We have built many writing desks and several stand-up desks as custom items. Recently, we took commissions for a writing desk and an “office” desk. They turned out so well that we realized that it is time to add a desk section to the catalog. We offer a writing desk, a stand-up desk, and the office desk featured in this post. Each of these desks has been designed to our standards of construction, visual appeal, unity, and utility. The wood, dimensions, and features of each of these designs can be specified by the patron.
To design a desk, or other item not a chair, I make small scale drawings at the drawing board to establish proportion, balance, and harmony. While making these sketches, I make full scale drawings of construction details to solve the problems that arise when building the piece in my head.
Studying the sketch and detail drawings, we make a layout stick. On one face of the stick, we draw, full scale, all the horizontal lines apparent or critical to the elevation. On another, we draw all the vertical lines of the front view. On the third face of the stick, we draw the lines relevant to the depth. On the fourth, we draw the lines of the back.
After the piece is built, we will be able to hold the layout stick up to it and see that the lines on the stick fall right on the openings, intersections, and thicknesses of the piece and parts. By studying the drawings and the lines on the stick, we can list all the parts. Measuring line to line on the stick, we write the dimensions of the parts on the list. This method of measuring actual desired distances to develop a cut list almost eliminates errors by eliminating assumptions and calculations.
Beyond dimension, each part has individual requirements of prominence, coherence, and structural integrity. These requirements emanate from who we are as makers; they are applied to every design, piece, and part. Reviewing the sketch, we know which parts look and function best if cut from edge grain and which from flat grain. We know which parts benefit from interesting figure; we know how to relate the grain and figure of a part to that of its relatives. We know how different orientations of wood grain respond to loads. Taking what we know to the lumber, we mark each part, or family of parts, on the boards. This work is “design,” too.
Starting at our shop-built, straight line machine, we cut the parts oversize and organize them.
Using our jointer, planer, ripping tablesaw, crosscutting tablesaw, and wide belt sander, we bring the parts to precise dimensions: thickness, width, and length.
Using the tablesaws and shaper, we tenon and profile.
Most of our mortises, dados, rabbets, etc. are made with a plunge router and fixtures.
This desk goes in an office overlooking the capital of Texas. Its patron requested a Lone Star be inlaid in the back panel.
Sections of the desk were put together as sub-assemblies. Once together these units usually require further shaping or sanding before joining a subsequent sub-assembly or the final piece
The drawer rail is cut apart and put back together to make a precise opening for the pencil drawer.
The top is glued-up for sanding to level and edge profiling.
In all frame-and-panel construction, we prefinish the panels to be sure they can float in the panel groove without revealing raw wood. The sides and backs are glued-up oversize.
Tenons are cut on the sides and backs to fit mortises in the legs, and the sides are glued to the legs.
The drawer stack sections are particularly demanding to put together.