Federal style cherry desk

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Project by Rb12 posted 04-05-2014 11:23 PM 2492 views 5 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So here is my first attempt at a federal style of desk. This was for my youngest daughter so it had some non-federal elements that were particular to her, such as the sun inlay.

There were a lot of new skills for me on this desk (which also meant I needed a number of new tools ;-)

I discovered the joy/benefits/utility of hand planes on this desk (Woodriver No 4 and 1945-ish Stanley No 7). I also picked up a Veritas router plane which worked phenomenally for getting really tightly fitting tenons as well as doing the string in-lays. I did strings on the front legs, the drawer fronts and the table top. The hand planes also made leveling the desk top and jointing them (doing a spring joint) remarkably easy.

I built a taper jig to taper the legs. Basically this style
But out of some scrap MDF and maple I had in the shop and some short cuts of t-track. Really easy to make for virtually nothing and works like a charm.

I made all the banding, medallions and inlays myself from boarded stock. I couldn’t find holly, so I used a clean piece of maple; the darker wood on the banding is cocobolo. The desk itself is cherry; I also made the knobs out of cocobolo with a maple middle. The guys of the drawers are poplar.

These were the first time I handout dovetails for a finished piece (I have done practice dovetails, but never anything I wanted preserved. The pic is the second drawer, they were quite a bit better than the first drawer ;-)

The sun inlay is maple burl in the middle, yellow heart and orange osage as the rays. It was the trickiest inlay I have ever done (I used a hole saw and a piece of scrap plywood to make a repeatable pattern with a router bit with a bearing on the top. Then I used a small carving set gouge, chisels and the router plane to clear the waste on the rays. Once they were done, I used the router and plywood circle to clean a new circle and inlays the maple burl. The hand planes made it incredibly easy to leave the inlays proud, glue them, and then level them with the table top. In the past I have used a belt or orbital sander and it never comes out as flat and even as this.

I am still by no means a hand plane expert, but this project is really pushing me in the direction of more hand tools.

The finish was two coats of natural Danish Oil and then two coats of shellac (sanding in between). I will also do a couple coats of spar urethane on the top for some additional moisture resistance.

12 comments so far

View firefighterontheside's profile


21096 posts in 2657 days

#1 posted 04-05-2014 11:32 PM

Everything about this is awesome, except the title. You may want to fix that. I love the inlay.. And the figure of the wood is excellent.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View Rb12's profile


80 posts in 3028 days

#2 posted 04-05-2014 11:39 PM

lol, whoops :-) fixed, thx. Yeah, I happened upon some very pretty cherry (I would like to say it is my skill in finding boards, but I just went for those with less sap wood

View woodchuckerNJ's profile


1394 posts in 2434 days

#3 posted 04-05-2014 11:59 PM

I like this a lot. As it ages, it’s going to look even more beautiful. But I like when cherry is freshly cut.

Very nice work.

-- Jeff NJ

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

9594 posts in 3129 days

#4 posted 04-06-2014 01:38 AM

Great looking table.

Nicely done

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View aussiedave's profile


3114 posts in 2624 days

#5 posted 04-06-2014 09:09 AM

Wow beautiful desk with excellent inlays….Awesome craftsmanship, well done and thanks for sharing.

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

View Rb12's profile


80 posts in 3028 days

#6 posted 04-06-2014 01:18 PM

thx for the comments folks. I hope my daughter will appreciate it in time too (at 2 she will like the $7 backpack I got her over the 30+ hrs spent on the desk ;-)

View Mark's profile


1044 posts in 2775 days

#7 posted 04-06-2014 02:55 PM

Excellent job Rb12. Love that inlay. Yer dovetails turned out real nice as well.

-- Mark

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3667 days

#8 posted 04-06-2014 03:04 PM

This is a very impressive desk. Congratulations.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View a1Jim's profile


118079 posts in 4377 days

#9 posted 04-06-2014 03:52 PM

excellent work a fine looking desk.


View pintodeluxe's profile


6173 posts in 3614 days

#10 posted 04-06-2014 06:31 PM

Wonderful project, it came out great. I can really appreciate all the inlay details.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Jerry's profile


3395 posts in 2448 days

#11 posted 04-06-2014 09:47 PM

Oh boy, this is exceptional craftsmanship. Amazing.

-- 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 Rb12's profile


80 posts in 3028 days

#12 posted 04-07-2014 12:51 PM

thx guys, I appreciate the comments

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