With a full complement of drawers, it handles all your home-office storage needs—from tape dispensers and staplers to file folders and stationery. Our creation features the same design elements and materials found in our earlier 100th anniversary pieces: the side chair (Feb. 2002, page 87), dining table (May 2002, page 108) and bookcase (July 2002, page 99). It’s constructed of solid mahogany with decorative panels of pomele sapele veneer and accents of wenge. And for a real touch of class, we’ve given our desk an elegant tooled leather top. To simplify making the top, we ordered a ready-to-install leather panel from Van Dyke’s Restorers, P.O. Box 278, Woonsocket, SD 57385; 800-558-1234; www.vandykes.com.
The pomele sapele veneer and wenge are available from mail-order lumber and veneer suppliers. One source is A&M; Wood Specialty Inc., 358 Eagle St. N., Box 32040, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada N3H 5M2; 800-265-2759; www.vandykes.com.
This project was originally published in the September 2002 issue of Popular Mechanics. You can find more great projects at Popular Mechanics DIY Central.
Step 1: Materials
Step 2: Making the Legs and Rails
Step 3: Veneering the Panels
Place the glued surface on a veneer sheet, then roll glue on the opposite face. Place the second veneer sheet in place and cover both faces with wax paper. Repeat this procedure for each panel of the same size, and then stack the panels together with all edges aligned. Place 3⁄4-in.-thick plywood cauls on the top and bottom of the stack and apply clamps (Photo 8). Position the first clamp at the center of the stack, and work your way toward the edges. Let the glue cure overnight. Then, rip and crosscut the panels to finished dimension, and use your router table to cut the rabbet around the inside edges of each panel. Sand the panels with 120-, 150-, 180- and 220-grit sandpaper, dusting off thoroughly between grits.
Step 4: Assembly
Allow the 13⁄16-in.-wide edging strip to overhang the panel on both the top and bottom faces. After the glue sets, use a sharp plane to trim the edging flush. Mark the notches in the bottom and stretcher panels, and make the cuts on your band saw. Lay out the joining-plate slots in the desk legs, modesty panel and pedestal parts. Use spacer blocks underneath your plate joiner to locate the slots in the legs and panel edges (Photo 11). Clamp a straightedge guide to the inner pedestal sides to locate the plate joiner when cutting the slots for the modesty panel joints. Bore and countersink screwholes in the inner pedestal sides for fastening the modesty panel. Use a chamfer bit in the router table to shape the edges of the desk legs (Photo 12).
Note that the inside corner of each leg should be left square from the top end to a height of 8 in. Cut wenge trim strips to size, and chamfer the edges with a sharp block plane or sanding block. Sand the leg surfaces and wenge strips to 220 grit, then mark the outline of each strip on the legs with light pencil marks. Spread a light coat of glue on the back of a strip, and clamp it in place on a leg. After about 20 minutes, carefully remove any excess glue. Repeat for each wenge strip. Begin each pedestal assembly by gluing the front legs to the front panel (Photo 13). Then, join the pedestal bottom and stretchers to one of the pedestal sides (Photo 14). After the glue sets, add the opposite side to the assembly.
Next, join the front leg/panel assembly to the sides (Photo 15). Cut the inner plywood blocking panels to size and screw them in place. Install joining plates in the modesty panel slots, and use screws to fasten the panel to both pedestals. It’s not necessary to use glue on these joints since the screws provide plenty of holding power. Bore and countersink screwholes in the top stretchers for fastening the desktop.
Step 5: Drawer Details
Cut the notches at the top front ends of the drawer sides. Use a small brush to spread glue in the dovetail joints and assemble the sides to the faces and the backs to the sides. Check that each drawer box is square, and set it aside for the glue to set. Cut the drawer bottoms to size, slide them in place and fasten with screws. Install drawer slides to both the pedestal and drawer sides following the manufacturer’s instructions. Note the centerlines of the slides as shown in the drawing. Use only the slotted holes for initial fastening so you can adjust the slides as required. You should have a uniform margin of 1⁄16 in. around each drawer when it’s closed. Bore holes for the knobs in each drawer face, but don’t install the hardware until after finishing.
Step 6: Finishing Touches
Apply it with a brush or rag and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Wipe away the excess and let the surface dry overnight. Lightly sand with 320-grit paper and dust off before applying the next coat, using the same technique. After several coats, use 4/0 steel wool to burnish the surface and remove any dust nibs. Remove the masking tape from the desktop panel, and inspect the plywood to make sure that there are no depressions or raised areas. Fill any holes with wood filler and carefully sand the panel.
Remove any dust, and use a paintbrush to spread a coat of vinyl wallpaper paste (Photo 19). Be sure to coat the entire surface, especially along the edges and in the corners of the panel. Allow the paste to dry at least 11⁄2 hours and then apply another coat. Roll up the leather panel with the finished surface inside. Align one of the short edges against the desktop edging. Then, unroll the leather a few inches at a time, using your hands to smooth it out (Photo 20). The leather will stretch if necessary, so take the time to produce a tight fit against the mahogany edging. Work out any air bubbles and apply firm pressure to assure a good bond. After 10 minutes, smooth the top again. If you find any paste on either the leather or the wood, wipe it off with a soft, moist cloth. Let it dry overnight.
Place the top on the pedestal base and adjust it so there is an equal overhang on all sides. Bore holes and screw the tops to the pedestals. Finally, install the drawer knobs and slide the drawers into the pedestals.