desk design

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Forum topic by vind posted 05-20-2016 01:59 AM 388 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View vind's profile


19 posts in 735 days

05-20-2016 01:59 AM

I’m in the process of designing a office desk for myself and need some help with the design. The plan is M&T rails/stretchers with 1/4 ply or raised panels. The desk is approx 49×25 with two drawers on the right side. I hope I get the terminalogy right. The areas I have questions about are in the knee well and the end of the desk.

Do you need some sort of stretcher between the desk end above the knee well to the drawers to add rigidity or will the top make it rigid enough?

On the ends I just have rails that the panel will fit into and a dado in the legs. Is this best way of doing this or will adding stiles be a better option for looks and strenght?

Do you need web frames in the drawer area?

I included a top view pic to help make it clear to what I’m talking about.

Thanks for all your help, Vince

-- a dull chisel is just a fancy screwdriver

3 replies so far

View jonmakesthings's profile


68 posts in 242 days

#1 posted 05-20-2016 03:00 AM

I would put a stretcher above the knee well. It will strengthen it a bit, but honestly I just personally think it would look a little funny without it. It’ll give it a more stocky and stout look with the extra couple inches from the top. And then you just don’t have to worry about whether it’s strong enough, you know it is.

Just my opinion, I know there are many others here with far more experience than myself

-- How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?

View MadMark's profile


971 posts in 877 days

#2 posted 05-20-2016 03:34 AM

I’d adjust the dimensions to under 48” & under 24” this change will significantly increase your materials yeild. You can buy precut 2×4 panels to make the top with 1/4 sheet. At 49×25 you need a full sheet.


-- Madmark -

View JBrow's profile


754 posts in 344 days

#3 posted 05-23-2016 03:23 PM


If the top is make of solid wood (and even if plywood in my opinion), the top should be attached to allow for some wood movement, and therefore provides little structural support to the overall desk.

If the top is ¾” or thicker, deflection from objects or elbows resting on the front area of the top near the knee well would be probably be minimal. Nonetheless, I agree with jonmakesthings that adding a rail to support the top in the front at the knee well would add some strength and balance to the look of the desk, assuming the knee well rail is the same width as that over the bank of drawers. Additionally, a knee well rail would afford additional opportunities for fastening the top.

The corner leg that sets next to a knee well, unsupported along the bottom front, is weakest point of a desk of your design. The side panel helps a lot, but the corner leg can still wobble, and in so doing stress the joinery of this corner leg. A rail over the knee well (the wider, the better) would tie the corner leg to the desk in two directions rather than only in one direction without the rail. This top rail is unlikely to add a lot of resistance to the corner leg wobble, but it will add strength at the top of the leg and help control wobble a little.

Foregoing end stiles and installing the ¼” plywood panels in dados cut into the legs would work ok. However, since there is a center stile between the legs on the back and sides, the absence of the end stiles could result in an unbalanced look. This is a matter of personal preference. But an issue arises with the absence of end stiles when installing the drawer runner system. The legs will offer limited and probably weak points of attachment for the runner system. End stiles would provide a greater area onto which the drawer runner system could be attached.

The web frame makes installing the runners and the kicker a little easier. I have never used a web frame to support drawers. I have installed L shaped runners and the kicker as separate pieces. There are probably several other non-web frame options also available. However precise alignment of the three individual pieces is required for each drawer, whereas aligning a web frame may be a little easier. If commercially available drawer glides are used, the web frame would probably be in the way when installing the drawer glides.

If consideration of the web frame is an effort to control racking forces, I doubt racking will be much of an issue. However a ¼” thick piece of plywood mounted as a bottom to the drawer bank would further strengthen the desk and control the possible racking. Corner blocks mounted at the top of the structure could further control racking.

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