The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Washington Desk Day 5


This past weekend I began the scary phase of every one of my woodworking projects, and that is the time when there are a lot of almost finished, unassembled parts lying around waiting to be destroyed.

First things first, on Saturday afternoon/evening I spent two hours milling up the final two boards needed to complete the project. Well, it was about an hour milling up and an hour cleaning up. Rather than calling it a night, I wanted to get in a little actual woodworking, so I attached the cross brace to the back legs. I did not want to mortise out the legs because they are thin to begin with, so instead I dadoed the brace, 3/8 of an inch, planed it down, chamfered the edges, and sanded it smooth. I was satisfied with the appearance, so I attached it with some decorative brass screws. Thankfully, it added some much needed stability to the legs. Admittedly it took longer than it should have to lay out the dadoes, but I wanted the fit to be dead accurate, and I really didn’t want to waste a perfectly good board just by being careless.

Overnight Saturday we had a wind storm, so I spent a portion of the morning and early afternoon cleaning up the back yard, which really ate up the prime hours of the day. But I soldiered on and decided to get as much of the drawer unit finished as possible.

I took my sweet time with those dadoes, because I only had one crack at it, and once the kerfs were all sawn I used a chisel and router plane to get to finished depth. The fit was nice, so I moved on to what I believe is the most challenging part of this project, the ogees on the drawer compartment sides.

Considering that nearly all of the furniture I’ve built to date has been in the Arts & Crafts style (as well as some Shaker pieces), laying out and sawing an ogee with a coping saw is not my strong suit, but I decided to give it a try regardless. I used a compass and my limited artistic ability to lay out the ogee on one of the drawer unit ends, clamped both together, and started sawing. The results were mixed; I should have stuck closer to the line, but in the end it was done. Afterwards, I spent a good hour using a spoke shave, chisel, and rasp to get the pieces in shape. In the end, I wound up with more of a sloping cove than a true ogee, but I am not unhappy with it, and once it is sanded down I think it will look pretty good.

The last task of the day was adding rabbets to the side pieces of the drawer unit, which I did with a moving fillister plane. I could have pushed it and fitted the drawer dividers as well, but that part should be simple, and I didn’t want to push it, as it was getting late and I had a lot of clean up to do.

IMG_2931 (002)

At the home stretch. Once the drawer dividers are installed I can fit the drawer fronts and make the drawers.

After clean up, I once again brought all of the parts into my family room for safe keeping. I attached the “ogeed” ends to the drawer unit top and placed it on top of the desk. I liked the open appearance, so I think what I may do is leave the space in between the two drawers without a back, just to see how it looks. If I don’t like it, I will simply add the filler piece, but I think that open area may add some lightness to the desk, and I could always bore out a space for an inkwell cup there.

Happily, so far none of the pieces have been damaged in any way. By the end of next week the desk should be ready for finish, as the only thing really left to do is make the drawers along with finishing up some light sanding. I’m hoping that my lovely wife steps in and does the finishing for me, as she is much more patient than I am when it comes to stuff like this. Otherwise, I am in the home stretch. And for those of you who celebrate the holiday, have a Happy Thanksgiving.




  1. bloksav says:

    Hi Bill.

    It is looking spectacular. I can see what you mean by leaving the back filling piece out. It does appear very lightweight as it is now.
    I hope nothing was damaged in the wind storm. Living close to the coast we get those fairly often, and there is always something to cleanup on afterwards.
    Are you going to use shellac as a finish or BLO?


    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks Jonas! For once I am having a project that is meeting my expectations. Other than removing the breadboard ends, the only other issue I’ve had was a very minor piece of tear out, and luckily this was on one of the drawer dividers and the torn out piece will be housed in the dado regardless. Even better, I usually add a slight chamfer (which will remove the torn piece anyway) to those parts anyway to give a bit of a lead in to the dado, so for right now I am very happy with the results.

      The windstorm wasn’t so bad for us because we live in a bit of a “valley” near the Schuykill River. But the tree tops took a beating. I have a sugar maple tree in my back yard and that thing sheds branches on a normal day, but during high winds it looks like somebody stuck dynamite in it. There were branches everywhere. I have a flowering pear tree in my yard that is tall as well. That usually doesn’t shed branches, but I was worried about it because we’ve had a lot of rain, and it still has most of its leaves, so I was thinking that it may get blown over with the leaves acting like a sail and with the ground so soft. We planted that tree when Mia was born and it is quite beautiful, so thankfully it is just fine. The Japanese maple trees are no worse for wear, but I did lose a piece of flashing on my house. A friend of mine with equipment for breaking/bending metal is going to fix it for me.

      As far as the finish, I am going to try something new. I purchased a product from Rockler called Sam Maloof Poly/Oil finish. It is supposedly a finish developed by Sam, and it has gotten good reviews. I am supposed to add 4 coats, allowing 24hrs between each, then add 1 to 2 coats of the Oil/Wax finish. But on porous woods like walnut it is supposed to work well. I purchased a pint of the Poly/Oil and a pint of the Oil/Wax. It was not inexpensive at $20 per pint, so I hope it works well. According to the contents it is a mixture of BLO, pure tung oil, and poly. The wax finish is much the same, with the wax taking the place of the poly. So if I go by the rules that will be 5 or 6 days of time for finish. I don’t know if I have that kind of patience!

      I have a 4 day weekend coming up, so I should be able to get the drawers finished, the entire desk sanded down, and everything assembled and ready to go. I think I may have mentioned before in a post, but I have some really nice reproductions from the American Revolution time period, so I can’t wait to put them on the desk and see how it looks.

      Your friend,

  2. Art Watson says:

    The Maloof finish sounds perfect for this project. Worth a little extra for such a lovely piece!

    • billlattpa says:

      I saw some photos of projects finished with the Maloof “combo” and they looked really good. I was searching for good finishes for Walnut and kept coming back to this product, so I’m hoping it’s a winner.
      Thanks Art!

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