Desk 4 - Walnut
I completed desk #4 last Sunday. This desk marks the end of the Stickley writing desk project. The first desk went to my wife and served to let me work out all the kinks on the others. This desk goes to my youngest and her husband.
I used walnut for the desk, at the behest of my daughter and her husband. The lid contains some of the most interesting figure, with an ‘eye’ right in the middle of the lid. I selected a number of photos to showcase some of the interesting grain in the desk. By themselves, each of the parts provides quite a bit of interest.
During the eight months that this project spanned, I did a lot of reading that gradually convinced me that my penchant for lots of figure confuses the eye and makes a piece too busy.
Lid Open on Desk #4
I can see that on this piece too. Even though I personally love all the grain and figure, it does look busy. That has the effect of not allowing the eye rest of the focal point of the desk.
I enjoyed working with walnut again. I made the last two desks from walnut, and I found it pleasure to use. I love quartersawn white oak, but it takes more effort to work and to finish.
When I started, my goals were to create something that my family might enjoy having around for years to come, and to evaluate methods of expediting the process of creating multiple versions of the same product.
Knot on the Top
Using three different types of wood created a couple of issues. First, the woods chosen, quartersawn sycamore, quartersawn white oak and walnut all work differently. This caused me a few problems when I anticipated certain reactions from a wood, and it did not work the same as the previous wood. Some were softer than others, or were blotchy or tore under the plane more than others.
Right Side Wood Grain
Also, because I used different woods, I did not have as many options for selecting pieces from a large stack. In the case of the sycamore, I actually dug carefully back through all the scraps to find enough pieces so that I could finish. Fortunately for me, the last piece that I needed was long and narrow and I had a piece that was barely big enough. Had I made everything from one type of wood, I probably would have had more to choose from for various parts, and been happier with the overall pieces that I used.
If a person truly wants to create multiples of the same piece and do it efficiently, I think using the same wood for each piece is more efficient and gives the worker much better selection.
Left Side Wood Grain
I used templates with a router to attempt to expedite the cutouts of the pieces and to get consistency for each desk that would allow me to ceate pieces that would come together perfectly. That did not turn out that way.
The sides of the desks contain several odd angles. I found this to be the one place where the template proved to extremely useful and productive. By clamping the one template to each side and routing around it, I quickly produced 8 sides that needed only minor touch up from a hand plane to be called good.
The feet also proved to be good candidates for a template. But, my attempt to cut all the mortises and tenons with templates was a flop. Because I used different stock, not all of my pieces were exactly the same size. This meant that I had a couple of mortises that were too big. Drat!
Also, I used a router to cut all of those, so I had to trim out a lot of rounded edges and corners. Frankly, I think I would have been better off time wise if I had cut them with a saw and with chisels.
So, for me the template worked well in some places and caused me significant issues in others. I learned a lesson. Templates work well for outside dimensions and shapes, and not so well for inside shapes. I doubt that I will ever again use a template/router combination for mortise or tenon cutting.
I think the family members like their desks, and I enjoyed the building them. This desk presented a number of challenges to it due to the design. I probably would have been more successful with something more square and simple. But they have great charisma and I am happy that I chose them.
I learned a lot on this project, had fun and I accomplished my goals. What more can you ask?