Introduction: How to Build an Easy Farmhouse Desk

About: I am a self taught woodworker, and I learned everything I know from watching YouTube videos. I enjoy it so much I started my own channel. Go check out Jonny Builds and please subscribe! I make a wide range of …

In this article I’ll show you how to build an easy farmhouse style desk with shelves and a light. This project has a few steps, but its very doable for a novice maker. If I can do it, anyone can! All the materials used in the project came from my local home center. I used pine 2x4’s, 4x4’s, and 2x6’s. This desk features a trestle style table base with a stretcher made from 1/2 iron pipe. I also used 1 inch iron pipe for the left side vertical shelf support, and I added in an Edison bulb for just the right amount of light. This farmhouse style desk is wide enough to fit my 27” computer with plenty of room left over for book storage. Thanks for checking out the article, and please watch the YouTube video for further build details. You might as well hit subscribe while you’re at it! Thanks, y’all!

Step 1: Building the Trestle Style Table Base

The table bases are made from douglas fir 4x4's I milled down to 3x3's. You can leave them at 4x4 if you have limited tools. I used my jointer to get theses as flat as possible before moving on to the table saw to rip them to proper dimension, and again this step is optional.

  1. I used (2) 8 foot long 4x4's for this project. All of the materials I used came from my local home depot. Sometimes non pressure treated 4x4's are scarce, so you might have to look around. DO NOT USE PRESSURE TREATED! You don't want those kind of chemicals inside your home.
  2. On a miter saw cut the following: 2 @ 23 1/12" (for the trestle posts), 4 @ 24" (for the trestle top & bottom horizontals), 8 @ 12 1/2" (for the angles trestle supports)
  3. Set your table saw fence to 3 inches, and rip each 4x4 down to 3" x 3". Set your saw blade to a little more than half the thickness, and cut slow. Flip the piece over and and cut the other half of that face away. Repeat for the perpendicular face.
  4. Now its time to add a 1 inch recess to the trestle horizontals (the 24" beams). I accomplished this by using a dado blade that allows me to remove more material faster, and have more accurate cuts. You can accomplish the same thing using a circular saw and speed square. Use one of the trestle posts to measure the width of the recess, and mark this in the center of the horizontal at (this should measure 10 1/2" to 13 1/2" along the the length of the horizontal.
  5. Now cut the bevel on the end of the horizontals. Measure from the bottom up 1 inch. Next mark a line at 45 degrees as shown in the picture. Set you miter saw to 45 degrees and cut along this line. Each horizontal gets a bevel on both ends.
  6. Assemble the post to the top and bottom horizontal beams. Drill out 4 holes in the center of the horizontal where you cut the post grove. I used (4) 3 inch screws to then attach the top and bottom horizontals to the center beams.
  7. Now the base is starting to take shape its time to add in the diagonal supports. I cut these so the would sit in about 1 1/2 inch from the bevel. Cut these to fit on a miter saw set to 45 degrees. Set up a stop block to ensure all 8 diagonals are the same size. Mine were roughly 10 inches, but I did not measure this part.
  8. Drill two attachment holes on each diagonal with a 1/2" bit. Next attach 4 diagonals per trestle base as shown in the photo above. Plug the holes with 1/2 dowels.
  9. Flush trim the dowels once the glue has dried, and sand the bases.

Step 2: Making the Breadboard Desktop & Shelves

The table top is 27" by 48", and features simple breadboard style ends. The table top is made from (9) 2x4's cut down to 3 inches wide and laminated together. The breadboard ends are 2x6's cut down to 5 inches wide. Take your time at the home center and pick out the straightest boards you can find in the stack.

  1. Cut the following lengths of 2x4's on the miter saw: 9 @ 38 1/2 inches (for the table top), 4 at 34 1/2 inches (for the upper shelf). The 1/2 of extra length will give you room to work with later to properly square up the table top and shelf.
  2. Mill these boards to final dimensions. I ran my 2x4's through my jointer to get them super straight and flat. This will help give a flawless table top surface with no gaps. Next rip these to 3 inches wide on the table saw. Next plane them all to an even dimension. My boards ended up about 1 1/4" thick. The most important thing is to ensure an even thickness.
  3. Lay out the 9 table top boards, and arrange them to vary the grain pattern and knots to your liking.
  4. Use a T square to mark out alignment locations for biscuits or dominos. (I used my domino joiner because I don't have a biscuit joiner, but the domino is definitely not necessary for this build.
  5. Cut in you dominos or biscuits. Join and glue up table.
  6. Now its time to cut up the 2x6's on the miter saw for the breadboard ends for the table top and top shelves, as well as the two smaller book shelves. Cut the following: 2 @ 29 inches (for the table top breadboards), 2 @ 14 inches (for the top shelf breadboards, and 4 at 12 1/2" (for the two book shelves)
  7. Mill and flatten the breadboards and shelves to the same thickness as the table top 2x4's. Rip them to 5 inches wide on the table saw.
  8. Attach the breadboard ends to the table top and upper shelf. I used a larger domino here, but you can also use biscuits or dowels. Just cut your holes a little wide to allow the table top to expand and contract.
  9. The shelves are each 10" by 12", so you need to rip all 4 shelf boards to 5 inches, and glue up in two pairs. I used my table saw cross cut sled to cut the length down to 12 inches.

Step 3: Building the Shelving Structure

  1. I built the shelf uprights out of the remaining 2x'4's. Cut off one of the rounded ends on the table saw, or mill it up on a jointer like I did.
  2. Use the thickness of one of the shelves the set the table saw fence.
  3. Rip the 2x4's down. Mine were roughly 1 1/4".
  4. I had (4) 8 foot sections of 1 1/4" x 1 1/4" boards. I taped 4 of these together into a square as shown in the picture above and then gang cut these on the miter saw to 39 inches. (this matches the height of the iron pipe structure on the opposite side.
  5. Next cut (6) 1 1/4" x 1 1/4" boards at 10 inches long on the miter saw for the shelf structure cross braces.
  6. To assemble each side of the shelf structure I clamped a straightedge to my workbench to have a 90 degree surface to reference off of. I cut two spacer blocks at 12 1/2" using left over 1 1/4" x 1 1/4" material.
  7. Set in the spacer blocks on either side, and then rest a 10 inch cross on top. Attach by drilling a pilot hole, and then cutting in a 1/2" hole that will be plugged later to hide the screws. Attached the cross brace with 2 inch screws. Repeat using the spacer blocks for the other two cross braces. You'll make two of these shelf structure sides.
  8. Position the shelves in place on the lower two cross braces so it brings the two sides together as shown in the picture. The top cross braces are to support the upper breadboard shelf. Attach the shelves in the same manner as the cross braces.
  9. Plug all the holes with 1/2" dowels to hide the screws.
  10. Now you'll need to cut 24 shelf support diagonals using more of the 1 1/4" x 1 1/4" stock you've made. This is another piece that I didn't measure. I just cut it to what I thought looked good, and then set up a 45 degree stop block to quicker crank out 24 of these. I think mine ended up about 5 inches long. Use a miter saw set to 45 degrees to make these cuts. See my photos for more detail on this.
  11. Add in the shelf support diagonals to the shelf structure using glue and brad nails. One diagonal goes in every corner of the two sides. The front and back of the shelves remain open. Set aside 4 to add after the shelf is attached to the table top.

Step 4: Iron Pipe Assembly, & Clean Up

In the previous step you built the shelf structure, but in order to know the exact height you need to assemble the 1 inch iron pipe that makes the left side shelf support, and lighting structure. I was aiming to have the 5 pieces of pipe that make up the left side support equal 38 3/4" when all put together. It ended up 39 inches exact, but this is close enough. Just so long as you cut the shelf structure to the same height.

  1. You'll need the following 1 inch iron pipe & fittings: a 6" pipe, a roughly 28" pipe, a t connector, and two floor flanges. I had the 28 inch pipe cut at Home Depot. They'll usually do this for free.
  2. You'll also need 1/2" iron pipe for the stretcher. I used 1/2" because the flanges are 3" to match the width of the bases. You need the following: 2 floor flanges, a 36" pipe.
  3. Use acetone and an abrasive pad to clean the pipe, and get it to an even finish. Assemble both sections of pipe as shown, and then add a couple coats of spray lacquer. This will prevent rusting, and give a smooth, clean surface.

Step 5: Final Assembly

Now you're ready to start putting this whole thing together!

  1. Do a dry fitting of the shelves, and iron pipe structure. Center the iron pipe flange on the upper shelf. Mark all the hole locations with a pencil.
  2. Drill a hole in the table that will be covered up by the pipe flange. This will allowing the light cord to be threaded through the pipe, and come out the underside of the table.
  3. Mark the center of the inside of both table bases, and attach the stretcher with 4 screws on either side.
  4. Lay out the table top on the base , and mark where the hole you drilled for the cord meets the table base.
  5. Rout or chisel out a recess that allows the light cord to come out the back side of the table base.
  6. Center the table top on the base and attach with brackets of your choosing. I made my own using domino's and blocks of wood.
  7. Run the light cord up the bottom of the iron pipe and out the t fitting. I used an 8 foot cord here. Tape the end of the cord to temporarily hold it in place to the t fitting while you attach the pipe to the table top.
  8. Attach the pipe structure to the table top with (4) 1 1/4" screws.
  9. Wire in the light socket. I used a simple set where I only had to screw in two wires, and snap it together. Just read the instructions carefully for the kit you choose.
  10. Mix some 5 minute epoxy and use this to mount the light socket into the t fitting. I used painter's tape to hold it in place while the epoxy dried.
  11. Attach the shelf structure. Set it in place and mark the location of the 4 legs. Next drill a hole through the top of the table for each of the 4 legs. Set the shelf structure back in place and attach with 4 screws from the underside.
  12. Place the top shelf in place. Attach the left side iron pipe flange with (4) 1 1/4" screws. Attach the shelf structure with 4 screws drilling in from the top side.
  13. Add an Edison bulb, and you're all done!

So there is a lot to do on this project, but every step is accessible and easy enough for the most novice of woodworkers. Thanks for checking it out, and please post a pic if you build this project. Check out the build video for further details.