DIY – Desk top

March 25, 2014

wpid-PhotoGrid_1395773642319.jpgHi All, I’m not super crafty – although I wish I was. I am however really into building things with my two little paws. And I’ve been wanting to revamp my once dining room turned office turned gaming room back into a dining room with small alcove for a home office.

Before Desk


I live in a condo. That means it’s small. I have a wall that measures the usual 8′ high, and has a span of 32 1/2″ wide for this desk. I know, that’s a bit small for a gal who has books, magazines, a computer, and notes. But somehow it will work. So first thing’s first. I decide I want to build a wall unit with shelves above my petite workspace. This is the before pic to the right. The after, what you will learn to make is that first pic.

I wish I could say I keep this desk fairly clean, but it becomes a wreck with all my hobby stuff and work by end of week. Plus, let’s face it. This ‘letter writing desk’ is petite at best. It doesn’t provide me the space to really get down and work, so I’ve decided it is time to stop hating my workspace and make it right. To do this, I plan to add shelves and a small desk, all supported on easy to find shelf brackets and standards you can find at your local hardware store.

As for the desk top that became a 3-day adventure, I decided I wanted one out of scrap wood for the simple reason that I love all those beautiful wood slat cutting boards I see around tasteful, yet expensive craft fairs. My friend Ryan created a similar longboard as a sushi platter, and I asked how the hell he pulled it off. So he invited me over, gave me a few instructions, and left me in the tool garage to do what I could solo.

Here are the simplified instructions. I have also made corrections from my first ‘learning experience’ to make your’s a bit easier.

2014-03-10 17.53.551. Cut square slats for desktop.

My wall measures 32 1/2 inches, but I made my 32 3/8 in case there was mis-measurement or a wonky wall. So I took some scrap wood, table saw and marked and cut  3/4″ slats. I did 3/4″ because most boards available to me (remember this is a scrap wood slat desk – I’m working on the cheap here). Working with a square is easiest, but you can do rectangular, just remember the side you want up. Also, use a mix of wood. I used pine, poplar, red oak, and some other scrap that doesn’t have a name. I wanted a desktop that measures 32 3/8″ by 21″, not too wide, but not so uncomfortably shallow. So since each wood slat is 3/4″ that means I need 28 slats to make it 21″. You dig?

2. Line the slats up next to each other, put wood glue on each side, and attach to one another. Clamp tight.

wpid-imagejpeg_1.jpgNow my slats are wonky and I don’t have a planer, so Ryan recommended I tack them in place with a nail gun. He’s used this technique before. I’m sorry I don’t have a pic of glue up, but you can see the glue being pushed out from where the slats are glued together. *One thing I wish i did was make completely square and clean cuts, but I was not working the table saw as well as I should have. That would make the nail gun obsolete.

3. After gluing and clamping, wipe off excess glue and have a frosty beverage. You’re done for the day. The glue should have the night to set up.

2014-03-10 17.53.414. Take finished tabletop, and cut the sides evenly so you have an actual table. Yeah! Now go to down and sand that puppy smooth on the edges and top. I used a palm sander and went from 60 grit to 150 grit to 220 grit. That baby is smooth! *if your wood is fairly uneven – like some of my pieces, don’t be afraid to get a hand planer from your local hardware store. It’s easy to use and shaves off just enough wood to make the surface even. I’m lazy and don’t want to run out again to the hardware store and just keep sanding until my arms lose all feeling.

2014-03-11 16.48.23 supports and side5. Adding a shelf for laptop and things: Cut two equal sized rectangular pieces of wood. I made mine 3 1/2″ by 18″. I wanted the shelf recessed from top and sides of the table top. And then I readjusted because the scrap piece of wood I chose for the bottom was a bit smaller than I expected, so there you have it. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Instead of tacking the sides to the top and leaving ugly nail marks, were careful to add supports (these square 1″ pieces that we glued and nailed into piece from bottom. Then we glued and nailed sides into the supports. Now I originally designed this because I was holding the desk up from the bottom of the shelf. The design has since changed, so I know that the shelf I made is not made for things like anvils, kettlebells, and hand weights. I think my laptop is safe though and that’s all I care about.

6. Add bottom to shelf. Don’t forget to glue then nail it in. Now it’s looking like a real desk. shelf complete!


Desk back - see the little strip? makes all the difference to keep cords and things.7. For added comfort of not having things get pushed through the back, I added a small 1 1/2″ strip along the back. This allows cords to easily be plugged in yet things won’t fall out – or at least I hope.

8. Once it’s all set up and sturdy, I stain the top. I mix the two stains I have lying in my cabinet – Minwax Natural and Ipswitch Pine. More Natural than that ruddy pine, which comes out nice.

9. After that’s all dry, I take spray laquer and laquer the crap out of the top. I will be using and abusing this top, so I use two

2014-03-11 17.42.41

cans of spray laquer on it. I don’t remember the brand, but I opt for semi-gloss because I want a nice sheen.

One thing I learned even though it is spray laquer, press the trigger evenly. If it drips, add a few more sprays lightly and let it even itself out. It will. Don’t go in like I did and try to fix it with them fingers. Nothing but badness will happen and it will make you sad.

10. That’s it. After the laquer has dispersed into the air, get yourself another frosty beverage and sit and stare at your handy work. It’s pretty cool.

I will show you once I get it installed in my home. But for now, I need to end one of the longest posts known to man.

Table, you are a beautiful piece of work for $30

Table, you are a beautiful piece of work for $30

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