Uncertain about the wood I should use.

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Forum topic by WoodDunce posted 05-22-2018 12:33 PM 625 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 813 days

05-22-2018 12:33 PM

So lately I’ve been thinking of making my own office desk, of the cheapest wood I can find (construction grade pine, and plywood). However, I dable with art like drawing, calligraphy, etc, so really would like my desk to have a least a small patch of fine polished wood that will last well if I keep it clean etc.. The rest of my desk shouldn’t matter, as a ding or two on the legs shouldnt be too serious. I also want it to take apart fairly easy so it won’t be the most fancy desk ever, with bolts and brackets.

Will pine be good enough to keep smooth over the years, or should I use a harder wood, like cherry or even harder like oak etc?


9 replies so far

View johnstoneb's profile


3147 posts in 2980 days

#1 posted 05-22-2018 12:46 PM

You get what you pay for. Construction grade lumber Is relatively wet when it come out of the stack and it moves a lot and fir plywood isn’t much better. You can build furniture out of construction grade lumber. You get construction grade furniture.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View jamsomito's profile


556 posts in 1234 days

#2 posted 05-22-2018 01:39 PM

I have a hard maple desk and it has dents in it from just normal use. Granted, I’m at this desk all day every day… Just putting something down on an edge has left marks and scratches in the finish. Pine will for sure dent. If that’s the way you want to go, just embrace the rustic look and use it. I don’t foresee keeping a pine surface pristine. My dad made a pine farmhouse style table about 30 years ago and it still has letter depressions in it from when I’d do my gradeschool homework on it with just pencil on paper right on the surface.

I don’t know where you are or what lumber prices are like for you, but red oak is one of the cheaper hardwoods here and is very stiff and hard. Maybe you could find some ash which is also very hard. If you want to avoid dings, I’d look into one of those. Can look real nice on a finished surface too.

View ocean's profile


208 posts in 1641 days

#3 posted 05-22-2018 01:51 PM

Build it with plywood. For the top use two pieces 3/4” ply glued together. Where you are going to work, replace the top piece of ply with some kind of hard wood. Edge band the whole top and screw all of it together with screws, from below. Your choice for the legs or use two short cabinets for the base (this will make it easy to move). Before you glue in the hard wood, sand it alone to prevent sanding thru the plies top veneer. Also make sure it it is the right height for you to use in comfort. Good luck.

-- Bob, FL Keys

View LesB's profile


2576 posts in 4251 days

#4 posted 05-22-2018 03:58 PM

”I dable with art like drawing, calligraphy, etc, so really would like my desk to have a least a small patch of fine polished wood that will last well if I keep it clean etc..”

I once made a desk in which I applied a layer of Linoleum flooring to the plywood top. It looked and felt almost like leather and made a great writing surface. I set the linoleum in a picture frame type edging to protect the edges.

-- Les B, Oregon

View William Shelley's profile

William Shelley

609 posts in 2277 days

#5 posted 05-22-2018 04:34 PM

I used hickory for the top of a cabinet I built recently. It’s cheap and it’s REALLY tough stuff, it’s also very pretty (to my eye). It’s pretty much the cheapest hardwood per Janka hardness that I know of.

-- Woodworking from an engineer's perspective

View LiveEdge's profile


600 posts in 2428 days

#6 posted 05-22-2018 04:59 PM

I smell disaster or a learning experience or both.

View LittleShaver's profile


681 posts in 1427 days

#7 posted 05-22-2018 05:11 PM

Consider tempered hardboard over plywood with a nice edge banding. I have it on my workbench and it holds up well. Other than a couple of gouges and knife cuts gone astray, it is still smooth after I’ve used it for about 20 years. When it gets a little ratty looking, I run a card scraper over it to remove any glue drips, hit it with a coat of shellac, and it’s good for another couple of years.
I also have an oak desk in the house, unfortunately I didn’t do a good job on grain filling so it is not useful for writing. Holds a keyboard and monitor well, but it is not a friend of pencil and paper without a desk pad.

-- Sawdust Maker

View DS's profile


3521 posts in 3228 days

#8 posted 05-22-2018 05:16 PM

Least Expensive Furniture grade plywood I have ever seen…

It is 18mm and made in China from the “Whatever this is” tree. ;-)

More money than CDX, less money than domestic veneers.
I wouldn’t recommend this for any heirloom pieces, but, the mass-producers really love this stuff.

I’m not sure if you can buy it in less than unit quantities, but it’s worth looking up at a re-seller near you perhaps.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View WoodDunce's profile


2 posts in 813 days

#9 posted 05-23-2018 12:31 AM

Thanks so much…

Actually I was considering hickory. At 1800 ft-lbs I think next to Iron wood it is the toughest domestic wood I can get. Based on the options, my experience lvl and budget, (I’m stuck with domestic).

So far my shopping list for the local lumber span the following :

Iron wood (super rare, small)- prolly too expensive
Red oak (softest wood I’ll consider)
Pacific Yew
Maple (hard)
white Oak
Eucalyptus (from California?)
Madrone (says its native to where I live)

I am from the Pacific NW… So many of the hardwoods mentioned don’t really grow here. So I’ll either have to order or visit someone that sells hardwood.

for the rest, I’m really thinking 2×4, 2×6 (have YouTube vids on that, they looked nice), and higher grade ply. I’m also thinking doing a 2 piece “L” desk. And make it so the hardwood isn’t directly screwed on.. Like make a frame for it and join the frame to the legs.

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