Mega Desk for 3 People

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I'm an Electrical Engineer by training and profession. I enjoy working on complex problems and ...

Intro: Mega Desk for 3 People

This instructable shows how I helped my son make a 15' long "mega" desk to share with his two college roommates. My son is sharing a house with 9 other students, and he wanted to maximize the space utilization in his room.

The design is my son's. I provided the shop equipment, and assisted in the design and construction of the four cabinets and drawers.

My son wanted to make this desk as inexpensively as possible, and as quickly as possible. We started work on a Tuesday evening, and he finished the project on Saturday evening. We made all 12 drawers for the four cabinets in about 3-4 hours.

At my suggestion, we made a number of tweaks and adjustments to my prior designs (which I'll explain in the applicable steps). These tweaks helped to ensure repeatability and efficiency.

Step 1: Materials & Equipment

The following tools were used in this project:

o Table saw

o Kreg pocket screw jig (for drawer fasteners)

o Panel saw (or other method to cut sheet plywood)

o Jig for assembling drawers

o Air nailer (for fastening outer drawer slides - 1-1/4" nails)

o Air stapler (for fastening drawer bottoms)

o Drill(s) & self centering hinge drill bit (5/64")

The following materials were used in this project:

o (2) 3/4" x 4 x 8' blondewood plywood ($50 ea at Lowes) (makes 4 cabinets)

o (2) 1/2" x 4 x 8' blondewood plywood ($40 ea at Lowes) (makes 12 drawers)

o (2) 5mm x 4 x 8' utility panel ($15 ea at Lowes) (for drawer bottoms)

o (12) 22" drawer slides (12 @ ~$2.50 ea - Wurth Baer)

o desktop material - purchased from Restore

o #6 x 5/8" wood screws (to attach drawer slides)

o wood glue

The photo in this step shows the 6 sheets of plywood resting against my lumber storage cart. The smaller sheets are resting against the left side, and the two 3/4" sheets are resting against the right side. The second photo shows the countertop material purchased at the Restore.

Step 2: Make Sketch & Determine Cabinet Outer Dimensions

The sketch above is my son's.

He wanted a single desk that was about 15 feet long to fill the entire length of one of the walls in his room.

He wanted three openings so that he and his two roommates each had a separate study area.

This meant that he wanted 4 cabinets with the following outer dimensions: 30" tall x 25" wide x 24" deep.

From this, I was able to estimate that we needed approximately 5 sheets of plywood.

My son decided to forego the front trim for the cabinets, and we were able to make this with four sheets of plywood. We also saved some money by making the drawers out of 1/2" plywood.

Step 3: Cut Cabinet Parts & Drill Pocket Screw Holes

Using the cabinet dimensions, we ripped and cut the parts for the cabinets.

Note: You can have the larger pieces cut at Lowes if you don't have an easy way to cut plywood sheets.

o Cabinet sides (2) - 30" x 24"

o Cabinet front crosspieces (2) - 23.5" x 1.5"

o Cabinet bottom rear crosspiece (1) - 23.5" x 1.5"

o Cabinet top rear crosspiece (1) - 23.5" x 5"

o Cabinet top middle crosspiece (1) 23.5" x 5"

o Drawer slide support pieces (6) - 24" x 1.5"

Using the Kreg pocket screg jig, make pocket screw holes in all crosspieces. We drilled one pocket screw for each of the 1.5" crosspiece sides, and two pocket screw holes for each of the 5" crosspiece sides.

Step 4: Fasten Supports & Outer Drawer Slides

Place two cabinet sides adjacent to one another.

Lay out the locations of the drawer slides.

Make sure there is at least 3/8" clearance between the front bottom crosspiece and the drawer slide for the bottom drawer. In our case, we measure up 2" from the bottom for the bottom drawer slide, and then located the remaining two drawer slides at 9" spacing.

Once the locating lines have been drawn, use wood glue and 1-1/4" nails to fasten the outer drawer slide supports to the cabinet sides.

Note: The reference line is for the bottom of the drawer slides.

Note: You can attach the drawer slides directly to the cabinet sides; however, using 3/4" drawer slide support allows you to attach 1-1/2" front trim to the cabinet (which will cover up the edge of the drawer side and the drawer supports). In this project, my son chose to not attach front trim pieces to the cabinets as we would have had to purchase another piece of plywood.

See also my other instructables for more details on how to do this.

Step 5: Assemble the Cabinets

Using a second person, assemble the cabinets.

Use wood glue on the edges of the crosspieces, and then attach the crosspieces using pocket screws.

Make every effort to ensure that the crosspieces are attached flush with the edges of the cabinet sides.

We used bar clamps to clamp the sides while attaching the pocket screws to help reduce slippage.

Our typical order of assembly went something like:

o Attach 5" crosspiece to top rear of cabinet

o Attach 1-1/2" crosspiece to the bottom rear of the cabinet

o Attach 1-1/2" crosspieces to front top & bottom of cabinet

o Attach 5" crosspiece to the top middle of the cabinet

Note: One difference in this design and previous designs is the use of 1-1/2" crosspieces in between the front cabinet sides. My prior designs did not do this, but, rather, required nailing the crosspieces (trim) to the front edges of the cabinet sides (by manually spacing the cabinet sides to the proper width). By making the front crosspieces to go in between the front sides, I was hoping that all four cabinets would be built exactly the same. This approach, does, however, require the use of additional horizontal crosspieces across the front top and bottom when adding trim.

After the four cabinets were assembled, my son took three back to his house, and we kept one as a "master" to make the drawers.

Step 6: Make a Jig for the Inner Drawer Slides

NEW

For this project, I decided to make a "jig" for the drawer slides to help in determining the dimensions of the drawers.

We took the mating drawer slides and placed them in position and then using two scrap pieces of wood UNDERNEATH the drawer slides, I attached the supports and then adjusted the front and rear inner drawer slides until there was just the slightest bit of play (and the jig would slide easily).

We then removed the jig from the cabinet and used it to determine the dimensions of the drawer parts.

Step 7: Cut Drawer Fronts and Sides

NEW

In this project, I decided to make the front and rear drawer pieces to cover the entire width of the drawer (vs putting them between the sides as I have done in the past).

We measured the distance between the two sides of the "jig" and then made several test cuts on a piece of scrap wood on the table saw until cut piece slid comfortably into the jig without binding. We marked this position on the table saw and cut all front and back pieces to this dimension. Our desired drawer height was 7.5" (make sure you allow at least 3/4" clearance between drawer - or you may not be able to install/remove a drawer), so these pieces were then ripped to 7.5".

We then cut the drawer sides to a length which allowed approximately 1/2" clearance to the back of the cabinet.

My son then drilled two pocket screw holes in each end of the drawer sides.

Note: The pocket screw jig needed to be adjusted for 1/2" wood, and we needed to use 1" pocket screws.

Step 8: Assemble Drawers

We then assembled one drawer and checked it in the "jig" to verify that the drawer slipped in easily but was not too loose or too tight.

We used a drawer assembly jig that I had built for other projects to hold the drawer pieces firmly perpendicular to each other while fastening the pieces together with pocket screws (see my other instructables for more info).

NEW

To make sure that the drawer side pieces did not extend beyond the drawer front and back pieces, we used some paper spacers in the jig to position the wood slightly inward so that when the pocket screws fasten it did not pull the drawer slides slightly past the edges. I didn't want the drawer sides to extend past the front/back edges at all as it might result in the drawer slides binding. We found that by using paper spacers, we could the the drawer sides flush or just slightly inside the front/back pieces.

When assembling, we put some wood glue on the drawer side edges before attaching the drawer sides with pocket screws.

We then test fit the drawer (no bottom yet) in the drawer slide jig, and it fit perfectly.

My son then proceeded to make the remaining 11 drawers using the same method, and they all fit perfectly in the jig.

Step 9: Cut & Attach Drawer Bottoms & Slides

We then cut the 5 mm paneling to the exact dimensions of the drawers, and checked the drawer bottoms in the "jig" to verify that they would slip in without binding.

My son then glued and stapled the drawer bottoms to the drawers. He had to be very careful when stapling as he was stapling into 1/2" plywood.

I then attached the drawer slides, while my son was attaching the bottoms.

Each time I finished attaching the drawer slides, I checked the draw fit in the cabinet. I was glad to see that they all fit well and slid easily.

With two of us working on the drawers, we were able to cut and build 12 drawers in a period of about 3-4 hours.

The drawer slide jig was very helpful in making this happen.

Step 10: Install Drawers and Add Top

My son then took the drawers and remaining cabinet back to his house, and then cut the top (from material obtained from the Restore) to fit.

This desk is 15' overall and looks great in his room.

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