Contemporary Desk - Cherry


I’ll post this with the hope of inspiring others to tackle curves and arcs in their work; also, for those who want to challenge themselves to meet functional issues in a less conventional build.
Designing and working with curves significantly increases the attention to precise layout, the need to think in 3 dimensions, to consider racking and loading, and to execute to well-considered plan. As with most of my projects, the actual woodworking time is less than half of the time spent on the build.

For those interested in this type of design and construction, I’ll go through some of the considerations…
The most challenging aspect of the contemporary desk is the 6 legs: they need to be identical in length and span, the bottoms must be parallel to the tops (the tops’ centerline is offset 10" from the bottom’s centerline), and racking is an important consideration given that the tops span 22", while the bottom of each legs set is slightly more than 4" – the downward load on the legs is spread wide from the feet supporting the arc. Also, the tops and bottoms are held by floating tenons, requiring precise layout in the mating surfaces – when the legs’ mortises seat in the tenons, the bottoms and tops must be flush.
From a design perspective, the overall leg set spread (the distance from the edge of one leg top to the edge of its corresponding leg top), must sit within (and be placed equidistant) from the desktop edge – which then determines the location of the corresponding leg bottom. Each leg set is braced by a 1/4″ × 10″ ‘spacer’, that is dado’d into interior sides. This dado needs to be created while the legs has a straight reference edge (that is, not after the arches are cut).
There are some Art-Deco design elements – the leg sets rest on small plinths, which then sit on the primary plinth; though my intention here is not necessarily to pay homage to Art-Deco – the visual effect is what I’m shooting for.
The other challenge are the 4 risers (Desktop – to – Shelf), in that, they are held (top & bottom) by floating tenons, and are angled toward the seater’s position: as designed, when seated in a typical typing position – approximately 3’ from the shelf, each riser is inline with the typist’s line-of-sight. For decorative purposes, the risers are 4" at the top, and via a progressive arch, reduce to 3" at the Desktop.
The final challenge is the layout and routing of the Domino mortises: in the main plinth, secondary plinths, and leg set bottoms. The Festool Domino is an excellent horizontal mortiser, but is not well-suited for vertical work: with some patience and much layout and clamping, it can be precisely done.

The finish is two coats Zinnser Sealcoat and 4 coats Deft Waterborne Clear Acrylic (Gloss); sprayed with a Fuji HVLP setup: I highly recommend each of these components. The Sealcoat portion needs to be done with care, as the product will dry in the gun and in the cup (at least mine did) – you need to have denatured alcohol ready to shoot through the gun as soon as you finish each Sealcoat application. The Acrylic, being waterborne, cleans with water sprayed through the gun. Between coats, I wet sanded (Abranet) with 600 grit, and buffed after the final top coat. I have failed in my attempts to brush or wipe-on finishes; for all of the time and effort that goes into each build, I was never happy with the finishing process – the Fuji sprayer has solved this.

The Desktop and Shelf, as well as the mail plinth, have gentle (110" radius) arc. From a build consideration, the sweep of the arc must be considered when laying out the Legset spread… it would be easy to cut-away the very wood needed to capture the top of the legset.

I have purposely allowed variations in wood color, grain pattern, tight knots, and live edge blemishes to be part of the project. Though I have grain-matched where possible (I started with an 18" wide board), I’m not one to discard structurally-sound wood simply because it has a knot or a blemish in it.

There are many nuances that I’m skipping-over; but overall, this is a very buildable project. If I can address any questions, please feel free to inquire.

That is a looker. Very well done.


Tor and Odin are the greatest of gods.

A beautiful piece, masterfully executed. Congratulations! And thank you for taking the time to give us your process notes.

Amor Vincit Omnia

I like this big time, cool design, and super build!

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