A New Office Desk for the Catalog

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.

Paul's desk


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.

desk layout

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.

creating the desk parts list

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.

selecting parts for desk

Making Parts

Starting at our shop-built, straight line machine, we cut the parts oversize and organize them.

cutting desk partsUsing our jointer, planer, ripping tablesaw, crosscutting tablesaw, and wide belt sander, we bring the parts to precise dimensions: thickness, width, and length.

refining desk partsUsing the tablesaws and shaper, we tenon and profile.

tenon and profile desk partsMost of our mortises, dados, rabbets, etc. are made with a plunge router and fixtures.

plunge router mortisingThis desk goes in an office overlooking the capital of Texas.  Its patron requested a Lone Star be inlaid in the back panel.

star inlay for desk

star inlay for desk

Sub Assemblies

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.

desk drawer railThe top is glued-up for sanding to level and edge profiling.

gluing up desk top

gluing up desk topIn 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.

gluing up desk panels

gluing up desk panelsTenons are cut on the sides and backs to fit mortises in the legs, and the sides are glued to the legs.

mortise and tenons on desk parts

desk sub assembly

desk sub assembly

The drawer stack sections are particularly demanding to put together.

assembling desk drawer stack sections

assembling desk drawer stack sections

assembling desk drawer stack sections


desk assembled

desk assembled

desk assembled detail


finishing desk

finishing desk


office desk drawer sideoffice desk inlay side

This entry was posted in Other Furniture and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A New Office Desk for the Catalog

  1. Jeremy Fox says:

    Thanks for sharing your process, it’s given me a few ideas on how I can make my business more efficient. I particularly like your parts organizer. I appreciate you might not want to tell me this but how long does it take you to make the desk?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s