Building a Computer Desk - The great design process.

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Blog entry by JustJoe posted 10-09-2013 11:50 PM 1758 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I woke up one day last week and decided I wanted a new computer desk. First order of business was the planning process. A cup of coffee and five minutes later and that arduous task was complete: It’ll be about yea wide, so tall, and will use that common cherry with all the black sap that I need to get rid of. It seems a bit vague now, but it looked exactly like what I wanted in my mind.

I started with four legs, but had no 8/4 cherry and 4/4 looked too thin so I used a lock-miter bit to glue them up. I didn’t like the way the edges came out so I ran them over the router table and threw in some padauk.
The long skinny stripes looked odd so I threw some more padauk on the bottom and put a taper on them and I had legs I could live with.

Then I added some slats in between them to make two side panels (I was going to go with 5 rails per side originally, but three looked better) and then I connected those with two stiles in the back. At that point I realized that my computer desk needed a keyboard tray so I dug out the hardware I’d salvaged from an old throwaway desk (made by a famouse woodworker by the name of Kenneth Mart, most people know him by his nickname K-Mart.) a quick measurement showed that luckily I’d left enough room underneath for that shelf. I finished installing the keyboard shelf and realized that I probably should have some place to put the computer, since it is after all a computer desk. I routed out a groove to slide a small shelf in the side, then got worried about the strength so I took two small pieces of padauk to make shelf supports.

At this point I slapped some oil on the frame and put it in the sun to get a tan. As it was darkening up I found a small piece of cherry for the side shelf, routed that lip on it, and glued up some cherry for the top. When I brought the frame in from outside I realized there needed to be a lip on the front of the keyboard tray, so I added that.

Now it should have been a quick downhill dash to the finish line – just attach the top and glue that shelf in place, let it darken and throw on some poly. But no, it’s never that easy is it? I’ve been saving those little table-top connector pieces for decades now – those little metal pieces that look like a figure 8, you drill a recess in the top of the frame and screw the figure-8 to it, and then screw from the bottom of the figure-8 into the tabletop. Yea, those. I’ve got at least a dozen and I can’t find them. And now I’m looking at that shelf on the right. I’m thinking maybe I should put a slight curve on that outside corner. And maybe I should route a small vertical slot in the edge there and put some padauk in to get that continuous line. And I just noticed the 3 small nail holes on the front of the keyboard tray where I glued/nailed that strip of wood. And I think I’ll put the top out in the yard to darken a bit before I try to attach it anyway, I’m not sure it is the look I’m going for. I really like the plain, flat edges but maybe it needs a fingernail profile on the bottom instead? I mean, who’se going to buy that this is a “shaker computer desk?”
I thought I’d be done with this thing last Sunday but I think now a more realistic date would be around December, maybe late November if I tear the shop apart looking for those table-top connectors. In any case, that is basically my design process for most things I build – get a picture, choose one vital measurement or shape and work from there. It’s not always as fast as running through blueprint style plans to cut out one piece after another, but the final result is mine even when I’m starting with a picture of something someone else made.

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3 comments so far

View Bogeyguy's profile


548 posts in 2093 days

#1 posted 10-10-2013 12:31 AM

You can build it, but you won’t use it. :)

-- Art, Pittsburgh.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2715 days

#2 posted 10-10-2013 01:16 AM

That’s how I design almost all of my stuff! I love the way the legs came out. I may steal that design (but without the lock miters as I don’t have one). The whole project is turning out really nice.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Jdbrown1998's profile


5 posts in 2409 days

#3 posted 04-29-2014 10:41 AM

Nice detail work.

-- -Joe

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