first time buying hard woods for project - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 17 Old 12-26-2012, 05:13 PM Thread Starter
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first time buying hard woods for project

I helped my dad make plenty of things as a kid. Now that I've got some space and tools, I've been getting back into woodworking. I never had to choose or buy materials as a kid, though, so I have no experience picking or ordering for furniture!

I am going to build a desk. I have worked up a drawing in SketchUp and while it is not a perfect drawing of my idea, you get the idea. Pretty simple desk with a "doghouse" at the back for computer and phone cords, etc. and a slot for the cords to go through.

Anyway I will need to make a 7' W x 42" D desk top and some 30" H x 34" D side pieces. I don't really know how to go to the lumber yard and buy boards to make these.

Seems like I would order 4/4 or 5/4 in whatever width is reasonably priced. I am guessing I will need to order 8 foot lengths for the 7' top and if I get more 8 foot lengths for the side pieces, I will be able to cut three 30" parts from each board. Is 8 foot a common length in furniture-making materials that will be economical?

I would prefer the boards are already dry and planed and finished on two sides so all I need to do is run them across the table saw and then assemble them. Is this a good way or will I end up with a bad result if I don't plane it myself? I do not own a planer but I could get one.

I really can use any kind of wood I want, this desk is for myself. I was thinking about using red oak.

Thanks! EDIT: here is the drawing

Last edited by jeffsw6; 12-26-2012 at 05:16 PM. Reason: drawing
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post #2 of 17 Old 12-26-2012, 05:37 PM
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I would suggest going into a lumberyard and picking out boards yourself. You can match grain/color that way. If you buy lumber S2S (surfaced 2 sides), you can use it as is. Buying it rough cut, you would need to plane it either by hand or with a machine. It depends on which yard you go to whether the boards will be surfaced 2 sides or if they are rough. Generally, if they are sold rough, the yard can plane them for you for a nominal cost (the place I used charged $0.20/boardfoot). Boards are usually sold by random lengths, not necessarily 8'. The yards I shopped at wrote on the end grain of the boards in sharpie the length and the number of boardfeet in that board.

As far as what wood species to get, buy whatever suits your budget/personal tastes.

Good luck and post up pictures when you build it.
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post #3 of 17 Old 12-26-2012, 06:44 PM
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If I were you I'd go ahead and invest in a planer. Usually s2s boards aren't straight anyway, at least thy aren't here. I love my planer and there isn't a better feeling than taking ugly rough lumber to a finished product. Just my 18 cents
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post #4 of 17 Old 12-26-2012, 06:47 PM
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Well, a planer isn't going to get boards straight/flat. That's what a Jointer is for. A planer just makes them a consistent thickness.
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post #5 of 17 Old 12-26-2012, 06:50 PM
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Correct! There are many ways to get around the use of a jointer though.... In the long run it will pay for itself, but who am I to give an opinion
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post #6 of 17 Old 12-26-2012, 07:11 PM
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Somewhat off subject but I hope you are aware that is a huge desk. Besides the weight being, well, more than average, how in the world will you get it into a room with anything less than sliding double doors.
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post #7 of 17 Old 12-26-2012, 08:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SandburRanch View Post
Somewhat off subject but I hope you are aware that is a huge desk. Besides the weight being, well, more than average, how in the world will you get it into a room with anything less than sliding double doors.
This is what I was thinking. There is a huge amount of wood there.

I would think a trestle table would be a more efficient use of wood. I saw where Mark S. made a large trestle table for his computers. I think
the build is on video at thewoodwhisperer.com.

http://www.thewoodwhisperer.com/vide...le-table-pt-1/

Last edited by against_the_grain; 12-26-2012 at 08:12 PM.
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post #8 of 17 Old 12-26-2012, 09:26 PM Thread Starter
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I guess what you guys are saying is, the lumber yard might not be able to supply boards that are already flat and planed. :(

Could anyone suggest a good jointer? I notice there are some combination jointer/planers made. I wouldn't mind buying something like that to save shop space.

For 7ft finished length, will it be safe to buy 5/4 thickness boards, if I want a 3/4" finished thickness? I understand it will depend a bit on how straight the raw lumber is when I buy it. Just looking for some general guidelines.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SandburRanch View Post
Somewhat off subject but I hope you are aware that is a huge desk. Besides the weight being, well, more than average, how in the world will you get it into a room with anything less than sliding double doors.
I plan to attach the top to the sides using some angle aluminum and bolts/nuts. It will come apart so I can move it. I didn't draw this in SketchUp because it took me long enough to figure out how to draw the basic desk. :)

I will also have a footboard (?) between the two sides/legs for rigidity. Otherwise, I expect the desk would wobble.
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post #9 of 17 Old 12-26-2012, 09:41 PM
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Most lumber yards will have planing services available if they don't sell lumber already surfaced.

For 3/4" thick, you only need 4/4. Most of the time with rough 4/4 stock, I was able to get 7/8" lumber after planing on both sides.
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post #10 of 17 Old 12-27-2012, 06:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffsw6 View Post
For 7ft finished length, will it be safe to buy 5/4 thickness boards, if I want a 3/4" finished thickness? I understand it will depend a bit on how straight the raw lumber is when I buy it. Just looking for some general guidelines.


I plan to attach the top to the sides using some angle aluminum and bolts/nuts. It will come apart so I can move it. I didn't draw this in SketchUp because it took me long enough to figure out how to draw the basic desk. :)

I will also have a footboard (?) between the two sides/legs for rigidity. Otherwise, I expect the desk would wobble.
How many "parts" are you envisioning for this desk? (2) sides, top, stretcher, cord box? 3/4" is too thin to accommodate that span unsupported. Also, where are you putting your "footboard"/stretcher? And how wide? I know this is a basic drawing but without other information, I feel this will rack if not collapse. Before you start buying expensive material, I'd buy a sheet or two of construction grade plywood and do a mock up to refine any issues in this design.
Is there a reason you want to work with solid hardwood? If your preferred thickness is 3/4" and you want these wide panels as your structural components; a sheet of veneered hardwood ply would be a good alternative.
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post #11 of 17 Old 12-27-2012, 06:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SandburRanch View Post
Somewhat off subject but I hope you are aware that is a huge desk. Besides the weight being, well, more than average, how in the world will you get it into a room with anything less than sliding double doors.
This was exactly my first impression when I saw your posted dimensions. When you start a project you have to think ahead to all aspects.

George
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post #12 of 17 Old 12-27-2012, 07:13 AM
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Cabinet grade plywood is definitely the best, stablest, flattest material, you'll be a month making all these panels out of solid boards, and get inferior results.
A "modesty panel" placed on opposite side of desk from chair will keep the piece square.
This is an industry term for a "back" that stops a few inches above the floor for easy sweeping.
This can be inset from side panels, which should be inset from top to leave reveal for aesthetics.
Edge-band with solid wood of the same species, I'd go 1&1/2" to prevent sag on a piece this wide.
A 1/16th" to 1/8th" 45 degree beveled edge on both pieces of all ply to solid joints leaves nice looking reveal, much easier than trying to sand flush and sometimes right through thin veneer.
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post #13 of 17 Old 12-27-2012, 09:44 AM Thread Starter
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A "modesty panel" placed on opposite side of desk from chair will keep the piece square.
Thanks, I did not know what that piece is called. I didn't include it in the drawing because I'm just not familiar enough with SketchUp to get anything done quickly.

The modesty panel will provide some strength and I think this should be plenty to keep the desk from bowing. I could go with a thicker top piece than 3/4". Worst case, the top isn't strong enough and I waste some wood. Because it's not glued to the sides I can replace it later if I regret this choice.

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Originally Posted by Matt tennessen View Post
How many "parts" are you envisioning for this desk? (2) sides, top, stretcher, cord box?
Yes, that's right, plus 4pcs angle Al to attach the sides to the top, 4pcs Al to attach the modesty panel to the sides, and 2pcs small Al to attach the cable box to the top.

Instead of building any drawer boxes into the desk, I have made it tall enough to simply put a couple of file cabinets underneath. This is not because I am too lazy to make drawers but because I wanted it to be easy to dis-assemble and move.

Maybe I should re-think that and build drawer boxes which are structural sides since this would effectively reduce the free span of the desk top by about 30"? It would still move easily; the main feature remains that the top can come off.
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post #14 of 17 Old 12-27-2012, 09:58 AM
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If it were me, I'd build most of the piece from sheet goods. As was mentioned, it's stable, straight and square.
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post #15 of 17 Old 12-27-2012, 10:19 AM Thread Starter
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You guys have made me re-think my idea. I will spend some time using SketchUp again today.

Maybe I will go ahead and build drawer boxes and use sanded birch plywood or something for them, and only use a hard wood for the top. This would sure be a time-saver vs making side pieces.

I really don't think I want a plywood or veneer top but I guess I could just make it and then change it if I don't like it.
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post #16 of 17 Old 12-27-2012, 10:28 AM
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I'll weigh in on this... my mom and dad had a custom desk built. It had similar dimensions to yours and is all oak. It's beautiful. It's HUGE. It does have 7 drawers, 2 of which are hanging file drawers, but the thing weighs something like 400 pounds. It's insane. It sucks to move. It's impossible to clean around. It has to be disassembled to get in and out of any room. Sucks if you're doing it yourself, sucks more to pay a premium labor charge if someone else is doing it.

I understand the desire for a large desk but in most cases it's better to go with multiple smaller units and adjust your work style rather than one large unit. It also makes it much easier to change the layout of a room, should you desire, or move to a different space. Consider that "standard" size desks are usually 30 or 36 inches and width only 5 or 6 feet. Even most drafting tables and chart tables aren't much bigger.

All that said, I'd incorporate the "chord box" into the back (make it "taller") and only make that and the "foot board", at maybe 1/3 the depth of the desk. That should be more than enough to keep it from racking. That way you can keep the back mostly open, if you like that, and save a whole lot of material. I'd also incorporate some power strips into the chord box so you can plug things in directly there, rather than passing lots of chords elsewhere.

As with others, I'd go with sheet goods for everything except the top, personally. You can edge band everything cleanly and it will significantly reduce the cost as well as complexity of the build.

Last edited by frankp; 12-27-2012 at 10:32 AM.
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post #17 of 17 Old 12-27-2012, 01:32 PM Thread Starter
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I understand the desire for a large desk but in most cases it's better to go with multiple smaller units and adjust your work style rather than one large unit.
I've been using several small ones for years. I'm just tired of having reference material scattered all around the room when I really need it right in front of me. :)

My home office is about 11'6" by 17'. There is room for plenty of workspace, I just don't want to buy any more office store desks and cobble them together. I spend most of my waking day in here working so I might as well improve the furniture to better suit me.

Quote:
I'd also incorporate some power strips into the chord box so you can plug things in directly there, rather than passing lots of chords elsewhere.
Power strips is exactly what I plan on putting in there, in addition to cords of course. I plan for the cord box to be 6" x 6" with a 1/2" slot running most of its length.
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