Antique style schoolhouse writing desk

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Project by adamclyde posted 06-25-2013 03:51 PM 4005 views 4 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

At midnight last night, I finished this desk for my son for his 6th birthday this morning. Talk about cutting it close!

While I’ve done a lot of things around the house, I consider this my first real furniture project. And though it is pretty simple, it still presented me with a lot of challenges. For some earlier challenges with design and construction I made a few blog entries (now I need to write up my final entry).

The desk is made of solid walnut, except for the bottom base, which is walnut-veneered ply. The legs are tapered below the aprons to subtly lighten the overall feel of the desk. The aprons and stretchers are all connected by mortise and tenon joinery. I got the hinges from rockler, which were an antiqued brass and matched very well. It is finished with two coats of danish oil. It will receive two applications of wipe-on poly top coat in a few days.

Because this was my first project, I made a number of mistakes, but honestly, it turned out much better than I thought it would and overall, I’m really happy and proud of the final product. My goal is that this will be around so my son can give it to one of his kids.

There are a total of 14 mortises in the desk. Considering I’ve never cut a mortise or tenon before, it was a challenge but with the plunge router was easier than I would have thought. The tenons on the other hand were harder and I ended up hand cutting each tenon with my gent saw. Good practice, right?

The tenons on the stretchers were a challenge since they are on a tapered leg. I cut the mortises before tapering the leg, then after tapering the legs, used the legs themselves as a reference for laying out the shoulder cuts of the tenons. (I also built a tapering jig for this, which I’m really happy with).

This was also the first project where I’ve had to flatten boards that wouldn’t fit in my joiner. Thanks to my newly acquired scrub plane from my dad, this was actually pretty fun.

14 comments so far

View adamclyde's profile


43 posts in 2888 days

#1 posted 06-25-2013 04:04 PM

oh, and I should say, a huge thanks to everyone here. Reading about all the projects, and getting advice from so many of you made for invaluable help on this. Long live Lumberjocks…

View Brandon's profile


4380 posts in 3926 days

#2 posted 06-25-2013 04:18 PM

It turned out very well! Congrats to you for making such a fine project.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View yrob's profile


340 posts in 4627 days

#3 posted 06-25-2013 04:50 PM

Very nice. Its a beautiful desk and such a great idea to give your son a traditional desk for doing his homework rather than a mass produced one.

-- Yves

View Makarov's profile


103 posts in 2780 days

#4 posted 06-25-2013 07:03 PM

Very nice, I would put some plexiglass on the writing surface before it gets pen indented.

-- "Complexity is easy; Simplicity is difficult." Georgy Shragin Designer of ppsh41 sub machine gun

View Violaine's profile


68 posts in 3797 days

#5 posted 06-25-2013 08:08 PM

hi adam,
I made a desk similar to yours and it was also challenging as I didn’t have plan to start it with..its just some wild culminations of thoughts..

I entitled mine “bedside drafting table”..i hope I can post the pics here as I have posted them on a different forum.
anyways, yours is a beautiful piece not to mention the type of wood you use out of it.
my only comment is that I think the hinges are too centered and they are too close together..i hope it wont “skew” after each and every opening chores.
Mine has SS piano hinges instead..but like you said, yours is a traditional study desk so it should have the classic hinges..haha..

in all respect, your boy is blessed to have a dad like you.

thanks for sharing.

View adamclyde's profile


43 posts in 2888 days

#6 posted 06-25-2013 08:33 PM

violane, I realized after I cut the mortises for the hinges that they were probably too close together. I distributed them evenly across the width, but looking at it after it was done noticed I could have spread them farther apart, or even added a third hinge in the middle. alas, one of the many small “mistakes” I made.

View Oldtool's profile


3156 posts in 3165 days

#7 posted 06-25-2013 08:37 PM

Very nice desk, beautiful in the walnut.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View aussiedave's profile


3114 posts in 2799 days

#8 posted 06-25-2013 09:53 PM

Nice looking desk Adam….great job.

-- Dave.......If at first you don’t succeed redefine success....

View Woodbridge's profile


3741 posts in 3393 days

#9 posted 06-26-2013 02:26 AM

beautiful desk!

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View NGK's profile


93 posts in 2886 days

#10 posted 06-26-2013 03:08 PM

Awesome work for a “first-time” project. I’m certain you will get requests for more to be constructed. When you do, please improve the design and balance by placing the hinges further apart.

View adamclyde's profile


43 posts in 2888 days

#11 posted 06-26-2013 05:08 PM

Thanks, NGK. I will say, that first picture makes the hinges look even closer together than they really are, but yes, agree that they should be further apart by a few inches in both directions…

View RickRinger's profile


93 posts in 2926 days

#12 posted 06-29-2013 01:39 AM

I’m so happy for you. This is gorgeous. I can only imagine how proud you must be of this. Congratulations on doing such a fantastic job.

View RickRinger's profile


93 posts in 2926 days

#13 posted 06-29-2013 01:41 AM

Sorry. Duplicate post. Can’t figure out how to delete this one.

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 3450 days

#14 posted 06-29-2013 03:37 PM

Very nice desk, but kind of pissed since this is the ind of desk I used as a kid, so I guess I am an “antique” as well…. :-)))))))

Joking aside, well done, the ones I used never looked this pretty.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

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