The Easter 2021 Project – Ewan’s Desk

I’ve always been a maker, tinkerer and wonderer. So any chance I get to spend some time making something, I relish it. This project was building a desk with, and for, my son Ewan.

Why the desk?

Ewan’s been using a makeshift desk now for almost a year. It was time to make him something more in keeping with his status as a senior student in High School. I wanted to make him something he could be proud of, and that would last the test of time, taking him to university and beyond. I hope that this little desk is around in his household for many years to come.

Inspiration

The inspiration for Ewan’s desk came from the Kreg site. I love woodworking with the Kreg jigs that I own. Since 2004, I’ve been building my model railway layout boards using this method of joinery. Allowing for fast, efficient and tough woodworking, the Kreg system has stood the test of time. My 2004 layout baseboards are still as straight and square as they were when I built them on the garage floor in Kyle, TX. So this is where we started from:

The Kreg Standing Desk – click the image to visit the site page.

Our build

Originally, the piece above was designed as a standing desk. I reworked that design, with Ewan’s help, to come up with a sturdier, height adapted version for my little fella (all 6′ 6″ at 16 3/4 years of age). My first step was to measure him sitting in his office chair and get an idea of elbow height above ground. This would be the top of the desk surface, allowing him to have a comfortable, bespoke working experience as he gets through years 11 and 12 here in Australia.

With that out of the way, Ewan and I set off to our local Bunnings to look at wood species and sizes. You’ll note in the image above that the legs, and rails are quite dainty. The original design required corner plates, mounted into the top rails at 45 degrees, for added stability.

When Ewan and I looked at the 2″ x 2″ legs at Bunnings, versus the 3″ x 3″ legs he vastly preferred the larger legs. In addition, we used thicker 4″ x 1″ clear pine timber for the upper and lower rails. This turned out to be the right choice. The thicker timber allowed us to do away with the corner plates too.

Build pictures

The basic build took the best part of a day and a half, say 12 hours work. Since all of the timber was already milled to a “dressed all round” (DAR) state there was little to do beyond cutting it to length and then drilling the pocket holes. We got to a fully assembled carcass by the end of day 1 (Thursday, 1 April). The table-top was drilled for pocket holes and jointed with glue and screws on the morning of day 2

I spent most of day three flattening the jointed top. The results were entirely worth it. The greatest amount of time was spent on painting and staining the piece. This took a lot of time due to painting two coats of primer, and a top-coat, and staining and clear-coating the desktop. With drying time, this went across two days.

Lessons learned

Tabletop:

  • In hindsight, I would use a 25mm finish (AA finish grade) ply for the next desktop and edge-band it with a matching hardwood species. Routing the edges smooth, with a slight round over, would be a nice finish and then clear coating with a water-based Polyurethane. Simpler, and probably longer lasting with less likelihood of movement over the longer term
  • To join the tabletop to the carcass, next time I would use an older method of affixing, using button fasteners (see this site here for more information – point 1, and 2). This would minimise the use of pocket screw holes on the backs of the aprons for a cleaner look should you be looking underneath.

Options:

While speaking with Mrs Martin about the build, we both came to the idea of using the table design for an island cabinet in the kitchen. With double-sided cabinets below and a butcher’s block top, this would be a very useful piece for any kitchen. Locking casters would be a good idea too.

References

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