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I'm pretty familiar with edge joining boards of the same width to make a panel (for a table top, cabinet door, or whatever) but I've never done a project where I also need to end join short boards, and I'm a little unsure of what order I should do the gluing in. Basically, I found several fairly short pieces of african rosewood at a great deal, and I'd like to make a desk top out of them. I'd like the desk to be 5 feet long, but most of the pieces of wood are 2.5-3 feet long.

Do I first need to end join each board to get the overall 5' that I want, then glue those as I would any other panel? Or should I glue different length boards to the width I want, with uneven ends, and then keep gluing those until I get the length I'm looking for?

For reference, this is what I'm talking about:

enter image description here

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Ashlar and Graphus have addressed how to lay out the joints on the long runs, and I agree with their answers.

As to the order the joints are made, you will need to join the shorter boards into longer ones, then join the long boards to make the correct width. If you try to do it the other way - making the width first, you'll end up with very, very tight slots to try to slip a new, short board into, and, if your other joints were done properly, you probably won't be able to.

Also, not specifically asked, but to make the butt joints, I'd suggested using finger joints like this:

https://woodgears.ca/box_joint/fingerjoint.jpg
Image borrowed from woodgears.ca page on different finger joints.

However, I'd suggest you'll want to use a finger joint router bit like this:

https://www.toolstoday.com/images/Product/medium/5842.jpg
Image borrowed from toolstoday.com

Since you want the joint to be hidden from the surface, not visible and highlighted. Though, making the joint visible on the surface (as in my first image) would make your project quite unique!

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Some related info in these previous Questions:
What are my options when laminating wood with butt joints?
How can I join two boards at the ends?

Usually the only reliable way of doing this sort of thing is to stagger the joints at the ends of the boards, so that they don't line up, ideally distributed through the glued-up panel as seen in much modern "butcher block" countertop material (e.g. from Ikea) and some tabletops on cheaper mass-produced furniture:

Modern "butcher block"

The above can and are done randomly as you can see.

But because you're not doing a large field with many smaller lengths I would plan ahead where you want to place each of the shorter boards. This will help to minimise wastage as well as allow you to choose how the top surfaces of every board will go best together for best visual effect.

Thinking about it a bit more in this case it might be best to do the joints in a regular pattern because there are so few of them, sort of making a feature of them (as in the image you posted) rather than trying to hide them as there's a limit to how much you can reduce their visibility, unless the wood is particularly uniform which I imagine is not likely given this is African rosewood!

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If you start at one end gluing random lengths side by side you will create a series of recesses where the next board must be slid into the recess and glued and clamped individually. It seems that getting everything parallel would be more challenging. IF one board is not perfectly parallel with the end board with the edge , then you will be hard pressed to avoid a gap in a joint line. I would suggest starting on one side and gluing several rows together at a time to get the best alignment and work across the whole width. Make sure that the boards are fully supported during glue up on a very flat table or bench since the butt joints are very weak.

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