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Hi everyone. New member here and still fairly new to woodworking. I came across this site looking for advice. I am making a desk for my wife and I'm not sure how to proceed with the top. The desk is a plywood case with curly maple veneer. It is trimmed out in cherry. I want the top to be big and solid. I have a couple large pieces of cherry, 8/4 by 8 inches wide (one piece is wider but will be ripped down). I'm not sure how to go about the joinery here. 45 degree miters scare me as I'm afraid of them opening up. I was thinking of having the front and back pieces go all the way to the end, and there will be a butt joint in between. This will give me a long grain to long grain glue joint and the sides will be all end grain. I would give my left arm for a Domino XL, but unfortunately that wouldn't even cover half the cost. I can put pocket holes on the underside as it will be hidden, but that just seems inadequate. Any thoughts on a good joint here? I was thinking a half lap with some walnut dowels as pins, though there is no other walnut on the desk so this may not look right.
I also wanted to route a cove on the underside of the top. It would start a quarter of the way from one end and get bigger till the middle and then fade towards the other end to match the arch in the bottom rail. I have no idea how to accomplish this though. Backup plan would be to bevel the whole underside.
I appreciate any advice,
Matthew

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That should be a beautiful desk. However, I am confused as to what you are trying to do. What do you mean by "I was thinking of having the front and back pieces go all the way to the end, and there will be a butt joint in between"? Can you provide a sketch?
 

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That should be a beautiful desk. However, I am confused as to what you are trying to do. What do you mean by "I was thinking of having the front and back pieces go all the way to the end, and there will be a butt joint in between"? Can you provide a sketch?
I included a sketch. This would be looking at the desk top from above. The shaded pieces would be Cherry and the panels would be Maple. As I sketched it out, I realized the Cherry being 8 inches wide is way too much. The panels would look out of place small. I think I need to scale it down to 4-5 inches. So my question is what do you think about doing full half lap joints?

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The way to do this is with frame and panel construction. This system is as old as time. All of the cherry pieces are assembled with mortise and tenon joints. And, then the plywood panels are held captive with tongue and groove. This system is generally used when panels are made of solid lumber and allowance needs to be made for wood movement. In your case, the panels will be plywood and movement is not a concern but, it is still a good system for your purposes. Not knowing your capabilities or what equipment you have, I won't explain any further now. Let me know if you have any further questions.
That's going to be nice.
 

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The way to do this is with frame and panel construction. This system is as old as time. All of the cherry pieces are assembled with mortise and tenon joints. And, then the plywood panels are held captive with tongue and groove. This system is generally used when panels are made of solid lumber and allowance needs to be made for wood movement. In your case, the panels will be plywood and movement is not a concern but, it is still a good system for your purposes. Not knowing your capabilities or what equipment you have, I won't explain any further now. Let me know if you have any further questions.
That's going to be nice.
I don't think frame and panel will work. This is for the top of the desk so I want everything to be flush. With frame and panel, the panel sits below the level of the rails and styles. My thought was to cut a 3/4 inch rabbet along the inside pieces of cherry and the panels would sit in there. I could still do mortise and tenon joints for the cherry. Would this be stronger than the half lap?
 

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I was assuming that your plywood panels are 3/4" thick. If so, there is no reason why the tongue and groove can't be positioned so that the surfaces come out even. However, since your cherry is quite thick, your rabbet should work with panels of any thickness.
The one challenge you will have in this assembly is getting the cherry frame members to fit snugly against the plywood panels so that you have tight joints. The best way to do that is to have everything pre-cut and then pull it all together with clamps during glue-up. If you use a rabbet, I think you need to have the frame glued up first. I suppose you could do it with the frame clamped together, but I think that risks problems. Then, a good fit of the panels depends on getting them cut very precisely. Mortises, tongues, and grooves, can all be cut ahead of time and then pulled tightly together during glue-up. Your tongues and grooves could be cut like this, but make the grooves slightly overdepth so that the shoulders can fit tightly :

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