Introduction: Mid-Century Modern Desk

About: So many things to learn and make, so little time! I like things that are cool, useful, efficient, well crafted.

This high desk, made of wood planks and hairpin legs, was built with just a few hand-held tools.

Hairpin legs and slightly slanted sides give a mid-century modern character. 3D modeling in OpenSCAD helped get the wanted shape.

The desired style variant was obtained by carefully choosing the materials and colors. I wanted a sleek look, so I opted for beech wood and white-coated hairpin legs. You can obtain a rustic or industrial character with other combinations.

This is an easy intermediate weekend project. The only difficulty resides in the slanted sides.

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Step 1: Required Materials, Tools, and Skills


  • 3 planks
  • Hairpin legs (e.g. from Amazon)
  • Wood glue
  • Oil
  • Dowels


    • Circular hand-held saw
    • Miter Saw (optional)
    • Sander, sandpaper
    • Hammer
    • Dowel markers
    • Lots of clamps (You can never have enough clamps!)
    • Hand-held drill, drill press
    • Drill press Vise


    • Using the circular hand-held saw
    • Dowels: boring, marking, boring

    Step 2: Designing

    An important preparation step is to make a model, helping with all decisions about proportions and aesthetics (Photo 1). A 3D model allows to judge the object from all angles. It helped me decide whether or not to have the lateral sides slightly slanted.

    2D model

    Prior to spending an evening making a 3D model, I first made a 2D drawing (Photo 2) with several variants in order to choose a general design direction.

    3D model

    With the general idea in mind, I designed the 3D model in OpenSCAD (Photo 3).

    The Source file is available on GitHub: mid-century-modern-table.scad. All sizes are in millimeters.

    • In OpenSCAD you can load, modify, render and visualize the model.
    • The model can also be viewed in other tools, in STL format: mid-century-modern-table.stl

    The legs were modeled after the ones I could find on Amazon. The body was sized in accordance to plank sizes I can obtain in my local hardware store.

    Step 3: Setting the Disc Saw for Slanted Cuts

    The angle of the slanted sides were computed by my OpenSCAD script (here 7.13° from 90°) but can also be measured on a 2D sketch if you go that way.

    To adjust the angle of the saw blade, one trick is to draw, print and cut this angle on a sheet of paper.

    Step 4: Top and Bottom Planks

    Cutting the lateral (slanted) edges of the top and bottom planks, using a guide rail specifically made for circular saws.

    Step 5: Lateral Sides

    Cutting the lateral sides, keeping the same saw blade angle,

    Step 6: Back Side

    For the back side, all edges are straight (90°) but the ends have an angle equal to the slant. Using a miter saw.

    Step 7: Dovels, Lateral Sides, Edge

    In the lateral sides, making holes so that the dowels will be perpendicular to the top and bottom planks.

    To get the proper angle in the wise, some leftovers from the previous cuts can be used.

    Step 8: Dovels, Lateral Sides, Plank

    Marking the dowel holes in the top and bottom planks, using dowel center markers

    Drilling, being very careful not to bore through.

    Step 9: Dovels, Back Side

    Same thing for the dowels of the back side. It is easier because there is no slant involved.

    Note that the back side is not flush with the rear edged of the top/bottom planks, but recessed by 1.5 cm.

    Step 10: Sanding the Inner Sides

    Last occasion to sand all inner sides of the pieces.

    Step 11: Glueing

    After checking everything a last time, gluing the sides and back pieces to the bottom plank.

    Using clamps to press the pieces together.

    Step 12: Clamping

    Gluing the top plank. Using a hammer (with some leftovers to protect the surfaces) to get a close contact.

    Lots of clamps are used. The glue is left to dry for 24 hours.

    Step 13: Sanding the Outer Sides

    Then all outer sides can be sanded.

    Step 14: Oiling

    Applying wood oil on all sides, following the instructions of the product.

    Step 15: A Trick for Pilot Holes

    In the next step we will screw the legs to the body. We'll need to make pilot holes. It's very important not to bore through the planks, but the margin is very small (2 mm).

    Having no depth stop collars on hand, I found that the lid of a spices can is perfect for this purpose.

    Step 16: Mouting the Legs

    On a sheet of paper, the shape of the leg plate and holes are drawn, with desired distance to the edges.

    After positioning the paper on one corner, the holes, then the pilot holes bored. The leg can now be screwed.

    Repeat for each leg.

    Step 17: Finished Product!

    Use and enjoy this stylish desk!

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