My wife needed a new office desk, but the surgery was in a heritage listed building with narrow passages and doorways. I had some Australian Oak planks left over from the kitchen renovation, plus they were already glued for a top. A few measurements and cutting later, and the resulting desk has found a new home.
The office desk would need to be moved by one person (me). The planks had been thicknessed to 25mm and joined with Dominoes. The underside frame was to fit onto a matching base, provide some support to stop warping and horizontal strength.
Underside of desk top showing the space for a matching frame to fit into. There are no screws or tools required, and the fit is loose enough to be able to pick it up off the frame for moving.
There was plenty of strength on this top, as transporting it from McLaren Vale to Brisbane in the back of a loaded van required several items to be placed on this top. It was covered in blankets, so no scratches.
Inner frame fits into the desk top
Some details of the inner frame that fitted into the matching top.
Like the top, the frame was moved almost 2,200 kilometers with plenty of other stuff inside a van. It helped to keep the items from moving about and was placed upside down onto the top in protective blankets. The joints held fine, so its new life as a well treated desk seems assured.
Top with frame insert — the overhang was to form part of a cage for a printer or PC. The long horizontal plank joins to the mirror image of this side of the frame. The frame is symmetrical along the length and the width, except for the support beam at the bottom to provide a bit more strength.
Frame details with Festool Dominoes. We normally use the 40×8mm ones, but here are some 100mm long for extra strength.
The legs are along the top going to the right. The two legs on each side were attached to a horizontal support by Dominoes. They have already been joined in this photo. The piece of wood facing towards the camera has oval holes ready for the Dominoes. We used wood glue. The legs were made of two 25mm planks glued back to back, and the support between the legs was a single piece 25mm thick. Along the long front and back of the frame is a thinner piece that fits into the top and is invisible once fitted.
The finished desk. The thin horizontal strip along the lower legs is to go against the wall, and gives a bit more strength than just the top joinery. It will get a computer frame later and a printer frame. These will attach to the thin strip and the vertical inside of the legs. The overhang on either side of the legs was about the size of a normal desktop PC.
The top rests on the inner frame. All edges have a 3mm round-over with a router, then lightly sanded. The top was sanded with a Festool random orbital sander to 240 or 320 grit. After the first oiling, when the wood fibres stand up, a light hand sand to 320 grit took off the roughness.
Finished office desk from the front. Once installed 2,200 kms away from where this photo was taken, I found out that the space designed for a computer was needed for patients to sit, and that it was not a good idea to have a computer near them and their kids, as kids tend to press any button, and after a few reboots it is difficult to keep smiling at the mother who makes no attempt to keep the child away from all the dangerous voltages or reset buttons.
Finish is equal parts Tung oil, citrene and flax oil. After two or three coats, it was buffed with Feast Watson Carnouba wax.
The Australian Oak has a nice grain, is straight with very little twist, and two metre lengths without knots are the norm. It is a little difficult to plane as the grain reverses and when gluing up the panels, it is not always possible to align the grain, so adjacent planks can tearout badly if not careful. We generally sand at the end, even if light passes were taken through the thicknesser.
The cabinet for a PC has not been made as the existing wiring and phone connections were not altered. The intent was to run communications cables along the back of the lower horizontal support strip in a 10mm milled out channel. Power was to be from a single plug strip under the desk. There are no holes in the top as the screen-, keyboard- and mouse cables hang over the back. The NC punched or laser cut stainless sheet for a computer or printer cage would be on my list, but was definitely not on my wife's list. She has an airconditioner near the desk to keep any PC cool — I like to put 12V computer fans in a cage to get decent airflow, but then again, my computers are a bit more fancy and heat generating than hers!
I like the idea of a separate top and ease of moving. The computer cage needs to be designed properly. The base support strip along the bottom could be higher up, particularly if this were not against a wall, and would also allow it go go through more challenging corners. For now, it was tilted vertically and easily goes through the height of a doorway, but that means only one person can fit through or move it. The frame is fairly light (certainly less than the top).
Brisbane summers are just too hot to use high-end workstations without additional airflow, but some experimentation would be needed so that any fan mounted in the wooden structure does not resonate like a guitar case or speaker box.
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