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Small Desk Rescue

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Project by splintergroup posted 03-01-2021 06:57 PM 596 views 0 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A colleague at work asked if there was any chance to save this desk inherited from a relative.

I did not see the desk at first. He explained how the top was warped and the thing was wobbly so I suggested since he just moved it into the house, give it some time to adjust to the humidity.

No go, there was no change observed so I said I’ll have a look and see what could be done. I said I would try to keep is as original as possible.

Initial checks showed it was all solid white oak except for the drawer (red oak, maple, pine, ???).

With my best Gomer accent, “Surprise, surprise, surprise”!

The Top

The top was completely potato chipped. The base was all M&T construction that looked to have been nailed through every joint at one time to strengthen it. The wood was all solid oak except for a few parts and I figured the joints had just experienced glue failure. The piece looked fairly old and they really wanted to keep it as a memory so I decided to take it on.

First inspection showed the top was warped over 1/2”. The top was made from several 3/4” planks glued together, then a lip was created round the rim to add the appearance of thickness. The problem, at least in part, was caused by cross grain strips glued to the underside to create this rim on the ends of the top. Several more cross grain supports were screwed down underneath, no accounting for wood movement anywhere.

The top looked to be made from some nice wood, all rift sawn except for one odd piece on the edge which was flat grain. I could see linear sanding scratches so I knew this went through a drum sander at a cabinet shop/factory. The color was also a bit different so this part had to be added at a later date.

I sawed the top apart at the joints and ran everything through the drum sander. They used a lot of biscuits!
Each board ended up losing about 3/16” of thickness, down to a tad above 5/8”
Edges were squared and I selected a new piece to make up for the saw kerfs and get rid of the oddball slat.

All glued back up:

I routed a flat border and properly affixed a new rim to thicken up the edge.

Some Iron

The base was riddled with nails. Not as a fix in my opinion, but as the main way to hold it all together. I couldn’t really tell if any glue was ever used for the aprons.

At least they countersunk the finish nails and there were no hammer face “kisses” when the standard head nails were hammered home. Someone took some care!

These were a royal pain to remove, but I got it done

Loose Fitting Joints

The reason for the wobble was clear, mortises were about 3/8” wide, drilled with what appears to be a brad point bit. Maybe done on a drill press, they were mostly all in a row. I used a 1/2” router bit to try and clean these up and equalize their locations:

The tenons were at most 1/4” thick. No wonder they were so loose 8^)

The foot rest was poplar and the first sign of glue was on dowels drilled in through the lower aprons, probably with the thought that would actually help.

With all the old, split wood, toasted tenons, etc. I replaced everything on the base with fresh parts excluding the legs.
It was satisfying to “fix” things like the sloppy drawer cutout (forth intro photo).

A custom mix of TransTints and precat lacquer was used for the finish.

The drawer was really f*ed up, twisted and the guides were at different heights on each side. It had a ship lapped bottom so I preserved the face and replicated the design but used box joints instead of butt joints. I kept to red oak for this.

Thanks for looking!





19 comments so far

View Madmark2's profile

Madmark2

2524 posts in 1647 days


#1 posted 03-01-2021 07:01 PM

Well done.

Wood lasts, metal doesn’t.

Good to see new life from old wood.

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View splintergroup's profile

splintergroup

5012 posts in 2281 days


#2 posted 03-01-2021 07:04 PM

Thanks MM, With this desk coming from a moist environment (I’d assume 8^) I’d rather deal with warped wood then rusty, pitted metal

View Dave Polaschek's profile (online now)

Dave Polaschek

7336 posts in 1641 days


#3 posted 03-01-2021 07:20 PM

Looks to me like you pretty much built a new desk. Nicely done!

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View mtnwild's profile

mtnwild

3975 posts in 4586 days


#4 posted 03-01-2021 07:21 PM

Whoa, nice refurbish. Cool man…...

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View splintergroup's profile

splintergroup

5012 posts in 2281 days


#5 posted 03-01-2021 07:26 PM

Thanks Dave, Jack!
Basically it is new 8^)

It would have been easier to just start over, but I did manage to salvage the legs, top, and drawer face, the rest heated my shop 8^)

View AandCstyle's profile

AandCstyle

3296 posts in 3316 days


#6 posted 03-01-2021 07:34 PM

Great save! It is now good for another hundred+ years.

-- Art

View splintergroup's profile

splintergroup

5012 posts in 2281 days


#7 posted 03-01-2021 09:29 PM



Great save! It is now good for another hundred+ years.

- AandCstyle

I did remember to record the mix of TransTint dyes so I can match the results when that time arrives 8^)

View pottz's profile

pottz

16318 posts in 2043 days


#8 posted 03-01-2021 10:32 PM

nice rebuild splint that thing was in terrible shape,reminds me of a piano bench i fixed for friend that was repaired horribly.

-- 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 splintergroup's profile

splintergroup

5012 posts in 2281 days


#9 posted 03-01-2021 11:10 PM

Thanks Pottzy, I’m just glad I have (and use) a metal detector!

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

26095 posts in 4164 days


#10 posted 03-01-2021 11:14 PM

Most excelently done, Bruce!! That is a RESTORATION…..............nice work on it….........Cheers, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View splintergroup's profile

splintergroup

5012 posts in 2281 days


#11 posted 03-01-2021 11:21 PM

Thanks Jim!
It was hard to figure on what to try and save and what to burn, OCD kicking in 8^)

View Eric's profile

Eric

1288 posts in 932 days


#12 posted 03-02-2021 12:04 AM

Great restoration, beautiful craftsmanship

-- Eric, building the dream

View swirt's profile

swirt

6115 posts in 4030 days


#13 posted 03-02-2021 02:58 AM

I’d say nice save…. but it was more like nice rebuild of the entire thing. Well done. I do like the style of the little desk, so good job preserving the original design.

-- Galootish log blog, http://www.timberframe-tools.com

View splintergroup's profile

splintergroup

5012 posts in 2281 days


#14 posted 03-02-2021 03:04 PM

Thanks Eric, Swirt.


I d say nice save…. but it was more like nice rebuild of the entire thing. Well done. I do like the style of the little desk, so good job preserving the original design.

- swirt

Yeah, not even a rebuild really. More like a replica that borrowed some wood from the scrap pile of some old furniture like object 8^)

View BigMig's profile

BigMig

608 posts in 3672 days


#15 posted 03-02-2021 03:38 PM

A SUPER SAVE from the trash bin. Your colleague owes you big time

-- Mike from Lansdowne, PA

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