Large Shaker Style Desk - Top Dimensions

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Forum topic by Dustin posted 09-19-2016 02:52 PM 190 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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124 posts in 161 days

09-19-2016 02:52 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question cherry shaker

Hey, folks.

Well, thanks to the job change and my BA finally coming to a close in 4 weeks, I’m getting more and more time in the shop! Recently had a friend ask me about building a simple shaker style desk. Nothing fancy: the tapered legs are the only real finesse on this piece.

We’re just in the phase of kicking around ideas, so we haven’t settled on a wood or exact dimensions yet, but I know he’ll want the table-top to be roughly 5’ x 2’. Each leg (thinking 2.5” at the top) will be mortised and tenoned to the runners, which I’m planning at 3/4” thick by 3.5”-4” high.

My question is this: what thickness would you all recommend for the top? I’m trying to push him towards cherry (both he and I are a big fan) with a breadboard edge. I figured with the supporting rails, sag wouldn’t be much of a concern, and it would mainly come down to aesthetics.


-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

3 replies so far

View JBrow's profile


745 posts in 340 days

#1 posted 09-19-2016 05:47 PM


Congratulations on the BA; well done!

I see no reason that the top could not be ¾” thick, with or without a bread board and would be fitting for the Shaker desk.

The tops of three desks, two of which features tops about 5’ x 2.5-3’ x ¾”, I have made all have tops that have behaved over time. However, there were internal support rails connected to the front and back rails and provided support and attachment point for the top. Since this is a Shaker design and the legs are tapered (typically done to lighten the overall look of the project making it appear less clunky), I would think a top much thicker than 1” could burden the desk and give it a heavy appearance.

Since you are pondering the design of the desk, I mention a short article entitled A Guide to Good Design. It describes a few strategies for developing proportions in furniture. Also it might be helpful to Google Shaker Desks and/or look through some furniture catalogs. Photos from these sources could help inform your design decisions.

View CharlesA's profile


2973 posts in 1218 days

#2 posted 09-19-2016 05:48 PM

I made a large cherry desk last year, closer to 54×36.

A couple of thoughts. Because I had the drawer runners flush with the frame, I had the top supported in the middle as well as the edges. 3/4 works quite well and allowed you to keep that light shaker look. Also, perhaps you can get 12/4 cherry easily enough where you are, but I’m limited to 8/4, so I made the legs closed to 2” bc I didn’t want to laminate them. I used Chris’ Schwarz Simple Shaker side table as a guide and adjusted dimensions. If you do breadboard ends I assume you won’t be able to do the tapers on the top.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View Dustin's profile


124 posts in 161 days

#3 posted 09-20-2016 07:56 PM

Thanks! It’s only been 12 years in the making, but glad it’s almost over! I actually used that finewoodworking article you attached in a paper I did for a history of math class regarding the golden ratio as used in art, architecture, woodworking and music.

Yeah…probably should have thought about the limitations of available lumber. I’m not keen on laminating the legs, so about 2” may be the way to go. And yeah, the Schwarz table (I was exposed to pretty much the same thing on NYW) is essentially what I have in mind.

Thanks for the feedback, fellas!

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

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