Intro: Industrial Steel Frame & Butcherblock Wood Desk
It's been a few years since I've done any serious metal working projects so it's great to be back! The legs are welded from some really beefy 3x1.5 tube steel for some substantial looking legs, plus some rebar X cross braces, mostly for ascetics and to add some texture. I installed some threaded feet in the bottom for adjustability since these went on some uneven floors and then you get a bonus shadow line at the bottom of the legs. The wood top is cut from a solid maple butcher block and finished with Waterlox traditional tung oil finish. The finish is a mix of tung oil and resin that creates an amazing depth to the grain while also adding a protective shine to the surface.
> Maple butcher block
> 3x1.5x1/8" tube steel
Step 1: Sizing the Table Tops
I start with a maple butcherblock slab to use as the desk top. It's so big that I decide to cut it down to size by hand with a circular saw. This fence helps guide the saw in a straight line so I hold it in place temporarily with some clamps.
Then I just follow the fence to cut the line.
The saw blade isn't quite big enough to reach all the way through the top so I have to break off the last 1/8" and bring it down flush with a block plane.
Now that it's a more manageable size, I can cut it down to final length on the miter saw.
Here are the tops cut down to size - 2' x 4', I test the final orientation of them in this L shape to see how they look together.
Step 2: Cutting the Cord Passthrough
Between the two desk tops I need a passageway for cords to fit through. I want the corners rounded and I decided to do that by drilling with a forstner bit so I clamp a scrap piece of wood to the edge of the desk.
You can see the scrap piece there taking up half of the cut so that I'm only drilling a semi-circle into the desk top.
I can then connect these 2 holes by plunging in with the circular saw and finishing the cut with a handsaw.
Then it's just a mater of cleaning up the cuts with a belt sander.
Step 3: Connecting the Tops
I want some way to connect the desks so they don't slide away from each other so I grab this corner bracket from my hardware drawer and stick it in the vice and crank on it to flatten it.
To shape it down completely flat I use my hammer on the back of the vice. It doesn't have to be pretty, this will be perfect to connect the 2 surfaces!
I measure out where I want these brackets to sit and then mark them out so I can recess them into the top.
Then I just take my palm router with a flat bottomed mortising bit in it and clear out this material by hand.
Now I can screw the brackets in temporarily to test the fit and we're good! Finally time to get some finish on these tops, it's super exciting.
Step 4: Finishing the Table Tops
I chose to use Waterlox original tung oil finish for these. It's a modified tung oil/resin mixture that does an amazing job of adding this 3 dimensional effect to the grain while also adding a slight shine to the surface.
That look is just impossible to beat!
Step 5: Cutting and Drilling the Leg Steel
Now it's time bring out the metal (head banging time). It's been a few years since I've done any serious metal working so it's great to get back into it. The legs are all made from 3x1.5 tube steel with an X of rebar across the center.
I cut all of the tube steel down to rough length on my metal cutting bandsaw because the pieces I got from the steel yard are so long.
Once I get those all down to a more manageable size I can pivot my fence over to 45 degrees so I can have mitered corners and all of the leg pieces are cut down to final size.
To attach the table top I'm going to install some thru bolts so I need to mark out the locations of those for drilling on the top leg pieces. I also do the same on the bottom leg pieces for some adjustable feet that I will install later.
The drill press speed is moved down to it's slowest RPM and I drill away to my hearts content.
Step 6: Welding the Legs
Since I have smoke alarms inside my shop that are hooked up directly to the fire department I decide to move outside to my Exoteric Welding Booth™ (outside the front door to my shop). I'm already pretty much on a first name bases with those guys already, so I don't need any more visits.
I set up on a couple pieces of tube steel across some horses that I level out before putting my 4 leg pieces in place and holding them together with my right angle magnet while I weld. Luckily the wind was pretty calm that day.
On the bottom side of the legs I weld on some nuts which will receive the adjustable legs so I can just thread them in there super easily.
Now a welding woodworkers best friend, the angle grinder, comes out to clean up all of the welds.
Step 7: Cutting and Installing Rebar
Once all the legs frames are all set, I'm ready to add in the cross bracing so I cut down the rebar to length on the metal cutting bandsaw. These are really more for aesthetics than anything because I'm sure the tube steel is plenty sufficient for a desk.
I clean all of the rust off of the rebar with a wire wheel in my grinder before welding them in place.
Then I continue the late night welding party by tacking all of the rebar in place with an alternating X pattern in 4 different layers.
Step 8: Finishing the Legs
I clean up all of the steel with degreaser and then hit it with my palm sander to bring down the edges to match the corners a little better and also to take off any letter that is left behind. The client wanted just raw steel, but I blended in the corners a little bit through this process.
Then I move out to my Exoteric Spray Booth™? I set up the legs precariously between a couple of pallets and spray them down with a few coats of spray polyurethane to keep them from rusting.
Step 9: Attaching the Legs
Now I can get the legs fastened in place! I measure out where I want the legs to sit and then mark out the 4 holes through the legs.
Using a forstner bit, I drill out a hole just big enough for the threaded insert to fit inside.
Then it's just a matter of fitting the threaded insert in place. I use a bolt with a couple of nuts to lock themselves in place and then thread this in for all of the legs.
Now I can just thread 4 bolts into each legs to hold them in place.
And the finishing touch is just threading on the adjustable feet. The client livings in an apartment that is inside an old mill building so the floors are pretty unlevel and this will solve that problem quite nicely while also giving a nice shadow line along the bottom of the legs.
Step 10: Delivering
This thing is way too big for my shop, time to get it out of here!
I deliver the desk to the client and this is where the threaded inserts really pay off. This creates a super strong connection between the legs and the tops, but it also makes it really easy to collapse and transport.
Step 11: Glamour Shots!
Thanks for checking out the build! Be sure to watch the build video too for the full experience >>>
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