Cherry & Walnut Desk

Twelve or thirteen years ago, I had the thought, I need a desk.  Most rational, and retail-centric individuals would have traveled to a furniture store, engaged in conversation with a salesperson, possibly been convinced of the merits of a particular desk, and subsequently completed the sale with the exchange of money for the promise of a desk being delivered at some later date by two, slightly hungover individuals in a large box truck.

I picked up a wood working magazine, instead.  It was around this time, with the use of a friend’s wood shop and a couple hours of his time each Tuesday, that I had finished up a queen-sized, Mission-style oak bed frame.  I was hankering for another project.  A desk seemed reasonable.

I did not follow through the reasonable idea of taking ready made plans from a woodworking magazine.  Instead, I used them as a guide for things like height and depth.

You might be wondering, why am I bringing up a project that is over a decade past its completion?  There are a couple reasons.  The first being that I recently disassembled the desk to move it to another room in the house, and the second, and coincidentally, I came across an archive that contained the bulk of my notes, all of the AutoCAD drawings, and a software script (crude, albeit effective) for figuring out some golden ratios with regard to board widths that would constitute the desk’s main surface top.

The disassembly, and reassembly of the desk was interesting to me because it allowed me to better inspect the joints and such, as well as replace the drawer slides on the center drawer.  When we moved to a different house in 2012, and the desk was disassembled, the original drawer slides on the center drawer broke, and the replacement just never really quite worked well, and it did not extend far enough to make the drawer fully useful.

The design and construction of the desk was a bit of rolling effect.  I would design and draft up plans for a side panel or a drawer front, and my friend and I would spend a Tuesday evening jointing, planing and sawing the pieces of wood that would be necessary for that piece.

Shellac to Alcohol Ratios

I spent a lot of time tinkering with AutoCAD.  It was really quite enjoyable, and it allowed me to use some of the drafting skills I had learned while in high school.  During high school, the thinking was that future career plans would be some sort of mechanical or civil engineering, and drafting might be useful.  Education and career track ultimately did not follow the physical engineerings, but wandered down the path of computer science and the engineering of software, but I still feel that all the drafting and CAD I took in high school was well worth the time and effort.

In addition to picking up a legitimate copy of AutoCAD (I was a student at the time, so, I took advantage of AutoDesk’s educational discount program), I picked up a wide body inkjet printer.  This made working with the plans in the shop more readable.

The desk was designed to unassembled from time to time.  The center drawer, with the correct slides, is removable; the desk top can be removed after removing bolts that hold it to angle iron (see photos below) on the inside edge of the top of the drawer assemblies; the front (opposite where you sit) is removable by unscrewing four brass wood screws.  All of the drawers in each side can be removed to lighten the weight; if you are curious, I used Blum full extension slides.  A little bit more about the materials and supplies, I used:  the finish is 4 coats of shellac with several coats of marine grade varnish over the shellac. Twelves out from the finishing coats, and there are no signs of sun damage to the finish.  The wood, cherry and walnut, were from a friend and his family.  He has appeared in many blog posts of the years, from showing up in photos of gardening, snowshoeing into a Minnesota state park, to he and I traveling to arctic Canada, to me chronicling a cross-country road trip to his wedding.  Alas, the supply of cherry, walnut, oak, and others dried up when his parents left Minnesota.  Much of the other wood, like luan plywood and such, that was used in the desk came from local big-box lumber yards.  All of the drawers are also lined with physical stock certificates.  There are certificates for Marquette Cement, Massey – Ferguson Limited, Chemsol Incorporated, as well as dozens of others.  All of these certificates were purchased off of eBay.

Even though the finish on the desk is holding up quite well, the top has had a small bit of damage.  As the wood has continued to dry out, a lengthy crack has appeared in the top.  It is, however, in a location that does not impact functionality.  Aside from the crack, there was some shrinkage that was causing several of the drawers to no longer be aligned quite right.  In order for the drawers be to fully closed, the drawer had be lifted up slightly.  All of these drawer issues were resolved as I reassembled the desk in its new location.

Finally, if you are curious about the plans and possibly making your own fancy, overly complicated desk, the plans (most in PDF, but others in AutoCAD’s DWG format) are linked below.  The plans are released under a BSD-3 Clause like license.

The little bit of clunky software is also linked before; instructions on how to run the perl script are at the very bottom.


File: (5MB)

File: (4KB)



About: is a simple script that can calculate various
options for construction of a table-top.  It assumes that you want a
wider center board with narrow, even-counted boards on each side of the
center board.

Usage:  ./ --width=FLOAT [--widecnt=INT] [--optimal]


./ --width=30.75 --widecnt=5

For a table with width 30.3/4" with 5 of the wider center/edge pieces.
The third option, 'opt', will cause table_layout to try to order the solutions
in what it thinks is optimal - this feature is as of yet unimplemented.

Wooden Bench

IMG_3880It might not be apparent that between my random musings about slingshot-roadtrips, snow-wanderings, and the occasion piece on chickens or bees, I sometimes build things.  Many times, it chicken-related.  The chicken coop is a sort of ongoing project.  There is no master plan for the coop (similar to the Winchester Mansion not having a master plan).  When there is a new – be higher fence panels, or the addition of an infirmary-coop for injured birds, it gets added on to.

Generally, though, the common thread for building things is a perceived need.  Around 2004, I got stuck in my head that I needed to make a Mission-style oak bed frame.  So, I did (more pictures here, and here).  It’s still the bed frame that we have in our bedroom.  Other things are simpler – like a solar wax melter I built when I was first interested in keeping bees.  I still use it.  There was also the shed at our old house, the chicken coop at our old house, and many other projects including an excessively expensive and complicated walnut and cherry desk that worked on, off and on, for nearly two years; it sits in our home office now, Melissa uses when she works from home.

Early in my double-digit-age-days, I had, what some artists might call a period.  Picasso’s early period was his blue period.  My early period was a clock period.  Some how or another, I got my hands a Klockit mail order clock catalog.  I kind of went nuts making wooden clocks.  To this day, there is clock that I made in nearly every room of my parents’ home.

Original timber bench

Somewhere in the late aughts, I found myself with a excess supply of 4″x4″x8′ green treated timbers, and a couple 6’x8′ panels of dogeared fencing.   There must have been a woodworking muse or the like that whispered in my ear, make a garden bench; ok, it was probably Melissa.   The aesthetics that I like tend to be clean lines, angles that divide 90 degrees without a remainder (90 modulo angle = 0), and in some cases, parallel piece that have touching surfaces follow the golden ratio (this was the case with the top for the desk).  With the benches, there was also the idea of minimizing wood waste.  Three pickets where used for the seat area, shallow, compound angled legs, and an underskirt.  The picture to the left is of the original timber bench I made for Melissa.  It currently resides in our backyard, under a walnut tree.  Notice the underskirt that the legs fasten into – it’s square.  In later iterations of the timber bench, the underskirt had a bevel that was the same angle as the legs, just the slope was opposite direction of the legs.   We have one these beveled underskirt benches on the familial land in northern Minnesota.  My mother has a pair of three feet wide benches, and I also made an identical pair of these benches (dubbed meditation benches) for a woman in Hibbing.

And then, I ran out of fence panels. I moved onto the next woodworking project or went back to working on the house.  I cannot remember.

Then, a few weeks ago, the bench-muse returned.  Melissa asked me if I could make a bench for a section of the patio she has been gussying up.  Sure.  I finally had a bit of time this weekend; I headed to a big-box lumber store and picked up a few things.   Below is a photo gallery of what I made.

If by chance, you, the reader are interested having one of these short, stocky benches of your own, and you are somewhere in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro, Duluth, Rochester, or the Iron Range (Grand Rapids to Virginia) — hit me up in the comments on this page, or check out the About Me page on contacting me.  A bench won’t be free, but we can likely work something out.