Introduction: Lasagna Noodle Desk Made of Maple

About: mischief maker. atomic architect. geometry junkie.

This is a photo and video journey of me building my "Lasagna Noodle Desk" at the MIT Hobby Shop. I started the desk November 16, 2021 and the final install of the desk was September 1st, 2022.

I wanted an unconventional, challenging, and time-consuming project that would get me away from my computer and working with my hands. I figured that building a desk that I would ultimately use while doing my research would provide a daily reminder to me of how much joy I get from making things and provide a fun way to connect with folks who come to my office.

This project was very much in the MIT spirit of drinking from the firehose. I learned how to use dozens of woodshop tools in the process and I even learned how to love sanding (because Dad, you were right -- I had to do a LOT of it... a good month's worth).

A huge thank you to Coby Unger of the MIT Hobby Shop for for being willing to entertain my crazy design ideas and his many hours of help with this project. Thank you to Matt and Jack McGlashing of MIT RLE and LNS for their incredible installation of the desk -- without you this desk would've never been level! Thank you to all the encouraging words folks gave me during this project -- hearing the occasional "that looks so cool!" was amazing to hear when I was daunted many times by the upcoming stages in this build process.


Steps 1 - 3 (design, wood prep, and tube making): mid November 2021

Step 4 (butcher block): mid December 2021

Step 5 (inside curves of tube): mid January 2022

Step 6 (glue up curved and straight pieces): mid February to early March 2022

Step 7 (cleaning up the glued parts): mid April 2022 to mid May 2022

Step 8 (sanding and putting things together): mid May and late June 2022

Step 10 (finishing): late July 2022

Step 11 (final touches and installation): late August and beginning of September 2022

Full playlist of videos for this project (for those who love watching sanding)



  • From the MIT Hobby Shop: Joiner, Planer, Lathe, CNC, Thickness sander, Festool hand sander, router, domino jointer, drills + bits, shop vac, Good ole sand paper 80, 120, 220, Various chisels and scrapers, Many many wood clamps, Hot glue gun
  • Moral support (MIT Hobby Shop, RLE, and EECS folks, friends and family)
  • Elbow grease
  • Sheer stubbornness


  • ~40 board feet of 2" thick of maple
  • ~20 board feet of reclaimed maple basketball court
  • 3 zipbolts
  • ~50 Festool medium dominos
  • SO MUCH Hot Glue (for attaching scrap blocks for glue up)
  • SO MUCH Titebond II (for gluing the maple together)
  • Lots of scrap wood
  • 3' black anodized 3" aluminum L
  • Various screws

Step 1: Commit to an Unreasonable Design

You should've seen what design I showed Coby before this one! The ridiculousness of the former design is likely the only reason Coby was willing to entertain this one.

Structural integrity was a major concern for this design. I figured I could remove more of the straight bits between the wiggle to improve stiffness and more directly channel load, or even drive a support leg through the whole thing if things really went south.

As the project progressed, I decided that instead of legs on the non-curvy side that I would just mount the desk to the wall to create an illusion of cantilever.

Step 2: Prep (some Of) the Wood -- Joining and Planing

This was my first time working with rough cut wood :) Joining and planing wood is a delightfully zen and tactile process. The googly eyes on the planer (so that you know which way to feed in the wood) are just one of the many easter eggs hidden around the shop.

Step 3: Make 2 Giant Wood Tubes

The idea for how to build the curves came from Coby who had previously build a gorgeous cylindrical box using a similar method. These tubes may have been the largest thing every put on the Hobby Shop lathe. So far lots of folks have asked how the curved parts of the desk are made so I'll go into a bit more detail here.

  1. Cut out trapezoids to build polygonal tubes (how many sides of the polygon determines the angle)
  2. Get ready to glue by laying down LOTS of strips of blue painters tape underneath the slats to prevent swearing while trying to roll the slats into a tube (as you might guess, Step 2 was insufficiently followed for the first tube -- lessons learned!)
  3. Add glue to the sides of slats together to make two half cylinders so that we don't have to cut them later.
  4. Roll, mallet / push until flush on the ends, and spring clamp!
  5. Make and screw on caps to put it on the lathe
  6. In retrospect, I used too long of screws and so the drill holes ended up being visible later in the piece. Nothing that some dowel filling can't mend!
  7. Lathe!
  8. Let Coby try it out first, because large spinning wooden object is large.
  9. Shift the spring clamps as needed to get everything smooth.
  10. Sand!
  11. Wrap sand paper around the spinning tube until it's super smooth
  12. Shift the spring clamps as needed to get everything smooth.
  13. This was the first hint that this project was going to take a lot of sanding. Just the sanding of the outside of the tubes took about 2 hours each.
  14. Unmount, unscrew, and crack open! If you do this twice, you've got 4 half cylinders.

Step 4: Make Butcher Board From Maple From the Old MIT Basketball Court!

Coby was able to snag a bunch of the maple they were throwing out when replacing the MIT basketball courts. The reclaimed wood had made its way into many a MIT Hobby Shop project including the majority of straight pieces in the desk. I glued up a set of 10 6" wide butcher blocks in total.

It was at this point that I started realizing that this desk was going to be HEAVY.

Step 5: The Hardest Thing About an Outside Curve Is an Inside Curve

Maple is tough stuff, so we need to bring in some muscle to cut the inside of the tubes. Enter the CNC! I had to make a jig to hold each of the tubes, carefully align everything, and build a model of the tool path (again with Coby's help!). The great thing about this is that I knew the inside of the tubes would be as straight and even as I could get them so I could use them for aligning when the pieces started getting glued together.

The CNC got the inside pretty smooth but there's no way to escape the sanding. Hayami was a live saver and introduced me to the world of scrapers -- best tool for the smoothing job! Look at those pretty shavings!

The other thing that was a bit tricky was cutting the final tubes to size. The tubes were too tall for the table saw, so we had to do part on the table saw and the other part on the chop saw.

Step 6: Glue Up the Straight and the Curved

This was one of the most challenging aspects of the project -- figuring out how clamp the curved and straight pieces together. It is also the process that created a lot of mess to clean up. This is by far the process I would optimize / rethink if I did this project again.

I used the Festool domino joiner to create slots that would be filled by dominos to align pieces together (second image). The locations for the domino slots were all measured from the CNC'd inside curves.

The glue up was a two person job. I would glue up the seams and dominos and get help pressing and malleting the pieces together for clamping.

To have something to clamp to I superglued blocks of wood to both sides of the pieces that I was gluing together. As I would later learn -- hot glue does not come off cleanly from maple. Also, you had a to add quite a lot of glue to get the blocks to withstand the clamping. It was pretty common for the blocks to just snap off if I was sparse with the glue.

I'm very proud to say that at some points during the glue up, I was used ALL the small wood clamps in the Hobby Shop.

At this point, I also glued up the final table top.

Step 7: Planing and Chiseling and Sanding and Chiseling and Sanding Some More

Let's just say things didn't perfectly line up and nothing was the same thickness. A lot of "shaping" was required. No way around this but lots of elbow grease! I couldn't use power sanders for most of this because of the inside curves -- had to alternate between different scrapers, chisels, and hand sanding.

If I were to do this again, I would do both the inside and outside curves on the CNC. My lathing skills were insufficient to create uniform tube thickness.Thankfully, all of these issues were fixable with enough chiseling, scraping, and sanding.

I listened to nearly all of The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells during this part of the build. I highly recommend the series! It's delightful!

Step 8: Final Sanding, Routering, and Putting the Pieces Together

Once I had scraped away all the hot glue and blended the pieces together so things were feeling smooth, it was time to do the final sanding of the surfaces and edges, router the edges (for that extra smooth edge feel), and make and test the connection of the table and leg with the zipbolts. This was a super exciting part of the build for me -- it was when I was first sure that the desk was going to work.

For sanding, putting the curvy leg on a dolly made moving it so much easier and ergonomic.

For routering the long edge of the curve, I made a router plate so that I could make sure everything was being routered in the same plane. I also asked for help on this because the plate could sometimes get stuck. It was challenging to navigate the craziness of a curve with enough speed to not burn the maple, so I indeed had to go back and sand down some burn marks -- but overall not bad considering the complexity of the path.

To put things together I made pockets for the zipbolts which involves cutting inset holes with a forstner bit and a channel to connect the inset holes across the tabletop and the curvy leg. I tried to really lean into the wood when using the forstner bit but I just could not get enough leverage -- even with practically standing on the table! That maple is tough stuff! Once again, Coby to the rescue!

Adding some more dominos for alignment, I zipbolted the pieces together and we flipped the desk over to test out the feel. The desk felt secure and solid -- I was so thrilled and relieved.

Now that structural integrity was confirmed, it was time to do a lot more sanding (big surprise!) and to finally fill in those screw holes left from the lathe cap.

Step 9: Finishing

After the some additional final sanding, it was time for finishing! I chose to go with Natural Danish Oil since there's a lot of surface area and wanted something easy to work with. I did 3 coats each spaced by a day or so but did not sufficiently take to heart the "wipe off" instructions, so the surface developed a sticky texture. Thus, I had to "acetone" for my sins (a Coby original pun) -- 3 full passes! Eventually though I got a finish I was super happy with.

Step 10: Installation!

Matt McGlashing was generously willing to install this project in my office in building 36 at MIT. He was helped out by his dad Jack McGlashing. Super cool and extra special fact -- Jack helped install another project of mine The Cosmic Ray Chandeliers back in 2011 when I was an undergrad at MIT.

The desk is attached to the wall using a black anodized aluminum L 3" wide and cut to be 28" long. The L is screwed into two studs. The table top has 5 small screws connecting it underneath to the L. Matt used some discretely placed wood wedges to get the whole thing level. What a beautiful install job! It's so level and solid!

This is the most fun I've ever had with a project and I'm already scheming my next. It'll likely involve wood cones :)

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