Hello folks! I’m about to embark on my first sizable piece that wasn’t explicitly spelled out by Mr. Sellers in a video. This is also the first piece where I’ll be using ‘real’ wood rather than Home Center wood.
I intend to build a campaign style desk, but I have a few concerns about my design, specifically the stability of the desk.
First off, I’d like to build something akin to this:
I intend to build something very similar to this (with 3 drawers) at 8’ long, 30” deep and 9” thick. I’m a software engineer by trade and those measurements make sense given the hardware, software and equipment I use in my job. I guess you could think of it as the image above only super-sized.
I intend to have drawers on both sides (each side with 3 drawers). The front side for keyboards, pencils, etc. The backside as a storage spot for wires, routers, hubs and the like.
My primary concern is that at 8’ long the desk simply won’t be rigid enough to stand between two saw horse type legs at either end. I could see it wiggling when I type or write.
Per the traditional campaign style, I intend to dovetail the ends to the top and bottom with a half blind dovetail. I’m more concerned with the internal structure of the box and how I can design it so that it will be incredibly rigid.
How would you construct a piece of furniture like I’m describing in order to maximize rigidity without going too overboard on materials? I’d appreciate any and all suggestions… I am very early in the planning phase at this point.
And to preempt the comments… I have ordered Chris Schwarz’s book about Campaign furniture. I will definitely reference it for external design elements, but the piece is considerably larger than anything I can find online so I suspect some alternate design requirements may be needed.
I think I would put an apron around the base not too deep this would give extra longitudinal rigidity. in addition you could then use the apron to hide any extra strengtheners you feel it needs.
Not sure about the Formica top though. hummm 1960s, but maybe that is the key. Strong stuff that Formica, whack a bit on the base and perhaps a bit on the drawers and sides too while your at it. Just the job.
Since you asked….,
Torsion box internal frame: Center stringer length wise with drawer separators half lapped to center stringer, dadoed to top and dadoed & screwed to bottom panel.
Top and bottom-cabinet grade plywood edge banded and dadoed.
End panels- same ply, edge banded front and back.
Doweled or biscuit joined ends to top and bottom panels.
I was thinking a torsion box design would be my best bet as well. My only major concern is the amount of wiring I have to run from the back row of drawers to the front row of drawers. A few 1” holes cut in the longitudinal stringer shouldn’t hurt the strength too much.
I understand the plywood idea, but I intend to make this a bit more traditionally, using only hand tools. I’ll be gluing up a top and sides out of smaller boards, dovetailing them together (as is the campaign style). But your suggestion got me thinking that I could make the stringers, bottom panel and drawer supports out of plywood. That should give me much better dimensional stability as well as improving the cost. If edge banded properly, nobody would ever know and it would likely cut the cost of the project in half.
Nate – The book is good but the desk style he builds is much different then what you are talking about. It is more a pair of stacked chests with a pull down drawer front on the top row and a desk gallery behind it. I love the book but assuming you know how to make half blind dovetails, it probably won’t tell you much of use in your proposed project so if money is tight you could save some there. I concur with the idea of making it a big torsion box, that would be the strongest way. If you’re still concerned about rigidity, small frame of steel angle iron (painted black of course) underneath is a thought. It would add rigidity and could be made discreet. To carry the thought a bit further, make a pair of black iron saw horses to mount it on. They would be smaller then wooden ones of the same strength, giving you more room under the desk for chairs.
Please keep us updated on your project, I’m a big fan of the campaign style.
If you are going to spend the money for good wood forget. The formica! Use oak or maple bouth are nice to work with. Because this is a first real build take a page from Pauls book get a sheet of underlament cut it in half. Then do a full drawing at half size. You can work out every joint. And it will make you realy think it out.
You will have four sheets so you can work out all sides. When I do this I make notes on the board as to how to cut it and what tools I need. Then when I start cutting I lay out stock and tools tobegin. I number and code each peice. As I complere each section I dry assemble it and adjust as needed…
Lightly sand the sheets to clean them then put a light coat of finish on it. A one pound coat is good. Cover the sheet with a old bed sheet when not using.
I liked the book. I really like that style of furniture. I remember seeing “fake” campaign furniture as a kid and liking it. I was a bit surprised by the amount of power tool usage in the book. This is my first Schwarz book. I do like the Wearing book they published. He published two of the chapters in the past Popular Woodworking magazine. I’m trying to do a coffee table version of the table in the book. The price of the brass hardware was the most surprising. I think you can easily spend more on the brass then the wood.
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