Introduction: Building a Walnut Desk W/ a Mahogany Top
For the longest time I've been wanting to build a classic desk made out of nice hardwood for my shop. This is the desk. It's made with rough sawn walnut for the frame and rough sawn mahogany for the top. The drawers are made with half blind dovetails, and the desk is constructed with dowels. The desk has four drawers, two on each side. I didn't want two very deep drawers, so I decided to go for four shallow drawers instead which you can open from both sides.
I wanted a timeless piece of furniture to use for tinkering, electronics and general making in the shop. Let me go over how I made it.
Step 1: Steps in Building the Desk
I broke this project into two videos, the first part is about building the base and laminating the top. The second is about building the drawers and finishing the whole desk. For more details, make sure you watch them.
Step 2: The Wood
I wanted this desk to be made with thick piece of walnut, so I ended up buying a piece of rough sawn walnut which I had to mill myself. If you want thick pieces of wood, sometimes this is the only way to do it. I don't have a jointer, so I ended up planing a lot by hand. Starting with planing one side, so I could get a flat side in order to make a cut on the table saw. Then back in the shop, planing some more and so forth.
Step 3: Construction
Initially I planned to connect the desk using metal brackets. So I cut all my wood to pieces, attached the desk with the brackets, just to realize I didn't like it. So now since the wood was already cut to size, it was too late to go for mortise and tenon joinery, which is why I settled on dowels. I have a nice little doweling kit which enable you to line up the dowels evenly. This worked out really well.
Step 4: The Top
For the top I used rough sawn mahogany. Here again, I did a lot of planing to get the wood straight. Once the wood was straight, I laminated three boards together using glue and dowels. The top measures 25 " x 37 ".
Step 5: The Drawers
I decided to go with half blind dovetails for the drawers because it's very strong, and such a beautiful joint. I actually made a dedicated Instructable about making half blind dovetail drawers so please go and check that out: Making Half Blind Dovetail Drawers
You could use any joinery for the drawers, it's a matter of personal preference and time. This method is time consuming, but very nice overall. I also cut a groove on the sides with a router and slipped in a piece of hardboard for the bottom of the drawers.
For hardware, I picked out some simple knobs out of oil rubbed bronze that I attached.
Step 6: Attaching the Top
To connect the top to the base, I cut out these small pieces of walnut, and I drilled two holes on one side and one hole on the other. Then I screwed the pieces to the corner of the desk, above where the drawers ride and removed the drawers. Now I was able to screw in the top into the pieces from underneath the desk.
Step 7: Finishing
After a lot of sanding, it was time to finish the desk. I decided to go with hand-rubbed polyurethane so I diluted polyurethane with 1:1 with mineral spirits. On the top I applied 5 coats and on the base and the drawers I applied 2 coats. Once that had properly dried, I went over the whole piece with brown paper. This acts as a fine abrasive and smooths out the surface a lot. After that I finished the desk with tung oil was polish which I buffed out.
Step 8: Conclusion - Watch the Videos!
And there you have the finished desk. A rather large project, that should last for many years.
Make sure to watch the videos for a more in-depth look at how it was created.