Howdy everyone! Did not expect to come back so quickly but Slav put in a couple days of effort and made some considerable progress in my retreat room. Here is the result:
Yup! It is my new desk! A corner desk on motorized legs!!! It is 76″ long and 25″ wide, with the left corner piece doubling the width to 50″. There is lots of space after placing a laptop, as you can see from the first picture.
This desk is made with a butcher block we bought from Lowe’s. We had the motorized legs and controller in hand.
Here is the desk sitting at its lowest position. It is the perfect height for me when sitting in a dining chair:
The picture below shows the desk in its highest position. As a standing desk it can accommodate someone who is 6’2″. I am 5’5″ and usually lower the top for a couple inches.
The desk top
was made from a 8′ x 2′ Baltic Birch butcher block with just one cut and no waste. I chose a butcher block as table top for its warm and bulky look. And this one is in 25″ width, which is the perfect depth since I only use laptop at home. A friendly reminder: if you use big monitors and additional keyboard, you might want to go for a wider table top to give you the depth needed. Just keep in mind that they will be much heavier and might require additional support.
We started by cutting a 20″ section off the block. This was the only cut during this construction and it was surely nerve-wrecking! Even I was the one who designed the desk, knew the dimension well, I still measured and measured and remeasured to make sure that we would not make a mistake.
Due to the heavy weight we decided to use a circular saw instead of a table saw. Slav clamped down a track as a guide and kept the good side of the butcherblock facing down. Circular saw often tear the top edge of whatever you cut, so having the good side downward usually yields better result. You can see the difference from the two edges in the picture above – the left side is the main portion of the block with its good side (the future top) facing down, and its top edge is not as perfect as the short piece to the right, which I flipped over after it being cut off.
The next step is to joining the short piece to the big piece to create the short end of the L-shape. We used biscuit to keep the two surfaces aligned, and lots of glue to ensure a tight joint.
The circular saw track is the only clamp long enough for holding the two pieces together as the glue dried overnight. I wish we had more clamps! But it worked…phew, thanks to the DIY god. I chose to glue the short piece on its side to keep the wood grain all in one direction, and we kept the good side of the block downward during the whole build so there would be no need flipping this heavy piece when attaching the legs.
Additional support to the L-corner
After creating the L-shape with the cut piece, the short arm is now twice the width of the original block, about 50″. Since this short arm won’t have any leg underneath and very heavy (the butcher block is 1.75″ thick), we decided to add two 1″ x 1/2″ steel C-channels to support the entire short arm from below.
Slav routed two 5/8″ void underneath the short arm so we could sink the C-channels into the block. The C-channels are 36″ long, which gives a good 18″ support on each side of the glued joint.
The C-channel came with no screw holes. With a metal bit Slav created some mounting holes on the C-channels:
He also put in plenty of glue before setting the channels for good measure:
The C-channels were screwed into their final place.
The magic of shellac
The wood glue between the counter tops required overnight drying time but the glue used here dried in a few hours. Since butcher block has to be sealed within 48 hours after being exposed to the air, I jumped onto the sealing step as soon as the glue was dry to touch.
To seal the block I chose my new favorite – shellac! I’ve only learn about shellac recently from Daniel Kanter over the Manhattan Nest, and only used it once on our master bathroom door. But I liked its ability of bringing out the best wood tone with a dash of sheen. In the picture above was the bare butcher block. And below was after the first coat of shellac:
Here was after three coats of shellac:
Then we flipped the block to repeat the sealing steps on the top. Since the edge of the block is a tiny bit rounded, I applied some wood filler at the glue joint before sealing it:
I ended up doing four coats of shellac on the top of the block, light sanding with 220 grit sandpaper in between. Then it comes the exciting time of mounting the legs!
Motorized table legs, repurposed
Back to our North Carolina days we lived near the University of North Carolina campus. The campus has a surplus store selling retired office furniture and classroom electronics. One day Slav spotted a bunch of drawing tables there, all of which were equipped with motorized legs. They were dirt cheap – I think each desk was $50 a pop? So Slav snatched them up and took all the legs home. We were able to make three office desks for both of us (including one at my work), and gave out a couple pairs to friends. These motorized legs are German production and very, very sturdy. I trust them to hold much more weight than the ones currently sold in IKEA and online stores.
To set them properly Slav routed two 1/2″ voids to accommodate the motors. Then the legs were attached!
Polished and in use
After moving the desk into its final position (it is super heavy), I sanded the table top one last time with 400 grit sandpaper, then polished it generously with Howard Feed-n-Wax. Although unnecessary, this final sanding and waxing step really created a super smooth shine and added a slightly warmer tone to the desk. Plus the bee wax smells great! It is always nice to conclude a DIY project smelling like lemon and honey. 🙂
Here is the desk, in its final glory:
Although a big surface (76″ x 25″~50″ and 16 sqft usable space) this desk is just the right scale for the room. The long arm barely reaches the floor register and leaves a good 8 inches under the east window. The 50″ short arm overlaps with 2/5 of the north picture window and leaves enough room at the foot of the future Murphy bed.
I added some googly eyes on the controller to cover the worn surface and add a bit fun. This desk is all about fun!
I could not start using it fast enough. The very next morning after the legs were mounted, I have already moved in some plants and set my computer on it!
What do you think of the desk? Do you like it or is there something you think we could do to improve it?
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