What species would be on your shortlist for a slab desk?

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el_Pedr0

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Hi all,

Project & dimensions:
I'd like to put a slab across the width of my small home office as a built-in desk. I'm hoping to support it on the sides and along the back with battens screwed into the wall - i.e. no legs.
Dimensions: 2400mm x 600-700mm.

Aesthetics:
The walls are a bluey grey green so i'm tending towards the lighter colours and away from the reds and rich browns.
It is a contemporary room, so I'll give it a square or chamfered edge - not waney/live.
I'd like it to have a bit of an impact/presence - achieved via the grain/figure and being a single slab as opposed to jointed. I think oak might be a bit too boring - though pippy oak could be a bit more interesting.

Practicalities:
The surface has to be flat and continuous so that I don't loose paperclips/usb sticks/pen lids etc in little holes, and so that it provides a suitable writing surface.
I'd fill holes/cracks with resin rather than splicing/butterflies/joinery (even better would be to have no cracks to fill)
Budget: a few hundred pounds
I'm in London, so have a few timber yards within reach: (English Woodlands Timber, Surrey Timbers, Waney Edge City Timbers)

Given the above, what kind of species would be on your list and what thickness for that span?
Anything else that I need to consider?
 

Droogs

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I would suggest think about 25mm MDF or Ply with a solid lipping for the front and veneer on the top. Probably the only way you will get inside your budget for the foreseeable future
 

Jameshow

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As above I doubt you will get anything hardwood fi you budget?

What about larch - heavy softwood but reasonably priced. Just acclimatise it to the room before you cut / finish it!
 

MARK.B.

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2.4m is quite a span,even supported at the back and edges it could sag over time , the thickness and loads placed on it will of course help or hinder the sagging process . Unless you are using a really really thick top imho you will need some sort of extra support.
 

sawdustandwax

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you should be able to get a solid wood kitchen worktop for the budget, not a slab but still solid wood. Or look at mdf as suggested with veneer if you're handy at applying it Iron-on Wood Veneer Sheets, that could be made in torsion box style with a gentle curved lip for the veneer to go over. Could still do with some form of central support.
 

Jacob

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It's pot luck for the slab, you'd just have to shop around! Failing that 18mm ply with a front rail for stiffness, say 2x3", plus Formica
 

Jones

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Over an 8 foot span you'll need some support to prevent sag unless you go up to 3 inch thickness. Either a leg, an apron under or a more complex torsion box. Kitchen worktops will look like kitchen worktops but whatever timber you get you'll probably need to edge joint some boards . Ash and sycamore are cheaper timbers that can have interesting grain and colour changes, often seen as faults so less valued. Best to go to the yard and look.
 

Ttrees

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What about seeking out some quartersawn straight grain stock so you can joint it.
You could resaw and laminate onto lesser perfect timber.
That might need some thought beforehand, but could be done if you had a decent machine.
Mentioned here before likely by Custard, a trick with chair legs is to use some rift sawn stock so the grain continues vertically down each leg.
You could do the same with the edge.

Guessing you'd not be able to get imported hardwoods for this price,
and guessing that say a local sawmill wouldn't be very clear or have straight grained planks.
 

el_Pedr0

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Thanks all for the responses. I had visted surrey timbers towards the end of last year and saw some 3m pippy oak slabs at around the £700 mark inc VAT. But from your comments - that seems as though it might have been a bit of a bargain.

I had originally considered the kitchen worktop - but they all look very much like a kitchen worktop! so I went off that idea.

Veneer is doable, but in my (albeit limited) experience, it's quite uniform and so lacks that 'wow, statement piece' look.

I realise that the cost is very dependent upon the species, but what sort of budget would be more realistic then for a slab?

Of concern though is of course the span. I'd rather not have legs, but could consider getting some sort of steel brace made up to support the middle. Something that goes back towards the wall as opposed to down to the floor. Or a rectangular section tube rebated a bit on the underside towards the front and running along the length to provide a bit of extra stiffness? What's an apron @Jones (google wasn't massively helpful!)?.
 
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el_Pedr0

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Apron - Got it.
1646751629798.png
 

Jones

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By apron I mean a plank on edge set a bit back from the front of the desk. I'd use something at least 75 x30mm in a straight grained hardwood.
 

Jacob

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I have a bench which is 2900 x 930 x 18mm mdf sitting on batten along the back wall and a single clear span redwood bearer, wall to wall, under the front edge 50 x 90 mm. It's as solid as a rock you can jump up and down on it. If anything the bearer is over sized!
 

el_Pedr0

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@Jacob Is your bearer simply attached to the underside of the mdf - so simply providing stiffness. Or is it somehow attached to the wall too - so providing support too?
 

Droogs

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have a look here for what is availble in veneered MDF over 350 types of wood in various burs, burls, crotches and saw cut grain patterns
 

paulrbarnard

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Thanks all for the responses. I had visted surrey timbers towards the end of last year and saw some 3m pippy oak slabs at around the £700 mark inc VAT. But from your comments - that seems as though it might have been a bit of a bargain.

I had originally considered the kitchen worktop - but they all look very much like a kitchen worktop! so I went off that idea.

Veneer is doable, but in my (albeit limited) experience, it's quite uniform and so lacks that 'wow, statement piece' look.

I realise that the cost is very dependent upon the species, but what sort of budget would be more realistic then for a slab?

Of concern though is of course the span. I'd rather not have legs, but could consider getting some sort of steel brace made up to support the middle. Something that goes back towards the wall as opposed to down to the floor. Or a rectangular section tube rebated a bit on the underside towards the front and running along the length to provide a bit of extra stiffness? What's an apron @Jones (google wasn't massively helpful!)?.
A steel tube under structure would be a good idea. If you look at the majority of river tables etc you will see they often have steel channel routed into the underside. It's probably the only way you you could achieve any degree of stability on a slab the size you are looking at.

Another option would be to make a torsion box out of mdf and veneer it
 

Richard_C

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I made myself a copy Alexander Girard coffee table using crown cut oak veneered MDF, bottom half of edges routed at 45 degrees and sealed, finished with several coats of satin finish acrylic varnish. Looks pretty good has been durable for family use and I would certainly use it again. For the width you are talking about you will need some kind of support or apron or whatever.

(The posh buy for £1200 Girard coffee tables are walnut veneered birch ply)
 

el_Pedr0

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Torsion box would undoubtedly be strong, but also presumably thick. What overall minimim thickness do you think I could get away with in a torsion box assembly?
 

Jacob

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@Jacob Is your bearer simply attached to the underside of the mdf - so simply providing stiffness. Or is it somehow attached to the wall too - so providing support too?
The walls are stud and plaster board so I sat the bearer on a post screwed through to a noggin and also standing on the floor at each end. If the wall was solid could have just put in a big bracket or bearer at each end
 
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