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Compact Corner Desk


Rough notes and semi-organized thoughts.
(Not a polished article.)

This is a compact corner desk. We intend to use it as a computer desk, but it could also serve as a small writing desk.

A Google search reveals lots corner desks. Most are fairly large, made with sheet goods, and built to be part of a larger set. I wanted something compact that had a light and open appearance.

To determine dimensions I first measured the space where I wanted to place the desk. Next I measured the computer. Most importantly, I checked some reference works for guidelines on desk height, and for how much room a human needs for leg clearance and the like. This results in a top which starts as a 32x32" square. Then a 34" arc is cut in to round it off. The height is 29.5", and the clearance above where you would sit is 25". There is about 20.5" between the two front legs.

The legs were a concern. Are four necessary? I wanted to build it with just three. Using three legs, just as on a three legged stool, would ensure that the desk would never rock. I considered putting a leg at each of the three corners, but I was concerned that the front/arc was too long an unsupported gap. I next considered having the two front legs set in, as I do in the finished product, but was concerned that arrangement would look kind of weird. (How does it look to you?) The final decision was forced on me, because I wanted to have some pull-out boards (more on that later) which affected the leg placement.

The top is made out of some 16" wide laminated pine panels, glued up to make a 32" wide top. I think there is an interesting side story concerning these panels. They're old. I have had the one for almost 14 years. The other one was found here when we moved into our present house so it is over 7 years old. In contrast, the two pull-out boards were from a new laminated pine panel from the building center. Brand new. The difference when shellacing was striking. The old panels definitely took a warmer orange glow, compared to the new pine.

I originally intended to build this desk as a sort of sketch, so I was looking to use at-hand materials. Often when I do this, the end result turns out just fine. We'll see what we think of this after living with it for a while.

The legs of the desk (and the rear - hidden - table skirt) are recycled materials from an old single bed set. I flipped the bed posts upside down, cut them to length, and patched the mortise holes with some small scraps of wood (and oriented them to face those "ugly" bits to the wall).

We already have another large double-pedestal desk. One of the handiest features of that desk are two pull-out boards, one on each pedestal. You can pull them out, to give extra working space when you're in the middle of some project, and then when you're done, just slide them back into the desk. Since I intended to make a fairly compact/minimalist desk, I was determined to fit in a pair of these boards to provide extra temporary working space.

The third photo shows the boards extended. The fourth photo is a shot of the underneath of the desk. Since it is a corner desk, the boards converge on the same corner. That cuts into the amount of space available for the pull-out boards. But if they're too short, you can't pull them out far enough to be much use. Cutting them at an angle like this, allowed me to maximize the amount that you can pull out those boards. (The boards are 9.75" wide x 24" long. We can pull them out at least 16".)

I also thought I should at least provide a small pencil drawer in the center. This was tricky, given the quarter-circle nature of the space I was working with. I thought about various options before finally settling on the uncentred-drawer that you see in the photo. I'm not 100% happy with how this turned out -- you can only open it about 5" before you are in danger of the shorter side slipping off it's tracks. We'll have to wait and see how we use it, to see if it works or not. (The drawer was also VERY difficult to construct. Lots of oddball angles to measure and cut and figure out how to fasten together.)

The top (and the pull-out boards) was finished with two coats of shellac, followed by two coats of water-based varathane. The base was painted a semi-gloss latex black. Then an almost-dry brush of purple was dragged over the black, and the excess wiped off, to try and give an interesting effect.


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