I am so excited to share today's post! I may have a new all-time favorite project. A few of you have been asking "Is the desk finished???". I've been sharing a few sneak peeks on Instagram and Facebook. Well, the desk has actually been done for a little while. The reason for the delay is I am involved in a seriously awesome collaboration (forgive me if I get a little fan-girl right now).
Ana White has been a huge inspiration to me, like many of you out there. Not only is she an amazing builder, but she has some covet-able Google Sketch-Up skills. I knew I would be really proud of this desk and I wanted you all to have building plans for it, so I talked to Ana, and she has designed plans to build your own Printer's Keyhole Desk. Head over to her site to get a free copy.
A couple months back my husband, who is currently a full-time engineering student, requested a "real desk" for his birthday. Shamefully, we have been using a dresser and folding chair as a make-shift office space for years. After searching online for weeks, I decided on this desk from Pottery Barn.
If you know me at all, you know that I would NEVER pay $1000 for a desk, especially one that is built out of particle board and pine veneer. The first step to building one was to find some suitable legs. I talked to the people at Osborne Wood and guess what? They designed a table leg that is a perfect match to the inspiration! The Chatham Table Leg. Just look at them. Aren't they beautiful? Very reasonably priced I might add. Around $20 each for knotty pine. You can buy your set here.
You can find detailed building plans on Ana's site, but if you like a little more information, I'll walk you through the build.
In order to get the plywood home, I had to have it ripped down at the store. I went ahead and asked them to rip down two, 15" wide strips, since that was the width I'd be working with. Once at home, I used my *Kreg Rip-Cut to cut my panels to size. I'll be honest, I love my table saw and use it most of the time to cut plywood, but there are times that schlepping a big piece of 3/4 across the garage by yourself is not an option. That's when a tool like the Rip-Cut comes in handy.
Attaching the plywood panels to the legs is just like building a basic table, only on a larger scale. If you have a *Kreg Jig (and you all should), its as simple as drilling pocket hole and securing the leg and panel together with screws. Make sure to use a spacer block underneath the plywood so your panels are inset 1/4".
After attaching all 4 legs, this is how it looked.
To give the piece some rigidity, I needed to tie both sides together. I used my speed square to draw a vertical line, 1/2" from the outside edge of the front legs.
Then, I aligned a 1 x 2 and attached it using more pocket holes.
I love using a nail gun whenever possible, so I secured the next piece with finish nails.
Back to pocket holes, I started to build the frame for the drawers.
In order to accommodate the horizontal support, I notched the center panels with a jigsaw. You want to try to hide the pocket holes if possible, so make sure you drill them on the drawer-side of the panel and not the side that will be open. I also added edge banding to the edge that would be exposed on the front of the desk.
Making sure to pre-drill to avoid splitting, I connected the panels to the horizontal support using wood glue and 2" screws.
Now that I had the drawer compartment framed out, I figured how large I could make my drawer openings and added dividers.
In the center, I used a 1 x 4 to tie together both side of the desk and to create a frame for the center drawer. "Why a 1 x 4 here?" Well, a smaller piece of wood would work fine, but this drawer uses a 1 x 4 for the drawer front. Using the scrap here saves material.
In order to use side mounted drawer slides, I needed to attach extra 1 x 2s, running front to back. This gave me something to screw the slide to.
Its always smart to build your drawer boxes to fit the opening, not the other way around. I build 3 for the left bank of drawers and one for the center.
"But what about the other side?"
I hope this doesn't offend anyone, but I think printers are ugly (sorry printer people). And, since I was building this desk the way I wanted, I decided to convert the right bank of drawers (actually a large filing drawer in the Pottery Barn version) into a slide out tray that my printer can sit on.
Ana's plans show a large drawer, but if you like this option, it's just as easy to build. Simply *edge band a piece of plywood the width of the drawer, attach drawer slides, and nail on a handle if you wish. Now, to make it look pretty.
For the drawer fronts, unfortunately they turned out to be an odd height, so I had to rip them down with my table saw. No fear, you could do the same with a circular saw. Remember to make 7 drawer fronts total; 3 left side drawers, one center and, 3 "faux drawers" that you'll attach to the printer door.
If you go with the printer tray option, you will need to build an inset door from another piece of plywood. A little more edge banding and it looks like a solid piece of wood.
Instead of putting together a planked top, I bought a doner table for $30 on Craigslist and cut it down to size. To make it the top and drawer fronts look more like the inspiration piece, I ran my router around the edges. For the top I used a large cove bit on the underside, and on the drawer fronts I used a round-over bit.
Before hanging the door, attaching the top, or screwing on the drawer fronts, I spent 2 days adding the finish to everything. Sorry for no photos of these steps (to my defense, I huffed a lot of lacquer during this process). I can tell you, I used *pre-stain conditioner, Special Walnut stain by Minwax, and some custom mixed black glaze for shadowing. I think I spent half a day on shadowing alone. I wanted to pretend I was a "pro", and I've had such good results with my bathroom cabinets, that I decided to seal everything with semi-gloss lacquer. Lacquer is great in some ways (self-leveling, drys quickly, hard as a rock, etc), but takes a little practice to mix and spray properly (not to mention, kills brain cells). A few days later, I had a finish to be proud of.
The next step was to attach the top through the horizontal support and with pocket holes in the back and side panels. I would recommend not following my photo and pre-drilling your holes at an angle. Otherwise you don't have room to drive the screws and its a huge pain in the butt.
I screwed on the drawer faces and made a jig to drill for hardware (totally worth the time!).
I hung the inset door over the printer side, using mortised hinges and screwed on the faux drawer fronts and hardware. That's it! I thought I was done, until.... I tried to open the printer tray door.
The faux drawer fronts wouldn't bummed into the leg and wouldn't allow the door to open enough to get the slide out. A few choice words may have been said at this moment. I was convinced that I would have to cut the drawer fronts down, and refinish them. Not only did that sound like a ton of work, but it would also mess with the balanced look of the desk. I was NOT happy. Later that day, my brilliant husband suggested an easy fix. "Why don't you move the hinges to the bottom and let the door flip down?" Worked like a champ. No cutting required.
Are you ready to see it all finished?! Here it is
And for reference, the Pottery Barn version:
I wanted mine a little darker and cooler, but I think it looks pretty darn close. It may be a little "old school", but that's what I wanted. A classic piece in a neutral color that would stand the test of time.
Thanks to my hubby, the printer tray door works perfectly.
When I need to print something, I just slide it out.
I know this might sound cheesy, but when I built this desk, I had the goal of making an heirloom quality piece of furniture. I want my grandkids to be writing college papers on "Granny's desk".
Who knows if my progeny will still want this desk? But I know I was able to built a solid wood, traditional desk for a fraction of $1000, and it has more than a little love built into it.
It took many steps to build, but I promise you, it wasn't very difficult. Make sure you check out Ana's site for the full plans and materials list.
*I was compensated with sponsored product for this project, though my opinion was in no way influenced. I only endorse products that I love and use. This post contains affiliate links.
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