Desk build #4: Nurses Desk: framed, drawers, top glue-up

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Blog entry by Craftsman on the lake posted 08-29-2009 01:13 AM 6398 reads 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Nurse desk: Some glue-up Part 4 of Desk build series Part 5: Nurses desk, finished »

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, some were a mystery to me at one point and many more still are. End recap

All framed up
Here is the desk on the floor framed up. I managed to get most of the front made today with the keyboard tray and drawer made.

Keyboard Tray
The keyboard tray is installed. I thinned the tray to about 1/2”. The slides are flat bottom slides meant for drawers that are limited in room. Home Depot’s bin for keyboard tray slides was empty so I chose these. I think I might like them better. The idea is to have a solid front without visible drawer or tray. I’ll be filling the front of the tray area with an oak strip the same width as the rest of the front. I’m going to try and find some small self closing hinges that can be hidden. HD didn’t have any but my local hardware store is like the attic of hardware stores. I’ll bet they have a little bin someplace with a set. I’ll check tomorrow.

Small Drawer
This is the small drawer, made and inserted but not mounted on the track yet. It’s designed to flush close like the flip down that will be on front of the keyboard tray.

I have to confess I was going to do my first handmade dovetails but this drawer has sides directly mounted to the front and the sides sit slightly below the top edge of the front with the front bottom edge hanging down. After looking at this I got cold feet. I did some lap joints. My dovetails which I have practiced on scrap will have to wait for a box or more traditional drawer sometime in the future.

Top Glue-up
Yesterday I glued up the top. Today I managed at the end of my shop time to make the mitered sides and get the longest ones glued on. Thank the maker for my Bosch sliding compound miter saw. When properly aligned it cuts perfect fitting angles like this.
Question for anyone reading this far: Should I glue the top on or is it better to use some types of clips to allow for expansion? I’d sure like to glue it but don’t want to do it wrong.

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

13 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117090 posts in 3572 days

#1 posted 08-29-2009 01:45 AM

Hey Dan
good blog with great details keep it comming.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View BillyJ's profile


622 posts in 3197 days

#2 posted 08-29-2009 02:58 AM

Very nice. Did you cut the front drawers from one piece of wood? My eyes are failing me at this hour, but it looks like your top is three pieces edge-glued together – correct? If you are gluing breadboard ends on it (which you are), I hope you only glued on the mitered joints and middle couple of inches. Any wood movement will occur on the width, you will develop splitting and cracking as the wood moves.

I love the detail on the desk. Very well designed and built. I really like the keyboard tray. I’m sure your niece will really enjoy this. Looking forward to more on this.

-- I've never seen a tree that I wouldn't like to repurpose into a project. I love the smell of wood in the morning - it smells like victory.

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3643 days

#3 posted 08-29-2009 03:24 AM

I dont have much to say but – this looks awesome!

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View cabinetmaster's profile


10874 posts in 3553 days

#4 posted 08-29-2009 03:36 AM

Craftsman. The desk is looking great. I’d screw the top on and allow for expansion and contraction. Gluing it on may be a big mistake.

-- Jerry--A man can never have enough tools or clamps

View patron's profile (online now)


13603 posts in 3335 days

#5 posted 08-29-2009 04:07 AM

dan ,
i have been following your project ,
but wanted to wait for this one ,

very well done , and thought out too .
check rockler for
table top fasteners #34215 or #21650 ,
they are the way to go for tops .
the end rail will break over the expansion / contraction over time .
maybe a rabbeted rail sced up under the ends , with sliding screw slots .
or as billyj said about that .
i have done the ends by sloting in a sip that is glued in ,
inceasing the joint , then the cap trim .
or rout three slots on the edge of the trim ,
and make them ” t ” and use shoulder screws in the slots .
no glue except at the miters , if you make a wider slot over the screws ,
you can make plugs from a strip with rounded ends to cover the screws .
sorry , now i’m starting to get confused too (lol)

just a thought .

a very nice piece .
i’m sure she will love it !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2790 posts in 3432 days

#6 posted 08-29-2009 04:10 AM

Thanks all,

BillyJ, The front was cut from one piece. Thanks for the heads up on the mitered ends. I haven’t glued them on yet so I can take that advice.

Cabmaster: I’m planning on using some small metal angles to screw it on with.

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

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2790 posts in 3432 days

#7 posted 08-29-2009 04:19 AM

Well, I’m getting concerned about the mitered top. If I glue the end pieces on I risk damage if the top expands. If I don’t glue it on I can’t see the joint looking like it’s closed. Geesh. kinda makes me wish I’d just made the top straight without the mitered frame.

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

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3667 days

#8 posted 08-29-2009 04:36 AM

Looks good!

View hooky's profile


365 posts in 3313 days

#9 posted 08-29-2009 10:34 AM

irs looking good

dont glue the top because as you said you have to allow for the expansion

Here in australia we have little brackets called figure eights (because that is what they look like) which are designed to screw the top in place. You recess one side into the frame with a spade bit then the other side can be screwed from underneath into the top

if these are not available a thin piece of metal say 1 inch by 1/2 inch can do the same job you just have to install the same way but the square edge is a little harder to recess

about 6 in a table that size would be perfect

I hope this helps


-- Happiness is a way of travel , not a destination (Roy Goodman)

View CreekWoodworker's profile


409 posts in 3292 days

#10 posted 08-29-2009 02:22 PM

Craftsman, the desk is looking great. I’m interested to see how you decide to attach the top, looking forward to your next posting.

-- Mike ...Success is often the result of taking a misstep in the right direction

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3768 days

#11 posted 08-29-2009 06:14 PM

You desk is coming along nicely. Your doing a beautiful job on it. Thanks for posting.
What brand drawer slides did you use?

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2790 posts in 3432 days

#12 posted 08-29-2009 10:35 PM

Creekworker, I’ve picked up some small L brackets.

Anyone….. Does it matter where I place the L brackets? If I place them on the long side of the desk won’t it hinder swelling wood anyway?

ND2elk, Brand of drawer slides. Um… in a clear plastic bag at Home Depot I’m not sure actually.

And I did glue the mitered end pieces. I took advice from those here and glued the miters and an inch or two in the center. I hope it all holds.

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

View Dennis Zongker's profile

Dennis Zongker

2731 posts in 3586 days

#13 posted 09-02-2009 04:22 AM

Great lookig blog! Looking forward to your next blog.

-- Dennis Zongker

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