Scrap Wood Desk for $3.18

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Project by thetinman posted 03-17-2014 05:13 PM 14249 views 21 times favorited 49 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I sold my old saw and bought my new one. I tuned her up, made a fence for the miter gauge and a couple of ZC blade inserts. Now what? Being retired money is tight – can’t buy lumber till the checks come in. I looked around the shop and saw scraps of different kinds of wood. But I saw a lot of odd lengths of clear select pine. I got out my tape measure, a piece of paper and a pencil and started ciphering. What can I build out of what I’ve got? This is the desk I built from scraps. It’s for my ham and CB radio equipment. It was “inspired” by the old paymaster’s desks with all the slots, shelves and cubbyholes. The only cost was the 2 drawer knobs for $3.18, including tax.

The table is 44-1/2 X 28-1/2. The top case is 43-1/4 long 11-1/4 high and 11-1/4 wide.

There is space for my laptop and a calculator under the center radio shelf. A place for operator’s manuals, radio logs, etc. on the side shelves and two draws for small stuff.

I started by choosing the flattest, longest boards with the straightest grain for the tabletop. I put in some biscuits, glued them up and got them into the clamps. Using my only 3 cauls, some boards, some wax paper and a few wedges I beat the edges into submission. When the glue was dry I scrapped the glue joints with a painter’s scraper – perfect. Every joint was perfect. Very little sanding needed. That’s one time in a row. Why can’t good lumber come out like this?

The next best boards were used for the apron and L-shaped legs. I used this style leg because I felt uncomfortable gluing up all the weird grain from different trees to make thicker “typical” desk legs. I figured they would quickly look like twisted trees. The apron and legs went together with mortise and tenon joints.

The top assembly went together using dowels for the shelves and glue and brads for the rest. The draws are simple apothecary style dado boxes that just slide on runners. They aren’t “working” drawers in the sense that they carry any weight and are opened and closed often.

The case assembly backboard has wide slots for wires and cables. The top has slotted vents for muffin fans to pull the heat out of the radio compartment.

The finish is a 50/50 mix of urethane and thinner used as a sealer, stain, 2 coats of gloss urethane for hardness and quick drying and a final coat of satin to tone it down. The stain is cherry, applied liberally and dry brushed away until I got what I wanted. This helped hide all the scrap wood joints and left an aged look to the finished desk

A radioman’s room, his “shack”, is a hodgepodge of anything he can find. Old shelves, used doors, whatever. It’s the equipment that matters. This might be a scrap wood desk but it’s a Cadillac for a radioman’s “shack”.

I finished it this past Saturday. My wife Uni came home from shopping and saw the finished desk. This is how the conversation went.

Uni: “That’s nice. I’m surprised.”
Me: “Why, thank you dear. What do you mean you’re surprised.”
Uni: “I mean I like it. I’m shocked.”
Me: “Now we’ve moved from surprised to shocked? I built all the kid’s furniture. They all used the same crib that I built. Now your shocked?”
Uni: “I mean you were out there playing with all that junk. I didn’t know you were making this.”
Me: “It’s not junk. It’s scrape wood.”
Me thinking: I’m an idiot. Don’t correct her. You’ll just start her talking about the messes you make.
Uni: “It all looks like junk to me. I didn’t know what you were doing. Maybe you were doing one of those crazy experiments you and your nutty friends come up with. I stopped wondering what you do out there years ago.”
Me: “My friends and I are not nutty and we don’t do crazy experiments.”
Uni: “Really? What about that windmill with the car motor?”
Me: “It wasn’t a motor, it was an alternator.”
Me thinking: Holy crap you fool. She brought out The List. Don’t answer back. Don’t correct her. Don’t talk about The List.
Uni: “That d**n thing electrocuted the cat. It almost killed her. That could have been one of the kids.”
Me thinking: Crap! You can’t argue when she pulls out the could-have. Be smart, get back on track.
Me: “That was over 10 years ago. What does that have to do with today?”
Uni: “Oh you want today? How about that 200-year old radio you insisted on fixing again a couple of weeks ago? It caught fire. You could have burned the house down.”
Me: “It isn’t 200-years old. It’s about 50-years old. And that was almost 3-months ago. And it didn’t catch fire. Some of the circuits just fried.”
Uni: “Well my house smelled for 2-weeks.”
Me thinking: I really am an idiot. Now she’s pulled 2 things from The List and she’s moved on to it’s her house. Why do I do this? I have a wife and 4 daughters. I haven’t been right since the oldest daughter became a teenager. As the girls aged I simply went from always being wrong to being dumber than a sack of wet hair.
Me: “So a few things don’t go exactly right. What does that have to do with this desk?”
Me thinking: Stop here dummy. Stop here. But no, I ate a whole bowl of stupid for breakfast have to keep the “idiot” door open.”
Me: “I think I do some pretty clever things around here.”
Uni: “By clever things do you mean dishwashing liquid in the dishwasher?”
Me thinking: Holy crap how far back does The List go?
Me: “I didn’t do that. Andrea did.”
Uni: “I know she did. But you had the bright idea to clean up the mess with that crummy vacuum of yours.”

Ok, time to fill you folks in. Many years ago (that’s how The List works) when Andrea, our oldest, was a teenager we were out of Cascade. She put liquid dish soap in the dishwasher. The suds were too much to handle and this white frothy foam ran out all over the kitchen floor. Dudly Doright to the rescue. I’ll clean it up with my old shop vac. And it is old. It came with a kite and a key as an electrical accessory. Well, I’m at the front of the vac with the hose and the wand cleaning up the foamy mess when I hear Uni cackling. I turn around to see that the exhaust is a bubble machine on steroids. The dining room is 2/3rd full of giant bubbles.

Uni: “Everything was so sticky. It took me 2-days to clean up after you.”
Me thinking and keeping the smiles inside: I don’t care who you are, those bubbles were funny as hell.
Me: “ OK fine. Let’s get back to you being shocked about the desk.”
Uni: “I didn’t know what you were doing out there. I like it. I think it would look nice on the wall under the Cuckcoo clock.”
Me: “What? It’s my desk for my radios. And you haven’t put anything on that wall in the 8-years since you had me build it.”
Uni: “That’s because I couldn’t decide what I wanted there.”
Me: “Well you’ve had 8-years and you’re not going to decide on my desk today.”
Uni: “Maybe I could have come up with something if you would have thought to ask.”
Me thinking: Holy crap! How the heck did she turn that into my fault?
Me: “I built a radio desk for me. Of what use would the desk be under the Cuckcoo clock? We’re not going to use it there.”
Uni: “It doesn’t have to be used. It’s just for looks. Just think, all my friends would comment on it and you could tell them how you made it out of junk.”
Me: “My radio desk isn’t going under the Cuckcoo clock to be a conversation prop. And what about those vent holes in the top?”
Uni: “They look like shower drains. I’ll cover them with a doily.”
Me thinking: A doily? Nobody has doilies any more. I haven’t even heard the word used in a sentence in 50-years. And why would I want to talk to her old biddy friends anyway. What do I say to them? “Oh Mary your hair looks great. That’s the loveliest shade of blue I’ve ever seen on you.” Or, “Be careful when you go outside Beth. It’s breezy and with all that hair spray a sudden gust could break your hair off.”

My phone rang. Thank God for the interruption. It’s Wildman and Sparky (radio handles). They’re coming over tomorrow to work in the shack. I tell them about my conversation with Uni. “You’re so screwed buddy.” It’s all they could say. Nonsense! I’m not screwed. This is my desk. I built it for me and Uni is not getting away with it.

Uni: “Who was that?”
Me: “It was Wildman and Sparky. They’re coming over tomorrow to work on some home built antennas. “
Uni: “See what I mean? You and your friends are just going to ruin the desk. That piece of plywood you use now is all full of burns from your soldering irons and that radio you set on fire.”
Me: “We’re not going to hurt the desk. I’m keeping that other piece of plywood as a work station.”

I just walked away. This conversation was over. As I walk away I hear her cackle “I’d better not see a bunch of burn marks all over that desk, Terry Lee.”

Holy crap! She used my 2 front names. She shifted into mommy mode – “You kids better not blah-blah-blah. If I have to come in there blah-blah-blah.”

Wildman and Sparky came over yesterday (Sunday) and I showed them the desk. . All Wildman said was “Nice Cuckoo clock.” And Sparky asked, “When are you going to knit her a doily to cover those shower drains.” With friends like mine who needs enemas.

Here’s my finished desk.

-- Life is what happens to you while you are planning better things -Mark Twain

49 comments so far

View chrisstef's profile


18133 posts in 4119 days

#1 posted 03-17-2014 05:20 PM

That was one hell of a funny write up and the desk aint half bad neither! Good stuff all the way around tinman.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View JKMDETAIL's profile


223 posts in 2768 days

#2 posted 03-17-2014 05:31 PM

Thank you, I need a bit of a laugh today. You might give more of a warning though I in my cubicle at work. OH BTW nice desk you made for the wife. I can appreciate the note. I have 3 girls and a son. You would think we would leanr when to just stop talking, you know you will never win.

View Farrout's profile


188 posts in 4267 days

#3 posted 03-17-2014 05:31 PM

Got to be in the daily top 3 for many reasons. Nice work.

-- If we learn from our mistakes, I should be a genius!

View John Olsen's profile

John Olsen

36 posts in 2704 days

#4 posted 03-17-2014 05:31 PM

That’s a sweet looking decorative cuckoo clock desk. Maybe you need to build a ham desk out of an old piece of plywood with burn marks already on it to keep it from being re-purposed.

View Tomoose's profile


422 posts in 4486 days

#5 posted 03-17-2014 05:51 PM

Good work on Uni’s new desk and great write-up. I enjoyed it very much!


-- “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso

View carver1942's profile


93 posts in 2817 days

#6 posted 03-17-2014 06:30 PM

Great job and write up thetinman! I’m “surprised”..........., uh “shocked”. :-) Good to see your new saw is working out for you. That’s some right fine work for scraps. Geeeez…, I can’t let my wife see this project. She’s be pointing to all my piles of scrap. Thanks for sharing your work.
Regards Ed

View steve_in_ohio's profile


1195 posts in 2723 days

#7 posted 03-17-2014 06:39 PM

that was very amusing to read, great work on the desk

-- steve, simple and effective

View Cricket's profile


2803 posts in 2705 days

#8 posted 03-17-2014 08:06 PM

Incredible story with great results! I had to share this one on our LumberJocks’s Facebook page.

-- Community Manager

View Hitia17340's profile


11 posts in 2693 days

#9 posted 03-17-2014 08:17 PM

All in favour of not wasting anything that ‘might come in handy’. (I’ve not only got a houseful and shedful of stuff like that, I’ve inherited one too!) Great looking desk; pity it’s not yours! Wonderful story, really enjoyed it and sympathize with you. Now that I’m living alone I don’t have to consider that sort of problem; I wouldn’t be building a 17ft catamaran in my living room if I did!

-- Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too? Douglas Adams' take on religion.

View flowerdog's profile


289 posts in 3380 days

#10 posted 03-17-2014 08:17 PM

Great stain job on the pine. I have been using thinned BLO as a sealer, but your thinned poly does the trick too.

View spudhogg's profile


102 posts in 2673 days

#11 posted 03-17-2014 08:26 PM

The desk is beautiful and the story is even better. Kudos, and duck! Here comes Uni!

-- Spudhogg Woodworks

View The Box Whisperer's profile

The Box Whisperer

678 posts in 3183 days

#12 posted 03-17-2014 08:30 PM

Awesome story and awesome desk, very well done and very well written, Please keep it up.

-- "despite you best efforts and your confidence that your smarter and faster than a saw blade at 10k rpm…. your not …." - Charles Neil

View TNwoodchuck's profile


102 posts in 4888 days

#13 posted 03-17-2014 08:32 PM

Great design and build. As for the write-up, my wife (in the other room) heard me laughing and I had to quickly respond, “Oh, nothing; just reading one of my woodworking forums.” Funny stuff!

-- Chuck near Nashville - “All you are unable to give possesses you” (Andre Gide)

View thetinman's profile


294 posts in 2651 days

#14 posted 03-17-2014 08:32 PM

Holy crap! Cricket is going to post this on Facebook. Holy crap! Oh this will definately make THE LIST. The favorite show those women watch is “Snapped” – a show about women killing their husbands. I better find some scrap wood and make me a pine box.

Holy crap! I’m a dead man.

-- Life is what happens to you while you are planning better things -Mark Twain

View GDH's profile


36 posts in 2650 days

#15 posted 03-17-2014 10:21 PM

Tinman – great job with the scrap material, the desk came out looking awesome! But….not as awesome as the story!!! Had me laughing out loud many times, and thinking, I could use some of this with the wife when I get in trouble. You know like, well dear, at least I didn’t do like Tinman and (insert whatever)....


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