Introduction: Chalkboard Top Desk (Child Size)

About: Engineer by trade, I am a person who likes to work with my hands to create and fix things. Almost all of my creations had prior lives, because "nothing is ever ready for the landfill, it just ready for its ne…

So my daughter was in need of a desk, and that meant that I had the opportunity to use my tools and woodworking skills to enjoy some time in my garage. I often get to do small builds, and building furniture is one of my favorite items, although high detail and finishes are not my favorite. Oh, and this is my first Instructable, why not document the process so others can learn from my mistakes.

Step 1: Inspiration!!!

The first item for me in any project is to start looking through what I have to complete a project and then start to piece together a concept. Looking through my house, and especially my garage, is a great source for inspiration because……I am a wood hoarder. There, I said it….I hoard scrap wood. And also parts of other pieces of furniture that I have saved so I can use them for future projects in a Dr. Frankenstein experiment. In this case, I found the top from an old office credenza (1-1/4” thick particle board), some old desk legs from a prior desk, and a small stack of drawers saved from a built in cabinet. Boy, my daughter sure was excited when I showed her a pile of junk parts and told her it would be her new desk!!! Isn’t is beautiful?

Step 2: Adding Some Style

So this pile of junk didn't excite anyone. It needs to be dressed up. I thought it needed a beautiful and unique desk top. For that I found some excess "chalkboard fabric" from one of my wife's craft projects. After checking it out I thought it might be nice and creative to have a desktop that could be written on with chalk and easily wiped away. The bonus, it actually makes a pretty nice writing surface similar to an old leather top statesman desk. Trimmed out in some 2-3/4" poplar to contrast (more left over from a cabinetry project) and the idea was complete.

Step 3: Desk Top

To make the desk top, the particle board was cut to a size suitable for a child's desk on the table saw (33"x18"). The poplar for the trim is 3/4" thickness, so a rabbet is cut on the particle board to recess this and hide the particle board. The chalkboard fabric will be glued to the top of a 1/4" melamine board (too add depth to the particle board) and the 1-1/4" particle board and secured under the poplar trim. So the rabbet depth is cut 1/2", leaving 3/4" for strength to support the trim overhanging the edge. I decided the poplar would look good with clean butt joints, so these will be secured with pocket screws on the underside, similar to making a face frame.

Step 4: Rabbets

To cut the rabbets on the particle board, a table saw is used. Since I do not have any dado blades, these are cut using the 2 part method. In this method, a horizontal cut is first made by adjusting the blade depth to the width of the rabbet (in this case, 1-3/8", or half the width of the poplar trim) and the rail is set to the rabbet depth (the depth of the poplar trim, 3/4", minus the 1/4" for the plywood to be added to the top, so 1/2"). Notice the tall rail on the table saw to stabilize the material on the horizontal cut. After all four sides are cut, then the second cut is made to complete the rabbet, switching the blade depth to 1/2" and the rail to 1-3/8". Now the rabbet is complete.

Step 5: Poplar Trim

To create the poplar trim to surround the chalkboard fabric, first the trim is cut to the appropriate lengths to fit the rabbit in the particle board top (remember that the chalkboard fabric will add ~1/8" to the inside dimension). Once they are complete, pocket screw holes are added to the short trim pieces using a Kreg Jig. Laying the pieces on a flat surface, face down, the trim is secured using screws in the newly created pocket holes (ensure that everything is square). Now, the new top is taken to the router table to add a slight, 1/8" chamfer on all hard edges. Later the poplar trim is sanded and sealed before final attachment to the the finished top.

Step 6: Chalkboard Fabric and Top Final Trim

Back to the particle board top and the chalk board fabric. The fabric is cut roughly to size to fit the top, including covering the rabbets as it will secure under the poplar trim. Spray adhesive is used to attach fabric to the top, and cuts are made at the corners to allow the fabric to neatly conform to the corners of the rabbets (NOTE: gently round the hard outer corners of the rabbets so that they are less likely to tear or puncture the fabric over time!).

Once the adhesive and corner cuts have been made and everything is looking good, turn the top over onto the poplar trim (after is has been sanded and sealed, and of course dry fit!!) and secure using screws into the poplar (pre-drill your holes!) from the under side of the desktop.

That completes the Top of the desk, now to just refinish the bottom and attach with screws!

Step 7: Sand and Paint

Now that the top is complete, the bottom just needs to be sanded and repainted. My daughter chose a turquoise color, and I am using a satin finish, latex paint (standard interior house paint). Start by filling in any holes (using standard joint compound) and sanding until smooth. Apply the paint evenly. Additional coats as necessary. Polish the brass, and let everything dry before final assembly. Then add the hardware back to complete.

Step 8: Final Assembly

Everything is now complete, just line it all up (take your time, don't rush and make a mistake on the last step!), and secure with some 1-1/2" screws from the bottom. Make sure to pre-drill all of your holes, of course!

There you have it, a complete new desk from scrap old furniture. Not so bad looking compared to the ingredients. All said, the purchased parts (I had to buy some new glue...) was under $5. the rest was "garage junk" and recycled furniture.

Step 9: Completed!!

There you have it! A completely new desk from an old, outdated desk and some scrap materials. My daughter loves it, and loves drawing on the top in chalk.

I hope that it has inspired you to create something new from something old, and I hope that some of the techniques are helpful as well for your project. Post some photos, and give me a vote if you found it entertaining!

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