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Solid-core door top desk, structural needs

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Forum topic by Michael Wilson posted 09-03-2011 06:47 AM 4437 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Michael Wilson

588 posts in 1955 days


09-03-2011 06:47 AM

Heya,

I’ve been looking around at plans for workbenches and desks for a while and finally settled on picking up a solid-core door to use as the top for what will essentially be a computer desk (I like lots of desktop real-estate.)

I’m perfectly content to have a rough 4×4 or 2×4 based construction. I’m really not looking to win a design award here.

But one thing that’s frustrating is that the projects I’ve been looking up seem to have a knack for hiding the joint work and full layout of the leg/back framing. OR, they, as workbenches, have bottom shelves, or some similar under-surface obstruction; and it’s tough to tell the difference between baseline structural components and “additional features.”

I need the front and space underneath to be open as it will be a desk, so I’m restricted to 3 sides really. But I’m not sure what is needed to keep it structurally sound.

Any ideas how I can figure out how to keep it solid without wasting a lot of wood on trial and error designs?

Thanks, o/

- Mike


19 replies so far

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Michael Wilson

588 posts in 1955 days


#1 posted 09-04-2011 08:04 AM

Hey thanks for the response.

I have access to an ever increasing amount of tools. table and circular saws, router (sans table), etc.

Mortise and tenon construction seems pretty advanced to me right now, but perhaps not. I’m not sure how I’d cut a mortise to be perfectly honest.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

17671 posts in 3141 days


#2 posted 09-04-2011 09:15 AM

Why are you making it like a raised panel instead of a stretcher like under a table for a frame?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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TopamaxSurvivor

17671 posts in 3141 days


#3 posted 09-04-2011 09:05 PM

You are using those for the front and ends!! Not framing the top ;-)) I must have had a Topamax Moment!

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 1955 days


#4 posted 09-04-2011 09:35 PM

Wow. I have to apologize. I seem to have somehow accidentally misrepresented my skills.

I’m really planning a simple construction grade 2×4 (or even 4×4) desk with a door blank as the top.

The reason the similarly designed “workbench” plans (which seem pretty abundant) don’t work for me is that I need all the space underneath to be empty (as I’ll be sitting at it.) So I can frame out the sides and the back, but no bottom shelves, etc. (The legs certainly don’t need to come straight down at the corners.)

I’m just not sure how to do that while maintaining the level of structural integrity I need for it to be a solidly functional piece.

I certainly appreciate your replies and those look like good ideas (if a bit beyond me.)

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2315 days


#5 posted 09-04-2011 09:52 PM

I’m hearing that “open” ends and side are ok.

I think the reason no one is responding to your 2×4/4×4 idea is that softwoods, while cheap, are likewise hard to work in a way that provides structural integrity and some level of aesthetics.

You certainly don’t need 4×4.

Mortise and tenon is a very good way to get four boards in a rectangle to have some anti-racking strength.

But let’s pass on that for now. If you can imagine a way to cut a large rabbet on the ends of the rails, you can make an ok square that way. Lots of glue surface.

For legs, how about some 4/4 material glued into L-section legs? Imagine them in place, on the floor, no top. Now you can connect them with rails that have long rabbets cut in them. Now all four legs are connected on three sides.

That leaves the two front legs a little prone to racking side to side, so a little triangle bracket could provide the necessary triangulation so you wouldn’t worry when the errant robovacuum started nudging a leg repeatedly.

For this idea you would need some clamps with 6” capacity for the leg glueup; a way to cut the rabbets on the tablesaw safely, and some ok looking material that would end up being about 4” wide.

Can somebody clear up what I’ve written? I feel it’s lacking a little clarity but I can’t find the soft spot.

Kindly,

Lee

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 1955 days


#6 posted 09-04-2011 10:15 PM

Let’s bag aesthetics entirely. I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it, and I’m not at all averse to exposed screws, etc. on this.

- RACKING! That’s almost certainly the word I’m looking for. Without the inner structure that seems ubiquitous in the workbench plans, that seems like it would be an awful problem.

- I can almost certainly cut rabbets the cheap way with a circular saw. I don’t have a slide I’d trust to keep long lumber square enough to use the table saw. The t-slots are a little whacky so I haven’t tried to make a jig yet.

- This Simple Table (which I dug up not 10 minutes ago) is almost exactly what I’m looking for. But when I see that put together in my head, it just looks like I could push it over. My thought was actually to take that layout, convert it up to 4×4s and see if I could make that work. (I sorta like the idea of an ugly 200 pound computer table that will survive the apocalypse.)

- I can’t quite see what you mean by “4/4 material glued into L-section legs”

Thanks very much

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Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2315 days


#7 posted 09-04-2011 10:28 PM

I’m getting the picture…”4/4” meaning 1 inch nominal material glued into legs that look, from the end, like angle iron.

So use 4×4 legs and 1×4 stretchers and glue and screw and put the top in it and see what you need. Might need some little brackets on the front legs, mebbe not!

I am reading your spirit as being kind of “go for it, and don’t overthink it” so let’s get that square stock cut into four leggy pieces and get this thing together!

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 1955 days


#8 posted 09-04-2011 10:42 PM

heh. overthinking is one of my great demons. I do it all the time, love it and it stops me dead in my tracks like a patch of mud stops a skier. As I’ve JUST started out on the woodworking path, the first thing I need is a few repeated low-brow successes to keep me on the path. “Sure, it wasn’t hit by the ugly stick it was MADE out of ugly sticks” is perfectly fine for now. My hope is to look at this in 3 months and just chuckle.

Heck, maybe I unscrew it later, counterbore the holes, put the screws back in and cover them with plugs.

But not today ;)

Thanks for the encouragement. I appreciate that my criteria leads to a sub-optimal result. But spending money on hardwood strikes me as ludicrous at my current skill level. “Skill building projects” are a different beast entirely.

View lilredweldingrod's profile

lilredweldingrod

2495 posts in 2571 days


#9 posted 09-04-2011 11:45 PM

When I was a kid, in the 50’s, my dad nailed two 2×4’s to the studs for the back and one end of the desk. He than attached a door to this with a 3/4 pipe and two pipe flanges screwed to the floor and the door. A sheet of peg board and I was good to go. This lasted me until I left home. Not pretty, but functional.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

17671 posts in 3141 days


#10 posted 09-04-2011 11:50 PM

Just throw it together, if it starts racking and getting too wobbly, add a coupe of braces in the corners.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 1955 days


#11 posted 09-05-2011 05:03 AM

So the more I think about it the more I come to the conclusion that at the very least, I have to use mortise & tenon construction. No sense in doing anything if I’m not learning something. I figure with a drill guide and chisel I can get this done a little bit at a time.

So I figure two cross-pieces along the back and sides to start with.

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 1955 days


#12 posted 09-05-2011 03:41 PM

Simpler to make the tenon round? How can that be?

I could imagine it being simpler to make the mortise round, as you’d just drill it out. But the tenon is just straight removal on two or four sides, depending if it’s shouldered or not. (so strange. 18 hours ago I wouldn’t have understood that sentence. Yay youtube and lumberjocks ;)

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TMcG

191 posts in 2465 days


#13 posted 09-05-2011 04:19 PM

The one you want from Woodgears is this one

I have 2 of these, and built a 3rd for my son as a desk/bench for his room at school (not a dorm room obviously)

You ain’t pushing those puppies over !! Though you will want to adjust the leg length and apron height for an effective desk use.

-- http://wood.mcgivern.org

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 1955 days


#14 posted 09-05-2011 04:29 PM

A HA! Yes. Yes I do believe that is almost precisely what I’m looking for.

How much apron height do you think I can pull out of there? 6 is way too much for me to be sliding a chair under at 28” surface height.

View nailbanger2's profile

nailbanger2

1041 posts in 2608 days


#15 posted 09-05-2011 04:37 PM

I just finished something similar for a friend of mine. He’s my buddy, but he’s cheap (not saying you are). Can you attach it to the wall, ala lilredweldingrod? If so, attach 1×2 to wall with 2 1/2” screws, then attach door to 1×2’s. This will keep it from racking. In the case of the front legs for my friend I used a filing cabinet on one side and a piece of another door for the other. It was attached with pocket screws. The hole for the knob made a handy place to put the wires. I also added two shelves underneath hanging from the top and leg for printer and UPS that took all the guesswork about strength out of the equation.

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

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