Introduction: Red Oak Desk

I love a good desk! It helps you stay organized, provides a good surface for doing paperwork, and makes you look like a responsible adult. My wife and I are dedicating a corner of the house to an open concept office space (kind of an area where the hallway rounds a corner into the living room), keeping it simple with just a desk and some storage underneath. The idea was to buy some file cabinets and build a desk for the top.

Being in the middle of a huge renovation has its perks. We were putting in a bathroom and planned on tiling the floor, and the very unique 1.5" red oak planks had to go. Fortunately, this desk idea provided the perfect avenue for re-purposing the oak flooring for a cool, functional piece of furniture.

Step 1:

Step 2: Rip Up the Floor

This was by far the most labor intensive part of the project. I used an oscillating multi-tool to plunge cut the floor boards at the base of the walls, went through a couple blades. The first board removed was a total loss, it splintered and broke in half before the nails gave way. Fortunately, removing one allowed me to get a pry bar, then a crow bar under the remaining board to lift them. I took it slow, taking about 1 board out at a time, gently prying up the length of the board until it finally gave way.

I noticed, about half way through that the direction you work makes a big difference as the nails holding the boards down all face in the same direction. The nails, by the way, were massive finish nails and many tore through the boards.

Once all the boards are up, pull out the remaining nails and sort them based on usability. A good amount of the tongue's on the boards broke during removal but they still worked perfectly fine.

Step 3: Re-assemble Floor... Desk

To provide a backstop for the floor boards, I used a piece of 15/32" plywood cut to the dimensions of the desk I planned on building, 20" x 90" (The filing cabinets were 19" deep and would fit nicely underneath).

*The best park about building a desk is that you can totally customize it to fit the area, hence why it was so long and skinny

So, I set the plywood up on some sawhorses and began piecing together what it would look like. From time to time, I would have to use a screw driver to pry broken tongues out of grooves and scrap 100 years of dust from the edges, but snapping the old floor boards together with a mallet is very satisfying feeling.

After I was sure I had enough to actually build the desk, and that the layout looked good, I started nailing/gluing them down. I used a brad nailer with the supplement of some construction adhesive for good measure.

I also clamped the first edge as I would be tapping a hammer against each board as it was placed to minimize gaps.

Once I had the proper width and length down, I trimmed the edges off using a circular saw.

Step 4: Create a Border

To cover the edge of the desk, and prevent one from seeing the plywood, I used a couple extra pieces of Oak. Using a table saw, I ripped a bit less than a 1/4 inch off each side of the 'edge' planks, just enough to remove the tongue and groove. This conveniently gave me a piece wide enough to cover the depth of the Oak floor board (3/4") as well as the plywood backing (15/32").

One edge of the desk still had the tongue of the floor board on it, so I used a hand plane to remove this as it was way to bulky to trim off on a table saw at this point. Using a hand saw, I cut tongue and groove joints in the corners where two edge pieces would meet. I then glued and nailed them around the perimeter in a fairly straightforward fashion.

Step 5: Scrape and Sand, Until Your Arms Fall Off

I have serious respect for the tools used to refinish a whole house worth of hardwood floors. Please wear goggles and a dust mask for this step.

Using a scrapper and a belt sander I took down the century old varnish. I even found this cool way to remove caked on varnish from the belt sander whilst sharpening the scrapper edge at the same time! I would start doing sections with a scrapper, then moved on to the belt sander. This also planed some of the wonky edges and made a more level surface.

Once the whole surface was cleaned, I used a random orbital sander at various grits to give it a clean finish.

Wiped it down with some paint thinner when all was said and done to help manage the dirt and dust as well.

Step 6: Epoxy and Poly

Using the two part epoxy one can find in a 'syringe like' container at the hardware store, I filled some major cracks and dents in the oak boards. After letting the epoxy cure, I sanded it down and then applied several coats of a gloss polyurethane. I think it came out to 3 or 4 coats in total. It was some quick drying stuff that allowed a re-coat every 2 hours. I've personally found that foam brushes are great for applying poly, plus they're cheap so you don't feel bad about tossing them once the project is done. Just don't push too hard, otherwise bits of foam may come off onto your project.

Step 7: Mount and Enjoy!

The file cabinets were nothing fancy, and may be replaced by something nicer down the line. They were aligned to provide space for sitting, then some double sided tape that I had in the garage (I think it may have been old carpet tape?) was used to secure the desk to the cabinets. Glue may be a more secure option at some point.

Wood Contest 2016

Participated in the
Wood Contest 2016