Modern Computer Desk

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Blog series by Ron Stewart updated 05-15-2017 12:14 AM 11 parts 14971 reads 5 comments total

Part 1: Introduction

04-27-2017 08:59 PM by Ron Stewart | 2 comments »

This series of blog posts describes a modern computer desk I started building recently. A few months ago, my wife and I decided to replace our old Sauder (knock-down furniture) executive-style desk with something newer and a bit smaller. After a lot of research and SketchUp modeling, we settled on something similar to desks designed by Milo Baughman and others likely inspired by him and his contemporaries. Our design includes these elements: Simple, clean lines. Waterfall grain patt...

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Part 2: Leg Alternatives

04-27-2017 09:22 PM by Ron Stewart | 0 comments »

After much searching on Google and Pinterest, we settled on Big Craftsman steel table legs by Symmetry Hardware of Portland, Oregon. As I write this, the legs are on order, but they should look like this rendering. It took us a long time to find the perfect legs. I modeled several options, and I thought I’d show some of them in case it helps any other prospective desk or table builders. Square rectangular tube legs (thick on top): Bent metal bar legs, also rectangular (B...

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Part 3: Gluing up the top/side and bottom panels

04-28-2017 01:38 PM by Ron Stewart | 0 comments »

The sycamore boards I bought varied in width from about 6 to 11 inches, so I needed to edge-glue them to create the 24-inch wide panels for the top, bottom, and sides of the case. I know that this process is old hat to many woodworkers here, but it’s new to me. After doing some research, I cut three sets of clamping cauls from some scrap leftover from my workbench project. I didn’t curve them, but left them straight. Some test clamps were mostly, but not completely, sat...

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Part 4: Cutting the bevels for the mitered case corners

04-28-2017 05:32 PM by Ron Stewart | 0 comments »

The scariest part of building this desk was making the 45-degree bevel cuts across the 24” wide top/side and bottom panels. In particular, if I messed up any of the cuts on the former, I would ruin the top and both sides in one shot. I have a nice crosscut sled for my table saw, but it will accommodate stock up to only 21” wide, so it wasn’t an option. I didn’t feel like making a special sled. I’d love to have a Festool track saw, but I couldn’t justify ...

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Part 5: Assembling the case

04-28-2017 06:02 PM by Ron Stewart | 0 comments »

In my previous post, I mentioned that cutting the bevels was the scariest part of this project. The second scariest part was assembling the case so the mitered corners looked nice. The issue was alignment. I couldn’t use splines to align the edges (unless they were blind). I don’t have a biscuit joiner, so biscuits weren’t an option. With my dowel jig, I’d never align dowel holes well enough to make things work. In the end, I decided to sacrifice a tiny bit of dr...

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Part 6: Filling the gaps in the mitered case corners

04-28-2017 07:16 PM by Ron Stewart | 2 comments »

The gaps in the case corners was a source of wounded pride, but they were really easy to address using sawdust and glue. (I also considered burnishing, but reserved that for a backup plan. Fortunately, I didn’t need it.) I started by taping both sides of the gap to keep glue off the surfaces. Then I filled the gap with white glue. Next, I dusted the glue with wood dust and pressed it into the gap with my fingers. Finally, I rubbed across the gap with my finger to remove ...

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Part 7: Adding the removable back panel

04-28-2017 08:17 PM by Ron Stewart | 0 comments »

Do you know how “easy” tasks sometimes turn out to be difficult, and vice-versa? Here’s one case where the former definitely occurred. The cabinet’s back panel is just a simple slab of wood 3 1/2” high with a 3/8” indentation routed across the top (aside from 6” on either side) to form a slot for cables exiting the cabinet. At least that’s what it was supposed to be… I had planned to cut the back panel and drawer faces from a single ...

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Part 8: Building the drawers

04-29-2017 01:47 PM by Ron Stewart | 0 comments »

I have a confession to make. I’m a lazy drawer box builder. I have the utmost respect for those who create heirloom-quality dovetailed drawers, but I’m not likely to join their ranks. I use 1/2” plywood (birch for this project) for the sides, 1/4” plywood for the bottoms, and pocket screws and glue for joinery. I do route a 1/4” square slot 1/4” from the bottom edge of each side in which to float the bottom, but that’s as fancy as I get. I used two...

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Part 9: Applying the finish

04-29-2017 02:18 PM by Ron Stewart | 0 comments »

We wanted a smooth, non-shiny finish, so Danish oil (Watco natural) fit the bill. Before applying the oil, I sanded all surfaces using progressively finer grits, ending with 280 grit. To apply the oil, I followed the procedure in the YouTube video How to Apply Danish Oil, by Fabian's Tiny Workshop. He demonstrates the process very clearly. The only thing I did differently was apply the oil with a gray abrasive pad (similar to gray Scotch-Brite, I think) instead of a paper towel. That le...

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Part 10: Final touches: drawer knobs and legs

04-29-2017 02:21 PM by Ron Stewart | 1 comment »

Finding the right drawer knobs was almost as hard as finding the legs. We started out looking for something unique in color/material/texture (colored metal, crystal, art glass, polished stone, etc.) or form (rectangular, pyramidal, etc.) The number of available choices is staggering. In the end, we circled back to something small (to better fit the scale of the narrow drawers), with modern, clean lines that match the rest of the desk: Omnia Hardware Ultima II 9035 knobs that my wife found onl...

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Part 11: Addendum: Modem/Router Shelf

05-15-2017 12:14 AM by Ron Stewart | 0 comments »

When I started working on the desk, we weren’t sure if we were going to place it out in the room (with its back visible) or against a wall. Ultimately, we decided on wall placement, and that led me to an addition: a small shelf tucked under the bottom rear of the desk to hold our cable modem and wireless router. The shelf is simple. It’s basically an 18” long by 8” wide by 3” high box with an open back and ventilation slots on the front and sides. The actual s...

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