Introduction: How to Make a Desk Out of Walnut
I have had an idea in my mind for a while for a new desk for myself made of walnut. I had a couple of boards in the shop that I need to use for something and this was the perfect project for it. I learned a lot during this project, and I hope it helps you as well.
Step 1: Materiels and Tools
- Walnut Boards
- ¼” Dowels
- Wood Glue - https://amzn.to/2CVLsvA
- Epoxy Resin - https://amzn.to/2CVLsvA
- Sheathing tape - https://amzn.to/2CVLsvA
- Danish Oil - https://amzn.to/2CVLsvA
- Table Saw - https://amzn.to/2WPINv7
- Miter Saw
- Circular Saw - https://amzn.to/2FP36C2
- Drill and Impact Driver - https://amzn.to/2FP36C2
- Jointer - https://amzn.to/2FP36C2
- Drill and Impact Driver - https://amzn.to/2FP36C2
- Hand Plane - https://amzn.to/2FP36C2
- Belt Sander - https://amzn.to/2K7hHhx
- Random Orbit Sander - https://amzn.to/2HZ5Ujw
- Speed Square - https://amzn.to/2FP36C2
- T-bevel Angle locator - https://amzn.to/2FP36C2
- Level - https://amzn.to/2FP36C2
Step 2: Mill the Lumber to Size
The first thing I had to do for this desk was mill all of the lumber to size. I started with several pieces of rough cut walnut. I did this in two phases. First the top and then the legs. When I started this project, I did not have a jointer and I actually got a jointer during the project so the top is made without a jointer and the leg base is made with a jointer.
TOP First I cut the pieces to a rough length. I will cut to a final length later. After this, the thing you should do is flatten one side and one face of each board to be able to have a flat reference side for milling. I had to approach this a little different because I did not have a jointer at the time of making the top. What I did was use a straight board with a factory edge to make one side of the board straight. Then I used the Kreg RipCut to make the other side parallel. This worked very well but I had to use a hand plane a little bit to clean it up. Even after this the sides weren’t perfect, but they ended up being ok. Next I used the planer to mill the boards down to ¾” thick.
LEG BASE For the legs I followed a similar process. First cutting to rough length. I did have a jointer for this part, so the next thing I did was use the jointer to flatten one edge. After I did this I ran the boards through the table saw to get the final width using the jointed edge against my table saw fence. Each leg piece was 1-½” wide. If I were to do this again, I would have made it a bit wider. After the pieces were cut out on the table saw, I ran the faces of the pieces through the jointer to give me a flat face. Then I ran all the boards through the planer using the flat faced side facing down as my reference side to get all of the boards to ¾” thick. After all my boards where milled to thickness I cut them to their final width before assembly.
Step 3: Assemble the Top
Once all of the boards were milled to rough size, I could assemble the top. I used four boards, roughly 6 inches in width each. Instead of gluing all of these at once, I did to sections with two boards. And then glued the two sections together. To attach the two boards together, I used dowels. I first laid out the boards in the order they would go, and then I made a small mark roughly every 12 inches between the boards where a dowel would go. I then used my doweling jig to drill dowel holes and placed the dowels in.
** TIP - You don’t need dowels if your boards are straight and milled properly. (Mine were not because I didn’t yet have a jointer by this time)
**TIP -Use a dowel that is ⅓ the thickness of the boards you are joining together. (My dowels were to large.)
I glued the dowels in place and then lined up the boards. I used a mallet to pound them into place and then plenty of clamps to hold them while the glue dried. After doing each panel of two boards, I did this same process with the two sections. After this I had my desktop finished assembled. I had to use a chisel to clean up some of the glue squeeze out and a belt sander to even out the desk where the boards were joined. I then cut the top to final size using a straightedge and a circular saw.
Step 4: Pour Epoxy Into the Voids and Holes on the Top
I had several places in the top that needed filled so I mixed up some epoxy resin and added black pigment to the resin. I used sheath tape on the underside of all of the voids so the epoxy didn’t spill out from the bottom. After doing this I poured the epoxy into the voids. After pouring I used a torch to get rid of all the air bubbles. If you do this, try to pour at the exact height needed. I had a lot of spill over and excess epoxy that I intended to just clean up with a belt sander after it dried, but it doesn’t really sand well. It just melts and makes a mess, so try to be as accurate as possible while pouring and clean up as you go to help you later on. I had to do two separate pours for my epoxy because I had a leak underneath the desktop.
**TIP- Have something solid underneath the desktop when you pour the epoxy. (My desktop was on sawhorses and this is why it leaked through the sheath tape)
After pouring all the epoxy, I used a chisel and a razor blade to clean up all of the dried epoxy. This took a long time and was very tedious and frustration. So this is why I recommend pouring more accurate so this part is easier. After it was all cleaned up, then I sanded the rest of the desktop and this part of it was complete.
Step 5: Assemble the Legs
Next it was time to assemble the leg base. I had all of the lumber milled down to size. The first thing to do was to cut all of my boards to final length. I am using an 80 degree angle on the front side of the desk so I had to make sure my cuts where all spot on. I used an Angle locator for this and it helped out a lot. I could set the angle I wanted and then could keep the same angle for all my angled cuts.
I first made the actual leg assemblies separate. I laid each leg out the way it would be assembled, then I marked each spot that I would place dowels. I used two dowels at each joint and used ¼” dowels. I used a dowel jig to drill the holes and put plenty of glue at each joint for added strength. Once they were assembled, I clamped the leg assemblies using plenty of clamps to make sure they were solid. I glued both leg assemblies together in the same clamps that way they would be identical. If did them separated I would risk them being a little different and making the desk off.
After the leg assemblies were done, I added three runners connecting the leg assemblies. I used dowels the same way as the legs, and I used the angle locator to get the angle of the front runner to match the angle of the rest of the front parts. After getting everything assembled, I noticed that the legs where a little unstable, so I decided to add an X brace in the middle section. To do this I milled down some boards to the same size and held the boards up to where they would go and marked them. Then I used the angle locator to find the angle and cut them to fit where they needed to go. To do the X brace I did a half lap joint where the middle of the X came together. To do this I first marked it with a pencil and made a line with the chisel. I then used a router to get of most of the material for the half lap and then cleaned the lines up with a chisel. You can understand this a little better in the video that goes along with this. If you would have any questions on it, send me a message and I will help you in any way that I can. To attach the X into the desk I used dowels. I had to drill clear through the leg and into the X boards. I then drove a ¼” oak dowel into the X brace ends to keep it in place. And a lot of glue as well :). After the X brace was installed, I put two more boards spanning the depth of the desk to stabilize it a little bit more. I used the same method of dowels as I did for the X. After the leg assembly was complete, I could move to the next step.
Step 6: Connect the Legs Together
After the leg assemblies were done, I added three runners connecting the leg assemblies. I used dowels the same way as the legs, and I used the angle locator to get the angle of the front runner to match the angle of the rest of the front parts.
After getting everything assembled, I noticed that the legs where a little unstable, so I decided to add an X brace in the middle section. To do this I milled down some boards to the same size and held the boards up to where they would go and marked them. Then I used the angle locator to find the angle and cut them to fit where they needed to go. To do the X brace I did a half lap joint where the middle of the X came together. To do this I first marked it with a pencil and made a line with the chisel. I then used a router to get of most of the material for the half lap and then cleaned the lines up with a chisel. You can understand this a little better in the video that goes along with this. If you would have any questions on it, send me a message and I will help you in any way that I can. To attach the X into the desk I used dowels. I had to drill clear through the leg and into the X boards. I then drove a ¼” oak dowel into the X brace ends to keep it in place. And a lot of glue as well :).
After the X brace was installed, I put two more boards spanning the depth of the desk to stabilize it a little bit more. I used the same method of dowels as I did for the X. After the leg assembly was complete, I could move to the next step.
Step 7: Sanding the Desk
The next think I did was sand everything very well. But before I did this, I decided to use a router and go around the entire desk with a ¼” round over bit. This wasn’t necessary, but it I really like the way it looked.
For the top, I started with the belt sander at 80 grit. I then moved to the random orbit sander and sanded all the way to 220 grit. There were many places at the joints where there was a gap or a little space of imperfection. I used glue and sawdust to make a paste that I put in these places and then once it dried I sanded them very well. This helped fill the gaps and you really couldn’t tell at all. Another thing I did that helped out was I put super glue in some of the wormholes. After letting this dry and sanding it down, it helped strengthen those places and kept them from caving in and splitting. When I sand with the random orbit sander, I take my time and let the sander do the work. If you dig in too hard it can scratch the boards to mess up the finish, but I have learned that if you want that really perfect finish from your wood, go slow and be patient while sanding.
Step 8: Applying Finish
After sanding everything it was time to apply the finish. I first went over the entire desk with a tack cloth to pick up any particles or dust before applying the finish. Then I used a clean cloth and applied danish oil on the desk. I find that danish oil does best when it is rubbed in very well. If you put too much on to where it seems oily, then it will remain sticky and have a harder time drying. I rub it in very well then give if a couple of days to dry and cure, then I add another coat. Danish oil seems to be my go to for finishing walnut. I love the way it looks and feels.
Step 9: Final Assembly
Once the danish oil was dry, I could assemble the desk. It is a good idea to assemble before finishing to make sure everything fits properly. I did this beforehand so after finishing I didn’t have to worry about drilling into the finish or accidentally scraping it with a drill. To assemble the desk, I used L brackets that I picked at my local home center. I flipped the desktop upside down and then the legs on top of it, and then I laid all of the brackets where I wanted them to go. I then pre-drilled all of the holes making sure not to drill too deep. (That would be bad)
**TIP - I used a small piece of tape on my drill bit as a guide of how far I could drill. I recommend doing this. After pre-drilling, I used the impact driver on a very slow setting to screw everything in place. Again I did this before finishing, so after finishing I just had to reassemble and that is it. The desk was finally finished.
Step 10: Complete
This was a pretty intense project for me. It may seem a little overwhelming to you also, so if you have any questions about anything at all, don’t hesitate to shoot me a message and I would be happy to help. If you check out the video, it will help you better understand some of what I was trying to explain. I hope you enjoyed the project! Check out some of my other projects here and around the web. Go and make something awesome!
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