Bow Front Modern Desk
I've been wanting to build a modern/contemporary/mid-century piece for quite a while but incorporate some complementary woods and grains to add interest. It was quite a challenging project even though the lines are simple. Many of the steps to build are no different than any other box. I've detailed some of the other parts in hopes that it may help others complete similar tasks.I hope you enjoy it!
#moderndesk #finewoodworking #cherry #curlymaple #desk #handtools
The final front view of the desk. Finish was 2 coats of GF Seal-A-Cell and topcoat of GF Satin Arm-R-Seal
Side view hightlighting the grain of both the top and the carcass side.
The top view showing the slight arch of the bow front.
A little exposed joinery. Really only visible if you have lost your pen under the desk, but a nice detail if you do!
Detail shot of the finished aluminum standoffs.
I started by gluing up the mitered carcasses. I added a bevel to the inside as well, which forces you to ensure that your alignment is right on. The panels for the carcass are 24" tall and about 22" deep. I started to cut these on the miter saw but instead used a combination of rough cutting the bulk of the miter on the table saw, leaving approximately 1/8". Then, I used Guy Dunlap's technique of running them across a 45 degree chamfer bit on the router table. This provides a very clean edge that is square.
The back panel is a simple glue-up of 3/8" material. The panel floats (i.e. no glue) in a groove that I pre-cut in the carcass sides. This will allow for seasonal wood movement.
Here's the picture of the groove for the back panel prior to glue-up.
All the clamps...
There are a zillion ways to glue a box, but with the parallel clamps and good stock, this went pretty well. I used TiteBond II, but was pushing it for time on the glue-up. If I do a similar project, I might choose hide glue to give me a longer open time.
The top was built from two wide panels of cherry I had been saving for such a project. Each panel is ~14" wide, and my planer is limited to 12". I have quite a collection of hand tools and enjoy using them. Thus, after the panels were glued together, I flattened them starting with a Stanley 605 at an angle across the grain to flatten it. I then followed up with a low angle jack plane and a #4 smoother, then sanded to finish.
Low angle jack plane taming the curl and flattening as it goes.
To strengthen the miters and give some visual interest, I built a quick spline/key jig that would square itself across the carcass. I used a 1/4" spiral cut bit in the router to cut the groove.
1/4" keys were added in cherry for a contrasting look and add some strength.
The keys were then flush cut with a flush cut saw.
I wanted the top to float, so I added simple 1/2" aluminum standoffs to the top. I used a forstner bit to countersink them just a bit, and give me a reference to center to finally drill all the way through so the top would have an attachment from the bottom.
The next task was to build the center modesty panel. I neglected to cut the groove before glue-up, so I built a dado jig that was adjustable in size to handle the shoulder of the panel.
The finished exposed joint using a shouldered tenon in the dado/groove.
The top will be attached with wood "buttons" along the center panel. Those were routed with a 3/8" bit.
Since the center panel will need to account for wood movement and is in a cross grain configuration to the carcass, I cut the tenon short but left and overhang to allow for movement. The cheek hides the short tenon.
The attachment for the center panel comes from inside the carcass. You'll notice the top hole is standard, but the bottom is slightly elongated. This will allow for vertical movement and hidden by the cheek in the previous photo.
Next, I moved on to the legs. They're simple feet with a compound angle. I did the first angle on the miter saw, then built a quick jig to handle the other since I no longer had a square reference. This worked out great and made the process repeatable for four legs.
Finished foot for the legs.
The stretchers between the feet followed the same angle. I used a dado stack to cut the groove and the tenon. The end result is a bridal joint.
Using a small low angle plane, I trimmed the end grain of the bridal joint flush to the surface.
I wanted levelers for the desk in case the floor wasn't quite level. I simply used a forester bit to countersink some standard T-nut levelers.
The final leg assemblies before finish was applied. The gentle curves were done on the router table with a 3/4" roundover bit and finished by hand sanding.
I opted for cabinet grade plywood for the drawer boxes, but added cherry edge banding to the tops.
The finished drawers.
To handle the drawer fronts, I simple cut out a design in some MDF.
I wanted the appearance that the shape "flowed" across both desk cabinets, so I built the template to span both boxes.
I then traced the template onto some 1/4" stock that I had glued up, and veneered the overlay on top of the cherry. The result was negative space that followed the flow of the grain.