Desk plan, need advice

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I need a desk for my computer & can't bring myself to buy anything on the market. All the desks out there in my price range are made of particle board.
I'm an amatuer in woodworking. I've built a picnic table & a play set for my daughter. Never made anything for indoors. Never did anything with plywood, but I came up with a design for a desk using plywood, mostly. I have limited skills, few tools, & no space, so this should be easy, right? LOL
Here's a drawing of it & a cutting layout for the plywood.
http://www.peggyelliott.com/deskplan.htm
Now my questions;
What kind of plywood? I assume I should be using 3/4", right? I keep reading about birch plywood & baltic birch, what's the difference & which do I need? Or something else?
I'm hoping to get my local independent lumber store to cut the pieces out for me, is that likely? They made all the cuts for the play center, but that wasn't plywood.
How do I attach the plywood to plywood, do I use a nail gun? I'd have to rent one. Should I hammer nails in? What size nails? Should I use screws instead of nails? I assume I should also use glue, what kind? Should I attach 2x4's or 1x4's underneath & in the back to make it stronger?
By reading here about plywood, I gather I should attach a 3/4" molding strip to the edge of the desktop with glue. So using a router on the edge doesn't work on plywood?
What else don't I know?
TIA Kathy
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Perfectly understandable.

Overall, it looks OK, but you need some support for the legs. You need what is called a modesty panel on the back to give it rigidity. Other bracing will work, but you need something for sure.

Right
Birch will work. There is also oak, cherry, other types of plywood if you are willing to pay the price. Baltic birch is not needed here. It has more plys and come sin 60" x 60" sheets.

Some will, you wil pay for the service though. The cuts may not be as smooth and accurate as can be done with your own saw and a very good blade.

Screws and any good wood glue. Titebond, Elmers, etc. You want at least 1 1/2" long screws.

See above comment about a modesty panel. You need some support.

Routers work but they leave the ugly ply look. I'd use 1" wide wood strips, but I h ave the equipment to cut it properly, bicuits, etc.

Probably a lot as you get into it. Stop back with the rest of the questions.
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On 14 Nov 2004 12:25:15 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@excite.com (Kathy) wrote:

it's disgraceful the crap sold and the prices had for it.

you have some geometric stability issues here. find some light stiff cardboard and make a scale model. it'll teach you a lot.

baltic birch comes in 5 foot square sheets. everything else comes in 4 by 8 foot sheets.
baltic birch has all of the layers made of birch. everything else will have something else for the middle layers.
3/4" is about right.

policies differ. don't expect that their equipment will be accurate, sharp or operated by people with the same qualities.

for this first project I'd recommend you use something like angle brackets and screws. it'll let you make mistakes, take it apart again and put it back together differently.

I kind of like the look of the edge of baltic birch plywood sanded nice and finished as is.

an *infinite* amount.
like the rest of us....

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There's more difference to baltic birch than just that all the plies are birch. Baltic birch is guaranteed to have no voids so you can show exposed edges and not have to worry about a big defect which other plywood may have. Otherwise, though, the outside layer in baltic birch plywood have about zero character whereas birch veneer plywood can have outstanding figure. If your going to varnish, I'd probably go with a birch veneer plywood and plan to use some treatment of the edges such as solid wood or banding. Unless you take a look at the routered edge of some BB plywood and decide it's an effect you like.
bob g.
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snipped-for-privacy@excite.com (Kathy) wrote in


is learning new mistakes, and creative ways to make them. Some of us have been learning this for years. There have been some really interesting threads lately on that.
For starters, perhaps a visit to a library would be a good start. There is a family of magazines, from August Home Publishing, which may be just the thing for you. Workbench, Woodsmith and Shop Notes. These are published with detailed plans and methods, tool recommendations and safety hints. Some of their projects are pretty accessible for someone with early hobbyist skills and tools.
You need to be realistic, however, when it comes to saving money on this project. Few of the regulars here got to the point where they could 'do it cheaper' until they got to be seriously connected scroungers. Then they begin to find great deals, or freebies. But seldom at first.
Most of us do this for love, in spite of the money it costs.
Welcome!
Patriarch
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No suggestion on the plan... Many years ago I fit your description as regards space and tools. I signed up for an adult ed class at the local college. Met once a week at night for about three hours for a semester. Gave full access to the tools in the industrial arts department along with a heck of a nice instructor to look over your shoulder. You might check to see if anything similar is available in your area.
bob g.
Kathy wrote:

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Kathy wrote:

Sounds like a good reason to build one for yourself.

It shouldn't be too difficult. If they'll cut the plywood for you, you shouldn't need a lot of tools.

Since you're getting all of the parts out of a single sheet, it'd probably be a good idea to choose plywood thats attractive on both sides (have 'em show you what they have so you can select according to your own taste and budget.)
In my area baltic birch isn't available in 4' x 8' sheets (5' x 5' is largest I've found) so be prepared to cross that off your list of possibilities - but ask anyway. Plywood is available with all kinds of outer surfaces and selection of one is very much a matter of personal taste and budget.

They'll probably as willing to cut plywood as anything else.

My preference is for glue and screws. I think your 1x4's are a good idea (2x4's might not be a bad idea if you're going to put a lot of weight on the table.) A "modesty panel" would add a lot of strength to your design. It would help to prevent "racking", the tendancy for rectangles to become parallelograms.

It would contribute considerably to a "finished" look and help to prevent damage to the plywood edges - which would otherwise tend to become rough and splintery and unfriendly to skin and clothing.

That you'll do just fine if you take your time and work carefully. (-:
--
Morris Dovey
DeSoto, Iowa USA
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On 14 Nov 2004 12:25:15 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@excite.com (Kathy) wrote:

Boring, boring, boring.
Sorry. I'd hate to discourage you, but you can do so much better than this !
So, you're a beginner. You don't have much in the way of tools or experience. But that's no reason to make the _design_ boringly simple. You can use a pencil, right ? Go wild here - why does it have to be a straight-lined rectangle ? If you're using a jigsaw to cut things out, a curved edge is actually easier to produce neatly than a straight edge.
http://www.jarkman.co.uk/catalog/furnitur/aerofoildesk.htm http://www.jarkman.co.uk/catalog/furnitur/blobdesk.htm http://www.jarkman.co.uk/catalog/furnitur/wavystereo.htm http://codesmiths.com/shed/furniture/gothshelves.htm
Don't be afraid to make a scale model in cardboard before cutting any wood. Compare these : http://codesmiths.com/shed/clocks/stickley_nixie / and
http://codesmiths.com/shed/clocks/stickley_nixie/nixie_cardboard.jpg
(Sorry about the lousy pictures - I really must get a better camera)
IMHO, the basic toolkit for working with plywood or MDF includes a jigsaw, a drill (a hand drill will do fine) and a router.
You don't need a circular saw. They're only good for straight full-width cuts, and you can have these done for you at the timber merchant. They'll charge a trivial sum for doing so, but they have a lovely saw for doing it, and they'll just do it better. If they can't do this, shop elsewhere.
The router is there because a cheap router is now an insanely low price. Even if you only ever use it for rounding over edges, then it's still worth getting one.
Jigsaws are cheap too. Good ones cost maybe four times as much and they're far nicer to use (less vibration means more control), but I don't know what your budget is like.

3/4" plywood is good for a worktop, and for the uprights of a desk that you don't want to wobble. For the rest though, it's excessive and will look clumsy. There's something to be said for making one piece of furniture from one sheet of plywood, but it's not the best way to do things if you can afford it. Can you afford to buy a couple of sheets, and use the remaining halves on another project ?
Don't rule out MDF. It's heavy and not stiff, but it's perfectly acceptable for smaller panels. MDF is not the same thing as chipboard.
As a constructional detail, that desk as drawn will wobble sideways and break in no time. An L-shaped joint just isn't strong enough - make a box corner by adding a rail or modesty panel between the two legs, even if it's going against a wall.

They're both made from birch. Some are of better quality than others, particularly if you're going to use a clear finish and will be able to see the grain. The labels are not reliable though - ask the supplier what grade they are.
You might also use tropical hardwood plywood, which is typically the same quality as the lower grades of birch ply. Particularly the surface will need more sanding effort.

For thousands of years, woodworkers have used hammers. Just because Norm now has a nailgun is no reason to switch. Besides which, nails have almost no use on furniture.

Yes.
You might also look at the wide range of knock-down fasteners available from a good hardware store - handy if you're ever moving house.
The best way to make plywood box furniture is with biscuit joints. Quick, accurate, easy - but you have to buy a biscuit joint cutter.
Don't be tempted by dowels. They require few tools, but they're a pain to get the alignment right. If you do use them, make sure you get some "dowel points" too.

A gallon of cheap PVA from a builder's merchant costs about the same as a small bottle of "Branded PVA Glue". That's a 20 times difference. Raid the kitchen (or hair dye) for suitable squeeze bottles.

The idea is good, but I wouldn't use that sort of timber, I'd use my same plywood, turned on edge. For a thicker rail, use two pieces of plywood glued together.

You can rout plywood, but you expose the grain by doing so. With a good grade of birch ply and a painted finish, this is OK. I sand it carefully first, then give it a wipe with a water-based filler like Brummer Stopping, smooth it with wet fingers, then sand it again when dry. Under paint, it looks fine.
I wouldn't attach a moulding myself - maybe on the other edges, but not on the desk edge I'm going to lean against. If I couldn't do a proper edgebanding with a good solid wide strip of timber, I'd sand and fill the plywood.
--
Smert' spamionam

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Your plan doesn't show any support for the legs. In my experience, even 10 inches of 3/4" wood will bend, making the table seem wobbly. You need to support the top and the legs to prevent warping. Moreover, no matter how good the fastener you use between the legs and the desktop, 3/4" is not wide enough to prevent the joint from failing due to lateral pressure.
I suggest you attach a piece of plywood perpandicular to your legs, running the length of the leg (so if you were looking down at the leg, it would make an L shape or a T shape) Make this peice at least four inches wide -- you don't have to do both legs, but do at least one.
Add another piece of plywood under the work surface (perpendicular to the work surface), between the two legs. (so if you looked at the table from the side, it would make a T shape). Make this peice at least six inches.
Use plywood screws and glue to hold it together (the glue really won't do to much, but it's good practice). Because you probably don't want any marks on your work surface, you may wish to do pocket holes to attach the legs and the support -- USE A JIG (either build one or buy one http://www.woodzone.com/tips/drilling_angled_holes.htm ). Be VERY careful to measure the screw length so they don't puncture through the top.
For edging, I would suggest to buy the iron-on edging, and an edge trimmer. It's still tricky to use, so practice a bit before doing the really visible edges on the desk. I would strongly suggest staying away from solid wood molding until you have a more experience wood working.
Just my $0.02 John

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Sun, Nov 14, 2004, 12:25pm (EST-3) snipped-for-privacy@excite.com (Kathy) says: <snip> can't bring myself to buy anything <snip> Circular saw and straight edge will work for the cuts. Me, I'm able to get the place I buy to cut it for me. They're never able to do better than "close enough", and sometimes even screw that up. That's why I always get them to cut it just a bit wide. Sabre saw and straight edge could work but to me that's way too much work, circular saw is faster, and easier.
I've found it helps to get some scrap and make "prototypes" of joints and such. I don't know if I'd use nails, or screws, but probably small nails - if it ain't meant to come apart, I was brought up to use nails, instead of screws, screws were resered for something that might have to come apart sometime. I'd probably also use glue strips in each of the corners, maybe 3/4 X 3/4, or so. Depending on the time of day, wind direction, solar flares, and what not, might even be inclined to just glue it all up, no nails OR screws. Depends. And, if you're going to paint it, I'd skip real fancy plywood.
I've got something similar to the top section of your plans on one end of my dining room table. It's 1/2" plywood. Held together with double-headed nails. It's been there for several years, and was never intended to be permanent. One of these day I'll pull the nails, and recycle the plywood. That's why I used the double-headed nails. That and I didn't have any screws handy.
JOAT Any plan is bad which is incapable of modification. - Publilius Syrus
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Kathy wrote:

I think you are going to be disappointed and end up with a very flimsy desk with your design. A basic desks is just two boxes, a top, and a back. The boxes are made with a top and a bottom with the sides between, e.g., sides sit atop the bottom and below the top. You attach the pieces by putting a 3/4 x 3/4 inch or larger dimension wood in the corners, e.g. if the sides of the box are 30 inches deep by 25 inches tall the strips would be 3/4 x 3/4 by 25 inches long (you need four for each box). Glue and screw strips to the top and bottom pieces (3/4 inch from the edge) and then glue and screw the sides to the strips. Make the boxes whatever size you want but realize that you need at least 18 inches and preferably more room for your legs. The two boxes need to be the same height and the same depth but can be of different widths. For example, one could be narrow with a shelf in the center for storing different papers on edge and the other could be wider for other materials or you could place your cpu in one of the boxes.
If cost is a real factor, I would use lower quality 3/4 plywood for the boxes (or the bottom, top, and inside side of the boxes) and better quality 3/4 plywood for the top and outside sides of the boxes. The back of the desk could be 1/4 plywood or even wall paneling; as others have said you need this back for rigidity. Make the top and arrange the boxes, if different widths, how you want them.
Attach the top to the boxes with screws which go up from inside the boxes into the underside of the top and let the top extend at least 3/4 inch past the boxes on the front and sides. Attach the back with small screws so that it is flush with the top and the outside edges of the boxes; it doesn't have to extend all the way to the bottom of the boxes. Finish the plywood edges with iron on strips and screw 2x 6 pieces (flat ways) about 1 inch shorter than the depth of the box and flush with the back to the center of the bottom of each box to hold the desk up from the floor. Adjust all dimensions so you get the desk height you want.
Attaching the top and the bottom to the boxes means that you can take it apart for moving. And, forget the monitor shelf. If you want to raise the monitor (not recommended), build a little box an inch or so larger than the monitor base.
Now all you have to do is finish the thing. Lots more fun.
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Thank you for all your responses.
Yes, it's a boring design, but I want something simple. The older I get, the more I like simple. The monitor shelf can store CD's & paper & such as well as raising the monitor. I'm interested in saving money, to a certian extent, but that's not my main motivation, I want something better than the particle board crap they are selling, & don't care to spend as much for a desk as I did on my PC.
I do have a drill and a jigsaw. I don't like the jigsaw, probably too cheap. Love my drill. I can borrow a circular saw from my bil, & can even get him to make cuts for me in exchange for dinner. I can borrow a router from a friend at work, I bought a bit for it, so I get borrowing rights :)
I will use the last piece of plywood for a modesty panel to stabilize it, and add 2x4's too. I'll use screws & glue where I fasten the plywood to the 2x4's. I'll probably get birch plywood, but ask them to show me what else is available before I decide. I'm hoping that my independent lumber yard will cut it for me, they have always done a nice job on my other lumber projects, and they have a couple of well set up cutting tables.
I would like to take my time, but since I have to clear out the dining room to make it, I'll pick a day, start at 9:00a.m. & work pretty much straight thru. That's how I made my picnic table, started early Saturday, finished Sunday afternoon. But that design was more complicated, if the plywood is all cut foer me, and I have everything laid out the night before, I might be able finish this desk in one day.
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Check if "shop Birch" is available.
On 15 Nov 2004 19:15:46 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@excite.com (Kathy) wrote:

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Kathy wrote:

It sounds like you've got the bases covered. If you need to cut the plywood yourself, draw your lines and clamp a 2X4 on top of the ply for the circular saw to run alongside of, so the cut stays on the line. The design may not be the fanciest, but for fast and first time, it'll give you a chance to see how things go together and it's closer to mistake proof. Go for fancy next time. Good luck, Dave in Fairfax
--
Dave Leader
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Try at www.bricomagic.com
You may find what you search.
Regards, David
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On 16 Nov 2004 17:44:11 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@ya.com (David) calmly ranted:

Um, what language is that supposed to be written in, David?
Is that a Euro version of what we normally read in machinery manuals? (That's a Japanese translation of a Chinese adoption of the Taiwanese translation of an English manual.)
--snip-- Privacity
We value the trust you put in MagicDIY / BricoMagic.We promise not to use your e-mail for any other purpouse than sendinm a no usar el seu e-mail per altre propsit que enviar-los el dossierg the e-zine. --snip--
It seems to go from an interesting tranlation of English to Spanish (or Portuguese?) and on into a mix like German-French.
Give me a call if you'd like some inexpensive translation services performed on the site by an English speaking woodworker. www.diversify.com
Ciao!
---------------------------------------------------------------- * OPERA: A Latin word * Wondrous Website Design * meaning * Save your Heirloom Photos * "death by music" * http://www.diversify.com ----------------------------------------------------------------
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We really thank you for informing us about the English text gap. www.bricomagic.com is a multicultural and multilingual project. We have invested time and money to achieve this goal, however some gaps may arise. We apologise for this English mistake, absolutely unintentioned. We are a start up company, so we have a lot of things to improve.
You may want to understand what has happened: a peace of text written in another language has been pasted between the English text. You can verify it by extracting the words "m a no usar el seu e-mail per altre propsit que enviar-los el dossier".
You were also interested in knowing which was that language: www.bricomagic.com is a project developed in Barcelona, so its primary (or own) language is Catalan. Sure Catalans must be doing something wrong when someone knowing a bit of (or a lot of ) Spanish, Portuguese, French or German is not able to identify the language spooked by Daly, Gaud, Pau Casals or Columbus.
We will think about this and this is why, sincerely, we thank you twice.
About your inexpensive translation services offer, take a deeper look at www.bricomagic.com and send as a quotation. We know we need help overseas. Please, reply us out of the group, just to follow the terms and conditions musts.
Once again, sincerely, ThankYou&ThankYou.
David
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Dear Kathy,
    As a direct result of this news group, I have been mastering a Web site for plans for low-stress computer furniture since 1995 (URL below). We now have about 50 plans available. Some are very simple and some are very advanced.
    If you look over our plans and find something you like, I would be most happy to adjust the plans to your exact needs if necessary.
    Right not all the plans are free as I am promoting my new book (URL also below).
    Thanks,
    Tom Riley snipped-for-privacy@charm.net
    Woodware Designs     http://www.charm.net/~jriley/woodware.html
My new book is out!!!
"Look the Future Straight in the Eye" http://www.charm.net/~jriley/book.html
On 14 Nov 2004 12:25:15 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@excite.com (Kathy) wrote:

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Well here it is, next I'm going to paint it. I already thought of things I should have done different, but I'm still satisfied. Considering my lack of tools & space, I think it's pretty good.
http://www.peggyelliott.com/deskplan.htm
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Holy Crappo! Looks pretty darned good for a first time project with limited tools. Good job on the sheet goods layout also. Ed
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