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The Faux Metal Desk

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Picture of The Faux Metal Desk
I woke up one day (it was probably a Saturday) and decided it was time to build a desk for my home office.  I had a design in my head and a few ideas of how to make it happen.  Here was my criteria:

1. This desk needs to be built-in as opposed to some store bought unit that sits away from the wall because of baseboards.  You know ... the desks that lure all of your objects to the back so they can fall between the space and onto the floor to be lost for several months.
2. I wanted the component box to hang or "float."  Partly because my house is old so nothing is level, but also because I liked the idea.
3. I wanted cable management because I have some OCD issue. 
4. Lastly, but most importantly, I wanted it to look like metal ... \m/
 
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Step 1: The Basic Carcass

Picture of The Basic Carcass
02 Screwing Desk.JPG
03 Cleat Painted + Cut.JPG
04 Cleat Installed.JPG
06 Case Panels.JPG
07 Case Assembled.JPG
I decided to build the desk out of MDF, which I said I'd never do again after my closet built-ins, but it was affordable and I had a lapse in judgement. I don't like it because it's heavy, contains formaldehyde so the dust is horrible (I used a full respirator when working with it), and if you aren't careful, screws will strip holes (pre-drill everything). I won't use it again. This project took two sheets of 3/4" MDF, with extra for floating shelves.

The top is two layers of MDF cut to 24" x 6', which I laminated together with glue and screws. You can see how OCD driven I am because I laid out a grid just for the screw positions.

The cleat is a 2"x4", which I half lapped in the corner for an interlocking fit. I tapered the bottom corners, painted it to match the wall, and secured it to the wall studs.

The component box uses rabbets for joinery with glue and screws. The dado in the middle is for a shelf. The holes are for cables and venting.
valkgurl2 months ago

We used the same technique to fill in the bench holes on a Harbor Freight wood workbench we made for a kitchen island---If I had to do it again I might think about staining the ends a different color for contrast but they look great as is. One sank a bit so taping the underside to hold them all level---if not able to cut flush due to lack of the proper saw---might be an idea. We also toyed with the idea of using copper plumbing end caps but they didn't fit and we didn't really want to drill out all of the holes. And they were not flat in any case---who knew! Wondered about using pennies in there tho----next time!

This is great and useful info and looks amazing!

chattery4 months ago
I made a desk 18 years ago in high school out of poplar. It still holds together and I use it all the time. This looks pretty bad ass though. I wonder if any of my shop class skills still hold up. haha.
Lacquer-- at least, the 'real' stuff-- is very friable, and will crackle and craze if you set anything down too hard, like say... banging an old school telephone after an angry call...

Why would you choose it? What do you know that I don't? :D
-BALES- (author)  probablepossible4 months ago
I use the fake stuff for sure ... Deft in a rattle can ... at least I did until Lowes stopped carrying it. I've been using it on smaller projects and I have good results - fast dry and recoat times, wet sands smooth, waxes nice. The poly is flaking a bit and yellowed over time.

However, I do plan on making some angry phone calls, so I might need to reconsider.
Ninzerbean4 months ago
This is so well described and documented, and it would have fooled me for sure if I saw it in person. Thanks for sharing.
crackerjax4 months ago
So enjoyed your offering, including the humor that laces the details together. Pretty crafty, and entertaining.
chuckyd4 months ago
Pretty clever work. I agree with the comments about MDF. The other drawback of MDF is that it doesn't span very far- needs lots of support.
emerson.john4 months ago
That is an extraordinary paint job. Lacquer is faster, and would look good too, but your polyurethane is much more solvent resistant. Great work.

1.5" MDF! Ought to be sturdy enough...
-BALES- (author)  emerson.john4 months ago
I've noticed some yellowing with the poly, which isn't terrible. I've also had some flaking of the finish, which is just weird. I can always sand it back a bit and redo the topcoat. Not a bad result from rattlecans. Imagine what you could do with an airbrush.
askjerry4 months ago
Nicely done, very interesting reading as well. I like the rivet look... not something I would have thought of. I'll have to use that on a project sometime.

Great Job !
Jerry
grapenut4 months ago
sliding dovetail concept was great, thanks for sharing
Tampaguy4 months ago
THIS is the "genius" behind this project! Fantastic idea, and I'm sure it would have worked well for me!
paganwonder4 months ago
Great dowel cutting jig and a nice project!
Love the rivets, love-it
iOskr4 months ago
Great Design. I love the results. Thanks for sharing
awesome job, especially the paint. just by looking at the first picture I honestly thought you put sheet metal on to of the MDF. I am about to build a work desk and will definitely use this painting technique.
Ogt924 months ago
Very nice, I am impressed with your creativity with the faux rivets.
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