No need to buy a new desk when you can transform unwanted furniture into a unique desk that is customized for your needs. This tutorial will show how I took three tables and created a one-of-a-kind desk, for the office, that provides plenty of workspace and storage.
I purchased three different pieces of used furniture at different times not knowing exactly what I wanted to do with them only knowing that they were of value to me because they were made from solid oak wood. Once I had them together I realized that I could make a multifunctional desk, large enough for a computer having one or two monitors with enough desktop space to layout maps or printed images.
Step 1: Repair Reconfigure Enhance
The first piece of furniture was an owner-built solid oak drafting table. The tabletop was gone and all that was left was the table base and three horizontal drawers. I really appreciated the craftsmanship evident in the drafting table and made only a few enhancements. There were holes where the hinges used to be. As seen in Photo 1, I patched up the holes by gluing oak dowel pieces into the holes. I stripped the old varnish off and thoroughly sanded the table.
I had to cut away some of the drawer supports to accommodate newer drawer glides (Photo 2).
I wanted locking horizontal drawers so I installed mortised drawer locks (Photo 3). I used a forstner drill bit to remove most of the wood and used a chisel to final-shape the mortise. The lock fit in nicely as seen in Photo 4.
I am a devoted fan of Eastlake Brass so I added solid brass keyhole plates to the front of the horizontal drawer faces as seen in Photo 5.
That was all I needed to do for the table base.
Step 2: 2 Tabletops => 1 Desktop
The other two pieces of furniture were both square coffee tables (Photo 1). I removed the legs, stripped off the old peeling finish and sanded the tops. My plan was to combine the two tabletops to create one large desktop. The corners were rounded (Photo 2) so I ripped one edge from both tabletops to remove the rounded corners allowing me to join the two edges as seen in Photo 3.
That was all I needed to do to transform the two coffee tabletops into a single desktop as seen in Photo 4.
To fasten the desktop to the base, I used recycled door hinges having a removable center pin. If I need to separate the desktop from the base I simply remove the hinge pins.
Step 3: Vertical Drawers
With most of the desk completed I wanted to add vertical drawers and a shelf above the desktop. Keeping with the theme of transformation, I used the top rails from the coffee table (Photo 1) and made drawer fronts (seen at the bottom of Photo 2) for two sets of six small vertical drawers to hold a variety of work tools along with the usual office essentials such as pens, ruler, scissors, etc.
The outside dimensions of each drawer are: 5.5 inches (140 mm) wide, 3 inches (76 mm) tall and 11.25 inches (286 mm) deep.
I cut rabbets in the bottom and sides of the drawer fronts (Photo 3). I cut the rabbets 3/8 inches (9 mm) wide and .25 inches (6 mm) deep so that I could attach the sides and bottom pieces of the drawer to the drawer front and glue them in place as seen in Photo 4.
The drawer sides are 11 inches (279 mm) wide, 2.75 inches (70 mm) tall and .25 inches (6 mm) thick (Photo 5).
The drawer bottom is 11 inches (279 mm) long, 5.5 inches (140 mm) wide and .25 inch (6 mm) thick (Photo 6).
The back of the drawer is 5 inches (127 mm) wide, 2.75 inches (70 mm) tall and .5 inches (6 mm) thick (Photo 7).
All of the cut pieces of the drawers can be seen in Photo 2. I used small 18 gauge brads, 5/8 inches (16 mm) long and wood glue to assemble the drawer as seen in Photo 8.
As seen in Photo 9, the vertical drawers are sandwiched between two parallel boards, 12 inches (305 mm) wide, 24 inches (610 mm) tall and .75 inches (19 mm) thick. The drawers themselves rest on horizontal rails that are attached to the sides as seen in Photo 10. The rails are .75 inches (19 mm) wide and tall and are 10 3/8 inches (264 mm) long. The rails are set back .75 inches (19 mm) and are spaced 3.25 inches (83 mm) apart.
The vertical drawers rest on top of the desktop, as seen in Photo 11, and are attached with bolts to the side and rear of the table base.
Step 4: Drawer-Supported Shelf
With the vertical drawers completed I made a shelf that sits on top of the vertical drawers.
The shelf is a composite made from narrow oak boards and oak dowels. There are six boards each 1.75 inches (44.5 mm) wide, 66 inches (1.67 m) long and .75 inches (19 mm) thick. The boards are joined together with .75 inch (19 mm) diameter dowel segments. Holes are drilled through the center boards allowing the dowel segments to be fitted through the holes ( Photo 2). The front and rear boards are only drilled halfway through so that the dowels will be seated into the boards. The boards are spaced apart to create a shelf that is 11.25 inches (286 mm) wide as seen in Photo 3. The shelf is attached to the vertical drawers with screws as seen in Photos 4 and 5.
Step 5: Down Under Shelves
I also wanted to take advantage of the space beneath the desk and made undershelves to store items that I don't use frequently but still want to have handy (Photos 1 and 2). I made wooden shelf supports out of blocks and dowels. The supports were designed to work in conjunction with the legs of the desk to provide overall stability. Instructions for the Down Under Shelves can be found here:
Step 6: Footrest and More
The builder of the drafting table made sure to make a comfortable footrest. I appreciated that but also wanted to rest the rest of me, so I made the footrest so that it can pivot up and out of the way, allowing me to stretch out on a comfortable mat for a brief 15 minute horizontal rest break.
The footrest pivots on two bolts toward the rear of the footrest. Movable pins hold the forward part of the footrest secure and release easily when desired.
Step 7: Finishing Touches
I really like the natural varigated color of oak wood, so will probably only apply a couple coats of sealer. I haven't found any drawer knobs that I like but will keep searching. With so many drawers, the knobs should be small and simple, anything else would be too overwhelming. The drawers are small but really hold a lot as seen in Photo 4.
I really enjoyed this project as I was able to take unwanted furniture and reconfigure it into a totally new piece that is customized to my needs. Hopefully this project will inspire you to do something similar.