How to build a desk from reclaimed wood

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and for many people, building something from scratch, using reclaimed materials, is fulfilling in terms of both environmental responsibility and personal challenge.

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With a bit of expertise and delicacy, reclaimed materials have become highly prized for the character they can bring to home and office furnishing. As well as vintage timbers, iron castings, once considered merely functional, now seem to ooze style and good value.

Find a vision

Before you start your desk project, you need a clear idea of what you want to build.

A good place to seek inspiration is in the project galleries of joiners that specialise in bespoke commercial desks, such as http://simonkohnfurniture.co.uk/our-work/commercial/reception-areas-and-desks/.

Wait until you’ve found your recycled materials before working out precise dimensions and details of connecting joints.

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Tools

To build a solid and well-made desk, we suggest you will need access to a router, circular saw, pipe clamps, bench-top planer, adjustable spanners, sander, electric drill and a biscuit joiner. If you don’t own any of these things, find somewhere to hire them.

Materials

Old rafters and joists rarely find their way to landfills, as they’re snapped up by reclamation specialists. However, you can still find them at a decent price, and asking on demolition sites might cut out the middleman.

2×6 rafters or 2×8 joists are a good basis for a desk. A tabletop planer will erase twists and gouges inflicted by time. Find tips on using them here: https://www.familyhandyman.com/tools/woodworking-tools/how-to-use-a-benchtop-planer/view-all.

Cast-iron bases that used to support sewing machines or other machinery are fairly easy to pick up from reclamation yards.

Desktop

Arrange planks in position and mark every 8″ along each seam. Cut biscuit slots at each position and apply wood glue before assembling. “No more nails” makes an excellent adhesive. Secure with pipe clamps until dried. You can cover end grains with a veneer strip. Finish the top with wax or varnish.

Legs

Iron legs will attach to braces of 2×8, positioned on the underside of your desktop. Drill through at bolt hole positions with a bit matching their diameter. Use bolts 1/16” smaller. Attach braces with glue and 2” nails.

Drawers

Drawers are labour intensive, so a good tip is to salvage an old one and build your recess around it.

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