Introduction: Modern Plywood Desk
This Midcentury Modern Plywood Desk is a perfect project for anyone who appreciates simplicity combined with modern design. This desk has 3 large storage drawers and is the perfect size to comfortably fit a laptop, monitors or writing projects but is still small enough to fit neatly into most rooms.
Download plans with cut lists and 1:1 scale printable templates for the legs here
Enjoy the build and don't forget to send me pictures when you are done!
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- (2) 5' x 5' 3/4" Plywood
- (1) 5' x 5' 1/2" Plywood
- 2 board feet Walnut - Glue
- 1-1/4" Drywall Screws
Wipe On Poly or - Finish of choice
Step 1: Cut Out All Pieces From the Cut List
This project is made with 3/4 Baltic Birch Plywood for the main desk body and legs There are 7 pieces to the desk box and there are as follows;
3/4 plywood pieces
1 - Desk Top/Bottom x 2
2 - Desk Side x 2
3 - Desk Divider x 2
4 - Desk Back x 1
There are 5 pieces to the Leg Assembly. The leg pieces are best cut out with the 1:1 scale printable template provided here https://urbanshopworks.com/plans
3/4 Leg Pieces
5 - Desk Stretcher x 1
6 - Leg, Outside x 2
7 - Leg, Inside x 2
The drawers are constructed out of 1/2 inch Baltic Birch Plywood. There are 15 pieces for the drawers total.
1/2 plywood pieces
8 - Drawer Box Side x 6
9 - Drawer Box Front/Back x 4
10 - Drawer Box Bottom x 2
11 - Drawer Box Front/Back, Large x 2
12 - Drawer Box Bottom, Large x 1
The drawer fronts can be made from your material of choice. There are 3 pieces for this.
Walnut or material of choice
13 - Drawer Front x 2
14 - Drawer Front, Large x 1
PDF Cutlist available here. https://urbanshopworks.com/plans
I used my track saw to break down the 5 x 5 sheets of Baltic Birch into more manageable sizes then I cut the final dimensions with my table saw.
Step 2: Cut the Dados and Rabbets in the Desk Box Pieces
This desk is held together with glue, dados and rabbets. Instead of mitres I rabbeted the corners together, this gives the look of a miter from the outside but the pieces snap together really easy which makes the glue-up a sinch! I cut the rabbets down on the side and back pieces of the desk box and the dados are to hold the centre dividers between the drawers. For all of these cuts I used a router table and a plywood dado bit but you could also use a tablesaw and dado blade.
Step 3: Glue Up!
This is the fun part because everything just snaps together! Start by gluing the each of the outer and inner legs together clamp as needed.
With the desk box start with gluing the centre dividers in place followed by the top then the sides and the back piece last. I used only a few clamps to hold the glue on the desk box. Most of the edges I held in place with blue painters tape.
Step 4: Drill Pocket Holes on the Desk Stretcher
The desk stretcher is an important piece, it will help keep the desk from racking side to side. This is mounted with 3 pocket holes on each end.
Once you have the pocket holes drilled you can screw the whole leg assembly together.
Step 5: Round Over the Edges!
I used a 1/8 round over bit on my trim router to do this. You will want to round over every edge on the desk box as well as the outside edges of all the legs. *You could also use a chamfer bit of this too.
Step 6: Apply Finish of Your Choice
I used Wipe on Poly for this, I wiped on 4 coats allowing time too dry between coats with a light sand of 220, grit between coats. I finished off with a 320 and 400 grit sanding before the final coat was applied and this gave me a hard smooth finish.
Step 7: Mount the Desk to the Leg Assembly
This is where you drop the desk box on the leg assembly, I fastened it in place with screws I placed in predrilled holes in the desk stretcher.
I used the 1:1 printable drilling template provided in the plans for drilling the screw holes in the desk box to fasten the outer legs to the desk box sides. I placed these screws on the inside of the desk box.
Drilling template available here https://urbanshopworks.com/plans
Step 8: Cut Out All Pieces for the Drawers
Now the two side drawers are the same and the centre drawer is larger but all measurements for these should be referenced off the actual finished desk. Cut out all pieces for the drawers from 1/2 inch Baltic Birch plywood
from the cutlist available here https://urbanshopworks.com/plans
Step 9: Drill Pocket Holes
Drill pocket holes in the front and back pieces of the drawers referenced in the photos above
Step 10: Cut the Dados in the Drawer Sides and Front/back Pieces
Now is the time to cut the dados that hold the drawer bottom in place. I used a router with a half inch plywood dado bit in my router table but you could also use a table saw with a dado blade for this.
The pieces you want to cut the dados in are the two drawer sides and the drawer front/back pieces (4 in total for each drawer)
Step 11: Sand Your Pieces!
This is very important Sand all your drawer pieces to 220 before you assemble the drawers.
Step 12: Drawer Assembly
Now you can assemble the drawers. Put wood glue in the Dados for the drawer bottoms and on the edges where the sides meet. Assemble and clamp as necessary.
Use pocket holes as the primary method of joinery
Step 13: Apply Topcoat to Drawers
I used Wipe on Poly for this and I followed the same 4 coat procedure as I listed above for finishing the desk box.
Step 14: Mount the Drawer Slides
Mount the 22 inch drawer slides of your choosing as-per the manufacturer specifications with enough set back to allow the full drawer front to fit inside the desk box. I used a thin piece of scrap wood as a shim to get even spacing on the drawer slides and the drawer boxes
Step 15: Cut the Drawer Fronts
Now that your drawers are installed you can measure for and cut the drawer fronts out of the material of your choosing. I used Walnut in mine but you can use whatever wood you like. Be sure to leave about 1/8 inch around all sides of the drawer front to the desk box *(see photo above)
In my plans I have layed out measurements for cutting the type of handle shown in the photo above.
in my actual desk I drilled a shallow hole with a forstener bit and my drill press for the drawer pulls or you can add any style of drawer pull you like.
Download plans here https://urbanshopworks.com/plans