Projects You Can Build:
Shaker Style Student Sized Desk
One of the delightful aspects of Shaker style furniture is that it’s simplicity of design makes for approachable projects, even by new woodworkers. When my brother’s youngest girl asked for a desk for her room, I decided to use this style to create a functional, yet attractive piece that would fit her needs for years to come. Hopefully, she’ll have it for a lifetime!
This desk is sized as a student desk, but will work well as a hall table or other similar need with little or no modification. It includes a center-mounted drawer and the construction technique I chose is designed to minimize any disruption of the wood’s figure through the front apron and drawer front. Traditional methods are used for joinery, including mortise and tenon for the tapered leg to apron connection and dovetails for the drawer. I built this project out of poplar, but it’s adaptable to any species you have available. The design can also be altered slightly to emulate Arts & Craft or other styles if you prefer. A dimensioned drawing is available for this project--if you use it, be sure to adjust your measurements carefully as many details are left to you.
I built the top for this project first using multiple boards glued up to the proper width. Be very careful in choosing your boards so you have both a good color and grain match...this can make a huge difference in the end result you get, especially with such a large, visible surface. Glue and clamp your top using the methodology you prefer, being sure to properly edge-joint and orient your boards so the glue joints become as invisible as possible. Be sure that the top is clamped flat and set it aside to cure. I did not use biscuits, but there is no harm in doing so if you prefer them.
The legs are milled to 1 3/4" square before tapering. It’s a good idea to take the legs from the edge of a straight-grained thick board where the grain will end up diagonal across the section of the leg. This will provide four essentially identical faces and make for a strong component. If you do need to include flat-sawn material, be sure to orient all four legs identically. Carefully mark the legs for the two mortises each receive and cut those mortises with the method you prefer. I used traditional square mortise and tenon joinery, but you can also choose to use loose tenons if you prefer and mill your mortises with a router and a shop-built jig.
After you have your mortises cut, carefully mark the sides that are to be tapered. These will be the same inside faces that you previously mortised. Using your table saw or band saw, cut the tapers on each leg. I used a simple shop-built jig for this purpose, but you can use a commercial jig if you prefer or even free-hand the cut on the band saw. (You cannot safely make a freehand cut on the table saw, however) Clean up the tapers using your jointer or a sharp hand plane and scrapers.