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Building a laminate-faced plywood desk

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PeteWilliams

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UPDATE - I've got the plywood but have more questions… see latest post.

Hi,

I'm looking to make a desk and like the idea of birch plywood with a solid white desktop.
I'm trying to keep costs down and wonder what's the best way of achieving this look.

I've found I can get 18mm birch ply for around £65 a sheet delivered, and am slightly bemused at how much it costs to add a slither of white plastic to that!

Melanine-faced sheets seem to be hard to find online, and are pretty steep where I have found them - eg £180 + £85 delivery from Morland.

The other option I considered is buying a laminate sheet and trying to laminate the plywood myself, but again, the sheets are hard to find online and expensive - eg, £70 + £40 delivery from TopClassCarpentry.

Does anyone have any other suggestions, either in terms of alternative methods/materials, or cheaper suppliers for the above? I'm in Guildford, Surrey.

Many thanks

Pete
 

AndyT

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Maybe wait until the seasonal mayhem has subsided, then nip up to Croydon and have a look at Ikea. They have a wide range of table/desk tops in different weights and finishes. Very popular for diy projects.
The lightweight tops with honeycomb paper cores are surprisingly strong and very cheap but they have others too. It's a good idea to look carefully at the semi-commercial office furniture ranges, where the durability is highest. And even if a top isn't obviously listed as a separate named item, if there's a choice of finish you can probably buy one on its own.

You can always adapt a top with contrasting or thicker edging, but if you are on a budget, Ikea can often offer a finished item for less than the retail price of the materials.
 

PeteWilliams

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Thanks but I'm quite set on the plywood look. I'm going to be doing sets of drawers in ply and want the desk to match. Plus the desk will be 8ft wide which is much bigger than most cheapo off-the-shelf jobs.
 

AndyT

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You said you wanted a white top.
I assume you would build the rest of the piece out of plywood.

If you mean that you want exposed plywood edges, you could frame a readymade top with ply, much more cheaply than buying a whole sheet and hiding most of it under paint or laminate.
 

PeteWilliams

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Yeah, it's the exposed ply edges and then a white top I'm looking for.
Like this:


I was thinking framing a cheapo melamine-coated particle board wouldn't allow those sharp edges.
But I suppose if I cut the edge 45° and put a triangular strip along the edge as the frame, that might just work…
 
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I was going to suggest this - the office I work in has melamine-faced chipboard desks which have a ply-effect edge band, looks like ply but obviously lighter and less expensive
 

Pete Maddex

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We have some furniture at work where the laminate has chipped and reveled the MDF about 30mm in from the ply edge.

Pete
 

AES

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I can't offer any advice about materials, sorry, but can I suggest that you re-consider colour. Especially if user/s are spectacle wearers, and if there any kind of overhead table light, I find "pure white" is a very poor colour choice, leading to reflections, glare, and soon, to sore eyes. Can I suggest you consider a light grey, a not too light green, or even an "off-white" cream?

I'm sure it's of no help to you but here (Switzerland) reasonable quality ply in various thicknesses is available pre-finished in "melamine" of various colours (including white) at quite reasonable (for here) prices at one of our DIY chains. IF "melamine" is OK I'd GUESS that similar should be available in UK?
 

weekend_woodworker

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I think melamine faced ply is just expensive. Avon ply which is my local dealer does it at £117 a sheet for 18mm. I don’t know about delivery though.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

PeteWilliams

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UPDATE
In the end, I found my local Champion Timber could order it in for me for £147 delivered which I thought was OK.

Now having received it, I have a few more questions… bare in mind I'm an enthusiastic newbie :D

1 - What condition do you expect sheets to arrive in?
I've tried a few different timber merchants and it seems fairly common for timber sheets to arrive not entirely flat or a bit chipped around the edges.

In this instance, most of the birch ply I received was pretty good, but the one melamine sheet was a bit chipped around the edges. See photos here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/eMXJb19TnyCgCxHb9

I appreciate melamine-faced plywood is going to be a bit more delicate, but would it be fair to ask for this to be replaced?

2 - What's the best way to create a thicker looking desk edge?
The melamine faced birch ply is 18mm, and my plan was to add strips of 12mm around the edges to bring this up to 30mm for a chunkier look. What's the best way to get it looking like a single piece?

I'm assuming I would struggle to glue them up and have them 100% flush on the front edge, so I was considering either gluing them up and then taking a mm or so off on the table saw, or gluing them together with the strip overhanging slightly and then use a flush trim router to trim the thickening strip flush.

My initial thought was to use the router, as that way I'm not cutting the melamine and don't need to worry about chipping it. However, I'm quite new to routers and when I had a practise with the flush trim bit earlier, it left burns marks on the workpiece which I wouldn't want either (I am leaving the ply edges exposed).

3 - What's the best way to support the desk?
The desk will be approx 2440 x 610mm of 18mm birch plywood and will sit on 4 hairpin legs. I suspect this would cause the desk to sag in the middle. What's the best way to prevent this? The desk will be up against a wall and I could either attach a supporting block to the wall or add an additional leg at the middle of the rear, but this would still leave the span at the front unsupported…

Thanks for your help =D>
 

Myfordman

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Routing edges:
To minimise burning you need to move the router quickly along the edge.
firstly trim by whatever means to leave about 1-2mm for the router, no more.
clamp on some scrap at the beginning and end of the edge to be cut to stop the ply breaking out.
Wind a strip of making tape around the bearing- about 2 layers. Trim the tape so the bearing rotates freely. Make your first cut round all surfaces.
Peel off the tape and take a second very fine cut for a good finish.
 

Kev D

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2 - What's the best way to create a thicker looking desk edge?
The melamine faced birch ply is 18mm, and my plan was to add strips of 12mm around the edges to bring this up to 30mm for a chunkier look. What's the best way to get it looking like a single piece?

I'm assuming I would struggle to glue them up and have them 100% flush on the front edge, so I was considering either gluing them up and then taking a mm or so off on the table saw, or gluing them together with the strip overhanging slightly and then use a flush trim router to trim the thickening strip flush.


Peter Millard on youtube, episode #143, makes a desk with birch ply laminations and trims the edges with a track saw.
 

PeteWilliams

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Thanks for the replies.

With regards to the quality of the melamine-faced ply, Champion are replacing it without quibble which is good - hopefully the next one arrives in better shape!

I think I'll probably use the suggested router technique for trimming the laminated ply, but will do some test runs first.

My last issue is how to support the full 2.5m span of the desktop. I'm keen to avoid any additional legs in the middle of the desk, so one idea I had was to route a channel across the front and back to insert a couple of 15mm box section steel tubes. Any thoughts on if that'd be enough to keep it straight…?
 

RichardG

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PeteWilliams":v2jwl1ex said:
My last issue is how to support the full 2.5m span of the desktop. I'm keen to avoid any additional legs in the middle of the desk, so one idea I had was to route a channel across the front and back to insert a couple of 15mm box section steel tubes. Any thoughts on if that'd be enough to keep it straight…?
I think you’ll need something much more substantial. Just looked at my commercial desk and the front support is steel 40mm x 20mm with an 18mm chipboard veneered top, but that is only 1.8m wide.
 

KevinPeters

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@PeteWilliams, can you update us as to how you got on with your desk? Interested in the finished product. I would like to do something similar and equally struggled to find anywhere that would supply a single sheet of melamine birch ply at anything less than £200. I've just ordered two sheets of 15mm from 18 mm Multiplex Platten weiß melaminbeschichtet Zuschnitt auf Maß in Germany as this was the cheapest!
Thanks
Kevin
 
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capocobono

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It seems like a shame to cover that beautiful birch veneer with melamine. We had the exact thing you are talking about in work and I managed to chip the edge of the melamine within about a month. I've just finished making my own birch plywood furniture for my home office and I decided to use Osmo wax/oil on the raw plywood. It turned out so much nicer than my desk at work. The oil brings out the grain really nicely and there's a range of different stains, including a raw stain that knocks back the yellow. I also made a smaller desk for my wife using hairpin legs, but it's not nearly as big as your dimensions. I used two sheets of 18mm glued together to make 32mm thick, but at 2.5m you're probably going to need something in the middle to support that. Have you thought about building a small storage cabinet or something for under the unit which would also act as a support?
 

KevinPeters

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The OP's post was back in January, so I'm hoping he has finished his project by now :). Mine will be a corner desk 1m x 1m with the corner cut off.

I know what you mean about the melamine, but it is, in my experience, much harder wearing than the raw birch and has the benefit of brightening up the room.
 

capocobono

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The OP's post was back in January, so I'm hoping he has finished his project by now...
Not if he's anything like me. :)

I know what you mean about the melamine, but it is, in my experience, much harder wearing than the raw birch and has the benefit of brightening up the room.
To be fair out of 50 people in the office, I was the only one who managed to chip the edge. Three separate times!
 
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