Second Valley Software Furniture


Embedded software gets a bit boring after thirty years. There is always a bookshelf or desk that is missing or poorly designed, or even worse, made of chip board. IKEA have perfected the art in importing well made rubbish and marking it up to just below the price you would expect to pay for proper furniture. Perhaps it is the “Tyranny of Distance” or just how markups are blamed on a cascade of evils — labour, materials, transport, etc.

There is plenty of decent wood in Australia, and surprisingly the Australian Oak, a Eucalypt, is straight with very few knots. It also has a nice grain, but is a bit tricky to plane, so expect to sand the last bit.

We wanted to incorporate some electronics into furniture, as it looks like an uphill battle to sell proper wood — joinery shops are forever closing or kitchen installers just go for the absolute minimum cost rubbish. What sort of electronics? Mainly LED lighting, communications pre-wiring for small motorised drawer openers, or touch sensors. These could fail without the end-user loosing a limb or being able to sue way beyond the price of the hardware. Power consumption is also low enough these days to almost forget about heat dissipation — critical in places with an ambient temperature in the mid 40°C in a dry summer.

Veritas detail plane

Veritas Detailed Rabbet Plane, quarter inch used to clean out cuts from a Festool drop saw. The internal rabbet does not go to the end so that the mating piece is neater end-on.

The wood is Silky Oak, which is fairly soft. Manual work here as no noise in the rental, so the router table is packed away in the garage.


We have always been fascinated by machine design, and wood working is one area where simple machines and fixtures can make a large difference. A few decades ago, we spent a couple of years in toolrooms for three automotive plants. See our Toolroom Software section for more details. Later I was the Rockwell Automation (Allen Bradley) GTS engineer in South Africa for motion control (servo systems). So what will it take to make a few simple wood working machines? A change in the legal system for one. Access to linear slides etc., would also help. We now have SolidWorks, so laser cutting should help to make some simple (but not sturdy) machines, but as we would not be machining metal, welded frames versus machine cast iron should suffice. At the moment we are having fun — there are no plans for any volume or production, but who knows?

Veritas side rabbet plane

Veritas side rabbet plane. It was advertised overseas as $129, but almost double that in Australia. It is a bit disappointing, as the blades keep coming loose. It would be better to have a jig with a plane blade at an angle on linear slides, but much later.

New office desk with glass top

An earlier desk built into the office. It had a large surface for three screens and space to debug a processor board with a scope or logic analyser. The top shelf was out of the way and sturdy enough for plenty of books. Internally, there was a DIN rail to clip electronic modules onto, and a small shelf for an Apple MiniMac server and Time Capsule. The top was glassed with a two part epoxy resin, sanded and polished. It was too big to take out of the room when relocating, and ended up in pieces at the local dump.

We built a fair amount of furniture over the past few years. There are separate pages for major items, but none have electronics installed in them yet. The exercises were also good for SolidWorks CAD.

After loosing an office and decent workspace on every move, I have decided to make everything movable. If possibly, by one person. One item was a 900mm high surface with slide out trays for electronic testing. Here is a sneak preview below of the Mobile Test Station.

When my wife relocated, her surgery needed a decent desk (plus other things), and the building was an old heritage listed building with narrow doors. The solution was a desk with a top that could be taken off and an inner frame that could be taken through a doorway (by one person).

New office desk for Shirley

Glass top for mobile test station

Mobile test station. Shown here is the marine ply top, which is epoxy coated with white Luxathane, then a Feast Watson Glass Finish. It was sanded from 320, 400, 500, 800 and 1000 grit sandpaper with a Festool 3mm random orbital sander (with a vacuum attachment). The 1200 and 1500 grit paper gummed up too quickly and scratched the surface, so this was buffed with cutting compound and a car buffer machine with a sheep skin pad. The previous desk also used Turtle polish, but we still need to find that in the packed items or buy more. The wood is Silky Oak.