Portable Writing Desk

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Project by PhilosopherSteve posted 12-26-2014 03:47 PM 10714 views 4 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My wife’s Christmas present. This is made entirely of cherry, 3/8” thick. The lumber came from my grandfather’s shop after he passed away a few years ago – so now he can live on a bit more. The finish was Watco Danish Oil, natural, followed by several coats of Minwax wipe on satin poly.

This project had several first for me. I worked in much thinner stock – I normally do larger pieces with 3/4” or 7/8” thickness. I must say, I enjoyed the finer work, everything is lighter and it is good practice for the box work I’m getting into. This was my first time oiling a piece and I can honestly say I love it – the oil really enhances the cherry and it’s a snap to apply.

This also proved once again that I don’t like following published plans. I wanted to work fast so I didn’t draw it up myself and I always find issues when I don’t design it personally. I ended up not hinging the top to the back as it was tough to source piano hinge for that (I ordered the recommended hinge and it was much too small and I didn’t have time for a replacement). A measurement or two are usually wrong somewhere too.

My trouble with the hinge, though, gave me the idea to put two blocks down at the bottom of the lid so it stay in place, and is completely removable which is kinda nice. Plus I get a clean look on the whole top with the piano hinge sticking up. Unfortunately, I had finish applied when I thought of what else I could do. I could have hinged the top to the front, then installed a hinged stand under the lid and added a rack to the inside back of the case to make the top an adjustable reading stand. Maybe next time …

4 comments so far

View Oldtool's profile


3506 posts in 3647 days

#1 posted 12-27-2014 01:46 AM

Very nice looking lap desk. Cherry is a great wood to work, always looks beautiful when finished. What type of oil did you apply?

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View PhilosopherSteve's profile


43 posts in 5542 days

#2 posted 12-27-2014 12:52 PM

Thanks. I used Watco Danish oil, Natural color.

View Boxguy's profile


2905 posts in 3724 days

#3 posted 12-29-2014 07:55 PM

Steve, I like the look of your writing desk. The wood looks soft and clean. I too don’t use other’s plans, but often will use pictures or general ideas. Here is a suggestion on finish, though your plan will work well too. Your finish looks great.

In the interest of sharing, here is a laptop design I made. I built and sold several others first, but this is the design that I liked best. I looks like a hinge solution similar to the one you suggested.

You might try making your own hinges by cutting a longer piano hinge to the exact length you need. At the end of this link is my take on that hinge cutting concept. Remember to paint, peen, and smooth the cut-off ends.

I think I made 4 different lap tops before I got a design I really liked. However, I use this one every day. Keep boxing and keep posting.

-- Big Al in IN

View PhilosopherSteve's profile


43 posts in 5542 days

#4 posted 12-30-2014 08:45 PM

Boxguy, love your work and your tips. That hinge cutting station is well put together and I like that you addressed the often exorbitant cost of hardware. I too am looking to sell pieces and I’ve been contemplating how to accurately price when the hardware can cost so much. Your finish looks great too – I may give that a go on a project at some point – I like trying new ideas.

I’m really liking box work, especially so as I don’t have a large shop. Your laptops are amazing, I think you did a great job refining the design.

I’m fighting off a nasty holiday cold, but I wish I was in the shop working on a new tea box idea. I haven’t dovetailed anything in a while …. my saw is feeling lonely.

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