Writing Desk w/ Cabriole Legs

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Project by GrantA posted 12-24-2018 12:56 AM 1037 views 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This project is the nicest thing I’ve built to date and includes a few personal firsts- handcut dovetails (drawers period for that matter!), cabriole legs, & upholstery.

I let myself get intimidated by these things and it ended up dragging out the progress but I’m finally done :-)

My 6yr old daughter (youngest of two) needed a desk, so I said I’ll build her one. In hindsight, I should’ve just let my wife buy her one and build one as an upgrade!! Lesson learned

So, I did a lot of reading on desk heights and settled on 28” finished height based on antique furniture dimensions. Not too big for now but something she can keep and use forever. The top ended up at 42×21.5”

I cut the legs out of inexpensive southern yellow pine 4×4, thinking they’d be practice without losing much but they turned out pretty nice (knowing they’d be painted!) so I ran with them.
Another lesson learned- if you’re hand chopping mortises, at least in yellow pine, do that before cutting the leg profile while there’s extra meat to prevent blowout!.

I glued up the poplar front panel, ripped/crosscut for drawer fronts and reglued it. I could’ve done this differently for paint-grade but wanted to try it.

Next hurdle- drawers. I got to break in my bench-on-bench moxon vise which worked beautifully! I cut 3 or 4 test joints then just ran with it. They’re not perfect but are 100% functional and I’m proud of them. I can always look back on them as my first too!

I planned on using yellow pine for the top with a clear finish but I have a good supply of red oak too, and I had 12” wide boards so I used them.

I used a minwax stain followed by a few coats of shellac, topped with minwax special dark paste wax. The drawer boxes and bottoms are solid poplar finished with shellac, and the rest is a custom tinted (to match existing furniture) acrylic. I normally would spray but due to weather I brushed it followed by steel wool and wax buffing.

Naturally she needed a chair, a friend actually gave me this one in sad shape, I cleaned it up a bit, repainted it to match and put fresh fabric in little -girl friendly colors.

Thanks for looking!

10 comments so far

View HokieKen's profile


21688 posts in 2593 days

#1 posted 12-24-2018 01:01 AM

Awesome work buddy! Well worth the effort :-))

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View jeffswildwood's profile


5132 posts in 3431 days

#2 posted 12-24-2018 01:07 AM

Grant this came out amazing! I like everything about it.

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way that says "I meant to do that".

View GR8HUNTER's profile (online now)


9610 posts in 2167 days

#3 posted 12-24-2018 01:27 AM

firsts no more Grant love the natural top and the legs and them dovetails WOW GREAT JOB :<))

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN :<))

View Dave Polaschek's profile (online now)

Dave Polaschek

10261 posts in 2036 days

#4 posted 12-24-2018 01:47 AM

Great job, Grant. Wouldn’t ever know it was your first.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View JohnMcClure's profile


1498 posts in 2095 days

#5 posted 12-24-2018 01:55 AM

Looks great my friend. Nobody would think those legs were your first attempt! Great job and no doubt it’ll be a family heirloom.

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

View AJ1104's profile


1547 posts in 3114 days

#6 posted 12-24-2018 02:30 AM

Fabulous job on your table. Congratulations on many of your firsts. They all came out great.

-- AJ

View EarlS's profile


5509 posts in 3802 days

#7 posted 12-24-2018 03:33 AM

Grant – Looks like you nailed everything on this build. It looks “FIRST” rate!!

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

View Ivan's profile


17282 posts in 4322 days

#8 posted 12-24-2018 06:18 AM

Nothing amaize me as classic old school design and woodworking technics.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View CFrye's profile


11481 posts in 3294 days

#9 posted 12-24-2018 08:24 AM

Beautifully done, Grant. Her smile speaks volumes!

-- God bless, Candy

View GrantA's profile


3167 posts in 2862 days

#10 posted 12-24-2018 02:42 PM

Thanks for the compliments! I think the next step for raising my personal bar is a Philadelphia ball & claw chair to go with another desk, clear finish maple or antique heart pine though!

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