First Woodworking Project as Wedding Gift - Many questions on desk making! Answered
I know this is a long post but I would be grateful to any of you for being willing to read it.
So I am going to be married soon and moving into my first real adult apartment. As a wedding gift to my new wife I want to make us a really neat computer table setup. We have a room laid out as an office for the two of us so I wanted to try and make a large desk that would run along three walls in a giant U. I am planning to make it modular in the sense that it will actually be 3 straight desks plus 2 corner units and each can work independently of the others. She is a huge steampunk fan so I want to use pipe as the structure that I paint a brass color and then make a wood a nice dark cherry color.
While there are some great plans on pipe desks I have a few questions.
1. Most of the desks I see are MDF/Ply + pipe. Is this strong enough to use as a desk for crafts, art, and to hold several monitors all at once? I am sure the pipe is but I am concerned about the ply or mdf bowing. If I use normal wood planks to reinforce the bottom will that allow it to remain more sturdy?
2. How hard is it to disassemble these? We plan on moving many times in our life and I'd like to build a design that not only can break down into the 5 separate desks but can actually be disassembled. I hear MDF/Plywood doesn't like taking screws more than once. If I screw the table-top into the frame using screws and flanges is that a - do it once and it is done sort of thing or can I unscrew them to move the desktop without ruining the top?
3. Assuming trying to rescrew it together would ruin the table I had the idea of creating a frame with wood blocks screwed into the flanges that had been given raised pegs - probably carved out of the wood. The desktops would then have fitted holes carved into them - assuming I use a thick frame underneath the ply like 2/4 lumber - so that I can just lay the desktop on the pegs and weight would hold it in place. My question is whether or not this has the same strength as screwing the desktop directly to the frame. Assuming the holes and pegs are well-fitted and near flush would I get enough strength for a sturdy table?
4. I've been really fascinated with the planked wood tables I've seen on here. It seems easy enough to build a solid wood underframe and then cut plywood planks and screw them to the frame. My only question is for corner units. Most modern corner desks are big pieces of MDF that have been shaped. Assuming my corner piece is straightforward - just a square table with one corner loped off - how hard would it be to create a corner desk with a planked top? Could I do it with just a jigsaw?
5. I've noticed quite a few of the plans use aluminum pipes and Kee Lite or Kee Klamp fittings. These seem rather expensive, and if I am doing a cheap MDF top I want to know if there is a cheaper metal alternative that still has good structural capacity. These are desk tops for computers - maybe 120-200 lb load limit maximum for the entire desk. Could I use plumping pipe? Are there cheaper fittings than Kee Lite that are still easy to disassemble when I want to move?
Thanks in advance for any answers!