Writing Desk from a Handtools Class

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Project by Natalie posted 01-24-2013 03:29 AM 2267 views 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

First off, I’m sorry about the poor quality photos. The best representation of the actually color is in the third photo.

I made this writing desk at a class I took from Monroe Robinson at the Marc Adams School in Indiana. The class was a focus on hand tools.

The wood is “California Walnut” (whatever that is). It was air dried, which makes a big difference with walnut. Air dried walnut has more of a reddish tone as the kiln drying seems to give it a grayish cast.

The top is veneer which was cut to 1/8th inch thick on the bandsaw. It was lightly planed in a machine planer but mostly hand planed for the the finish. The piece of wood was machine jointed before it was cut into veneer and then the pieces were jointed with a hand plane to fit together. The veneer was vacuum glued to apple-ply and the edge banding is 1/4 inch thick and cut from the same wood.

The legs were created with a spoke shave. I started with 4) 2 1/2×2 1/2 pieces of Cherry, which I stained with a homemade stain. Recipe: Pieces of rusty metal soaked in vinegar and applied as a stain. I mounted it on my lathe then drew lines on the piece and shaved to the lines. The shaved areas revealed the natural wood creating the look of marquetry. (Sorry, I didn’t get any photos of the process). The grooves down the center were made with a router. I used the same process on the table skirt. The medallion in the center is what I call “overlay”. Lets just say, it needed something and I was not in the mood to attempt marquetry at that point.

As you can see from photos it has a floating top attached with buttons. The final finish was the same recipe which Monroe go from Sam Maloof and is a secret. Actually, he freely gave out his recipe, but if you ask me for it, ill have to tell that its somewhere is a box of papers somewhere in my shop. If i come across it I promise i will post on a blog here.

Thanks for viewing my project.

-- Natalie - My mind is like a bad neighborhood, I don't like to go there alone.

12 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117723 posts in 4092 days

#1 posted 01-24-2013 03:45 AM

Beautiful desk Natalie,great job.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3818 days

#2 posted 01-24-2013 03:52 AM

this is so beautiful, and hard to believe you did this with a kitchen aid, your a real master…lol…ok..i could not help myself, now serious, you really did do a fantastic job here, i love walnut and love seeing tables made from it, your design is terrific and would enjoy having a piece like this in my home, sure would…congrats on a wonderful project…walnut tables are my fetish…grizz

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 2703 days

#3 posted 01-24-2013 04:05 AM

A handsome and functional table !

According to various sources (eg Wikipedia) California walnut is just another name for claro walnut (juglans hindsii). Claro walnut is also found where you are located (Oregon), but I suspect some of it is actually a hybrid where claro and black walnut intermixed. I have quite bit of Oregon claro and most of it is quite dark in colour, sometimes with a purple hue to it. Frequently figured also.

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View Natalie 's profile


367 posts in 2481 days

#4 posted 01-24-2013 04:16 AM

Thanks for the info on the walnut. This particular bit of it is such a gorgeous color and the grain is wonderful.

Speaking of walnut, I have an entire walnut tree cut into 8 to 10 inches wide and 8 qrt in my loft. I bought it from a man who was closing up his shop and moving into assisted living. He had brought it to Washington from his sisters house in Tenn, 15 years prior to selling it to me. I have had it now for another 15 years. Do you see why I am so excited to be getting back to woodworking? I have so much wood out there the NEEDS me. LOL

Just to gloat a little more Grizz, I also have dibs on a living walnut tree that is slated to be cut down sometime this fall. Its from a house I sold to the city. They demoed the house to build a new police station and I promised to make them a sign from the tree.

-- Natalie - My mind is like a bad neighborhood, I don't like to go there alone.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3818 days

#5 posted 01-24-2013 04:25 AM

lol…well well, to have so much walnut is a real gloat and that is really cool to be getting your walnut from the house you lived at, that will be so great…but i hate to say it but i do view this as a wood gloat challange, and i usually dont back down from…so, some day somewhere…you just might see a walnut gloat from the grizzman…;).........until then im going to enjoy all of your pieces you make from this walnut you have…have fun.

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3398 posts in 4227 days

#6 posted 01-24-2013 04:42 AM


You incorporated so many interesting things in this table. The idea for the legs is very original (at least to me). I’m wondering how much contrast will remain as the cherry ages and darkens. Does your stain formula work on other woods as well? How about that technique with maple? Could that work?

Thanks for sharing. What a great way to learn!


-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View Natalie 's profile


367 posts in 2481 days

#7 posted 01-24-2013 02:57 PM

The photo of the legs was taken recently, so you will see that contrast has remained. For one thing that stain is almost black. Also, it must be that I used the sap wood, the outer part of the log, which is lighter to begin with and doesn’t darken as much as the heart wood.
I haven’t tried that stain on anything else. Let me know if you do, I’ll be interested to hear how it works.

-- Natalie - My mind is like a bad neighborhood, I don't like to go there alone.

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3381 days

#8 posted 01-24-2013 02:59 PM

That is a fine piece of work. I’ll bet that you learned a lot.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View michelletwo's profile


2783 posts in 3530 days

#9 posted 01-24-2013 05:38 PM

very well done. The legs are rather interesting/fascinating. the apron has a nice detail too..Overall, a very well done piece of furniture, that would go into just about any setting/decor

View Roger's profile


21011 posts in 3319 days

#10 posted 01-27-2013 03:02 PM

Very beautiful Natalie. Another fine build. Lotsa gr8 details.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View woodmizer14's profile


14 posts in 2145 days

#11 posted 12-22-2013 05:26 PM

Great table Beautiful craftsmanship Natalie, great job.

-- Michael from Hickory North Carolina, [email protected]

View Steve Diogo's profile

Steve Diogo

89 posts in 2107 days

#12 posted 03-19-2014 04:56 PM

Beautiful work and an inspiration for me to keep learning.


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