The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Washington Campaign Desk Day 4


My favorite part of any furniture project is the point when a solution has been found to a challenge. It’s a figurative crossing of the “hump” which then signifies hopefully smooth sailing moving forward. This past Saturday I crossed that hump.

The bad news first. The temperatures in the area dropped well below freezing, and though that is not unheard of in my neck of the woods, it is uncommon for this time of year. So after I returned home from work on Saturday the first thing I did was check on the desk top panel. The panel is just fine, but the breadboard end with the issue was not looking so good. The underside developed a split that was instantly noticeable. Maybe the cold exaggerated it, but at that point I didn’t care, so the instant decision was made to saw off both of those bread board ends, which I did using the table saw and a cross-cut sled. I understood it meant losing a few hours of work, but I know the decision was the correct one because I felt no real remorse then or now, and rather than dwelling on it, I moved on to putting together the leg assemblies.

The leg assemblies posed a bit of a challenge, at least to me they did. Firstly, I wanted them to appear as if they could fold up, so I could not ship lap them together, though that in some ways may have been easier. The dilemma was attaching them to the cross cleats, which sounds simple but was a bit complicated.

The issue was the offset of the legs. Because the legs were not ship-lapped, one side of the leg would obviously offset, in this case ¾ of an inch. So my solution was to make a filler board to make up the gap made by the offset. At that, I wanted the board to match the angles and width of the cleat board as closely as possible, so I spent a good deal of time clamping and measuring. Once I was as sure of myself as I was going to get, I made the cuts, planed it to final size and started drilling holes for the quarter inch hardware I purchased for the project. I won’t lie, those first couple of holes were nerve-wracking, because a mistake would cost me several more hours of work, but once I got moving things went relatively smoothly. It took more than two hours, but in the end I had a finished leg assembly.

Sunday morning I started on the second assembly, and using lessons learned from the previous night’s experience, I had it finished and ready to attach in under an hour, so rather than leaving those two assemblies on top of the workbench, I did just that attached them to the desktop using some angle brackets. I hadn’t planned to do an assembly to be honest, but curiosity got the best of me. The good news is that so far it looks pretty good. Admittedly, I was a little disappointed that the breadboard ends needed to be removed, but it doesn’t look bad in my opinion. But the better news is the fact that the legs all sit level with the ground. Generally, when making a table, there is usually a bit of wobble. As of right now the table sits nicely, and when I placed a level on the top I found it dead flat. At that, the table does rock a bit back and forth, but considering it is not permanently attached to the top yet, and considering the leg assemblies haven’t been joined together yet with any cross bracing, that was to be expected.

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Not too bad…I will post a photo of the undercarriage once it is permanently attached and “safe”

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A photo I came across of the campaign table and writing desk at Washington’s HQ in Valley Forge Park

 

 

 

Lastly, I removed the assembled table from my garage and placed it in the family room, where I think it will be much safer. Over the years, I’ve found out the hard way that leaving unassembled furniture projects in my garage is a recipe for disaster. Maybe it’s gremlins; I don’t know, but whatever it is my projects seem to take a beating if they sit in the garage for too long, so I was taking absolutely no chances. In any event, the cat seems to like it, because as soon as I brought it inside the house she promptly hopped onto it, sprawled out, and took a nap.

Next weekend I will mill down another board to use for the cross bracing as well as the desktop drawer unit. Thankfully, I already have the drawer unit finalized in my mind, so the construction should have no unwanted surprises. So with a little luck I could quite possibly have a desk ready for finish a week from now.

On another note, some of you (or none of you) may be wondering why I did not post last week. Well, I had the very good fortune to go to Washington DC and not only take a tour of the White House, but to visit Mount Vernon as well. The Mount Vernon trip was not planned, it just happened to fall into place, and because I had not been able to go there last time I was in DC, I made it a priority. I will only say of the trip that I was completely blown away. The furniture examples in Mount Vernon alone are beyond description, and I would have taken photos, but they are not allowed inside the house itself. And because I believe that rules are a good thing (they are hardly “for fools” as some in the woodworking world would claim) I did not attempt any, and instead purchased a very nice book with photos that are much better than those I would have taken anyway.

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Posing with my daughter and niece in front of a tree believed to have been planted during the time of George Washington at Mount Vernon.

My family, who was skeptical about the Mount Vernon visit in part because the day was cool, cloudy, and damp, was nonetheless blown away. My daughter in particular was completely awestruck. But the highlight, for all of us, was visiting the final resting place of George and Martha Washington and paying our respects. When I say that this trip was beyond inspirational and much more of a spiritual experience, I am understating to the highest degree. Upon leaving Mount Vernon, my admiration of George Washington, which was already immense, grew even greater. And more than ever I am committed to making this desk to the highest level I possibly can.

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The final resting place of George and Martha Washington.

 

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. oltexasboy says:

    Am I wrong or is your desk quite a bit bigger than the original?

    • billlattpa says:

      If you’re comparing it to the photo of the desk from Washington’s HQ at Valley Forge then it is larger, but I am trying to copy a desk I saw at a museum. I didn’t have any measurements, so I based the dimensions on the common height of desks-26-31 inches (mine is just over 28), and the length and width I based on a photo I found, which I posted on the blog in the first entry of this project. As far as I can tell the desk is pretty true to size of the original, but once again that is just my best guess.
      Thanks!
      Bill

  2. oltexasboy says:

    If you want it, or need it I have set of measured drawings for the top part of the desk. It is a shaker “lap desk” that I got from Thomas Moser’s book on shaker furniture. You can resize it as required.

  3. bloksav says:

    The table is looking really good.
    I have learned the hard way too that it is sometimes necessary to move projects into the house while I am not working on them. My problem is the difference in humidity in the shop vs. the one in the house. Neither are climate controlled, but since there is a more consistent heat in the house, I often have annoying issues with wood movement.

    Brgds
    Jonas

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks Jonas! I have to mill up two more boards over the weekend and I can make the cross brace for the legs and then finish up the drawer unit.

      I’m debating whether or not I should actually completely finish the desk/top and leg assembly first, meaning applying the stain and wax, before I even start on the drawer unit.

      The desk top just needs to have its edges planed and chamfered. I’ve already planed and rough sanded the top, so I will go to 220g and finish it off with 320g. The thing that scares me is running the risk of having the colors not match, but it would be much easier.

      But first things first, I will get the cross brace milled up and attached, and at the least the entire base and table top will be ready for finish. I also want to get the top compartment built and installed before the end of the weekend. That way, next weekend, which is a 4 day holiday, I can really take my time on the drawers. For the drawer knobs I ordered 2 pairs, one pair 1 1/4 inch in diameter the other pair in 1 1/2 inch diameter because I wasn’t exactly sure how they would appear. I thought of trying to make my own, but I don’t have a lathe, and considering I am going for a specific look I went with an on line vendor. And the good news is both pairs were only $16 including shipping and tax

      So I’m hoping to have the entire unit ready for finish in less than 2 weeks. So far I am really pleased with how it is shaping up.
      Bill

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