Moving on

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Blog entry by RHaynes posted 01-07-2014 08:18 PM 2844 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I knew if I ever wanted to move on from being an amateur carpenter and handy man to a “woodworker,” I needed to tackle some more complicated joinery and make some furniture. Since my activities had all but taken over the garage, there wasn’t much room for my wife and daughter to put on/take off shoes any more. I had some scrap 2×4s and plywood laying around from other projects and had been looking at pictures of mudroom-style benches and storage for a while. The result was a very sturdy and heavy bench with two open shelves underneath sized for storing shoes.

I made the top from 3/4” plywood with maple, iron-on edge banding. I finished it with amber shellac. It was a big hit.

My wife is a tax lawyer. Since our daughter came along, she has stayed home full time but still takes a few cases from home. She needed a real desk—big enough to put the amount of paper involved in a tax case on, plus a computer, etc. She likes the rustic, reclaimed look. We looked all over, but never found anything we liked that was still affordable. So I made the classic blunder: “I’ll make you one.” Doh!

I found a source who could get me 5/4 heart pine, rough milled . . . still with the headsaw marks on the boards. I ordered three 12” x 8’ boards, jointed four edges and joined them up with biscuits.

After some light sanding and some stain, the headsaw marks really stand out.

I made the aprons from another piece of the rough-sawn pine, and leg assemblies from new framing lumber, slightly distressed and stained as close to the same color as I could get. The legs included my first ever mortise and tenon joints.

I then made some drawers, this time hiding and plugging my pocket holes.

A bunch of finishing later, the desk was mostly finished.

I’ve since made the drawer fronts from the apron material although for some reason I can’t find a picture of them.

My wife loves the desk. I’m working on a matching top for the two file cabinets behind her desk, making it into a matching credenza of sorts. She likes it, but all I can see are the things that didn’t turn out perfectly or that I would do differently the next time. I still may take the legs and aprons off this one and do something different.

-- "Sometimes the creative process requires foul language." -- Charles Neil.

5 comments so far

View clieb91's profile


3520 posts in 3962 days

#1 posted 01-08-2014 02:31 AM

Russ, First off it has been fun reading your past few entries. Great progressive story.
The desk looks good, I hear ya about the issues that you see but if you are not pointing them out then they will more then likely go unseen. Take those lessons and apply them to the next project rather then ripping up one that is done (just a thought). Perhaps a bigger shoe bench, as mention on your project post that one is way to small for a wife and daughter.. trust me, I know.

As for Destructor.. I understand. Just wait though until she can join you in the shop or comes to you and asks “Daddy can you build me a …” My daughter joined me in the shop around 2 1/2 or 3. I love it when she asks to join me and I try hard to make sure I have some time for her when she does. She does have her own bench to work at which helps.

Look forward to seeing more of your journey.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View RHaynes's profile


112 posts in 1647 days

#2 posted 01-08-2014 07:26 AM

Thanks, CtL! Yeah, I saw some pics of your daughter out there making wood chips with you—you’re a very lucky guy although as time goes by I realize luck has very little to do with it. I hope and pray that my daughter, now 2.5, will want to spend some time with me as she gets older. She loves sitting out there and “helping” me, usually by drawing all over the project with a marking pencil. I try to get her doing as much as I can—driving screws and pounding in brads. She loves sandpaper for some reason. But whether it’s woodworking, golf, music, kicking up mud in “her” truck, or making me dance ballet with her while playing princess, every minute is a gift. I love the idea of her own bench—that’s genius! I’m getting almost daily requests for a “horse.” So I’m checking out rocking horse plans. My bandsaw blade broke, so I’m up the creek on that project until I can find a replacement. But she’s got a toybox/window seat/cubby project in the works for her room right now. And yes, it will be pink. Sigh.

I hear you about the shoes. I’m intending to get some more of my journey down the rabbit hole written up soon, but here’s a preview of the shoe situation . . . I know you are probably fighting that same fight too!

My wife got two pre-made shoe cabinets from Lowes, but the shoes were getting covered in sawdust. The shelf standards they were designed to mount on took up too much space, so I joined them together, put a french cleat on the back, then made a couple of poplar and MDF doors for them. Now the dust stays off the shoes and the cabinet is up out of the way. Of course, all four pairs of my shoes are on the top row, with my sh&%kickers and desert boots up on top. Note Destructor’s John Deere sh&%kickers down below. My wife hates those. Destructor and I love them—it’s fantastic fun!

-- "Sometimes the creative process requires foul language." -- Charles Neil.

View Lynn Bradford.'s profile

Lynn Bradford.

71 posts in 1889 days

#3 posted 01-08-2014 09:35 PM

I really really like that desk too! Great job. Let the admirers point out your mistakes. Don’t point them out. You know where they are. ;-)

Great job. Keep learning.

-- Lynn Bradford | Indiana | A poor excuse is better than none.

View andersonbry's profile


1 post in 1231 days

#4 posted 02-08-2015 05:22 AM

I love this top, looking to do something similar for a bar I’m building. When you say light sanding and staining what exactly do you mean? Really want to accentuate the saw marks as you did. I’m new to all of this, so any detail would be much appreciated!

View RHaynes's profile


112 posts in 1647 days

#5 posted 02-09-2015 08:12 PM

Thanks, Anderson. I sanded the top very lightly (with a 1/4-sheet sander) with 120-grit, just enough to knock off the really high spots and jagged pieces, but not enough to remove the headsaw marks. I then sanded it with 180-grit and then 220-grit, by hand, again just to smooth it out pre-finish but not enough to dull the headsaw marks.

It then got 3 coats of Minwax “Early American” stain. I let it cure for a couple of days, then put on four coats of Minwax polyurethane, semi-gloss. I put on the first coat very heavy and let it cure for two days. I knocked it back with a grey abrasive pad, then added another coat. I put on all the poly with very wide foam brushes to try and keep the coating on the high spots very then and get more of it down into the grain to make the top feel smoother than it actually is. I put on all four coats very heavy to help with that and lightly knocked them back with an abrasive pad. Putting on thick coats is why I allowed each coat to cure longer before reapplication.

Make sure you give the top a nice wipe-on application of mineral spirits to preview what it’s going to look like once the finish is applied. That way you know if you can get away with sanding a little more and still keep the headsaw marks.

Hope this helps!

-- "Sometimes the creative process requires foul language." -- Charles Neil.

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