One of the more ironic things about making woodwork, sculpture, furniture, and other projects is that you always seem to be making things for other people. Not that that is a bad thing, but in my case I haven’t built a really meaningful piece of furniture in a very long time. So, now I have a need for a new computer/office desk since I have to free up one of the rooms in my house.
Some things to consider. This piece has to fit three monitors, it also has to contain most of my office materials (i.e. lots of storage). I am going to put it in one of the common rooms of my house so it has to blend in, or to put it another way it shouldn’t be obvious that it has electronics, wires, etc. To that point I need for it to have some doors on it so it can be closed up when its not in use. Its going to need writing space without taking up a huge footprint.
A couple years ago I made this TV cabinet for a client. The two big issues with it was that it was to hold a large TV (flat panel) which ment that the opening and the doors were large. It also required the depth of the piece to be fairly large and use 270 degree hinges so the large doors would fold back next to the case. I made some entertainment units several years prior to this piece, for tube style TVs, and found that furniture style got outdated once the flat panels hit the market. With that in mind I wanted to make the style of this piece such that it could be given another function should there be another shift in electronics in the future. I liked the way it turned out and the style even for an entertainment piece, so I am going to incorporate alot of the same ideas for my desk.
Since this is such a large piece I am going to build it in two parts, like a chest-on-chest. The bottom section contains most of the drawers and the two small door sections. I am planning to dovetail the carcass and incorporate a series of web-frames for the drawer sections. If your not familiar with a web-frame, the idea is that it is a mortise and tenoned frame that acts as the drawer supports. You glue and pin the front mortises of the frame, while leaving the rear mortise and tenon joint unglued and slide the whole assembly into a dado cut in the sides of the carcass. Only the front and back parts of the web-frame are glued to the carcass and the drawer runners that make up part of the web-frame are screwed to the inside of the carcass. This concept is supposed to allow for seasonal movement in the wider carcass boards, and help prevent cracking in the carcass sides during the life of the piece. In theory as the carcass sides expand all that expansion is compensated in the movement of the rear mortise of the web-frames. If you were to glue the entire length of the drawer runner section of the web-frame to the inside of the carcass, this would hinder the seasonal movement of the piece and thus make the carcass more prone to cracking. One of the reasons I tend to gravitate to more traditional styled furniture is that from a construction stand point there is a lot more handwork and joinery work that is required. Over the past several years of doing commission work this has given me the opportunity to improved my handwork skill set and learn/incorporate better design features such as the above mentioned web-frame. I haven’t made a whole lot of chest of drawers and in the past I have been gluing a panel or a frame right to the carcass, so this is a new feature that I am trying out. Its hard for me to say how effective the web-frame feature is in the modern day of climate controlled housing, but some of the literature that I read suggests that this is the best way to build a chest of drawers. So far, to my knowledge, the only pieces that I have had the carcasses split on me were some bookcases I built many years ago, but I chalked that up to the wood not being dry enough at the time of use. Either way I thought that I would give it a try.
After the main case of the bottom chest is made I am going to attach a detail frame to the top of the case, this will act as the top board in which the top chest sits on. This top frame will have a round nose edge and made oversized to create some overhang. There will be matching cove trim just below and above the top frame for added detail as well as creating a perimeter for the top chest to sit. The bottom chest also has a bracket base with a similar cove and bead detail used as the scroll-work.
6.28.16 – Its been several months and I have made quite a bit of progress. I moved on and started working to put the top carcass section together. Like the bottom case the outside sections of the top carcass are dovetailed together and I cut dados in the carcass sides to receive the horizontal boards. From a design stand point I wanted a row of drawers visible and positioned below the main doors of the upper case. Those drawers are also flanked by a series of pull supports for the fold down desk top that will be hidden behind the front doors. This is a similar concept as seen in a slant front desk/secretary, only I am hiding the fold down desk top behind the front doors (not made yet). Again the bottom drawers of the top case were made in web-frame fashion. The angled shelf is the area intended to locate a multi monitor system, which is the main culprit as to why this desk is so wide. This also created another challenge with the door design as well, but Ill get more into that once the doors are complete. At a later point I am also planning to make drawers for the interior sections, but for the mean time they can hide behind the doors once they are finished.