L-Shaped Desk #5: Legs, snipe, joints, finish and a clever (I think) 45 degree angle jig!

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Blog entry by SauceMan posted 08-07-2017 02:38 AM 1821 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: The fire, it burrrrrns! Part 5 of L-Shaped Desk series no next part


It’s been forever since I’ve posted. I’ll keep the words minimal and show my progress as a set of images as much as possible. That should make scrolling through this blog post pretty quick.

First, I really need to work on cutting. I now have a 5 HP table saw (or is it a 3 HP saw pretending to be 5?) and a brand new blade, but I get serious burns. That’s what you see on the left of the top-most leg up there. But there they are, 6 legs ready to go!

Also, I thought I had accounted for snipe by making my pieces longer, but sadly I ran out… So there are a couple of hidden spots in the back of my desk that I’m not proud of. I get a tremendous amount of snipe from my thickness planer. Part is I probably need to learn how to use it better, part may be that I get what I pay for by buying a used planer for $100 from Craig’s List.

Now I thought I had my plan straight, but I changed my mind. The aprons were going to be somewhat complicated and I didn’t think that they’d add that much strength with some of the joints I’d have to give them (though I could have opted for lap joints or something else that probably would have worked), so I decided to revise my construction. You see the image of the sketchup in the bottom and the layout I decided to go with. Only problem is having to do joints at a 45 degree angle into the corners of the legs.

While the aprons have not been cut to size, the legs are standing roughly where they belong. Note to self: when labeling parts and your table is upside-down, “left” becomes “right”.

For the aprons, I decided to just cut a flat into the corner and cutting a mortise into that flat area. For the stretchers, on one leg I tried to carve a hole the size of the stretcher and “tuck” the leg into the hole. (and deeper still would be a mortise to accept a tenon). That was bad for two reasons—and sadly I don’t think I captured any photos of it. First, it left these thin strips at the very tip where the leg would tuck in—which eventually splintered off. Second, it was way beyond my ability to do with a chisel. In fact, cutting a mortise at 45 degrees was a challenge in and of itself. I ended up making a 45 degree jig that I used to support the legs as I bored with my drill press to get most of the mortise done, then chiseled out the excess.

Here you see a joint that came out pretty good considering:

Also, while my 45 degree joints were less than perfect, I think my flat mortises are way better than they’ve been in the past. Now I need to work on my tenons. You’d think that they’d be way easier, but my pieces were not perfectly square as I was planing & cutting them. That makes it hard to make the shoulders of the tenon to meet perfectly and at the same time have a piece that is perfectly square to what you’re connecting it to. I need to practice dimensioning my lumber more. Here’s a mortise (for a stretcher) and one in progress (for an apron). You can imagine my delight when I had a nice, tight fit with these!

Here’s a dry fit test I did for everything. Looks ok in real life, looks way better in the pictures. When you make the furniture you’re acutely aware of every little mistake that’s in it. It can be frustrating sometime, but still, it’s nice to see your progress.

So one question I had to answer was—how do I pull together these legs when trying to glue them considering that they need to be glued at 45 degrees? Think of a pyramid standing on its point instead of laying flat. The way I decided to deal with that is to create 4 45 degree jigs and sandwich them around the pieces I was gluing. Worked out pretty well I think!

First, I glued the legs in pairs. Here you can see two of the pairs ready to get connected. You can also see my 45 degree mortises:

Then, clamping them together with my magic holder jigs (which I also used to make those 45 degree mortises…), that’s what it looks like:

Finally, I had to connect that part after the glue set to the last remaining 2 legs. I was worried that my joints would sag and not be 45 degrees any more because of the weight the other legs were going to cause, but I guess I underestimated the strength of the glue—everything turned out just fine. It’s crazy with those legs in the air, but there you have it:

You can also see the slots in the aprons ready to accept the buttons there. Speaking of buttons, I made 7 buttons. Note to self #2—when making buttons, always make one or two spare because you’ll end up splitting at least one as you try to use it. The one you see on my table saw sled (yes, there’ll be a post on that coming soon) isn’t broken—I just cut a small part out and the remnant is still there.

All that was left was finish, and more finish, and more finish. While I’m “proud” of the small pieces of wood I use with nails on them to suspend my pieces while the varnish dries, one thing I hadn’t considered is that if you don’t have a enough of them (which I probably didn’t), making your wood and then hanging it by only a few points is a fine way to get it to warp. Sadly, there’s a little curve in the desktop because of it. I’m hoping that the pull of the buttons will flatten it out, and maybe over time it’ll finish flattening out. I used about 5 coats of minwax wipe-on poly. The first 2-3 were the satin finish then I switched to glossy. There’s no reason for that except that I used the satin that I already had on hand before realizing that I preferred to go for a glossier finish for this build. It’s not a perfect sheen but it’s not bad.

And finally, here it is all assembled!

Here are the buttons hard at work holding the desktop in place. It allows for seasonal shifting of the wood due to moisture changes:

Here’s one of the things I didn’t do right:
I tried to flatten the seams of the desktop where it was jointed using a random orbital sander. That resulted in a wavy desktop. Realizing that wasn’t ideal—and getting my hands on a couple of planes in the process, I tried to plane it smooth. But… I’m still learning how to do that and my plane was catching and tearing the wood. I’m sure it has to do with how I was oriented with respect to the grain, and possibly also the thickness I was taking off, but there you have it.

Finally, here’s the lucky (but decapitated) recipient of this desk, for size:

I’ll create a post in the projects page showcasing the completed desk. If you made it all the way to the bottom of this post, thanks for tagging along on my journey.

I know I’m very new at this—but that means I will likely make mistakes along the way that many other newcomers to woodworking will too. I’m curious to those of you whose attention I still have: Would you have any interest in seeing videos of my builds, or just these words are sufficient?


2 comments so far

View TraylorPark's profile


212 posts in 1530 days

#1 posted 08-07-2017 12:09 PM

Very nice looking desk. One suggestion I would make is with the beef of the legs the piece would look more symmetrical with a thicker top. That being said it is still a really nice piece and a good write up of the building process. Congrats on creating a long lasting desk.

-- --Zach

View SauceMan's profile


55 posts in 341 days

#2 posted 08-08-2017 05:07 AM

Very nice looking desk. One suggestion I would make is with the beef of the legs the piece would look more symmetrical with a thicker top. That being said it is still a really nice piece and a good write up of the building process. Congrats on creating a long lasting desk.

Hi Zach,

Thanks for your comment. I think you’re right. First, I should have bought thicker stock for the desktop. Also I underestimated the loss I’d undergo jointing and planing it. Since I’m still learning, I’m probably removing way more than I need to. That was 4 quarter lumber which ended up around 2/3” thick after all was said and done.


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