Studio Desk – Part 6: The top

Or: Adventures with Jigsaw and Router

My original plan was to make the top for the desk in 4 separate sections. In fact, I had actually cut and made these from 16mm white faced chipboard. But after discussions on the Sound-on-Sound DIY forum, and concerns about the stiffness of the top, I changed my mind and opted to make the top from a single sheet of 18mm MDF

Which would be this shape:

Desktop Shape .Easy to cut (not)

Cutting this accurately would be a challenge. There is no easy way I could get it on the table saw. So I decided to rough it out with a jigsaw and then use a self-guiding bearing trimmer in the router to bring it accurately to the right dimensions. 

Now it’s fair to say that although I know how this technique works (It’s the common way guitar bodies are trimmed to a template) I have never actually used the bearing trimmer. So this is striking out into the unknown for me!

First up was to mark up the MDF sheet (pre-cut in B&Q to a size I could transport)

Then out with the jigsaw.

I have a love hate relationship with my jigsaw. I love the convenience of it. I hate how vague the cuts are.  I blame myself.  I bought what looked like a bargain, and it taught me, that in power tools (as in everything, I guess) you get what you pay for. It has a laser guide and everything. But if you were to trust the blade to follow the laser. You’d be a fool (as I have discovered)

But it’s OK for roughing out, providing you can then do something else to take the material down to the finished dimensions.

Don’t follow the light!
Roughed out. Ready for some router action

The idea for the next step is you use a guide or template fixed to the underside of your work such that as you route the edge, the cutter guide eventually runs along the template and you get an edge that conforms exactly to the template.

Safety note: Machining MDF creates lots and lots of dust.  And this dust us not stuff you want to be breathing in. They make MDF with wood fibres bound in a resin that is made with formaldehyde.  So it’s essential that when creating lots of MDF dust you use a respirator mask. Also I favour safety goggles when routing too.

Not a great photo, but you can see the bearing and when plunged fully, it rides on the template screwed to the back of the work-peice 

So this technique allows me to profile the back edges of the desktop. Here is the top dry-fitted to the frame ready for the front edges to be profiled:

The front edge and sides could be routed in situ, and use the actual frame as the guide:

So. Thoroughly covered in MDF dust, I stood back and admired my work.  A desktop that exactly fit the frame. I was really pleased with the way this had gone. It’s technique I’ll use again for sure.

Next up I had to install the threaded bushes into the frame and drill and countersink the holes in the top:

Inserts installed

And finally, I screwed the top down with M6x40 countersunk bolts and checked the rigidity of the desk.  I was really happy to report that this addition has made for a really stiff structure. I’ll be more than happy installing my audio interface, channel strip, patch bays etc in this.

Next up. Finishing the worktop and making the decorative end cheeks

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