JohnG

A Desk for My Wife

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Greetings! This will be my first project journal, so hopefully I can keep it updated. Progress will likely be very slow, so please bear with me.

My wife requested a new desk to fit in a little nook in our 'office' (extra bedroom). She did some internet searches to find specific design aspects that she wants, then we went through several revisions in Sketchup. I'm sure that the plan will change along the way, but at least I have a starting point. This will actually be my first build using all solid wood and no plywood, so I'm excited. She wants it painted so most of the desk will be Poplar, but the desk surfaces will be something harder (probably Hard Maple since I have a good bit of that laying around). There will be a slide-out tray in the center, with two drawers on either side. There will be a 'mini hutch' on top with modular drawers/paper trays.

I had just about finalized the plans but then accidentally opened the file in a trial version of Sketchup Pro 2018 which has since expired, so now I cannot open the file.  I'm sure I could do some workaround to install another trial version, but I've been wanting to learn Fusion 360 so I am starting over. I remember most of the dimensions and have this screenshot from a later revision of the plans. Since this screenshot, I convinced her to go with square legs with a 2-sided taper starting below the lower drawers, and horizontal stretchers rather than the X seen on the left side of the image. For past projects, I had done fully detailed plans including joinery but I never followed the exact plans, so my Sketchup/Fusion 360 plans for this project will be more of a 'suggestion' with dimensions and additional detail only where needed (though I have enjoyed playing with the option of making dimensional drawings from the model, which is pretty handy).

I'm open to any ideas/thoughts/concerns you may have. I'm certain I'll make some mistakes and run into issues along the way, but that's part of the fun, right?

 

Screenshot of older Sketchup model:

Desk.thumb.jpg.162fea88303a924ae4e4417be7a125b3.jpg

 

Current state of F360 model:

5b0c89ace81b2_DeskF360.thumb.jpg.16c64c7615f7f647acf11465a58778d0.jpg

 

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I must say, the default 3D renderings of Fusion 360 sure look nicer than those from Sketchup. Looking forward to following along!

As for suggestions, I can't add much. Perhaps consider making to drawer cases integral with the legs, rather than how they appear seperate in the first screen shot. That will increase the rgidity of the desk by a tremendous amount.

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2 hours ago, wtnhighlander said:

I must say, the default 3D renderings of Fusion 360 sure look nicer than those from Sketchup. Looking forward to following along!

As for suggestions, I can't add much. Perhaps consider making to drawer cases integral with the legs, rather than how they appear seperate in the first screen shot. That will increase the rgidity of the desk by a tremendous amount.

I agree. It has a bit steeper of a learning curve (even with a decent amount of experience with other Autodesk products), but I am liking Fusion 360 better than Sketchup. Currently I can mock up a rough design much faster in Sketchup, but I'm assuming that with more practice, F360 will be similar.

That's a great point. I was planning on doing that after switching leg styles, but failed to mention it. I think the drawer cases will be frame and panel, with the legs being two sides of the frame. 

Edit: or would it look better to have a full frame between the legs?

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Depends. A full panel will drive it toward a more traditional style, where an empty frame will provide almost the same stiffness, but allow the drawer boxes to be visible, a more modern, non-traditional look.

But if you have small children, I'd use a closed frame for safety's sake.

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Thanks for the quick reply. I think I’ll go with a full panel.

I made a little more headway on the model last night, but will need to play around with the rail/stile sizes to get the right look.  There will be a matching frame and panel along the back to match the front/sides. I also added a taper to the legs. Now I'm thinking the vertical parts of the hutch should also be frame and panel.

 

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A little more headway on the design. I feel like the frame and panel sides look a bit goofy. I have the top rail at 3" to match the height of the top drawers, and the lower rails at 1.5". Adding a center stile helped, but I'm not sure if or how I should adjust it. Maybe it doesn't matter. In the space this is sized to fit, you won't be able to see the sides, but they may be visible when it is moved to another location.

Any thoughts?

Front.thumb.jpg.8089326afdec56c2e3b9c452516d1e65.jpgRight.thumb.jpg.3a6670f6a38077d7fb2b034b0c4bae83.jpg

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And I would move the back shelf forward to be even with the back of the legs and not even with the tabletop. 

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Maybe its just an illusion caused by the outward-weighted shape of the desk, but those legs look splayed, not just tapered.

Have you considered using some curves? Maybe start the taper a touch farther down the leg, make the bottom rails of the side panels and drawer boxes a bit wider, then cut an arch in the lower edge?

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Think about wire management. A hole in the top with a grommet could be useful. You might want to make the shelf unit removable.

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18 hours ago, wdwerker said:

I would make the rails  just a bit wider than the legs and skip the center vertical stile. 

I'll try that out and see which she prefers. Good thought.

 

17 hours ago, K Cooper said:

And I would move the back shelf forward to be even with the back of the legs and not even with the tabletop. 

Good catch. I had meant to do that.

 

16 hours ago, wtnhighlander said:

Maybe its just an illusion caused by the outward-weighted shape of the desk, but those legs look splayed, not just tapered.

Have you considered using some curves? Maybe start the taper a touch farther down the leg, make the bottom rails of the side panels and drawer boxes a bit wider, then cut an arch in the lower edge?

They are vertical, but I agree that it looks like they are slightly splayed.

Curves is a good idea, then I can buy a bandsaw! I'll mock up a couple ideas with curves and see what she likes best.

 

9 hours ago, wdwerker said:

Think about wire management. A hole in the top with a grommet could be useful. You might want to make the shelf unit removable.

She has requested to have some outlets/usb charging ports in the back of the top section. At most she will have a laptop and a phone/iPad charger going, so it won't need a lot of cable management. But I'll probably add something like that just in case.

I was just thinking about making the top section removable. Originally I planned on it being permanently attached, but now I'm thinking it should be removable. I'll probably make some sort of removable blocks to secure it in place. Maybe a C shaped block that can be screwed into the back of the top section and the bottom side of the main desk surface.

 

Thanks for the great input!

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Minor update: I started laying out some of the parts on my lumber last night. As stated before, most of the desk will be poplar since it will be painted, but I will use maple for the top since it is harder. I laid out most of the poplar parts for the main desk, and about half of the maple top. The rest of my maple is stacked under a bunch of poplar, so I'll have to dig that out.

Some of my poplar moved a bit since I bought it, or maybe I didn't inspect the boards thoroughly. Not much twist but there is a bit of a bow to a couple of the boards I had on top of the stack. I laid out the parts so that I can cut them down to shorter lengths before final milling.

Laying out parts on lumber was much more fun than on plywood. I'm excited to get moving on the build, and I'm looking forward to using some M&T and dovetails on an actual project.

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10 hours ago, AnonymousAccountant said:

Minor update: I started laying out some of the parts on my lumber last night. As stated before, most of the desk will be poplar since it will be painted, but I will use maple for the top since it is harder. I laid out most of the poplar parts for the main desk, and about half of the maple top. The rest of my maple is stacked under a bunch of poplar, so I'll have to dig that out.

Some of my poplar moved a bit since I bought it, or maybe I didn't inspect the boards thoroughly. Not much twist but there is a bit of a bow to a couple of the boards I had on top of the stack. I laid out the parts so that I can cut them down to shorter lengths before final milling.

Laying out parts on lumber was much more fun than on plywood. I'm excited to get moving on the build, and I'm looking forward to using some M&T and dovetails on an actual project.

I'm being nosey.  Did you sticker your lumber?  And did you have some weight on it while it sat around waiting for you? That's how you avoid twists and curls and cupping and all sorts of odd behavior that wood does when your not looking.

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I have my wood stickered, but I didn’t have much weight on top. I checked a few more boards, and so far it was just a couple of the boards on the top level that had a slight bow. Again, these may have had the bow in them when I bought them.

I did put the nicer lumber at the bottom to make sure it has plenty of weight on it. 

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I’m far from being an expert or even being somewhat knowledgeable, but my bet is that you could strap a board down with a come-a-long and if it wants to move, it will, sooner or later. 

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I finally had a few more minutes in the shop today. I broke down the boards with rough sizes of parts laid out on them into more manageable sizes. I'll run these through the planer to make sure they are the same thickness. Some will be ~3/4" and some will be ~1/2", and I did think ahead and grouped parts with the same thickness together.

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I also started gluing up the leg stock. I'm going for ~2.5" square, so I ripped the boards to a bit under 3" just to be sure I end up with enough material so I can square it up later. I ripped one board per leg a bit wider than the others so that I'll be sure to have one good edge to run against the fence when squaring them up. We'll see how well that works out. I had planned on gluing all 4 legs at the same time, but after spreading glue on the first two, I realized that I wasn't going to have enough glue for all 4.  I went out and bought a gallon of TB2 this afternoon to be sure I don't run out again any time soon.

1415066417_Desk02.thumb.jpg.8c41093c2ae5f543d612767a3b1fb7d0.jpg

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Store your gallon in a conditioned space and use it to refill glue bottles. Extreme temperatures shorten the useful life of the glue. Don't buy  large volumes of TB III unless you are doing a big project as it has gone bad/ lumpy on me a few times over the years.

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Yeah, over the winter I made the mistake of leaving everything in the garage. We had a particularly cold winter and all of my glue and water based finishes froze. After having to throw all of that away and buy new, I won’t make that mistake again. I have a bin in my indoor closet to keep surplus glue and finishes. 

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2 minutes ago, AnonymousAccountant said:

Yeah, over the winter I made the mistake of leaving everything in the garage. We had a particularly cold winter and all of my glue and water based finishes froze. After having to throw all of that away and buy new, I won’t make that mistake again. I have a bin in my indoor closet to keep surplus glue and finishes. 

My shop is heated but I leave it at 50 when I'm not in there. I never had an issue with my glue but my plane oil (inside a cabinet) solidifies into more of a gel LOL

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Thanks! I wish I could say I'm always that organized, but life gets in the way. I had some time in the shop yesterday, but I just realized that my wedding anniversary is in a few days so I had to do a quick side project!

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More progress! I cut the main rails to final size and cut tenons on the ends, then laid out where the mortises will be cut in the legs. I chose 1" for tenon length. I think that will be sufficient? These are my first M&T joints, so I'm just figuring things out as I go. The desk isn't this wide, the outer legs are the fronts.

Tenons.JPG.5a7058b2ecffc3c6d2f768c284d7b51b.JPG

After I laid out the rough location of the mortises (so that I didn't cut them on the wrong side or wrong face), I worked on laying out the precise locations. I have a small mortise gauge, but I couldn't get it to work for these. I tried using the outside and inside face as the reference, but the cutters couldn't quite be adjusted to the dimensions needed. I could have changed the size of my tenons or adjusted the setback of the mortises, but I decided to just use my wheel marking gauge instead. Once I had the layout complete, I hogged out most of the waste with a 3/8" router bit, then chiseled back to the lines. I was pleasantly surprised by the results of my very first M&T joints.

MT.thumb.JPG.61c02316a0d5190fee4b493859ffd330.JPG

I ended up completing 6 of the 16 mortises in the legs, and have routed out two more. Once I finish the rest, I will start to think about cutting the grooves for the panels.

Yesterday's progress was slowed by splitting my time between the desk and finishing up an anniversary gift (yesterday).

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A little more progress over the past few days. I got all the M&T cut for the legs and main rails. Since I had 16 to cut, I tried out a few different methods. As I said in my last post, the first ones I did were hogged out with the router, then pared back to the line with chisels. I did a few using an undersized drill bit (forstner and brad point), then chisels. Then I did a few with only chisels, which made me want a mortise chisel. I cut some tenons with my dovetail and pull saws, trying to get as close to the line as possible to avoid needing a lot of paring. Then I cut a couple with chisels only. I’m not sure if it was the size of my joints or my inefficiency and inexperience, but it seemed like all methods took about the same amount of time. The hand cut ones gave the most satisfaction once complete, but I was also the most unsure about those during the process. 

This evening I picked up a Whiteside 1/4” spiral upcut router bit to cut the grooves for my panels. I’ll have to do a couple test cuts to determine whether I can use the stock guide or if I’ll need to make a jig. 

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