Modern Desk
Just right for the way you work today.

DIMENSIONS: 50" W × 24" D × 30" H

Approximate materials cost: $575

More than 8 square feet of work area

Beautiful waterfall grain wrapped from the top to the sides, three roomy drawers, and a large worksurface make this desk perfect for any den or office. The lidded compartment conceals a power strip and keeps cords under control. The three drawer faces, cut from a single board, display more beautiful, dramatic grain across the front.


Start at the Top

1 Lay out (no glue) five ¾×5½" boards into a panel at least 80" long for parts A–C. Rip and joint the back board to 5" and the others to 4¾" wide to make a panel 24" wide. Cut the compartment lid (A) from the middle of the back board [Materials List, Photo A] and set it aside.

Arrange the boards to provide attractive grain display. woodmagazine.com/woodgrainselection
Mark the boards for position in the panel. Center part A on the rear board and ensure there’s at least 40" from the middle of the panel to each board end.
Note: Groove parts C–E such that you can assemble both a left- and right-side case.

2 Glue the panel, leaving 18" between the inside ends of the back board [Drawing 1].

3 Cut the top (B) to length [Skill Builder]. Bevel-cut both ends of the top and the mating end of each case outer side (C) to make the waterfall joints. Trim the outer sides to length.

4 Glue up a ¾×24×42" panel for the case inner sides and bottoms (D, E). Trim the parts to size, and cut biscuit slots in them and the case outer sides (C) [Drawings 1 and 2].

5 Cut grooves in the underside of the top (B) [Drawing 1] and the case sides and bottoms (C–E) [Drawing 2]. Finish-sand the inside surfaces.

6 Cut fillers (F) and glue them into the outside grooves on the case inner sides (D), flush at the bottom [Drawing 1].

7 Assemble the case sides (C, D) and bottoms (E) [Drawing 2, Photo B].

Square both sides of the case(C, D) to the bottom (E) as you glue and biscuit the parts together. Make a right- and left-side case.
Support the center bottom (G) on risers to glue and biscuit the cases to it. The back stretchers (H) and compartment back (I) fit into the case grooves.

Build the Carcase

1 Glue up and cut to size the center bottom (G) [Drawing 1]. Cut biscuit slots, drill the cord-access hole, and finish-sand.

2 Cut the back stretchers (H) and compartment back (I) to size. Form tenons and a groove on the stretchers (H) [Drawing 1a] and drill hinge holes [Drawing 1b] in the top stretcher. Finish-sand the parts.

3 Retrieve the compartment lid (A), plane it to width, and cut out the half-circle finger grip [Exploded View]. Transfer the hinge-hole locations from the stretcher (H) to the lid and drill the holes in the underside. Finish-sand the lid.

4 Dry-fit (no glue) the cases (C–E) and center bottom (G), and lay the top in place to make sure the mitered ends meet properly. Glue the cases to the center bottom [Photo C]. Glue the stretchers (H) and compartment back (I) in place.

Insert biscuits without glue for the dry assembly. Capture the case backs in the grooves and make sure the front surfaces are flush and the miters are tight.

5 Cut the compartment front (J) and sides (K) to size, finish-sand them, and glue them to the center bottom (G) [Drawing 1].

6 Cut the case backs (L) to size, finish-sand them, and glue them in place.

7 Dry-assemble the top (B) and the C–L assembly [Photo D]. When satisfied with the fit, glue and clamp the top to the carcase.

8 Round over the front outside edges and the mitered joint [Drawing 1]. On the bottom, drill holes and install threaded inserts [Drawing 1c]. Finish-sand the carcase.

Drive in the threaded inserts to sit slightly below the surface.
2 CASE ASSEMBLY (Right shown, left is a mirror image)
Tip! Make the slotted screw holes quickly with a Saw Drill [Source], a ¼" drill bit that also cuts sideways.

Give It Legs to Stand On

1 Cut the legs (M), stretchers (N), and cleats (O) to size [Drawing 3].

2 Form the mortises in the legs, taper the legs, and bevel the ends [Drawing 4]. Round over the edges and finish-sand.

3 Cut tenons on the stretchers (N) [Drawing 3a]. Bevel-rip the top cleat (O) and form slots for top-attachment screws [Drawing 3b].

4 Glue the legs (M) and stretchers (N) together [Drawing 3]. Glue the cleats to the top stretchers, flush with the top of the legs [Photo E].

The top stretcher (N) stands proud of the legs when assembled. Plane the stretcher flush with the leg (M) tops and the cleat (O).
3 LEG ASSEMBLY (Left assembly shown)
4 LEG (Left rear leg shown)

A Trio of Drawers Finishes It

1 Cut drawer parts P–W to size [Drawing 5]. Prepare the front joints in the fronts and sides [Drawings 6 and 6a].

2 Dado the sides (P, T) and rabbet the backs (Q, U). Groove parts P–R and T–V for the bottom panel [Drawing 5].

3 Glue the drawer boxes together, taking care to square them. Drill holes for the knobs, and finish-sand the drawers.

4 Apply a finish. (We rubbed on Watco medium walnut oil and sprayed on two coats of water-based clear topcoat.)

5 Attach the leg assemblies (M–O) to the carcase (B–L) [Exploded View]. Install the compartment lid (A) with barrel hinges [Source], and apply UHMW tape in the drawer openings. Install the knobs [Source] and slide the drawers into the carcase. Then, pull up a chair and get to work. You’ve been playing in the shop too long now.