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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Desk destruction

So I took the desk apart and stripped the paint. Oddly enough, this entire desk was built without a drop of glue (except the top). Screws, nails, and other hardware held everything together. This made it pretty easy to pull everything apart and salvage for future use. Here is what I think I have:

Legs: 4 in decent shape minus a few small cracks that I should be able to fill with epoxy.
Aprons: The rear apron is still a pretzel, but otherwise OK. Side aprons look fine. The front was actually three smaller pieces nailed together, and probably not of great value for much else.
Table top: A solid piece. A few cracks on the edges, mostly along glue joints. There are some significant scratches across the face that will take a bit of work to get out (see picture).



The plan ahead-I am going to try to build a desk similar to what I had previously planned, just using parts from the old desk. Even though the rear apron is a pretzel, I should be able to slice a few pieces of laminate out of it to create a veneer. I will most like just use a piece of the Macore I bought for the rear apron (close enough, and no one will ever see it). The new desk will have a few curves in the front and sides, and will require cutting down the top a bit. The old desk was a little bit bigger than we actually needed. The picture below is a copy of the sketchup plan.

 

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Desk destruction

So I took the desk apart and stripped the paint. Oddly enough, this entire desk was built without a drop of glue (except the top). Screws, nails, and other hardware held everything together. This made it pretty easy to pull everything apart and salvage for future use. Here is what I think I have:

Legs: 4 in decent shape minus a few small cracks that I should be able to fill with epoxy.
Aprons: The rear apron is still a pretzel, but otherwise OK. Side aprons look fine. The front was actually three smaller pieces nailed together, and probably not of great value for much else.
Table top: A solid piece. A few cracks on the edges, mostly along glue joints. There are some significant scratches across the face that will take a bit of work to get out (see picture).



The plan ahead-I am going to try to build a desk similar to what I had previously planned, just using parts from the old desk. Even though the rear apron is a pretzel, I should be able to slice a few pieces of laminate out of it to create a veneer. I will most like just use a piece of the Macore I bought for the rear apron (close enough, and no one will ever see it). The new desk will have a few curves in the front and sides, and will require cutting down the top a bit. The old desk was a little bit bigger than we actually needed. The picture below is a copy of the sketchup plan.

Please see my comments to your first blog.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Apron construction, etc

Since the last blog entry I have made some good progress on building new parts for the desk. The apron and legs are nearly ready to assemble. This was my first attempt at building curves into my work. To curve the front and sides I built up layers of laminate and formed it in an mdf forms. I used poplar as the base for these curves, and cut the original mahogany down for the outside faces. Not having a drum sander to smooth each layer, I had to rely on my bandsaw to cut true, which it generally did (Powermatic makes a nice bandsaw). Overall, I am pretty happy with the results.

Working with curves has proved to be a new challenge. I don't have a great feel for what is actually square like I do with straight boards. If I have a slight twist in the board, there is no easy way to get it out. As best I can tell, I have a slight twist in the front and side aprons. I was originally going to try to mortise the aprons into the legs, but am convinced that with the twist it will be near impossible to pull off without giving the entire desk an awkward twist. My current plan is to go with pocket screws on the front. This way I can focus on getting a flat surface for the top. The back apron will be a straight board, which I made out of some of the Makore I had on hand. This will be mortised for some extra strength.

I am having some doubts as to the original material of the desk. I still think it is some sort of mahogany, but it may be a fairly cheap version. It is very soft. As I mentioned in a previous post, the top is very scratched, likely due to this. Of course, future use will risk scratching it quite heavily again. I will try to mitigate this with a good hard finish. I'm not sure what the best answer is quite yet, and am open to suggestions.



 

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Apron construction, etc

Since the last blog entry I have made some good progress on building new parts for the desk. The apron and legs are nearly ready to assemble. This was my first attempt at building curves into my work. To curve the front and sides I built up layers of laminate and formed it in an mdf forms. I used poplar as the base for these curves, and cut the original mahogany down for the outside faces. Not having a drum sander to smooth each layer, I had to rely on my bandsaw to cut true, which it generally did (Powermatic makes a nice bandsaw). Overall, I am pretty happy with the results.

Working with curves has proved to be a new challenge. I don't have a great feel for what is actually square like I do with straight boards. If I have a slight twist in the board, there is no easy way to get it out. As best I can tell, I have a slight twist in the front and side aprons. I was originally going to try to mortise the aprons into the legs, but am convinced that with the twist it will be near impossible to pull off without giving the entire desk an awkward twist. My current plan is to go with pocket screws on the front. This way I can focus on getting a flat surface for the top. The back apron will be a straight board, which I made out of some of the Makore I had on hand. This will be mortised for some extra strength.

I am having some doubts as to the original material of the desk. I still think it is some sort of mahogany, but it may be a fairly cheap version. It is very soft. As I mentioned in a previous post, the top is very scratched, likely due to this. Of course, future use will risk scratching it quite heavily again. I will try to mitigate this with a good hard finish. I'm not sure what the best answer is quite yet, and am open to suggestions.



Good work Ben
 

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Apron construction, etc

Since the last blog entry I have made some good progress on building new parts for the desk. The apron and legs are nearly ready to assemble. This was my first attempt at building curves into my work. To curve the front and sides I built up layers of laminate and formed it in an mdf forms. I used poplar as the base for these curves, and cut the original mahogany down for the outside faces. Not having a drum sander to smooth each layer, I had to rely on my bandsaw to cut true, which it generally did (Powermatic makes a nice bandsaw). Overall, I am pretty happy with the results.

Working with curves has proved to be a new challenge. I don't have a great feel for what is actually square like I do with straight boards. If I have a slight twist in the board, there is no easy way to get it out. As best I can tell, I have a slight twist in the front and side aprons. I was originally going to try to mortise the aprons into the legs, but am convinced that with the twist it will be near impossible to pull off without giving the entire desk an awkward twist. My current plan is to go with pocket screws on the front. This way I can focus on getting a flat surface for the top. The back apron will be a straight board, which I made out of some of the Makore I had on hand. This will be mortised for some extra strength.

I am having some doubts as to the original material of the desk. I still think it is some sort of mahogany, but it may be a fairly cheap version. It is very soft. As I mentioned in a previous post, the top is very scratched, likely due to this. Of course, future use will risk scratching it quite heavily again. I will try to mitigate this with a good hard finish. I'm not sure what the best answer is quite yet, and am open to suggestions.



Nice work, Ben.
How many plys are in your curved section? It looks like a farily soft curve. Any thoughts on why it twisted? Your clamps look pretty substantial.
I'm enjoying the progress, thanks for keeping us posted.
Clif
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Apron construction, etc

Since the last blog entry I have made some good progress on building new parts for the desk. The apron and legs are nearly ready to assemble. This was my first attempt at building curves into my work. To curve the front and sides I built up layers of laminate and formed it in an mdf forms. I used poplar as the base for these curves, and cut the original mahogany down for the outside faces. Not having a drum sander to smooth each layer, I had to rely on my bandsaw to cut true, which it generally did (Powermatic makes a nice bandsaw). Overall, I am pretty happy with the results.

Working with curves has proved to be a new challenge. I don't have a great feel for what is actually square like I do with straight boards. If I have a slight twist in the board, there is no easy way to get it out. As best I can tell, I have a slight twist in the front and side aprons. I was originally going to try to mortise the aprons into the legs, but am convinced that with the twist it will be near impossible to pull off without giving the entire desk an awkward twist. My current plan is to go with pocket screws on the front. This way I can focus on getting a flat surface for the top. The back apron will be a straight board, which I made out of some of the Makore I had on hand. This will be mortised for some extra strength.

I am having some doubts as to the original material of the desk. I still think it is some sort of mahogany, but it may be a fairly cheap version. It is very soft. As I mentioned in a previous post, the top is very scratched, likely due to this. Of course, future use will risk scratching it quite heavily again. I will try to mitigate this with a good hard finish. I'm not sure what the best answer is quite yet, and am open to suggestions.



Each of these are 6 plys thick. I ended up with a few different thicknesses, and found myself getting wider as I went along. In general, each layer is about 1/8" thick. At least one layer from the end of the board ended up >3/16" thick, and it bent just fine. In hindsight, 4-5 plys would have been more appropriate.

As for the twist, what I have is very slight, and likely comes from the form. I cut out the form fairly square on the bandsaw, but then smoothed it by hand. I don't think I introduced much twist, but just enough to scare me away from the more exacting joinery.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Starting to take a new shape

I pushed through on my last vacation days and got the base of the desk re-assembled. I assembled all but the back strip with pocket screws. It is pretty strong right now, but I think I will back it up with some corner braces just to keep it from pulling apart over the years.

The original desk had one drawer, so you can see one mahogany drawer slide and one poplar.

I am a little nervous that the front of the desk will not have enough strength, especially with people pushing off of it to stand up. I am not sure how much I can really do about it. I could add an additional cross piece, but that won't significantly reduce the potential sag. The original desk had extra rungs crossing the top on the short length. That probably adds to the overall strength, but not much when pushing down on the desk. Any ideas would be appreciated. Ultimately, it probably will be strong enough with the top on.

As for the finish, I ordered some Waterlox. I have never used it before, but it has very good reviews, and was originally designed for floors. It will probably protect the wood better than the original finish of 50 years ago.

 

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Starting to take a new shape

I pushed through on my last vacation days and got the base of the desk re-assembled. I assembled all but the back strip with pocket screws. It is pretty strong right now, but I think I will back it up with some corner braces just to keep it from pulling apart over the years.

The original desk had one drawer, so you can see one mahogany drawer slide and one poplar.

I am a little nervous that the front of the desk will not have enough strength, especially with people pushing off of it to stand up. I am not sure how much I can really do about it. I could add an additional cross piece, but that won't significantly reduce the potential sag. The original desk had extra rungs crossing the top on the short length. That probably adds to the overall strength, but not much when pushing down on the desk. Any ideas would be appreciated. Ultimately, it probably will be strong enough with the top on.

As for the finish, I ordered some Waterlox. I have never used it before, but it has very good reviews, and was originally designed for floors. It will probably protect the wood better than the original finish of 50 years ago.

interesting project
 

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Starting to take a new shape

I pushed through on my last vacation days and got the base of the desk re-assembled. I assembled all but the back strip with pocket screws. It is pretty strong right now, but I think I will back it up with some corner braces just to keep it from pulling apart over the years.

The original desk had one drawer, so you can see one mahogany drawer slide and one poplar.

I am a little nervous that the front of the desk will not have enough strength, especially with people pushing off of it to stand up. I am not sure how much I can really do about it. I could add an additional cross piece, but that won't significantly reduce the potential sag. The original desk had extra rungs crossing the top on the short length. That probably adds to the overall strength, but not much when pushing down on the desk. Any ideas would be appreciated. Ultimately, it probably will be strong enough with the top on.

As for the finish, I ordered some Waterlox. I have never used it before, but it has very good reviews, and was originally designed for floors. It will probably protect the wood better than the original finish of 50 years ago.

If the top is fairly substantial, it could help distribute the "push-off" weight to the legs. However, I think I see the top sitting on your bench in the background and it looks fairly thin, like the base. A bit problematic, methinks.
 
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Starting to take a new shape

I pushed through on my last vacation days and got the base of the desk re-assembled. I assembled all but the back strip with pocket screws. It is pretty strong right now, but I think I will back it up with some corner braces just to keep it from pulling apart over the years.

The original desk had one drawer, so you can see one mahogany drawer slide and one poplar.

I am a little nervous that the front of the desk will not have enough strength, especially with people pushing off of it to stand up. I am not sure how much I can really do about it. I could add an additional cross piece, but that won't significantly reduce the potential sag. The original desk had extra rungs crossing the top on the short length. That probably adds to the overall strength, but not much when pushing down on the desk. Any ideas would be appreciated. Ultimately, it probably will be strong enough with the top on.

As for the finish, I ordered some Waterlox. I have never used it before, but it has very good reviews, and was originally designed for floors. It will probably protect the wood better than the original finish of 50 years ago.

Going to be a nice desk.
 

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Starting to take a new shape

I pushed through on my last vacation days and got the base of the desk re-assembled. I assembled all but the back strip with pocket screws. It is pretty strong right now, but I think I will back it up with some corner braces just to keep it from pulling apart over the years.

The original desk had one drawer, so you can see one mahogany drawer slide and one poplar.

I am a little nervous that the front of the desk will not have enough strength, especially with people pushing off of it to stand up. I am not sure how much I can really do about it. I could add an additional cross piece, but that won't significantly reduce the potential sag. The original desk had extra rungs crossing the top on the short length. That probably adds to the overall strength, but not much when pushing down on the desk. Any ideas would be appreciated. Ultimately, it probably will be strong enough with the top on.

As for the finish, I ordered some Waterlox. I have never used it before, but it has very good reviews, and was originally designed for floors. It will probably protect the wood better than the original finish of 50 years ago.

If you are really concerned about it, you could consider gluing a couple 1" strips of wood to the inside of the front on the top and bottom, mimicking an "I" beam. Strength there will do the most to fight flexing and yet still clear your drawers.
I like your idea of adding diagonal corner braces. I don't know that that will do anything for the push-off problem, but it won't hurt.
Looking good so far, nice work!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Set backs

So I moved on to making drawers for the desk this weekend. I had some extra Macore stock that I had already cut up and turned out to be just the right size for the sides and back of the drawers, so I was in luck! Since I couldn't find the directions for the dovetail jig, it took me a little while to set it all up correctly. I finally got everything set up OK.

Unfortunately, as I started up my router for the second dovetail I heard the sound of something shattering and pieces of plastic fell to the floor all around me. I turned off the router and proceeded to try to figure out what I could have possibly just done. After over an hour of head scratching and bewilderment, I discovered that the blades from the internal fan inside the router had broken off. Somehow one of them had broken free and the force of starting up the motor with that blade free inside was enough to take out the rest of them.

So now I am in the market for a new router. The broken one is a 1 3/4HP Porter Cable, which had done me well over the years, although I am somewhat disappointed with the plastic fan-especially since this became the Achilles heel that took out the entire tool. Since I'm in the market already, I think I am going to step it up a bit for my next router. Most of the 2 1/4 HP models come with variable speed control and a system that allows depth adjustment from the top of a router table. I could make good use of both those features. Dust collection would also be nice, but appears to be a bit more unique at this level. I am always forced to ogle at the Festool line for a while-before realizing that I just can't justify that expense over every other comparable router.

I guess the broken router will give me a chance to sit back and take a bit of a break from this project for a bit. You can't beat the weather this time of year in the Pacific Northwest!
 

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Set backs

So I moved on to making drawers for the desk this weekend. I had some extra Macore stock that I had already cut up and turned out to be just the right size for the sides and back of the drawers, so I was in luck! Since I couldn't find the directions for the dovetail jig, it took me a little while to set it all up correctly. I finally got everything set up OK.

Unfortunately, as I started up my router for the second dovetail I heard the sound of something shattering and pieces of plastic fell to the floor all around me. I turned off the router and proceeded to try to figure out what I could have possibly just done. After over an hour of head scratching and bewilderment, I discovered that the blades from the internal fan inside the router had broken off. Somehow one of them had broken free and the force of starting up the motor with that blade free inside was enough to take out the rest of them.

So now I am in the market for a new router. The broken one is a 1 3/4HP Porter Cable, which had done me well over the years, although I am somewhat disappointed with the plastic fan-especially since this became the Achilles heel that took out the entire tool. Since I'm in the market already, I think I am going to step it up a bit for my next router. Most of the 2 1/4 HP models come with variable speed control and a system that allows depth adjustment from the top of a router table. I could make good use of both those features. Dust collection would also be nice, but appears to be a bit more unique at this level. I am always forced to ogle at the Festool line for a while-before realizing that I just can't justify that expense over every other comparable router.

I guess the broken router will give me a chance to sit back and take a bit of a break from this project for a bit. You can't beat the weather this time of year in the Pacific Northwest!
Bummer!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Drawer construction

So I overcame the router issue with a new router. I bought a Triton 2 1/4 HP model. It seems to work OK so far, although all of the accessories are different than the Porter Cable versions, so I am slowly building up what I have for it. Some of the attachments are a bit awkward-the plate to support bushings didn't line up quite right with the bottom of the router, and the hose connection requires a threaded 1 1/2 hose. Fortunately, I could work around both these issues.

On to the desk, I am ready to put the first coat of finish on tomorrow! The last step was drawer construction. The biggest challenge with these was dealing with the curved front. I ended up building a square drawer, and then using the band saw to cut a curve in the front piece once all the joinery was complete. I veneered a strip of mahogany on the front, from an adjacent piece of veneer from the front. This gives the front a continuous look.



 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Finish Applied

So I now have my first experience with Waterlox finish, and am reasonably happy with the results. I brushed it on, but eventually gave up and shifted to a rag. It is a bit unforgiving with drips and streaks, but I think I fixed a few bad layers with some sandpaper. Only time will tell if it will be durable enough to protect from scratches.

One question remains - what type of wood comprises this desk? This desk was once in the Swedish embassy (40-50 years ago), and had since been painted white. Based on some unpainted areas underneath the tabletop, I have surmised that I probably have mahogany here. That being said, I am up for ideas. The wood is relatively soft, and the pre-sanded version had a much deeper color to it, indicating that this will likely darken with time.



 

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Finish Applied

So I now have my first experience with Waterlox finish, and am reasonably happy with the results. I brushed it on, but eventually gave up and shifted to a rag. It is a bit unforgiving with drips and streaks, but I think I fixed a few bad layers with some sandpaper. Only time will tell if it will be durable enough to protect from scratches.

One question remains - what type of wood comprises this desk? This desk was once in the Swedish embassy (40-50 years ago), and had since been painted white. Based on some unpainted areas underneath the tabletop, I have surmised that I probably have mahogany here. That being said, I am up for ideas. The wood is relatively soft, and the pre-sanded version had a much deeper color to it, indicating that this will likely darken with time.



Sure it isn't cherry?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Finish Applied

So I now have my first experience with Waterlox finish, and am reasonably happy with the results. I brushed it on, but eventually gave up and shifted to a rag. It is a bit unforgiving with drips and streaks, but I think I fixed a few bad layers with some sandpaper. Only time will tell if it will be durable enough to protect from scratches.

One question remains - what type of wood comprises this desk? This desk was once in the Swedish embassy (40-50 years ago), and had since been painted white. Based on some unpainted areas underneath the tabletop, I have surmised that I probably have mahogany here. That being said, I am up for ideas. The wood is relatively soft, and the pre-sanded version had a much deeper color to it, indicating that this will likely darken with time.



Well, I'm not sure that it isn't cherry. I think the pictures give it a little bit more of a cherry feel that it has in real life - but that being said I'm going to have to stare at this desk and some other cherry pieces I have around the house and think about it for a few days.

Thanks for the thought.
 

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Finish Applied

So I now have my first experience with Waterlox finish, and am reasonably happy with the results. I brushed it on, but eventually gave up and shifted to a rag. It is a bit unforgiving with drips and streaks, but I think I fixed a few bad layers with some sandpaper. Only time will tell if it will be durable enough to protect from scratches.

One question remains - what type of wood comprises this desk? This desk was once in the Swedish embassy (40-50 years ago), and had since been painted white. Based on some unpainted areas underneath the tabletop, I have surmised that I probably have mahogany here. That being said, I am up for ideas. The wood is relatively soft, and the pre-sanded version had a much deeper color to it, indicating that this will likely darken with time.



Excellent finish. Great job!
 

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Finish Applied

So I now have my first experience with Waterlox finish, and am reasonably happy with the results. I brushed it on, but eventually gave up and shifted to a rag. It is a bit unforgiving with drips and streaks, but I think I fixed a few bad layers with some sandpaper. Only time will tell if it will be durable enough to protect from scratches.

One question remains - what type of wood comprises this desk? This desk was once in the Swedish embassy (40-50 years ago), and had since been painted white. Based on some unpainted areas underneath the tabletop, I have surmised that I probably have mahogany here. That being said, I am up for ideas. The wood is relatively soft, and the pre-sanded version had a much deeper color to it, indicating that this will likely darken with time.



Like the finish. Which WaterLox products did you use?

Looked over the whole project. That is a remarkable transformation of that old white desk. Took some vision to produce this beauty…
 

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Finish Applied

So I now have my first experience with Waterlox finish, and am reasonably happy with the results. I brushed it on, but eventually gave up and shifted to a rag. It is a bit unforgiving with drips and streaks, but I think I fixed a few bad layers with some sandpaper. Only time will tell if it will be durable enough to protect from scratches.

One question remains - what type of wood comprises this desk? This desk was once in the Swedish embassy (40-50 years ago), and had since been painted white. Based on some unpainted areas underneath the tabletop, I have surmised that I probably have mahogany here. That being said, I am up for ideas. The wood is relatively soft, and the pre-sanded version had a much deeper color to it, indicating that this will likely darken with time.



If you're still around, do you have any comments on the durability of the finish after almost 3 years?
 
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