Rough Chainsaw Edge
I put a new 12" blade on my 14" Makita chop saw and made a jig to first slice one side flat using spacers the thickness of the pieces I needed. I then removed the spacers and cut the other side flat. Remember I was cutting off either side of the rough chainsaw sides.
Step 4: I Supplemented the Hardwood With Slices of 4x4 Western Red Cedar and Yellow Pine.
I ended up with about 200 end grain slices of wood approximately the same size. I left them on their edge for about a week to dry. I expected some cracking and some warping. After some drying, I sanded the edges with a Harbor Freight belt sander and then back on the table saw, I squared off some edges where they had shrunk from further drying.
Step 5: Designing the Top
I wanted extended arms so that I could work with paperwork on three sides. The end result would be like a standard desk, but wider and with the side work areas already pulled out. I wanted the focus of the table to be on the hardwood so that became the triangle you see in the center of the desk. The pieces were put down with hot melt glue which proved to be perfect for the job. There were occasional voids in the corners where pieces met. I put my jigsaw in my vice upside down. I made the speed real slow and cut out the pieces to insert in the voids. Be super careful here and I suggest you hold the piece of wood with a clamp OR put the wood in the vice and use the jigsaw the normal way to cut it. Either way be sure to wear your safety glasses. Once cut, these were tapped into the voids.
Step 6: Trimming the Top
I used my small DeWalt circular saw to trim the sides using a straightedge as a guide and then the jigsaw to do the curves. If you are curious, the smaller diameter curves I marked with a quart paint can and you can see the larger outer edge curves were done with a round piece of glass from an old patio side table.
Step 7: Sanding and Filling in the Gaps
With the edges trimmed and the larger voids filled with wood chunks, I started sanding with 80 grit using my Makita belt sander. As you can imagine, due to cupping, some of the wood tile edges ended up higher than others, so this took a while to get them all the same level. Once level, I filled the cracks with Plastic Wood from Home Depot. I like the pink because it dries white letting you know it is ready to sand. After it dried, I went to 150 and then 220 grit to get the top ready to put on Minwax oil based polyurethane.
Step 8: Polyurethane Soaked In
I used Minway oil based polyurethane, and even though I also used Minwax Pre-Stain wood conditioner, the poly soaked right in. I let each coat dry overnight. Each following day I would lightly sand with 220 and re-coat. After 5 coats, it ended up like I wanted. The polyurethane brought out the character of the end grain, especially in the hardwoods.
Step 9: Finished Desk
Here is the finished desk in my office. On the closeup, you can see the pine in the foreground, the cedar is the darker wood to the right and the hardwood is to the left. This ended up being a labor of love with the emphasis on labor. :) I could have really used a plane, but I had what I had and I took it as a challenge to complete once I started.