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Retired

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Hi,

About 15 years ago a guy at work asked if I would make him a pine farmhouse table. I agreed and the design and size was agreed upon with a handshake as was the price. I had catalogues so the price was half that shown for a similar table. It was almost Christmas so during the Christmas holiday I set to and spent three freezing days in the garage making the table. Back at work in the New Year I informed the guy his table was ready; he replied he had seen one in a shop in Huddersfield for £10 less.

I've used the table for my computer since then and have only just got around to replacing it. What prompted me was that my wife Bronwyn and I visit Boundary Mills Retail Outlet in Colne and whilst there I've always been most impressed by the finish on the toilet doors and walls. (Yes I'm sad). I knew the material wasn't genuine wood burr because burr just doesn't come in such large sizes so I thought it must be laminate and perhaps Formica.

I surfed the web for hours trying to find a match but without success; not being one to give up easily I emailed Boundary Mills asking if they could please let me know what the material was? I received a lovely reply from a lady called Joanne; Joanne had contacted the installers and confirmed the material was in fact Formica laminate it being Mahogany Burl but the bad news was that it was no longer supplied.

Encouraged by this I did a lot more web surfing and eventually found a company in Morley near Leeds who are Formica stockists; a number of emails followed and I was kindly sent two free samples to inspect these being Formica Amberwood Burl; this was stunning in appearance but would I need oxygen when I requested the price? The two samples looked identical to me but the price of one was almost double the price of the other; the samples were Formica F1118 GLS and Formica 0352 GLS the GLS standing for “Gloss”. I sent another email to enquire if the prices quoted were actually correct or if perhaps a mistake had been made; no the prices were correct it was just that they came from different batches. Bron had seen the samples and asked if I would replace the kitchen work surfaces using this material so I ordered two sheets of the cheaper 0352. The sheets are huge at 3050mm x 1300mm so I asked for the delivery charge to be quoted around £44. Morley is quite local to us and the sheets were in stock so an hour later I was standing in reception paying the bill of £73.68 inclusive which I thought to be a real bargain. We own a little Toyota Aygo and I was worried if these two sheets would fit inside; I drove round to the warehouse and the two guys let me watch as they rolled the two sheets into a large roll securing them to prevent them unwrapping. I was most impressed by the way they rolled the sheets; both sheets were placed on a large table this table having an opening down the centre to allow a person to walk forward into the table; at the far end of this table was a large drum; one of the guys simply grasped the end of both sheets aligning them with the drum and simply walked forward pushing the sheets as he did so and the drum automatically rolled them; the sheet ends were secured then the roll was removed from the drum this only taking a couple of minutes and the roll was carried out to the car where is just fitted allowing the hatch to close.

Amberwood Burl Formica..jpg


I had only a rough idea in my head as to what I wanted my new computer desk to look like but I wanted this Formica to use as I would with wood veneer for the desk panels. The framework was to be solid oak throughout. The farmhouse table was rather too big so using it as a rough guide I juggled around taking measurements and settled on the finished size making a note of these. I didn't make a proper dimensioned drawing but with a number of sketches I could work out a cutting list then went and ordered the materials from our local timber yards. The oak is American White; the panels were to be Moisture Resistant 18mm MDF so I ordered a full sheet and I already had the Formica. At the first timber yard I handed over a cutting list asking how much the oak would cost to cover these sizes; I was happy to hand over £96 and delivery would be in a few days. Upon leaving I remarked that I was in for some serious machining of the oak once it arrived to be informed “why; the price includes machining to your cutting list”. I was amazed by this as I’ve always bought hardwood previously as sawn board. This yard also supplied the MR MDF included in the price but they could not supply the 1.5” thick oak for the desk top frame. I visited a second timber-yard and was again happily surprised to buy 1.5” thick oak 6” x 96” off the shelf for a total of £22; This was cross-cut to allow it to fit into the Aygo. So far it was looking good and I had been pleasantly surprised by the costs incurred to date.

I have a Startrite combination woodworker so machining wasn't a problem; this Startrite is 3 phase but I wired all the motors in “Delta” adding a start and run capacitor. As usual I was working in a cold black hole with the garage doors closed and apart from the four day summer which came and went it poured with rain most of the time.

First job was to cut the top MDF panel by laying the full sheet onto wooden bearers on the garage floor and using the Skilsaw.

Cutting 18mm MDF..jpg


I knew the Formica sheets were big but seeing them laid out on the garage floor was an eye opener. How the heck could I cut these without causing damage? I have a big industrial Startrite Volant 24” band-saw but I couldn't put a sheet through working on my own neither could I put a sheet through the Startrite saw-bench. The Skilsaw would be too fierce so in the end I settled on the cheap B&D router fitting a 1/8” tipped cutter; cutting both the MDF and Formica on the garage floor is a job I don't wish to do often but with patience and extreme care I cut the Formica lengthwise then cut an oversize section to fit the top MDF panel.

Cutting Formica..jpg


A visit to Screwfix provided the Evostik Impact Adhesive and I also bought a pack of cheap 4” foam rollers to apply the adhesive with; I had seen videos on “You tube” showing laminate adhesive being spread with ease by roller so hoped to do the same. Strips of 6mm thick MDF was cut and these were dusted off as they would separate the Formica and MDF allowing positioning before securing the Formica in place; once the glued Formica and MDF made contact there would be no plan B.

It's over 30 years ago since I used plastic laminate but what a downright pain this Evostik proved to be. I flipped the Formica face down and poured on some adhesive and set to with the roller; two strokes of the roller and I thought great; I've cracked it and this is easy? A few seconds later the Evostik starting turning stringy and refused to spread with the roller; in panic I grabbed the plastic serrated spreader supplied with the adhesive but now it was panic time and again the adhesive refused to spread so I threw the spreader away and grabbed a new paintbrush; this too was a pain but eventually I had applied a coat of adhesive onto the Formica and still using the brush applied a coat onto the dusted MDF. I needed calming down after this so had a pot of tea whilst the adhesive dried as recommended. The MDF strips were placed and the Formica laid on top of these; not wanting to make a mistake I spent a while checking and double checking then checking again that the Formica was correctly positioned then pulled out a couple of the middle strips and gently pressed the Formica into contact with the MDF panel; a rubber roller was used to ensure the Formica went down without air pockets as the remainder of the strips were removed. What a relief it was to see the Formica in place and as this was the largest panel I knew I could do the others easier. It was most important at this point to trim the Formica edges flush with the MDF otherwise they were sure to get damaged so the router was run around a couple of times fitted with a bearing guided flush cutting cutter. The bearing kept becoming fouled with adhesive but I suppose this will be down to practice on my part.

Desk top ready for Formica..jpg


Not wishing to repeat the panic with the other panels I sent an email enquiry to Evostik explaining the problems I had encountered asking for their advice; I'm still awaiting their reply.

I could now relax a bit and concentrate on making the oak frame. The corners were to be mitred and normally I would do this on the big industrial Wadkin chop saw but to make space in the garage I had sold the saw. However I had bought a shiny new Evolution Rage3 compound mitre saw to replace the Wadkin with so set this up on the bench. This saw also cuts steel and I had been using it to cut steel box section so the first mitre cut was terrible. A trip to Screwfix provided three Titan blades at a much reduced clearance price these being rip blades. With a new blade installed there was a lot of improvement but the saw just wasn't accurate enough using the indent. Quite a while was spent aligning the blade and fence against a set square. I hate compromise but the garage was still very dark and gloomy even with both strip lights switched on; wherever I was working there were shadows and the shadows were so bad that if I put the square to the wrong side of a mark I couldn't even see the mark. There is little difference in Yorkshire between winter and summer.

All joints were to be biscuits to speed up the work using a Freud biscuit joiner I've owned for over 20 years. All the biscuit slots were cut including one in each mitre then after dusting off the oak frame was glued into place using water proof woodworking adhesive.

Once the glue had dried then the lower oak frame was added together with the MDF drawer dividers and two end panels. The dividers were lipped with 3” wide oak as were the end panels but the end panels were firstly laminated with Formica. It was a right struggle aligning everything and I even managed to cut three biscuit joints in the wrong place but fortunately out of sight. Everything was then glued up.

Biscuits added dry for test fit..jpg
Drawer openings..jpg


I had already bought 7 single 13A sockets and plastic boxes from Screwfix so wired these in series and screwed them in place along the back edge of the desk as I had designed a recess to accept these. I had become fed up of all the loose cables so decided from the start to tidy them up. A single twin and earth lead supplied the 7 sockets from a plug fused at 13A. Plugging in a drill and switching on confirmed power was on and all was well.

Drawers with Formica added..jpg
Power laid on..jpg


This cheered me considerably because now the hardest part had been completed successfully and it was looking very good. The top section was then brought up into the bungalow to make working space in the garage and to prevent it becoming damaged.

The two base units were made and assembled in similar manner. The computer section would be open front and back for ventilation but the other base would be fitted with shelf and a door to the front leaving the back open. MDF panels were cut as required and laminated with Formica before the oak frames were added. Much time and a lot of care went into getting everything to fit and align correctly.

The three drawers are constructed from 18mm MDF Formica laminated fronts to full width and depth; softwood sides and backs and the bottoms are WBP 6mm plywood glued and pinned; the front bottoms being rebated on the inside to receive the ply and to allow gluing and pinning.

This desk is heavy and once the three sections had been positioned in the hall the two bases were secured to the top section using four round head screws each.

As work progressed I finished each section using nothing more than Ronseal satin polyurethane varnish as I wanted a tough finish which would withstand a lot of use especially in front of the keyboard. The panels were carefully masked and the varnish applied with a top quality (Purdy) paint brush.

The final job was to play around on the Record DML24 wood-turning lathe and make the 7 knobs. Offcuts of oak and Formica discs ensured the knobs matched the desk and a finishing touch was to add the burnt ring decoration to each knob using a “hot wire”then the knobs were given a coat of cellulose sanding sealer with the lathe in motion followed by a coat of Black Bison clear wax. Whilst burning the rings the garage smelled wonderful.

The total cost for materials was just over £250 but the joy I derived from making the desk was priceless. The picture of the finished desk shows it with the door slightly ajar; I hadn't noticed this whilst taking the picture. Having made the desk I didn't want to sit the old 17” Compaq CRT monitor on it so I bought a new 23” LG Flatron IPS235 monitor costing £136 and worth every penny.

Finished desk..jpg


The old farmhouse table was then broken up and disposed of; it had served me well but not with good memories although it taught me a valuable lesson not to be so gullible in future.

I'm now seated at the desk and it gives me immense pleasure just to look at it and to think “Did I make that?”.

Kind regards, Col.
 

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Corset

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Nice looking desk. Sounds like it was quite an adventure to get it all done. The formica looks a real bargain when you consider the effort saved.
Nice.
Owen
 

pip1954

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hi retired
i think it might be nice with the other door fitted and just open when computer in use but top marks lovely desk should last many years
pip
 

Retired

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Hi,

Thanks Greg, yes I'm careful what I put on it and am careful not to scratch it; I know it's my computer desk but it's a shame to clutter it up with the computer gear.

Many thanks John I'm pleased you like it and once I get settled in with a bit of time I hope to post more of my projects.

That's kind of you Mailee and yes I do feel rather pleased with how it turned out; hopefully I can regard it as a stepping stone to achieve even better results.

Thank you Owen; yes it took quite a bit of effort to get it done but it wasn't the actual desk that caused me the most problems it was my working conditions and the usual dire weather making me work in a black hole. I'm currently in the middle of clearing my electronics workshop out and converting it into a woodworking shop so that I can work in comfort all year round; the workshop is central heated and I can install better lighting. I've been retired now since 2000 and there just aren't enough hours in the day. Yes indeed; the Formica once laid was finished and saved a great amount of effort compared to veneering using wood veneer; the Formica is supplied with a protective coating similar to cling film and this film was left in place until the desk was completed.

I fully agree with you Pip regarding the second door to conceal the computer when not in use but in this case it would be impractical due to the desk location in the hall. The computer door would be in the way if anyone visited by the bungalow front door; visual appeal would be greatly enhanced with a door fitted but it's a small price to pay to have such a desk; at least I have full access all the time to the computer for inserting discs etc. Good point though and thanks for raising it also thanks for your kind comments.

As a newbie I'm settling in quickly and I'm pleased to be part of this excellent forum; I appreciate all the kind comments which will encourage me to do even better work which after all is what such a forum is about.

This desk is visually appealing and very functional but I found the construction of it to be easy enough as a biscuit joiner is a huge asset for this kind of project saving a great deal of time and effort. I like wood veneering using the hammer method with traditional hot hide glue and would have preferred to use wood veneer rather than Formica but burr veneer simply doesn't come in such large sizes and if it did it would need a second mortgage to buy a sheet so in this instance the Formica is a good substitute and proved extremely cheap.

I enjoyed designing and making the knobs; the hardest part was to decide whether to use a single knob per drawer or to add two per drawer; I thought perhaps too many knobs would make the desk front resemble an organ but I'm now pleased I opted for two per drawer as it looks more balanced. The knobs were all made from a single off-cut of the 1.5” thick oak and their finished size is 1.125” deep x 1.125” max diameter.

The knob blanks were drawn as squares on the off-cut and each square was accurately marked for centre. 6mm x 50mm countersunk machine screws (Screwfix) were to be used for securing the knobs to the drawers. The holes were drilled at tapping size to accept the screws; a quick way to determine tapping size is to use a nut which is 6mm in this case and select a drill bit which slides through without clearance; I'm a mechanical engineer but this trick saves looking up tapping sizes from charts and a simple tip worth knowing.

Blanks marked out..jpg


Next was to counter-bore deep enough to accept the screw head and to allow a recess to be removed to accept a Formica disc. This was followed by running a 6mm intermediate (second) tap through each hole. So far the off-cut was still in one piece to aid handling and to save time and effort playing around with a number of small bits of timber. Using the big Startrite band-saw the blanks were cut out. As there were seven long screws to run home I chucked a screwdriver bit into the Bosch drill and ran each screw but stopping leaving the screw head protruding to allow woodworking adhesive to be added before running the screws fully home; I didn't add the adhesive first because I was worried about it contaminating the thread I wanted exposed to accept the securing nut later.

Counterboring..jpg
Tapping at 6mm..jpg


A Jacobs chuck was inserted into the Record Power DML24 wood turning lathe tapping it in securely then the first blank was secured into the chuck by the machine screw; this would ensure concentricity of the finished knob to the screw. The lathe is positioned very near the garage doors away from the strip lights and I ended up rigging up a mains inspection lamp leaving a trailing cable which I don't like; this was a bit better but only lit up one side of the blank leaving the other side in shadow; the garage doors were closed with a waterfall cascading down on the outside as it was pouring with rain and it was very gloomy even with the light switched on.

Knob blanks..jpg
Ready for turning..jpg


This American white oak is tough stuff and the first cuts using a gouge produced chattering and splinters; a trip to the grinder worked wonders and not wanting to lose a few front teeth light cuts were taken; The first knob took ages to complete but the other six proved a lot easier. A simple but highly decorative feature I like to add is to burn a couple of rings using a “hot wire”. This costs nothing but if used with restraint enhances the look of such small items. After turning I like to sand then burnish the work whilst in motion using a stick of wood; the stick is pressed onto the revolving work and compresses the wood fibres leaving a lovely smooth finish. Please note the home made short tool rest which is ideal for small work.

Wire burning method..jpg


I would like to stress that any novice wood turner reading this must never ever wrap wire or anything around their fingers whilst using any machinery especially a lathe or sooner rather than later the fingers will be quickly removed. My hot wire is a short length of resistance wire that was a heating element. One end is wrapped around the far bed bar but allowed to slide freely for lateral adjustment the other end is secured to a turned wooden handle. To use; a shallow nick is added to the revolving work using a skew chisel; the wire is positioned over the top of the work grasping the wooden handle and the lathe set in motion; the wire is engaged in the nick and the handle gently lowered to bring more wire into contact then more pressure is applied; this will produce lots of smoke and the wire will glow red hot. If the wire is not correctly aligned a nice spiral will appear.

Nice knob..jpg


It is imperative to ensure the wire cannot become entangled in anything revolving such as a chuck or faceplate or a serious accident will occur at the blink of an eye. Once the burnt ring has been added then the lathe is stopped and the wire parked safely out of the way being mindful that the wire could still give a nasty burn until it cools down. I drop the wire and handle behind the headstock out of harms way. I love the smell which lingers for ages after wire burning.

Kind regards, Col.
 

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goldeneyedmonkey

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Top work Col, like the detail you've gone into in this post, very informative mate. Oh yeah, n the desk looks really nice n'all :D.

Cheers _Dan
 

Retired

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Hi,

Many thanks Dan for your kind words they are most appreciated. I've been a member of a number of vintage radio forums for quite a while so although I'm a newbie to this forum I'm used to adding my stories. I'm very busy with my workshop conversion at the moment but when I get a bit of time I'll be happy to post some of my radio wooden cabinet restorations hoping they will be of interest and something a bit different. Pleased you like the desk.

Kind regards, Col.
 

Shultzy

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Very nice Col. Last time I glued Formica in such a large sheet I used newspaper between it and the mdf. Position the Formica and weight one half down, lift the other half pull the paper out and smooth flat. Repeat with the other end.
You could have used Pocket Door/Flipper Door Fixing (http://www.isaaclord.co.uk/productDetai ... ntCat=1/17) for that awkward door.
 

Retired

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Hi,

Many thanks for the newspaper tip Shultzy; I hadn't thought of that and also thanks for the link to "Pocket Door/Flipper Door Fixing". This is most useful and a very easy retro-fit once I get the workshop sorted out.

I've just read your entire thread covering how you built and kitted out your workshop; brilliant job all round and you can be mightily proud of it; not only a great workshop but also very cheap considering all the material used; these days £3,300 will only buy a decent Wendy house from a local garden centre. Very well done Shultzy.

Kind regards, Col.
 

wobblycogs

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Really nice build (and welcome to the forum).

I used the hot wire technique a lot when turning but I have a slightly different set up. I use any old bit of steel wire (I think I'm currently using gardening wire) with two small handles fitted. I hold the handles only between thumb and forefinger so that if the wire catches it should be pulled cleanly from my fingers. I've still got all ten so I reckon must be doing something right.
 

Noel

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Nice write-up Col and welcome to the forum.
 

halken

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what a great write up and i think the desk is spot on god knows what it would cost in a shop. all the sockets in the back are a brilliant idea. col you should feel very proud to make such a beautiful and functional piece of furniture well done
 

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Hi,

Thanks for the welcome Wobblycogs (great name). I'm pleased you still have a full set of fingers and thumbs after doing much wire burning and long may you continue to do so. Isn't it wonderful how wire burning can transform something like a plain tool handle into something special at no cost and very little effort; it always gives me a buzz. The picture below is the wire I used before attaching one to the lathe bed bar; the two small handles are offcuts of softwood quadrant with the corners eased costing nothing; I'm sure yours will be of the same design.

Burning wire..jpg


I'm pleased you like the write up Noel and many thanks for the welcome; I wish I had more time to spend on the forum as there is so much of interest to me.

Wow KENNY I feel quite humbled by such kind praise; thank you so much it is most appreciated. Yes; a desk like this to buy from a shop would make a hole in your pocket assuming one was available. One of the joys of designing and making items is that it is only limited to imagination; I could have easily bought a ready made solid oak desk and saved myself a lot of work and running around but there would have been no satisfaction in it for me and by making this desk I've ended up with a one off for less money. I've not seen a desk with built in sockets before but although it looks simple enough the solution to tidying the cables took quite a bit of thought but the end result is well worth it as I became fed up of my feet becoming tangled in lots of loose cables; this way is much neater.

I'm pleased you like the write up KENNY and think the desk to be beautiful; every time I look at it I think to myself how the heck did I dream that up and make it. It's only oak; MDF and Formica put together with a lot of TLC. I'm very pleased with how it turned out. I hope to use this desk as a stepping stone to designing and making more furniture to an even higher standard once I get the workshop kitted out for woodworking; I like veneering and French polishing so I'm interested to see what I can really make if I'm working in a warm well lit workshop instead of a cold black hole. If I get time I'll add my story of restoring and customizing a wreck of a 1957 Ekco TV cabinet which was truly in dire condition taking four long winter months to accomplish during the worst winter on record. Woodworking in all its forms is a wonderful hobby and as you rightly say KENNY results in functional items.

Today I cleared out a few more electronic items; a car full in fact as I delivered two coil winders plus lots of other stuff over to a buyer in Preston and the journey was horrendous due to the torrential rain down the motorways; it was like driving into the bottom of Niagara Falls. I was very relieved to arrive home safely. The dark wet weather just won't let up and it's preventing me cracking on in the workshop as I want to make a start on decorating it; I've only got to walk down to the garage and I get a soaking. I want the workshop ready for winter; the official winter that is.

Thanks everyone for your kind comments and encouragement.

Kind regards, Col.
 

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Retired

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Hi,

Welcome to the forum from another newbie darrenl; Many thanks for asking darrenl; are you enquiring about the desk or simply the burning wire?

Kind regards, Col.
 
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