Making a Desk #1: Milling and Joinery

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Blog entry by Jerome posted 02-20-2018 10:24 PM 1994 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Making a Desk series Part 2: Drawer Boxes and Drawer Section »

This is a blog of a desk that I am in the process of making. I have never made a desk, and the closest price of furniture that I made was my built-in cabinets for my living room. That’s was made of whatever quality materials that I could find and I learned a lot. Basically my table saw, miter saw were the only tools that I used.

This one is different. It is all solid Cherry with the exception of the drawer bottoms and cabinet sides. This one is a particularly significant because it is the first project where I am using my jointer. Yes. I had a few hurdles getting it ready for use, now I’m a big fan of the tool. In fact, I know for certain, it would have been a totally different design and wood selection if I hadn’t got the jointer up and running. Is it the most important tool in the shop? Close, but not far from it.

Back to the desk. I purchased a few boards and some turning blanks for the legs. The person who commissioned me to make the desk wanted a simple design with paddles for legs and a few drawers. I later returned with a few questions of my own. Like tabletop dimensions and provided a few pictures of various surfaces to give an approximate surface size. I later got the desired height. At that point I could move forward.

I went to the lumber supply to pick up what I thought I’d need. As it turned out, I only needed about 40 inches of cherry to mill all the wood I needed. I opted not to laminate boards together for the legs, so at $20 a pop. I had the lumber for the legs. These were mostly rough cut. This is where the jointer came in handy. It is w
Also where I learned that just because surfaces are flat, they are not parallel. After surfacing all four sides on the jointer, I headed to the planer and made them identically dimensional. Same for the boards. I dusted of my once used biscuit jointer for the top. Three boards to each half. Planed them both to size and joined the two to form the top. I used my router to roundover the top edge.

This is where I wished I had a 24 inch planer, or at least a handplane for the center, as it was a little high in a area. I sanded it down and it is pretty flat. Next up I when I came up with a design change. I originally wanted for the paddles to be in the corners, but I wanted the paddle legs to stand out as much as possible. I will also be adding the drawer section to the left side, but it will be spaced a half inch away from the leg. It made sense to have the rails go through the top of the handle. I mustered the rails and cut support blocks for both sides of the legs. I plan on only screwing through the inner back part of each leg to secure it without glue. I want the legs to be removable if that time ever comes.

The tricky part was how to cut the slot for the rails. I probably should have cut the slot before I cut out the paddle, but oh well. I devised a safe way to cut the slot. I originally planned on have the dado blades hog out the entire portion and cut a half inch in each leg before I just traced the area out and got the built out at the bandsaw. With that close enought. I brought it to the table saw to cut the insides to a good fit and flatten the bottom.

There was an over cut in an area, so I used some thin rips from when I cut the turning blanks. I chose to remove the thicker areas using the table saw, rather than turning it all to shavings. They slid in perfectly. I then traced my piece and glued it back in.

Some fits were too tight. Instead of adding a shim to my dado stack, I folded a price of paper a few times and pressed it firmly against the fence. It didn’t matter which side the cut was on since it was thousanths of an inch.

I initially wanted half inch boards to make up the drawer cabinet, but material was running low and I did not want to buy cherry plywood. I turned the 3 thick boards to 6 thinner boards and I then had enough hardwood to cover the sides and back. This was done on the table saw and made flat on the jointer. Both originals sides and edges were already joined and planed.

Next up I glued the thin boards to some plywood. The lighter boards will make the back wall, and the darker will make up the sides.

Next up I get to make my first drawer boxes and build the cabinet section! Stay tuned!

-- Jerome, Marietta, GA

3 comments so far

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

10050 posts in 3788 days

#1 posted 02-21-2018 01:43 AM

Looks like you’re off to a good start.

Nice job!

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View KTNC's profile


204 posts in 1715 days

#2 posted 02-21-2018 03:18 AM

Hi Jerome:

Thanks for taking the time to document all this. I have a goal of making nice table tops and this is next best thing to doing it with you. It’d be nice to see some pics on how you glued all the table top pieces together.

regards, Kerry

View Spitfire1's profile


68 posts in 2198 days

#3 posted 02-21-2018 06:45 PM

Can’t wait to see how the finished product turns out. Good luck!

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