Yesterday we talked about inspiration and planning behind the #wendesk. Today, we talk about the build. Do you enjoy reading about nitty gritty DIY details? Yes? Awesome. Let’s get into it.
Oh, and please excuse our messy garage.
In order to kick off the build, I had to form the interior of the desk with plywood. I chose an arbitrary height for the drawers after selecting some drawer organization gear. (This turned out to be an error, as I switched from side-mount to bottom-mount drawer slides.) I ripped four uprights and a back piece and mocked them up to get a feel for the dimensions. Although not pictured here, I split the back piece into thirds to leave an open section in the middle for cord management.
I joined these uprights and back pieces to the melamine tabletop with pocket screws and glue. In retrospect, this wasn’t done with quite enough care. I should have purchased my 90-degree-angle clamps for the drawers at this stage. This rendered the uprights almost square, and thus not precise enough for side-mount drawer slides. Rats. In any case, I added the plywood bottom with countersunk screws. Here we have a finished set of desk guts.
I had milled rough-cut 4/4 walnut for our coffee table, but went with S4S red oak boards from Lowe’s to minimize extra work. After sorting through their entire selection of 1x6s and 1x8s, I landed on the boards shown below. The especially curly board was a pretty good score.
I cut the desktop wrap out of two lengths of 1×6 red oak, such that the left side, front and right side would be one continuous piece with continuous grain. The hutch was similarly cut from one length of 1×8 red oak. While at Lowe’s, I picked up some bullnose melamine shelves that I cut to the width of the desktop. The leftover pieces would work great for the hutch dividers, too.
After ripping the desktop wrap to the right size, I mocked up all the pieces to somewhat resemble the finished product.
Construction: Hutch & Drawers
A friend of mine, Mike of Rybak Woodworking, is a much more serious woodworker and has the tools to match. I enlisted his help to join the shelves and the hutch pieces. I like miter joints, but they are neither strong nor easy to clamp for gluing (especially not in this semicircular shape). Mike and I cut mortises in the upright pieces of the hutch and in the mitered edges with his Festool Domino XL.
It involved a bit of tinkering to get the spacing just right, and we turned up the ‘slop factor’ to allow for more comfortable adjustment later during glue-up.
After all the mortises were cut, we dry fit the pieces and celebrated our skillz. Queue the beers.
I made the drawers in an afternoon with a combination of table saw, miter saw, jigsaw and nailgun. I lack the tools and expertise to make high quality dovetail drawers and had considered outsourcing these larger drawers. In the end, I opted for quick and dirty, knowing that the end user would be distracted by the painted interior design. The drawers would get painted with cyan, magenta, and yellow from left to right.
Before painting anything, I powersanded all the red oak parts progressively with 80, 100, 150, and 220 grits.
Since I didn’t have perfectly square drawer openings, I opted for bottom-mount drawer slides. Knowing I wanted a high-end feel (and I didn’t want to re-make the desk any time soon), I selected Blum Tandem with BLUMOTION slides with a lovely soft-close.
As I mentioned before, I screwed up the drawer height measurement. Blum slides require additional clearance versus my original side-mount design so the drawers needed to be less tall. Dang.
After some pondering, it occurred to me I would need to partially dismantle the desk to screw the slides into the plywood bottom of the desk interior. Whoops. After some measurement and penciling, the drawer slides were installed and the desk back together!
The red oak sides of the desktop were nailed into the interior fiberboard and plywood with 2” brads.
I wanted to make the cord management area accessible, but without visible hardware. I settled on a door design. I chiseled out a bit of wood on the bottom of the backpiece and added hinges. Although not pictured, I added a magnetic cabinet touch catch, which would allow for the door to open/close as needed.
After mounting the Blum hardware, the drawers were in and looking good!
I wanted the front of the desk to be clean, without hardware or obvious drawers. I ripped a 3/4″ strip for the top to cover the edge of the melamine top, which left a board I would cut into three drawer fronts. Joining these to the drawers was relatively simple. I used a hot glue technique I had seen performed successfully on YouTube: (1) drill countersunk holes into the inside of the drawer, (2) apply 2-3 big globs of hot glue onto the inside of the drawer front, (3) press drawer front onto drawer while drawer is closed, (4) wait, (5) pull open drawer gently and clamp, (6) screw into drawer front from inside drawer.
Finishing: Paint / Assembly
The cutoffs from the bullnose shelves turned hutch uprights needed primer and paint. For maximum authenticity, I used Montana Black paints in 100% Cyan, 100% Magenta, 100% Yellow, and Shock Black. Melamine’s smooth texture takes the high-quality paint well and looks great.
After securing the painted uprights to the middle shelf with nails, I glued up the hutch with two jumbo 6-foot pipe clamps. In retrospect, I should have used four pipe clamps for this, but two was serviceable due to the dominos used.
In order to make moving the desk upstairs easier, I decided to join the hutch to the desktop with four dowels and without glue.
Finishing: Danish Oil
I applied one coat of Watco Golden Oak Danish Oil and two coats of Minwax Tung Oil finish, wetsanding the final coat with 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper. I would suggest using only Danish Oil. The tung oil seemed to muddy up the finish and was significantly more difficult to buff out. It seemed to get sticky and difficult, but perhaps I applied it incorrectly. Your results may vary.
The final step of finishing was to apply some Howard Feed-n-Wax and polish with 0000 steel wool. This left the red oak real smooth.
It finally was time to use the Pretty Pegs legs (#legday).
I joined these to the plywood bottom with some hardwood cleats from Everything-Modern on Etsy. I wanted to use something with a bit more strength than the typical metal hardware that comes with legs from online retailers. Additionally, these would allow for a nice, rakish angle to the legs. I opted for ‘splayed’, meaning angled left-to-right and front-to-back. This angle would play well the angled sides of the hutch.
Once the legs were attached, it was time to flip the desk, attach the hutch and call it a day!
A few small details are still to come. Stay tuned for an in-depth desk reveal.