Leveling Up – New Desks

In late July we learned the kids were going to be starting the school year from home. We made-do in the spring when everything shut down and they spent the 4th quarter of the school year from home. Claire used a folding table in our office, and David ended up doing most of his schoolwork from the couch or floor even though he did have an old desk of ours at his disposal. With the prospect of long-term schooling at home staring us in the face, we realized spring’s study arrangement just wasn’t going to cut it.

Back in March I upgraded to a good table saw with the intentions of really advancing my skills. In the back of my mind for years has been the thought of making a desk, but I just never felt ready to try. Well, it was either put up or shut up; either make a desk now or buy one and just forget the idea of making one for good.

So I made a desk.

Plans

I ran across plans for a good looking, yet approachable desk from Wood magazine. It uses lots of solid wood and relies on some new techniques that would push me forward (re-sawing on a table saw, edge joining and panel glue-ups, and a large desktop that isn’t plywood, among others). I purchased the plans and the next day was at the store buying the wood.

Here We Go

Start to finish, it took one day short of a month. I finished it exactly 12:01 in the morning just a couple days before it was going to be needed for school. I made a couple small changes from the plans: got rid of the “crest” on the top, in favor of more working space; put the drawers on the other side since Claire is left-handed.

Almost every morning I showed Claire the progress from the prior night. I let he pick the stain color from a sample board I made with 8 different stains. As the pile of wood slowly turned into a desk before her eyes, she got more and more excited. With the exception of one weekend for camping, I worked on it a few hours each evening and 4-5 hours per day on the weekends.

The mistakes I made weren’t too big, all recoverable. I found good ways to achieve certain cuts. And I found bad ways to fail others. I was nervous when I started some of the parts but, for the first time in memory, I had a lot of fun building it. Usually I get enjoyment out of having built something; but here I was having fun during the build.

To say I’m happy with the results is an understatement.

I have one very happy customer.

Stain and Finish

As I mentioned, Claire picked the stain. She really wanted to see the wood grain, and have a lighter color, so she chose Minwax Golden Pecan. I used the Minwax pre-stain wood conditioner even though it’s oak and probably isn’t necessary. The majority of the build received two coats of Minwax Clear Satin Polyurethane, with the top getting three. After the final top coat, it was sanded with #0000 steel wool. After this, I applied paste wax and buffed it to it’s shine.

Do it Again!

Sitting around in the evenings after it was completed felt very strange. Combine that with my poor son having a hard time studying on his old hand-me-down desk (yes, that’s sarcasm), and I convinced myself to start a second desk a week later.

Here we are, two days shy of one month after Claire received hers, David’s is done and he has it all setup and ready for school tomorrow morning.

Same finishing process with the exception of 3000 grit sandpaper in lieu of #0000 steel wool after the final coat. Note the drawers on the right side on this one.

Wrap Up

It took only two months, but my kids now have two great desks which should last them a lifetime. It’s so very satisfying to transform a stack of wood into something of substance, I highly recommend it 😉

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