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Solid Ash desktop with touchscreen mechanism - moisture compensation.

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Forum topic by ronbuck posted 09-29-2014 08:15 AM 1473 views 0 times favorited 32 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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ronbuck

9 posts in 803 days


09-29-2014 08:15 AM

Topic tags/keywords: ash wood woodworking desk computer desk planks moisture solid wood quality

Hi! I am a young Canadian hobbiest, and this is my first post on LumberJocks. I have a problem that I cannot find a solution to, and it is basically the only thing preventing me from starting my woodworking project.

First of all: I am trying to become a person who lives a more minimal lifestyle, which is why I am very focused on quality and longtivity. The only exceptions to this is my future job – which will un-doubtly involve web architecture. Because of this, I own a touch screen. Having the screen in front of me has given me “gorilla arm”, where one gets tired of holding their arm in front of them frequently without being able to rest their hands.

My solution is simple – and I call it the FlynnDesk. It is named after the desk seen in the movie “Tron: Legacy”, where Sam Flynn is interacting with a touchscreen embedded inside of a computer desk. The idea is that the monitor will be hidden beneath the surface of the desk, covered by a flush wooden faceplate. When I press the two latch release buttons simulatiously (located past the left and right edges of the faceplate), the monitor will raise and become flush with the surface of the desk. When done; I place the faceplate back onto the screen area, and press the two latch release buttons – the screen will move down and lock into place, consealed and protected from the elements. Having the monitor flush with the desk enables me to have maximum comfort, and is personally the way I think touchscreen technology should be anyways.

I have the plans and designs final drafted (with measurements) for the desk. But the problem is that I am obsessed about quality, and desire to use solid ash wood (found locally), cut it into planks to make the desktop. The wood needs to be sturdy enough to hold electronic equipment, and flush enough that my ego won’t be burned when my desk becomes uneven and warped.

Also, I am worried that the seasonal humidity changes will affect the performance and stability of the desk. I am also afraid that under the right conditions, the contraction or expansion of the wood could damage the mechanism, or the screen itself.

To clarify, the desk will be built of horizontal Ash planks, and problably glued together lengthwise with biscuit joints. I really need help furguring this out, and I am really open to new ideas. Please note though that Ash is my perferend material, and that Ash Plywood is very hard to get in my local area (and expensive – because it would need to be custom shipped).

How should I design this desk that it can be solid wood, and not crack or gap terribly when put into planks? If I absolutely have to use plywood, I can, but if that were the case I’d be better of buying some cheap desk, and cutting a whole in the middle. Solid wood makes it feel so much more real to me, and I am sure that with the proper treatment and environment, it can be made to last my whole life.

Please help me! Thanks!


32 replies so far

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Yonak

979 posts in 987 days


#1 posted 09-29-2014 02:42 PM

ron, as I understand your question, you’re concerned about wood movement when solid wood boards are glued into wide panels. As long as the direction of the grain in all the boards goes the same direction, you shouldn’t have a problem with separation as long as your assembly is properly done. That is, you said you’ll be using biscuits and, as long as you don’t skimp on the glue and you clamp until set, you should be good.

The wood movement issue will come into play if you use cross grain end pieces (breadboard ends or trim) and in the hole you plan to cut for the faceplate. You will have to cut the hole large enough in the cross-grain direction to allow for the wood movement. There are charts available to tell how much larger than the faceplate you will need to cut. The main issue, since you’re so fastidious, will likely be the gaps which will collect dust and other debris which you may have to overlook or constantly remove.

Good luck with your project and be sure to post pictures.

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 1827 days


#2 posted 09-29-2014 03:48 PM

Get a mouse instead.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View ronbuck's profile

ronbuck

9 posts in 803 days


#3 posted 09-29-2014 04:10 PM



Get a mouse instead.

- Clint Searl

Have you tried drawing pictures using a mouse? Its awefully hard to do! I’m just trying to innovate. Because I am technically paperless, it is easier to just draw straight onto the screen (instead of buying paper, scanning it, and eventually disposing of it). This project fits my own personal needs, verses the needs of the average consumer.

I’m not gaming on this machine (all of the games In enjoy are obsolete now). I am strictly making graphics, and designing and coding web applications, so technically I am just typing, dragging, and selecting apps (which can all be done with a keyboard). Using a touchscreen helps because a lot of the modern web apps and sites are adopting into touch ui; this helps me deliver more quality based apps to clients that need to know that there app functions with touch based movements (drag, swipe, taping movements…).

I do see the humor in your post though. :) I will still use a mouse with my computer!

I’ll eventually upload pictures of the design plans I have so far.

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ronbuck

9 posts in 803 days


#4 posted 09-29-2014 04:13 PM


ron, as I understand your question, you re concerned about wood movement when solid wood boards are glued into wide panels. As long as the direction of the grain in all the boards goes the same direction, you shouldn t have a problem with separation as long as your assembly is properly done. That is, you said you ll be using biscuits and, as long as you don t skimp on the glue and you clamp until set, you should be good. The wood movement issue will come into play if you use cross grain end pieces (breadboard ends or trim) and in the hole you plan to cut for the faceplate. You will have to cut the hole large enough in the cross-grain direction to allow for the wood movement. There are charts available to tell how much larger than the faceplate you will need to cut. The main issue, since you re so fastidious, will likely be the gaps which will collect dust and other debris which you may have to overlook or constantly remove. Good luck with your project and be sure to post pictures.

- Yonak

Thanks for the input! I really appreciate it!

One question though, what do you mean by breadboard trim?
Is it just the trim that encloses the end grains of the planks?

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Yonak

979 posts in 987 days


#5 posted 09-29-2014 05:35 PM


...what do you mean by breadboard trim?
Is it just the trim that encloses the end grains of the planks?

- ronbuck

Breadboard ends are normally the same thickness as the rest of the panel and the grain is at 90°. They are meant to cover the endgrain of the panel to stabilize them from bending. They are most often connected with tongue and groove or with splines so the panel can expand and contract with change in atmospheric conditions.

View HerbC's profile

HerbC

1592 posts in 2325 days


#6 posted 09-29-2014 08:52 PM

You do NOT need to use biscuits. They do not add any significant strength to properly made joints if you are using good quality glue such as Titebond II or III.

Herb

-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!" http://lumberjocks.com/HerbC/blog/17090

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diverlloyd

1449 posts in 1323 days


#7 posted 09-29-2014 09:46 PM

Welcome to lumberjocks and I wouldn’t worry about the wood movement if you have sealed all the wood properly. Oh and biscuits are good for aliment but not needed if using a good quality glue. Also if you are worried about the humidity affecting things the wood will only grow in size with moisture. So if you start with wood that is at 10% it will never get smaller as long as it’s moisture doesn’t go below the 10% that you started with. So use the driest you can to start and make sure that your design is going to let the wood grow and shrink. Like not glueing the top to the bottom and so on. There are plenty of movement calculators on the web.

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1061 posts in 1997 days


#8 posted 09-30-2014 03:41 AM

Ron,

Welcome to LJs.

I have to disagree with the previous post – wood movement really does need to be taken into consideration even if the wood is fully sealed. Wood finishes just slow down the impact of humidity changes but they don’t eliminate it. Meaning: you don’t have to worry about day-to-day swings, but the seasonal changes are import. And Ontario has fairly dramatics swings from summer to winter.

In order to deal with the issue, just ensure there is a gap around the opening for the screen. Ash is relatively stable so the gap doesn’t have to be large, maybe 1/8” around, although that’s dependent on the size of the screen in the dimension that goes across the grain of the wood.

Are you sure you want to use ash for a desk? it is a very porous wood and would present a very uneven surface to write upon unless you go through a grain-filling process as part of your finishing. Maple or birch might be a better choice as well as be easy to find locally.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

View ronbuck's profile

ronbuck

9 posts in 803 days


#9 posted 09-30-2014 04:13 AM


Are you sure you want to use ash for a desk?

- Mark Kornell

That is a very good question. I assumed that I would be able to sand the desk down, and varnish it to clear up the uneven potions of the desk. I personally think Ash is a great wood because it is non-typical (its not pine, oak, cedar or maple), and it is a semi-common wood. The local supply shop I go to has a reasonable stock of solid white ash wood (no plywood), and seems well priced compared to other hardwoods.

And by well… $1 per footboard of solid white ash. I think that is an excellent price for Ash wood. In 20 years, I know the price of Ash will be higher…

Do you think I should invest in a more expensive hardwood? I am slightly reluctant to have a expensive hardwood desk because I don’t know how well I will do, considering this is technically my first largescale hardwood project.

Thank you for your input!

View CharlesA's profile

CharlesA

3025 posts in 1264 days


#10 posted 09-30-2014 06:31 AM

You can’t varnish ash smooth. It has wide, deep grain—a lot like oak. You can use a grain filler like timbermate or aquafill on the top. I’m not sure if the slurry method will work with ash. You may be fine with the ripple-y finish of varnish over ash, but you might want to try it on a scrap piece before trying it on the whole piece.

Sounds like a good price (not sure what the 20 year outlook means). I think ash is kind of dull, but if you like it, have at it.

-- "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 splatman's profile

splatman

563 posts in 865 days


#11 posted 09-30-2014 06:39 AM

If you can cut (or buy, or have cut) the Ash planks thin, say 1/2”, then glue 3 layers together, 1/2” top and bottom, and a 1” layer in between, grain oriented 90 degrees to the top and bottom layers. Essentially, a 2” thick piece of plywood. Wood movement will now be the same both ways. Or 1/4” and 1/2” thick layers, for a 1” thick top. And you can hide the end grain with trim, and not have to compensate for wood movement.
The Sagulator can help with building the electronic-supporting parts of desk strong enough to support the electronics.

View jerryminer's profile

jerryminer

528 posts in 908 days


#12 posted 09-30-2014 06:47 AM

I think ash will work fine for your desk. It IS an open-grained wood, so you will want to grain-fill, or use a lot of finish coats to get a smooth surface.

Remember, too, that quarter-sawn stock will expand/contract about half as much as flat-sawn, so plan your glue-up to use as much QS around your opening as possible to reduce movement in this area. And as stated above, if you start with very dry wood, and build in a very dry environment (like Ontario in the winter) it will only expand (until it shrinks back to its original size) so you can make the cut-out pretty tight.

View jerryminer's profile

jerryminer

528 posts in 908 days


#13 posted 09-30-2014 06:56 AM



If you can cut (or buy, or have cut) the Ash planks thin, say 1/2”, then glue 3 layers together, 1/2” top and bottom, and a 1” layer in between, grain oriented 90 degrees to the top and bottom layers. Essentially, a 2” thick piece of plywood. Wood movement will now be the same both ways. Or 1/4” and 1/2” thick layers, for a 1” thick top. And you can hide the end grain with trim, and not have to compensate for wood movement.
The Sagulator can help with building the electronic-supporting parts of desk strong enough to support the electronics.

- splatman

Splatman—- Have you ever actually done this with something the size of a desk??? Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. Wood movement would NOT (IMHO) be eliminated—-it would lead to almost certain self-destruction of the desk top!

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splatman

563 posts in 865 days


#14 posted 10-01-2014 04:27 AM

Jerry,
I’ve built a workbench 30” x 72”, top made of 2 layers of Hem-Fir 2x boards, and never had a problem with it. Bottom layer lengthwise, top layer widthwise. I did not say this method would eliminate movement, only equalize it in both directions. Just like plywood. What disasters could result? Delamination? Edge trim coming unglued?

View InstantSiv's profile

InstantSiv

259 posts in 1061 days


#15 posted 10-01-2014 11:56 AM

WAIT!!!

Although very cool I think that kind of setup would have serious ergonomic issues. If you Google for a picture of it you’ll see he’s hunched over. It’s going to be painful for you.

I think the best way to setup some thing for you is to go with a standing desk. Monitor at eye level and the working surface between you belly button and elbow. Also a graphics tablet to do the drawing. Miniscule learning curve but works just as effectively as a touch screen/pen once you get used to it. Drafting chairs work with standing desks when you get tired of standing.

This advice is from someone who’s done graphics for the past 15 years and only recently switched to a standing setup. Back pain is gone, no longer have a worn out feeling from sitting all day, more energetic, and more productive.

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