A Tail of DIY Doves and Desks: A Work Surface in LA

A Tail of DIY Doves and Desks: A Work Surface in LA

Dec 18, 2009

When setting up a new office, you want everything to be right. Whatever you do, you need to plan it out so that you are not just slowly adding clutter to your space with mismatched tchotchke. Recently, I built another desk to put in my office and I wanted it to be just right.

The office is by no means "there" yet and I don't expect it to be for a while, but I have put together a loose plan. This plan consists mainly of color and material choices that will compliment each other. In this space there are two defining factors that set the stage for what colors and textures are even possible:
1. The wood floors are a dark grey.
2. The ceilings and support beams are natural wood.

There is definitely a "feeling" here of old world industrial with a sheen of modern simplicity. I made the decision to use mostly blacks and grays with natural wood structures. Orange or red accents would make for some visual interest here and there but colors and whites were to be kept to a minimum.

That helped me to arrive at building this type of desk. I knew I would be using it for a while and felt that IKEA simply cannot make a good, long lasting desk. Who knows, maybe they will come up with something in the future and lord knows they have some attractive pieces, but longevity is something they don't do so well.

Having built a desk before, I went out to look for some inexpensive wood. I knew there would be a lot more wood used on this because I wanted a large, heavy and solid behemoth that would make me feel awesome whenever I sat at it. I wanted to feel pain whenever I bumped into it. I wanted to have to offer beer and health coverage to people in compensation for helping me move it.

Wood is expensive. Too expensive, so I had to get creative. It's funny, because I ended up back at IKEA for a solution. They sell counter tops (73"x26"ish) there which are made of small pieces of cherry, oak or the wood I used: beech. This is not a veneered MDF, it is solid wood. I like to imagine that it is made from leftovers that would have ordinarily been carelessly tossed into an endangered animal's last remaining habitat… thereby making this product heroically green. I bought two.

I left one piece its full length and cut the other in half to make the legs. Here is where I ran into my first major issue: Density. I knew that Beech was a tough wood and even wanted it for that reason, but this stuff was really hard to cut. Everything was going to take MUCH longer as a result.

On dovetails: Dovetails are that finger joint looking thing that you find in old drawers from pre-80's (ish) era cabinetry. Some companies still use them, but the cost goes up significantly whenever they do. Nails, glue and laissez-faire attitudes have ruined modern furniture making and it seems as though fashion only exacerbates the problem.

As into fashion as I may be, I wanted my desk to be timeless. I wanted to hide my computer, so the legs are solid from the desk surface to the floor. I curved the bottom so the desk won't rock back and forth. No drawers for the time being because I wanted to focus on work, not on storage- there are shelves for that stuff. I wanted a clear mind and a wide, clean, horizontal space.

I decided on a spacing for my dovetails and marked them out. Then I dressed up in a pink, satin ninja outfit and cut the dovetails with a Japanese Pull Saw. Oh wow people, a very long and rewarding process. Lest everyone think this was done without electric tools, I should disclose that I hollowed out some wood with a drill and large diameter bit. I mean, it's the future, right? The lines were cut by hand so stop judging me.

I bought some inexpensive chisels because my nice Marples set was stolen by armed guerillas in Miami. Karma? I thought I was so innocent. Because the chisels are so cheap, I had to keep my sharpening stone handy- I used it between every dovetail! The chisels are used to remove the last bits of material up to the line. You'll notice some earmuffs in the pic above- chiseling can be loud.

Next time I will talk about how I got it to the office and go through what it took to finish it. I will also discuss plans for its future in terms of tech…

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