Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Office Desk Build (Part 1)

Now that my new shop is in mostly working order, it is time to build something! The first "major" build is going to be an office desk for our house. The design called for something "a little different" which really just meant, not the usual straight legs. Because the area where the desk is going is not really large, and also not a primary working space, it does not need to be very big nor complicated. Of course, I've been given "artistic license" to make some modifications as I see fit, provided the are not too drastic; whatever that means. Basically, this desk will have legs that are slanted on an angle in the front and the back; 3.5 degrees to the back and 7 degrees to the front.

The Lumber - Milling

The desk will be made from all cherry, which I procured from my favorite store, Peach State Lumber. It calls for 4 legs, 4 aprons (2 side, front and back) and a top. There won't be any drawers so that this does not become a catch-all for random "junk". I usually get started with a chalk layout of my pieces, as I picked them in the store.

Because I am not using plans, and sort of making this up as I go, I thought I would start with the legs. I kind of came up with the 3.5 and 7 degree dimensions by using a piece of 1x4 pine material and a compass square to find an appealing angle. In the picture above, you can see that I marked a triangle for the legs so that I can try and keep them oriented as best as possible as I go through the process. Once I rough cut them, I will mark them with pencil on their ends in the same manner. Here they are milled to near final dimensions, which is 1.25" wide by 2.5" deep (thick) by just over 30" long.

Measuring and Layout

Once the legs were milled to dimension, I needed to determine an appealing length and layout for the two side aprons. Here, I simply have the milled apron piece clamped to the legs so I can come up with an appropriate length.

This length needs to take into consideration how deep the top of the desk will be and the front and back overhang of the top. Too big and there won't be a lot of room, too small and it could make it unstable. Once I determine the apron length, I can make a pencil mark to define the shoulder of the tenon that will be cut into the apron; I will be doing double mortise and tenon joints on these legs because the aprons are 5" wide and one long tenon would, in theory, not be as strong as splitting it up. 

Next Steps - Lessons Learned

The next step will be to cut the tenons into the two aprons. I will be cutting these by hand as I think it will be easier than trying to mess with multiple machine setups and potential mistakes. Once the tenons are cut, I will use those to mark for the mortises, which will be cut on a mortising machine; I "cheated" a little on how I did this so you'll have to see what I did.

I also wanted to close with a little lessons learned; I think it is important to impart things I figure out along the way, for those that may not have done this before. None of this is the "right way" per se, just how I did it. First, make sure you have a good compass square that can really lock in place. Second, as far as possible, make all layouts for that particular angle at the same time. For example, I measured all my 7 degree angles before moving on to my 3.5 degree measurements. If you don't do this, take the time to mark and cut a scrap piece that has these measurements on it so you can quickly get your measurements from it later if you need to. Lastly, similar to the measurements, make all angled cuts for the same setting at the same time. This keeps you from having to move your miter gauge back and forth and having errors, or worse, losing track of which cut is supposed to go where and making a mistake. 

So, next time it will be mortise and tenon cutting time and, hopefully, a dry fit of the two sides.

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