Dean's Standing Desk

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Project by Dustin posted 11-21-2017 02:01 PM 1259 views 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch


I finally completed this project and delivered it last week.

After producing a small shaker-style candle stand and giving it away a few months ago, one of the guys from my church who saw it contacted me about a possible project. His boss at the seminary wanted a standing (non-convertible) desk. He had been working with a simple desk-top riser on his sitting desk for years, and really wanted something that let him get up on his feet.

I got to work drawing this up in sketchup, and submitted my dimensions and estimate, which they heartily agreed to. The desk stands appr. 40” tall (the user is 5’8”), with the top measuring 24” x 36”. The aprons are particularly deep at 8”, as he wanted a shelf underneath with some depth so he didn’t clutter the top. The legs are 1 7/8” square with a taper starting 6” off the ground and going to 1 1/4” square, and the stretchers are about 1 5/8”w x 1 7/8”t. Everything is made from QS cherry, with the exception of the shelf, which is a 9-ply 3/4” plywood (dadoed into the aprons).

A little bit on my building process

The length of the aprons made me a little hesitant to do traditional mortise and tenon joints cut on my table saw, as the idea of balancing a 30”+ wide board vertically gave me pause (I’m not terribly well-coordinated). A friend of mine had just gotten a Festool Domino, and I considered going over to use it, but really wanted something of my own that was customize-able, affordable, and easy to use. I ended up settling on the free loose tenon jig plans that Woodcraft has available here. There are definitely some things I’ll be adjusting for in it’s next iteration, but it got the job done. I used this to cut all of the mortises, seen here:

You can see the aprons received two floating tenons each, smaller tenons for the front rails, and the thicker rails connecting the legs received two of the thinner tenons side-by-side. Here it is all dry fit:

After this test fit, I got to work on the long left-to-right rails. The dean wanted something sturdy enough to set his foot on (not his whole weight), as he has an old hip injury that bothers him, hence the thickness of the wood. I also wanted a mechanical bond to keep the legs from spreading, so I dovetailed these in. After the glue had set, I flipped it upside down and hoisted myself on one of the long rails. No sound, no budging, and with me at 210lbs, I doubt the weight of his foot is going to present any problems.

For the shelf, I used a pre-primed 3/4” “cabinet” grade plywood from the blue BORG. No, it’s not BB, but I find it to be of very reasonable quality. I used a can of sage green spray paint, as I wanted an academic looking color, and gave it 2 coats and a day to dry before assembling.

Prior to assembly, all parts were hand scraped with my new Veritas cabinet scraper. I really love this thing.

Once everything was fit together and glued up, I gave it a final hand sanding and a wash coat of a 1# cut of shellac before applying General Finishes Georgian Cherry gel stain. I know many folks say this first step isn’t necessary, but the wash coat tested better on my sample pieces, so better safe than sorry. Even with the shellac and a high quality product like GF, the cherry still blotches, but I find it appealing. After the stain dried for 24 hours, I applied two coats of SealCoat at full strength (to the shelf, too):

The reason for this was that I was originally going to go over it with a darker glaze, but after seeing that photo, the client decided he didn’t want to fettle with the color anymore. Not hurting my feelings, so I went ahead and gave it a light sanding of 220, then applied Minwax satin wipe-on poly. I applied two coats to the base, and 3 to the top. I really wish I had taken other’s advice on this, to use the gloss for the base coats, then top with the satin. The satin has a longer dry time, and with the dropping temps, it only gets worse. Anyways, after that dried, I lightly de-nibbed with 0000 steel wool soaked in paste wax, then buffed that out. The sheen is exactly what I wanted.

Upon delivery, I had a few pens from the last batch I made still available, and decided to endear myself to the office staff. I left one for the dean, gave one to his research assistant, and one to his administrative assistant. They seemed quite pleased with the final project, but I’m always paranoid that folks are just being nice when I’m around. They put that to rest by asking if I’d want to make another one for the client’s home office. Guess I’ll have another one of these to post in a couple of months!

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

4 comments so far

View Bobsboxes's profile


1447 posts in 3512 days

#1 posted 11-21-2017 02:31 PM

Great looking standup desk. We are our own worst critics, do your best, and be proud of your work. You will never please everyone. Very nice work and write up.

-- Bob in Montana. Kindness is the Language the blind can see and deaf can hear. - Mark Twain

View a1Jim's profile


118134 posts in 4425 days

#2 posted 11-23-2017 01:49 PM

Very nice Work looks fantastic.
May I suggests…


View Dustin's profile


707 posts in 1589 days

#3 posted 11-23-2017 03:32 PM

Much obliged, Bob.

Jim, if I have to stain cherry again, I’ll definitely be ordering some of Charles’s blotch control. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that; I really dislike staining cherry.

One more note on the process: while staining, I got an odd “run” in one of the side aprons. After the stain was on, there was a light spot that looked like shellac had ran down it. The weird thing was it came up from the bottom, and I put on the wash coat right-side up. I ended up sanding that apron down to bare wood and redoing it, using painters tape on the sides to protect the legs. Even though that was a chore, I was happier with the results I got doing it that way. Should I have to gel stain a desk like this again, I think I’d tape off sections and do it one at a time.

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30566 posts in 3186 days

#4 posted 11-23-2017 03:42 PM

Very nice

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

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