Knockdown Chris Schwarz Cherry Desk with Inlay

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Project by WhattheChuck posted 03-21-2020 10:00 PM 2014 views 2 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This one took a while, but mostly because some of the smaller projects got interwoven into the project stream. This is a modification of Christopher Schwarz’ staked worktable from the Anarchist’s Design Book at Lost Art Press. I HIGHLY recommend supporting Lost Art Press. If you don’t want their books, they have some very sporting apparel (if you like anachronistic cabinet makers’ coats and vests) and some tools they make and sell. We need to keep folks like this in business—they’re out there innovating for us!

I wanted this design to be a knockdown, so I cut the sliding dovetails for the leg support, and then drilled the holes for the legs. I did a mediocre job on two of the holes, but compensated for a bit of the void with Bondo! Bondo rocks—for those that have never used it. I don’t know if it will be around 200 years from now, but frankly, I’m not too worried.

The problem with knockdown sliding dovetail battens is that you can never get them exactly perfect, with humidity and all. So my solution was to put a T-nut and drill through the top, and then fasten with a bolt from the bottom of the batten. The desk looks retro and just a little steampunk. It was a good call! The whole thing is solid as a rock. No wobble at all.

The desk is 29.5” tall. I kinda forgot that the splay would take 1” off the height. It’s not much, and the desk still works, but if I did it again, I’d make it about .5” taller. And the longer tenons on the legs would have probably made life easier as well. They are wedged into the batten.

I have a supply of antique French Buffard Freres banding, and I used that for the inlay on the breadboard ends for the top. It makes everything look very modern and cool, even though the banding is over 100 years old.

The desk is finished with my favorite high-gloss super-tough finish—Behlens Rockhard Table Top varnish. I applied seven coats, and pretty much leveled with 1000 grit sandpaper between every coat after #3. The result was a finish that rubbed out great, and is near a mirror finish. I’ve found this is just the best solution for hard wearing surfaces like a desk. The recommended harden time was 96 hours. I left the finish for three weeks, and am glad for it. I buffed through the various grits, and then discovered Meguiar’s latest Ultimate Polish I used on my last project. The new stuff is really amazing. You can go ahead and use rottenstone if you want. But this new product obviates the need for about 3 different grits.

I made a dovetailed box for the drawer, and then used drawer slides. The dropdown supports for the drawer slides hold the soft-close slides. And if, 200 years in the future, they wear out, some intrepid furniture restorer can easily make the drawer slide on the wooden slides with a little wood augmentation. The slides make the drawer far more functional than no slides. The handle is from a Chinese hardware supplier I found on eBay.

This desk is actually a great gateway project for the intermediate woodworker looking to step up their game. It’s super-functional, has nice sliding dovetails, and you have to plane the octagonal legs. I’ve found beginner/intermediates have a hard time believing they can shape wood effectively with hand tools. Not to worry—my legs aren’t perfectly octagonal, and once you do it once, you’ll totally see that.

I made the desk for my son in San Francisco, but never got down there before the whole coronavirus thing hit. Good thing—we had to make a Navy SEAL extraction to get him out before all hell broke loose. He’s now admiring his desk which we are using as a small nook kitchen table!

One final thing. You can make your next project an official “Pandemic” project by following what I practice—never throw out a screwed up piece of wood—it’s too precious. Just change the project dimensions! You’ll be amazed at how good your skills get aligning with a posts-apocalyptic mentality!

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

9 comments so far

View Jerry's profile


3496 posts in 2932 days

#1 posted 03-21-2020 10:04 PM

Oh my, oh my! Really a work of art. Very impressive! Great Job!

-- There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be.

View WhattheChuck's profile


467 posts in 4845 days

#2 posted 03-21-2020 10:05 PM

You’re always so nice, Jerry! Thanks!

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

View AJ1104's profile


1395 posts in 2944 days

#3 posted 03-21-2020 11:58 PM

Tremendous job on a really beautiful table. I love the sliding dovetails as well as the inlay. Overall great project and your build description puts this on top. Your son is really going to enjoy it.

-- AJ

View pottz's profile


21306 posts in 2269 days

#4 posted 03-22-2020 12:09 AM

nice desk ,interesting look with the t nuts.the legs being very slim give the desk a very light .

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View metalbot's profile


26 posts in 808 days

#5 posted 03-22-2020 01:37 AM

Great looking desk!

(I’m also a huge fan of Chris Schwartz and Lost Art Press)

View swirt's profile


6811 posts in 4256 days

#6 posted 03-22-2020 03:20 AM

Very interesting design. I like the sliding dovetail battens and the inlay you did on the breadboards.

-- Galootish log blog,

View PaxJen's profile


216 posts in 1941 days

#7 posted 03-22-2020 06:23 PM

Love the legs and the banding. Nice work.

-- Pax - Maryland

View gsimon's profile


1327 posts in 3398 days

#8 posted 03-28-2020 05:31 PM

gorgeous – love the inlay

-- Greg Simon

View WhattheChuck's profile


467 posts in 4845 days

#9 posted 03-28-2020 05:37 PM

Thanks for all the kind words, fellow LJs! Since this is a Christopher Schwarz design, I’m happy to share experiences if someone else does a build.

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

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