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Hi! I am a young Canadian hobbiest, and this is my first post on LumberJocks. I have a problem that I cannot find a solution to, and it is basically the only thing preventing me from starting my woodworking project.

First of all: I am trying to become a person who lives a more minimal lifestyle, which is why I am very focused on quality and longtivity. The only exceptions to this is my future job - which will un-doubtly involve web architecture. Because of this, I own a touch screen. Having the screen in front of me has given me "gorilla arm", where one gets tired of holding their arm in front of them frequently without being able to rest their hands.

My solution is simple - and I call it the FlynnDesk. It is named after the desk seen in the movie "Tron: Legacy", where Sam Flynn is interacting with a touchscreen embedded inside of a computer desk. The idea is that the monitor will be hidden beneath the surface of the desk, covered by a flush wooden faceplate. When I press the two latch release buttons simulatiously (located past the left and right edges of the faceplate), the monitor will raise and become flush with the surface of the desk. When done; I place the faceplate back onto the screen area, and press the two latch release buttons - the screen will move down and lock into place, consealed and protected from the elements. Having the monitor flush with the desk enables me to have maximum comfort, and is personally the way I think touchscreen technology should be anyways.

I have the plans and designs final drafted (with measurements) for the desk. But the problem is that I am obsessed about quality, and desire to use solid ash wood (found locally), cut it into planks to make the desktop. The wood needs to be sturdy enough to hold electronic equipment, and flush enough that my ego won't be burned when my desk becomes uneven and warped.

Also, I am worried that the seasonal humidity changes will affect the performance and stability of the desk. I am also afraid that under the right conditions, the contraction or expansion of the wood could damage the mechanism, or the screen itself.

To clarify, the desk will be built of horizontal Ash planks, and problably glued together lengthwise with biscuit joints. I really need help furguring this out, and I am really open to new ideas. Please note though that Ash is my perferend material, and that Ash Plywood is very hard to get in my local area (and expensive - because it would need to be custom shipped).

How should I design this desk that it can be solid wood, and not crack or gap terribly when put into planks? If I absolutely have to use plywood, I can, but if that were the case I'd be better of buying some cheap desk, and cutting a whole in the middle. Solid wood makes it feel so much more real to me, and I am sure that with the proper treatment and environment, it can be made to last my whole life.

Please help me! Thanks!
 

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ron, as I understand your question, you're concerned about wood movement when solid wood boards are glued into wide panels. As long as the direction of the grain in all the boards goes the same direction, you shouldn't have a problem with separation as long as your assembly is properly done. That is, you said you'll be using biscuits and, as long as you don't skimp on the glue and you clamp until set, you should be good.

The wood movement issue will come into play if you use cross grain end pieces (breadboard ends or trim) and in the hole you plan to cut for the faceplate. You will have to cut the hole large enough in the cross-grain direction to allow for the wood movement. There are charts available to tell how much larger than the faceplate you will need to cut. The main issue, since you're so fastidious, will likely be the gaps which will collect dust and other debris which you may have to overlook or constantly remove.

Good luck with your project and be sure to post pictures.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Get a mouse instead.

- Clint Searl
Have you tried drawing pictures using a mouse? Its awefully hard to do! I'm just trying to innovate. Because I am technically paperless, it is easier to just draw straight onto the screen (instead of buying paper, scanning it, and eventually disposing of it). This project fits my own personal needs, verses the needs of the average consumer.

I'm not gaming on this machine (all of the games In enjoy are obsolete now). I am strictly making graphics, and designing and coding web applications, so technically I am just typing, dragging, and selecting apps (which can all be done with a keyboard). Using a touchscreen helps because a lot of the modern web apps and sites are adopting into touch ui; this helps me deliver more quality based apps to clients that need to know that there app functions with touch based movements (drag, swipe, taping movements…).

I do see the humor in your post though. :) I will still use a mouse with my computer!

I'll eventually upload pictures of the design plans I have so far.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
ron, as I understand your question, you re concerned about wood movement when solid wood boards are glued into wide panels. As long as the direction of the grain in all the boards goes the same direction, you shouldn t have a problem with separation as long as your assembly is properly done. That is, you said you ll be using biscuits and, as long as you don t skimp on the glue and you clamp until set, you should be good.

The wood movement issue will come into play if you use cross grain end pieces (breadboard ends or trim) and in the hole you plan to cut for the faceplate. You will have to cut the hole large enough in the cross-grain direction to allow for the wood movement. There are charts available to tell how much larger than the faceplate you will need to cut. The main issue, since you re so fastidious, will likely be the gaps which will collect dust and other debris which you may have to overlook or constantly remove.

Good luck with your project and be sure to post pictures.

- Yonak
Thanks for the input! I really appreciate it!

One question though, what do you mean by breadboard trim?
Is it just the trim that encloses the end grains of the planks?
 

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...what do you mean by breadboard trim?
Is it just the trim that encloses the end grains of the planks?

- ronbuck
Breadboard ends are normally the same thickness as the rest of the panel and the grain is at 90°. They are meant to cover the endgrain of the panel to stabilize them from bending. They are most often connected with tongue and groove or with splines so the panel can expand and contract with change in atmospheric conditions.
 

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You do NOT need to use biscuits. They do not add any significant strength to properly made joints if you are using good quality glue such as Titebond II or III.

Herb
 

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Welcome to lumberjocks and I wouldn't worry about the wood movement if you have sealed all the wood properly. Oh and biscuits are good for aliment but not needed if using a good quality glue. Also if you are worried about the humidity affecting things the wood will only grow in size with moisture. So if you start with wood that is at 10% it will never get smaller as long as it's moisture doesn't go below the 10% that you started with. So use the driest you can to start and make sure that your design is going to let the wood grow and shrink. Like not glueing the top to the bottom and so on. There are plenty of movement calculators on the web.
 

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Ron,

Welcome to LJs.

I have to disagree with the previous post - wood movement really does need to be taken into consideration even if the wood is fully sealed. Wood finishes just slow down the impact of humidity changes but they don't eliminate it. Meaning: you don't have to worry about day-to-day swings, but the seasonal changes are import. And Ontario has fairly dramatics swings from summer to winter.

In order to deal with the issue, just ensure there is a gap around the opening for the screen. Ash is relatively stable so the gap doesn't have to be large, maybe 1/8" around, although that's dependent on the size of the screen in the dimension that goes across the grain of the wood.

Are you sure you want to use ash for a desk? it is a very porous wood and would present a very uneven surface to write upon unless you go through a grain-filling process as part of your finishing. Maple or birch might be a better choice as well as be easy to find locally.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Are you sure you want to use ash for a desk?

- Mark Kornell
That is a very good question. I assumed that I would be able to sand the desk down, and varnish it to clear up the uneven potions of the desk. I personally think Ash is a great wood because it is non-typical (its not pine, oak, cedar or maple), and it is a semi-common wood. The local supply shop I go to has a reasonable stock of solid white ash wood (no plywood), and seems well priced compared to other hardwoods.

And by well… $1 per footboard of solid white ash. I think that is an excellent price for Ash wood. In 20 years, I know the price of Ash will be higher…

Do you think I should invest in a more expensive hardwood? I am slightly reluctant to have a expensive hardwood desk because I don't know how well I will do, considering this is technically my first largescale hardwood project.

Thank you for your input!
 

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You can't varnish ash smooth. It has wide, deep grain-a lot like oak. You can use a grain filler like timbermate or aquafill on the top. I'm not sure if the slurry method will work with ash. You may be fine with the ripple-y finish of varnish over ash, but you might want to try it on a scrap piece before trying it on the whole piece.

Sounds like a good price (not sure what the 20 year outlook means). I think ash is kind of dull, but if you like it, have at it.
 

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If you can cut (or buy, or have cut) the Ash planks thin, say 1/2", then glue 3 layers together, 1/2" top and bottom, and a 1" layer in between, grain oriented 90 degrees to the top and bottom layers. Essentially, a 2" thick piece of plywood. Wood movement will now be the same both ways. Or 1/4" and 1/2" thick layers, for a 1" thick top. And you can hide the end grain with trim, and not have to compensate for wood movement.
The Sagulator can help with building the electronic-supporting parts of desk strong enough to support the electronics.
 

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I think ash will work fine for your desk. It IS an open-grained wood, so you will want to grain-fill, or use a lot of finish coats to get a smooth surface.

Remember, too, that quarter-sawn stock will expand/contract about half as much as flat-sawn, so plan your glue-up to use as much QS around your opening as possible to reduce movement in this area. And as stated above, if you start with very dry wood, and build in a very dry environment (like Ontario in the winter) it will only expand (until it shrinks back to its original size) so you can make the cut-out pretty tight.
 

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If you can cut (or buy, or have cut) the Ash planks thin, say 1/2", then glue 3 layers together, 1/2" top and bottom, and a 1" layer in between, grain oriented 90 degrees to the top and bottom layers. Essentially, a 2" thick piece of plywood. Wood movement will now be the same both ways. Or 1/4" and 1/2" thick layers, for a 1" thick top. And you can hide the end grain with trim, and not have to compensate for wood movement.
The Sagulator can help with building the electronic-supporting parts of desk strong enough to support the electronics.

- splatman
Splatman-- Have you ever actually done this with something the size of a desk??? Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. Wood movement would NOT (IMHO) be eliminated--it would lead to almost certain self-destruction of the desk top!
 

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Jerry,
I've built a workbench 30" x 72", top made of 2 layers of Hem-Fir 2x boards, and never had a problem with it. Bottom layer lengthwise, top layer widthwise. I did not say this method would eliminate movement, only equalize it in both directions. Just like plywood. What disasters could result? Delamination? Edge trim coming unglued?
 

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WAIT!!!

Although very cool I think that kind of setup would have serious ergonomic issues. If you Google for a picture of it you'll see he's hunched over. It's going to be painful for you.

I think the best way to setup some thing for you is to go with a standing desk. Monitor at eye level and the working surface between you belly button and elbow. Also a graphics tablet to do the drawing. Miniscule learning curve but works just as effectively as a touch screen/pen once you get used to it. Drafting chairs work with standing desks when you get tired of standing.

This advice is from someone who's done graphics for the past 15 years and only recently switched to a standing setup. Back pain is gone, no longer have a worn out feeling from sitting all day, more energetic, and more productive.
 

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I'm with Siv, I think you should really spend some time thinking through the ergonomics of your design. Come up with a simple prototype, even if it's just something to sit your screen on on your desk, and use it for a month. You may find that you hate it. Much nicer to find that out ahead of time than to find it out after you've invested time and money into building a specialized desk. I know I would hate to be staring down over a desk all day. I did enough of that in grade school.

I've worked 10 years as a software engineer doing a touchscreen-intensive applications, mostly terrain mapping and general ui controls. I think the keyboard/mouse, and graphics tablet as mentioned by Siv, are much more efficient means to design and develop touchscreen ui's. The actual touchscreen interaction usually comes into play heavily during testing, which in my experience, pales in comparison to the requirements/design/coding effort.

Also, you may want to consider how your design is adaptable to changing environments. What about multi-screen displays, smaller/larger screens, etc. I'm not sure what sort of contracts you work on, but if your customer is running a vastly different configuration, how easy will it be for you to set up a clone of that setup at your desk?

I'm rambling now, but I guess my main point is to consider the ergonomics and ability to adapt of whatever solution you decide to go with. You don't want to have to rebuild the desk every time the configuration changes, or you want to update your hardware.
 

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Welcome to LJs

There are a number of things going on here - where to start -

If you use quartersawn ash, the movement will be perpendicular to the top.

To make a nice clean top - this takes a really well tuned plane and some practice - for the joints and the surface. I recommend plywood and edgeband the edges. Moves the least, inexpensive, and when your needs change or you make a mistake, you change it.

As for the style - go to several furniture places and test the styles to see what works for you. You may even want to buy an inexpensive desk of a style that you think will work for you and try it. You may find that you go through several styles every 6 months or so until you really come up with a model for the long term - and even then, you will change as you get older.

Desks like you want to build, with high quality wood are more for show. Working desks for drafting, graphics, drawing, and things like that need to be simple, very adjustable, durable, and inexpensive.

Just my 2 cents
 

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Ed has some really good ideas as well. For my work, I have 4 monitors. You may want to get a stylus to work with your mouse, keyboard, and touchscreen.

I have an iPad at home and it has a keyboard - because it is 100x more efficient than a touchscreen (for me).

As a developer, the more compatability to the things your customers could connect with - the better
 

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The setup is meant to be ergonomic! I have spent weeks researching the best standing desk, and none of them are compatible with my setup.

The touchscreen is an optical one, so it doesn't actually need a fiber or capacitive stylus to work. I could use a eraser, a stick, a marshmallow, even a paint brush!

The setup should be dual monitor: the touchscreen (with a tilt mechanism), and a front adjustable monitor to use while I am either sitting or standing. This monitor is there for reading and normal computer use - which the touchscreen is for drawing, and writing.

I thought about that too! I don't want to stare down all day either. To be honest - having the touchscreen flat is better for ergronomics (as long as you are high enough to be able to look down instead of tilting your whole head down).

Also, I have tested the screen on the desk before, and it works a lot better than I expected. The touchscreen is a HP 23tm, and it works great as a touchscreen. It also has a raised bevel that makes it easier to typeon, as it gives your palms some where to rest.

ADJUSTABLE Standing desk rigs are stinking expensive (or dirty cheap - but still work), and while the designs I have made for one are simple: the parts are too hard to find. A fixed standing desk would be great IF I was committed to standing, or using a draftmans chair when I get tired. Programmers compute aggressively, we spend too much time working, and while standing is better than sitting: standing and not moving is what kills you - and focused programmers don't move from the computer very often. Standing desks do help users feel like they should move around more. Its more complicated for me, because I use my PC for more than email and Social Life. Its my job.

All prebought mechanisms Ive seen (that wont break the bank) don't allow space for the touchscreen mechanism, because they all have a horizontal metal strips in the way (and the desks can't lift a heavy desktop, so there is no easy workaround).

Long story short: I haven't picked a height yet because I don't know what I want. I have measurements for heights that work for me, but I am not worried about that yet.
 
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