A campaign desk is a nomadic writing table, popularized by officers of the British Empire in the colonial-minded 1800s. Wealthy officers, who often bought their commissions from the Crown (as opposed to actually training as soldiers), furnished their field tents with teak or mahogany chests, cots, and desks. Many designs featured clever friction fittings or break-down leg systems to keep the officer's possessions (and person) up off of the damp ground. A style evolved, heavy on brass and canvas fixtures, that has now become a commercialized "look" without any of the original core functionality.

This modern take on the campaign desk restores the portability and simplicity of the original campaign furniture. It also copies a structural strategy used by many early campaign desks. Instead of using an apron (a perimeter run of boards under a table to stiffen the top), desks were built as boxes that both held the writing supplies and acted as a self-contained structural unit. The sawhorses are a leaner, meaner update on the usual slapped-together shop workhorses, made from salvaged lumber. Offset legs make for simple overlay joinery and allow the finished units to nestle neatly together.

The result is an expansive, super-sleek command center for the modern knowledge worker. There's plenty of space for a king-sized monitor, scanner, secondary laptop, and all the other accessories of digital life.

Depending on the grade of plywood you choose, this whole desk can be made for about $50.

You will need these tools:

- Tape measure

- Square

- Pencil

- Table saw with dado blade set

- Cross cut sled

- Circular saw

- Drill/driver

- Chop saw

- Bandsaw

- Router or router table (optional)

- Clamps

- Straightedge

- Orbital sander

- Paintbrush

You will need these materials:

- 1 3/4" by 4x8 sheet of plywood, birch preferred

- Roughly 9' of reclaimed 2x4 material

- Spax screws for MDF

- Wood glue

- Brushing lacquer, polyurethane, or finish of your choice

- Furniture wax

Step 1: Desk Top Cuts

The main desk is made up of just four parts: the surface, two identical sides, and a back.

Start by cutting the surface. Use a circular saw and a clamped straightedge to cut it down to 66" long. Run the remaining piece through the table saw lengthwise to rip it to 28". The resultant piece should be 66" by 28".

The long offcut should be 20" x 66". Rip it half to 10" wide by 66" long. Set one piece aside for the back of the desk. Swap out the table saw blade for a dado set.

For the sides, use a crosscut sled and a dado sled to make a 1-5/8"-wide, 3/8"-deep dado down the center (at 33") of the remaining 66" x 10" offcut. Then cut in a 3/4"-wide, dado 4" up from one of the long sides of both pieces. All of the dados will interlock to make strong corners and stiffen the desk surface without the use of a more traditional apron.

Swap the dado set back in. Use a crosscut sled to cut the side piece in half (at 33"), right down the center of the short dado. Measure 10" from one end, and 5-3/4" up from the other (see picture for notes). Connect the marks, Cut the taper on the bandsaw. Made sure you make the sides as mirror images of one another.

I put in a shelf in one corner for a scanner. This is optional; if you want to do it, cut a 3/4" piece of leftover stock to 12" x 4" and two 1/2" pieces at 12" x 16" and 12" x 15-1/4".

<p> This is a great looking desk and very easy to build. Great use of material with little waste as well. I built a prototype using construction grade plywood and 2 X 6s to work out the details and customize the proportions. Worked great, but I suggest that the instruction to cut the bevel for the legs at 5&deg; is incorrect. See the photo attached for a comparison of what a 5&deg; bevel versus a 15&deg; bevel looks like. I think the author may have intended to say 15&deg;.</p>
I built one. Mine is 5' wide, has edge banding and will reuse legs from the desk it is replacing. Did the dados with a router.
<p>Very smart! - I appreciate the simple design of the legs, but I'd be tempted to build something which folded flat, had a spar at the bottom of each pair running front-to back, and a rope across the way to stop them spaying if anyone was drunk enough to climb on the table!</p>
<p>Don't the legs get in the way of chairs, vacuums, and stuff?</p>
<p>No more than a desk with filing cabinets or your kitchen table..</p>
<p>Could the inner leg of each of the four pairs be made vertical to reduce chair/knee interference?</p>
<p>When I saw the first pictures and mentions of nomadic furniture, I thought those legs were going to fold or disassemble and fit inside the table's form factor for transport. Using glue seems like a bit of a let-down. If anyone makes a barrel-nut &amp; bolt version of this I'd love to see it.</p>
<p>I have longed for a Campaign Desk ever since I saw the reproduction of Stonewall Jackson's at the VMI* Museum <a href="http://www.vmi.edu/VMI_Museum/13087/" rel="nofollow"> http://www.vmi.edu/VMI_Museum/13087/</a> some 15 years ago.</p><p>Alas, the $4,695 price + s/h dissuaded me. </p><p>But now that I have seen this - I love its simplicity and the fact that I** can build it.</p><p>Thank you so very much for posting this beautiful project.</p><p>S/F</p><p>DS</p><p>* I am a VMI Alum</p><p>** Okay, so I can build it with help from several friends. :) I have Parkinson's from A-Orange. </p>
<p>I just discovered this book about campaign furniture which might be interesting for those who want to know more about this style: http://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/campaign-furniture</p>
<p>Wow, this is a sophisticated, functional AND SLEEK table. I love it. Great job! Thank you for sharing.</p>
THAT is a nice desk! Well done
<p>OUTSTANDING! And true to the original intent! Very well done! Look forward to seeing you interpret other classic pieces.</p>
What an elegantly simple and functional piece. Thank you.
Awesome build, I love it!
<p>Beautiful and simplistic. You have my votes! Having read all the Sharpe Novels by Cornwell I feel I really have to build something similar, albeit smaller. It would go very well alongside an old school field cot for creative naps.</p>
Wow! I like this project. I may have to make myself one!
Very elegant and neat. I might just have to try this one.
I really like the saw horse legs on this table. It really adds a lot of character.

About This Instructable




Bio: Furniture hacker. Author of Guerilla Furniture Design, out now. Find me on Twitter and Instagram @objectguerilla.
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