Charles Mackintosh Inspired Computer Desk #2: Getting started takes longer than you think

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Blog entry by EarlS posted 08-13-2017 01:31 PM 2566 reads 1 time favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Getting Started - Design and SketchUp model Part 2 of Charles Mackintosh Inspired Computer Desk series Part 3: Gridlocked and Broke Down »

Armed with prints from the SketchUp model I headed out to the shop shortly after posting the first blog in this series on the Mackintosh desk for my daughter. I was a bit optimistic. After pulling several walnut boards out of the stack I quickly realized I needed to finish plane them to the appropriate thickness and run them across the jointer to get a straight edge.

That took a couple of weekends to plane the ~200 BF between all of the other endless day-to-day projects around the house and yard. As a bonus, I was able to mulch a large area with the walnut chips that came off the planer. Walnut mulch seems to deter weeds from growing which is a bonus.

I also had plenty of practice using the Wixey digital thickness gauge that I put on the planer this spring. I can’t say enough good things about the Wixey products.

At any rate I think I have enough 3/4, 4/4, and 1-1/8” (top) to complete the project without having to plane more. Since the wood is #2 common there will be a lot of waste due to cracks, splits, knots, twisting, and all of the other imperfections that comes with lower quality (and less expensive) grades of wood. I’m not sure that the lower cost offsets the increased waste and extra time spent working around the imperfections.

In addition to the planing and jointing, I pulled out the 8/4 slabs I was planning to use for the legs and looked them over. Ughh – they are almost completely worthless. The boards are all twisted, with splits, checking, and worst of all, 2 of the boards have metal fragments that look like bullets embedded in them.

Time for Plan B. I went to the big box store, bought a large bottle of Gorilla glue and started gluing 1” boards together to make the 8/4 thickness for the legs.

At the same time I realized that there were several changes that I needed to make to the model to provide a better sense of proportion for the desk. While I was making all of the changes to the SketchUp model, I watched some more of the “How-To” DVD’s and learned how to make better shop drawings.

The legs will be 2” x 2-1/2”x 29” so I cut them 3” wide and 30” long so there was some room to clean them up after gluing. After the glue set up I scraped off the excess glue, ran the glue edge along the jointer, ripped the board to width and then cut them to length and gave them a preliminary sanding.

While I was at the table saw I ripped the 2” boards for the left and right side grids. The grids are 13” tall and 19-1/2” long.

Finally, I think I’m ready to start this project.

All of the pieces for the grid were cut to length and sanded. I set up a dado stack to cut the 1” notches for the grid. The openings will be 2” and the grid will be 1” thick. After I dry fit the grids, I think it might have looked better with 2-1/2” openings.

The grid pieces will be ebonized and a first coat of finish applied to the interior faces before the grids are glued together and sanded flush. I will also be starting the mortises for the legs and then work out the method to achieve the rounded profile I want using some new router bits.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

3 comments so far

View splintergroup's profile


5097 posts in 2298 days

#1 posted 08-13-2017 02:10 PM

Can’t wait to see the progress, I’m a big Mackintosh fan.

I feel your pain with respect to the #2 common, but aside from the “fatal” defects, I often find a lot more interesting grain, especially if there is a once stable knot that can be strategically located.

Love the smell of working with walnut 8^)

View CaptainSkully's profile


1615 posts in 4634 days

#2 posted 08-13-2017 03:35 PM

I love projects like this! Especially since it inspired you to learn how to do the do shop drawings in SketchUp. These are the kinds of that really take your woodworking to the next level.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View EarlS's profile


4447 posts in 3424 days

#3 posted 08-13-2017 10:07 PM

splinter – walnut and cherry smell both great when working with them.

I tend to appreciate all of the “defects” in common grades. This batch of wood looks like it was left overs that have been sitting around for years.

Captain – I try to learn something new on every project. I learn more on some projects than others. SketchUp hasn’t been too hard to learn since I have a lot of experience with CAD.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

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