The Never-Ending Desktop Project

This project that wasn’t supposed to happen  just wouldn’t end.

I worked on this desktop for about 8 months on the weekends. Some weekends, it just sat in my garage, already gathering dust.

How it began

The real project (that I haven’t started yet) is a coffee table up-cycle using some wood from a broken former outdoor table.

However, after I painted a bookcase and an accent wall in my home office, I decided that instead of purchasing a smaller piece of plywood for the coffee table up-cycle, I would just buy a panel (4′ x 8′) for nearly the same price and create a desktop for my office and a sofa table out of the remnants. No problem, right? Yeah, wrong.

All the Problems

First, plywood panels are usually smaller than an inch (32/32″) thick . Your basic desktop is 2″ thick. I knew I was going to get about 3 cuts to stack on top of each other to make up the thickness (I measured!) The calculations are solid. But so is plywood. This is the heaviest desktop I have ever lifted. The wood was also bowed (even though the salesperson argued with me that it wasn’t. But then again, they all were–so there.) When I glued the pieces together, I had to shave off some of the bottom edge. Try doing that with a jigsaw. It’s nearly impossible.

My second idea was to trim the edges of the desktop with a basic 1’x 3′ board for a finished look. Again, the thinking here is sound. But the 1-bys were not. There was a gouge, knot, crack or broken sliver in every piece on the shelf. Even after sighting the boards, I still got one piece that was bowed so much it made it hard to glue and nail.

Desktop sitting on sawhorses. Where am I going to put these?

The third hiccup was the tools and workspace. I knew I needed sawhorses and a jigsaw (jigsaw for the coffee table project, but I could also use it here), because some of the wood needed to be cut (even before I realized the plywood mistake). But because of the budget, I could not get those until months later. I forgot to factor in additional clamps, and due to its size (48″ x 19.5″) the clamps would be expensive. I realized I would have to save up for those as well. To top it off, my cordless drill gave out on me, so I also had to buy a drill. This wood splits easily, so you have to drill before you drive a nail into it.

What I Did Well

I measured. And measured. And measured again. “Measure twice, cut once” is an old and very true adage. Because I measured, I got the exact right dimensions of the desktop. It fits perfectly over the file cabinet and in the space.

I picked a stain for the top that came out beautifully and matches the decor of the room and of the legs underneath. I love this stain!

I got the right nails for this piece. These are finishing nails. I had never used these before, and I’m glad I took the salesperson’s advice on those. They are almost imperceptible when they go into the wood. And because I was nailing trim pieces on (and one bowed one at that), I didn’t want to bring even more attention to it with nailheads.

Lessons Learned

This is a simple project if you have the workspace, know your materials, and have all the tools required to work on it. After all the issues had and money spent, I probably could have bought a sturdy desktop for less (especially considering this wasn’t the intended project in the first place). But then, I wouldn’t have had this experience, and it wouldn’t be unique and all mine.

*If you want a project list of materials, request it in the comments below.

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