Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Building A Desk - THE TABLE TOP - Part 1

Loving my New Desk!

BUILDING A DESK I've been wanting to build myself a desk for a while now and after completing my bookcase I was pretty confident I could pull off a desk! I also decided to take photos of the process in case anyone else was interested in giving it a shot.  It's not the easiest thing but I felt so good after I had finished it! On wards to the tutorial! Part 2 and 3 to come!

Pre-planning phase
Decide on the style and function of your desk
My Goal – A simple desk that could be dismantled and that also used (mostly) materials I had on hand.

My old desk above (a lovely purchase from my parents in my teenage years) was chip board and had unfortunately seen better days. Since we're renters, I've had to disassemble that desk for moving days far too many times but knew this feature would be helpful again on moving day.

I then pinterested some styles; this top seemed do-able and I loved this style of square legs

Measure your space!

The corner space in my room meant a desk with the following dimensions (116cm x 70cm) would be perfect. Building your own custom desk also means you can make it the perfect height for you - something that excited me and my posture!
THE TABLE TOP - PART 1 (3 days to complete)

What you'll need
Wood measuring equipment - tape measure/ruler/pen/pencil/calculator

 Safety – ear plugs/dust mask/safety glasses

Drop saw, jigsaw or table saw OR if you're really game a simple hand saw

Chisel, sander (or sandpaper) + dust mask and plane

Wood glue + 4 x 90 degree clamps

Drill + appropriate sized drill bits

Gloves, screw driver, screws (and yup that's a gardening glove because I'm resourceful :P)

Nails + hammer

Sealer + wood filler (or wood glue + saved sawdust)


Step /1 Measure Your Wood 

If you're using scrap wood the first thing you need to do is measure your wood. We have a lot of wood off-cuts and since recently dismantling our chicken coop some really nice sturdy pieces that I wanted to re-purpose. I needed to work out if the pieces I had would fit my space dimensions (you may need to slightly redesign if your pieces don't fit or consider buying new wood pieces for the project). Luckily after some measuring I was feeling confident my design dimensions would work with the pieces of wood I had on hand.

Step / 2 Mark and Cut your Pieces down to Size

Since working with reclaimed wood, I needed to make sure I was only using the best section of each wood, you'll often find the ends of pieces will be slightly watered damaged or splintered - so best to chop off those sections.
I used a drop saw to cut my pieces but a handsaw would work as well :) I also didn't cut the top pieces of the table down to their exact measurements as I thought it would be more finished if I did it right at the end, once they had been nailed to the frame (I'll explain more in step 8).

Step / 3 Sand and Plane
Sand and plane all the pieces whilst wearing a dust mask (reclaimed wood can have a toxic coating) to remove any bumps or possible splinters in the wood. We'll be painting and sealing our desk so you don't have to worry about any health hazards with the finished piece :)

Step /4 Assemble 
Lay your 4 pieces together (these will make the base of the frame) and measure once more to make sure everything is nice and square, if it is, clamp your pieces together (90 degree clamps are amazing!) put some wood glue in between the joins (to make it more sturdy) and then drill 1 holes in each join. I pre-drilled a hole using my power drill and then with my screwdriver, twisted the screw into the hole.

Step /5 Lay your top plank pieces out
If you're using pallet wood for the top, lay down the pieces so they fit best together both for aesthetic purposes as well as even-ness. A lot of pieces will have weird bows (most of which should be corrected when attached to the frame) but it helps to piece them together as even as you can at this point. Since I'm painting my desk I wasn't too worried about mismatched colours but then this could add to your overall decision making if you choose to keep your piece unpainted.

Step /6 Mark the first plank and seal edges
I marked the very middle plank to the middle of the frame making sure it was nice and straight - this would become the guide for the following planks. At this point I also gave the middle plank a quick sand and (because I'm really pedantic) I also put some satin sealer on the edges because I knew once put together I wouldn't be able to apply paint there. I think you could definitely skip the sealer step but I just wanted to make sure that in 10 years the piece was still standing

Step /7 Nail planks onto frame 
Once the sealer was dried, I put my middle plank back to the middle of the frame within the mark lines, put some wood glue where the middle plank would touch other wood and then drilled two holes into both ends that I would then put nails into – I found drilling the hole first makes hammering much easier! You continue this process till all the planks are nailed onto the frame

sand/seal/dry/glue/drill/hammer AND R-E-P-E-A-T!

Step /8 Trim the planks to the frame
Once all the top planks have been nailed to the frame it's time to trim the excess. I used a table bench saw to do this but you can also use a jigsaw or even a hand held saw. This is also the part I was talking about in step 2 when I said I didn't bother cutting the top pieces down to their exact size because they would be trimmed in this stage!

Step /9 Even-ness
Putty up any holes with some wood filler (or make your own using sawdust and PVA glue) let dry overnight and then it's time to get everything beautiful and even. My tools I used at this point are a sander, plane and chisel. You may want your table rustic but because I'm using mine as a work desk (with a computer and mouse), I wanted everything level and even and smooth.

This took me several hours before everything was level enough and then I went to town with a power sander to make everything smooth. I also went back and filled some small holes I had missed and then sanded down the whole top again for perfection! I spent so long on this step and even after the many hours, my desk still has an overall rustic vibe to it.  It is very smooth to touch, the mouse works just fine on top but I believe if you're using pallet wood for the top you have to expect a slight rustic appeal :)

* use gloves (gardening gloves are a-okay :P) when using a manual screw driver to prevent blisters
* buy a few more screws then you actually need to prevent going back and forth to the hardware.
* use a drill bit slightly larger than the screw (but the same length) to drill out the hole BUT...
* when nailing use a drill bit slightly smaller than the nail and only pre-drill about a quarter of the nail's length – just enough to get your nail started on the right path 

I hope Part 1 was easy to follow, I'll be back with Part 2 which will talk through how to make the legs! Any questions, just leave a comment below - I'm happy to answer them for you.


  1. Incredible!! I always think how awesome it would be to build our own things. We can buy but sometimes there isn't always that perfect piece that I have in mind.. love this series. I'm going to have to show Yangkyu!

    1. :) :) It's so great, I think you did need to invest in some tools, but once you have them and can get wood fairly cheap, the skies the limit! I'm already looking around our home thinking of what I can upgrade :P It's addictive!


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