Basic Preparation Steps and How to Build a Desk

Want to build a desk? What factors are important styles, sizes, surface area, and the number of drawers? We offer an ever growing choice of desks; some are simple and straight forward like our Shaker trestle desk or a more involved project like the Shaker writing desk.

If you want to build a desk, there are multiple paths to choose. However, even if you are building an office, computer, or writing desk, the design might appear different but the processes involved in building it will still be the same. Here are those steps.

Designing Desk Plans

In woodworking, never skip the designing or planning phase; this is especially true if you are a beginner. Nowadays, you can either draw desk plans on your notepad or you can use basic 3D modeling programs to create your desk design.

If you want to try out the latter, but are unfamiliar with 3D modeling programs, it is advisable that you start with Google Sketchup (now owned by Trimble Navigation). It is a user-friendly program, which is free to download and use. You can create a desk design in a few minutes.

Measurements For Desk Plans

Always remember: When working with lumber and boards, know how wood measurement works. There are two measurements involved when getting and working with wood. The first is nominal and the second is actual.

For example, a regular 2” x 2” lumber does not exactly have a measurement of 2” x 2”. That measurement is just the nominal measurement. A 2” x 2” lumber’s actual measurement is 1 1/2” x 1 1/2”. Confusing, right? Why does it work like that?

When lumber and boards get sawn from its tree or log, its measurement is perfect. A 2” x 2” freshly cut lumber will measure 2” x 2”. However, due to planing and drying, the lumber shrinks or gets its dimensions reduced. So, you must make sure that you incorporate this in your design, or else…

On the other hand, lumbers and boards that you can buy from the store are usually 8’, 10’, and 12’ long. In addition, it is common that the desktop is 3/4” to 1” thick, and its legs are made from 2” x 2” lumber.

To make sure that your desk will be the perfect size for you, you should design it with your body measurements and favorite chair in mind. First of all, the desk must have a vertical clearance of a few inches above your knee when you are sitting.

Next, the desk should not be higher or lower than your elbow when you are sitting up straight. If it is a computer desk, then your elbow should be level with the keyboard and mouse drawer and the desk should allow your monitor to be positioned upright and positioned much lower than your head. That setup will allow you to look and work with it comfortably.

Acquiring Materials For Desk Plans

The quality of materials you need depends on your budget. If you do not want to spend much, you can buy particleboards (chipboard, waferboard, flakeboard) or MDF (medium density fiber) boards. Particleboards are cheaper, but less sturdy. MDF boards cost a bit more than particleboards, but are denser and tougher.

If you have a bit of spare cash, you can settle for plywood or timber. And if you truly do not have money, you can salvage wood from junk shops or salvage yards. Old wooden pallet, wine crates, and wire spools are excellent choices/finds.

Tools For Desk Plans

Your basic arsenal should be composed of a hammer, saw, and nails. Also, never forget to use a marking tool (pencil, chalk, or even the pointed end of a nail will do). For making precision marks, using a steel square, T-square, or even a regular ruler is a must.

If you want to refine your materials, it is crucial that you prepare sandpaper (80 grit for sanding rough lumber, 120 grit for sanding boards/varnish coats, and 220/240 grit for sanding/finish varnish coats).

To achieve even surfaces and make it easy for you to sand your materials, using a sand block is recommended. If you do not have one, do not worry; you can create one yourself. Get a dish sponge and glue a piece of sandpaper to it.

Strengthening Materials For Desk Plans

Wood glue is an important tool to strengthen your desk. With its help, your desk’s joints will bond tighter and make them tougher to take apart.

When using MDF or chipboards, do remember that it is advisable to use screws instead of nails. Nails will have a hard time connecting boards since they are prone to expansion.

Also, clamps can improve the bond that wood glue can provide to your desk. It can help you in making perfect cuts with your saw. If you want to make your desk tougher, it is best that you apply a varnish finish to it.

Finishing Options For Desk Plans

The materials or tools you need for finishing will depend on what type of finish you want to apply to your desk. If you are opting for a stained finish, you better get yourself a stain and clear varnish (natural/not dyed). If you want to make things simpler, you can just opt for a tinted or dyed varnish.

If you can burn some cash or if you plan to place your desk outside, it would be best if you use spar varnish (the ones that they use on boats). It will add more protection and will add more years to your desk’s beauty.

If the pieces of wood you acquired have little to no imperfections, you only need to get a primer and your main paint. However, if there are multiple imperfections, holes, or cracks, you will need to apply some wood filler (putty, glue, paint, sawdust).

Another type of “finish” that you can apply to your desk is vinyl wrap. It is practically the best choice if you will use particleboards or MDF boards. You can easily apply it your desk and achieve that modern, polished look. However, do note that you will need to apply wood filler if you want your vinyl to have a perfectly smooth surface.

Conclusion On How To Build A Desk

Now, choose or make your design. You already know the basics on how to build a desk. And truth be told, these are also the very basics of creating wooden furniture. Use them well.

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