Building an Antique Inspired Desk

A few years ago, before the house and before the wedding, my wife and I moved into a one-room loft in downtown Columbus. We consolidated my house and her apartment into a 950 square foot space, and somehow found ourselves without enough furniture. One thing we found short, was any sort of desk. Given the limited space, we needed something that was pretty narrow, and could serve multiple uses: a desk when we needed it, a table other times, and a place to serve food when we had parties. There’s a resale and consignment shop in Columbus, that we love, called the Grandview Mercantile Exchange and Revue and we fell in love with a table that wasn’t in the budget at the time.

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So, being the industrious couple, we made our own! I started with some Emerald Ash Borer infected ash, that I picked up for less than $1 per board foot. We added some length to the design with breadboard ends, and used a biscuit jointer and number 10 biscuits to build up the top. Final dimensions are about 16″ wide and 60″ long. Breadboard ends were cut with a tongue-and groove to accommodate the wood movement throughout the seasons. Honestly speaking, you could do this all with pocket screws and no glue.

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Next step was building the legs. The legs are tapered 5 degrees in both directions, with the long pieces build from 1.5″ square stock. I glued up two pieces of 3/4″ thick ash. The stretchers between the legs set centered on the legs and joined using biscuits. Quick Clamps help hold everything in place to check for level and to measure for the long stretchers between the legs. I attached these using pocket screws, because I couldn’t find a good way to clamp them in place!

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All done and installed. I finished the table with three coats of Watco Danish Oil and two coats of paste wax. This is my favorite way to finish pieces that won’t see heavy use or risk water. It’s easy to repair if there’s damage, and the wax and oil build up a subtle and attractive finish in open grained woods, like ash.

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Three years later, and we’ve moved from our loft to an old Victorian era house. Our desk came along with us, and now sits in our dining room ready for entertaining our friends, decorating for Christmas, or working from home!

Good luck building your own furniture inspired by great vintage finds you can’t afford!

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