Desk build #1: Small Oak Nurses Desk

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Blog entry by Craftsman on the lake posted 08-27-2009 05:11 AM 3325 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Desk build series Part 2: Nurses desk: Tapered Legs and mortises »

My niece will graduate as a nurse in the near future. She has moved into a new house and asked me for a small desk for her new flat panel iMac. I decided to make an oak desk that would be loosely based on the mission style but with side panels that would reflect her future as an RN. My goal is a small desk 48” x 29” with keyboard drawer and a small drawer. I’ll be trying my first hand made dovetails on scrap and then on to my first dovetailed drawer

I put this out here, baring all for two reasons. I’m still relatively new to woodcraft. Don’t let the ‘Craftsman on the Lake’ fool ya. I just like cool names. I was one of those people who liked CB handles during the heyday of their popularity years ago; remember that time? Anyway the two reason are:

1. I’m still flying by the seat of my pants here. Trying to learn from the net, books and you guys. So, I know how to appreciate it when I get some good information that reveals how some of this stuff is done. For the next time I use these skills in another construction, I invite your take on things. Maybe how you’d do it. It may be a better way or just another way or preference. No problem. All good ideas and comments are welcome and will be read and filed in that void between my ears for future reference.

2. Because I have to work to search to discover the best way to accomplish my goals I document them here so that when another newbie puts saw to wood they might feel better about cutting it with the possibility of success. These steps may seem rudimentary to some but believe me. A few months ago even the first step below was a revelation and prompted me to refurbish a jointer I had and get a planer.

I take a lot of pictures as that’s the best way for me to explain things.

Truing the Lumber

After purchasing lumber (red oak) at my newly found lumber supplier I proceded to cut it to rough length, put it through the jointer, cut it to width, and plane it. I’ve discovered that straight, flat wood is essential to a project. It’s like starting a house. If the foundation isn’t level the rest of the build is an exersize in futility. Joints just won’t fit properly.

Here's a link to the Wood Whisperer on how to prepare lumber
It’s a great video on how to true up your lumber with power equipment or without. He goes through three methods.

Side Panels

I wanted a panel that reflects her becoming an RN so I searched the net for RN symbols. I chose this one, put it in a drawing program, enlarged it, printed it out and glued it on a panel with 3m spray adhesive. The oak that I put it on was planed down to 1/2 inch in thickness. I started with an old scroll saw that didn’t have much control. Hence the uneven cuts. I picked up a new one halfway through the cut after the old one broke (you may remember reading about thumper?) The cutting became smoother but I’ll need to do some recutting and filing to even things out. I cut both panels together by placing two screws to connect them in a place that would be cut off later.

I keep old worn out belts from my 6 inch belt sander. The strips can be 48” long so you can get a lot of strips from one belt. I usually work with 1/2” to 1/8” strips. The nature of the belt is that they rip in perfectly straight strips when you tear them. They are heavy cloth backed so even a thin strip will sand a lot before it breaks. I use it like buffing a shoe at a shoeshine stand. Sometimes it feels like giant dental floss!

Here’s the nearly finished panel. I cut it in this goblet shape. I made a folded paper pattern with ruler, french curve and compass, much like when we made hearts when kids on valentine’s day, opened it up and used it as a pattern for this shape. I’m not completely happy with the roughness of this pattern. I’m going to keep working on it as I build the desk. I just can’t do it all at once in one sitting. it’s gets monotonous after awhile.

Stay tuned for Pas Duex coming soon!

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

1 comment so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4122 days

#1 posted 08-27-2009 08:26 PM

this is WONDERFUL…. I can just imagine the comments when people see this.
So VERY VERY VERY special… a big hug is definitely coming your way, Uncle.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

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