Tag Archives: DIY

Studio Desk Part 10: The Oak Front Trim

The Front trim of the desk is not just cosmetic.  It is intended to be a key part of the structure, bringing a level of stiffness to the whole desk. (Also making it look nice too!)

To give you some idea of the structural importance of this part, if you ignore the subframe for a moment and just consider the MDF top as a single length of material supported at both ends with the dimensions 2m long by 200mm wide and 17mm thick.  You can find out the amount of bend a givem weight will cause.  There is a handy website that will do this for you – which is good because my A Level Physics was a lifetime ago!  But if you go to https://www.woodbin.com/calcs/sagulator/ you can pop in the dimensions and select the material and then add the load (either as a uniform load or a centre load, it will give you the deflection of the beam.

I chose a 100Kg centre load to simulate a um…, large person sitting on the desk.  The amount of bend for unsupported MDF was a worrying 11.6cm. Which I suspect would quite possibly prove catastrophic.

Now if you add an oak edge 100mm by 22mm to the top creating an L section. and re-run the calculation the deflection for the same um… large person goes down to a mere 1.1mm. The tool doesn’t allow you to the subframe structure into the equation, but I think you can see that the overall desktop will pass the large seated musician test!

So here are the lengths of Oak as they came from my local cabinet maker friend who fortunately keeps it in stock (because this sort of thing is well beyond B&Q!)

Sawn Oak Stock

Luckily my Brother-in-Law has a better equipped workshop that me, and he has a rather nice jointer-plainer. So I went up to him and we ran these through to get the pieces square and planed down to a finished 22mm x 100mm.

Back home and I set up the table saw with the blade at 82.5 degrees (90 – 7.5) so the resulting angle of the two pieces when joined would be 15 degrees. I also devised a pocket screw fixing plan:

Fixing for the edge trim

Here are the first 2 pieces glued and screwed to the frame: 

And here are some details of the fixings from underneath:

Finally with it all screwed ind glued into place I made up some end details to finish off the corners between the front trim and end cheeks. I then gave it all a sanding down to 320 grit and finished off with wire wool prior to finishing.

Ready for Finishing

And here are some pictures after the finish has been applied

I still have to sort out the power sockets, and cable management around the back, and then the gear needs to be installed, so there may be one final entry in this diary, but from a construction point of view, the desk is now complete.  I am really pleased with the way it’s turned out, and it will be a fine addition to the studio.

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STUDIO DESK – PART 9: Rack Rail Woes!

Or, why it’s important to measure everything

It’s my own fault.  What I should have done was get the data sheet for the rack rails I was going to use ahead of time. Or even get the rails themselves. But no. I made… An assumption. And it turned out to be wrong.

I have a QuikLok RS513 studio rack, and as I was planning the dimensions of the rack bays, I very carefully took measurements from this, assuming that the rails QuikLok had used were standard.  Well, to cut a long story short they weren’t.

Above you can see my QuikLok rack and below, is a dimension drawing for the standard rack rails available to buy:

Critically the dimensions between centres of the rack is 465mm. And the rails themselves are 19mm from the cabinet edge to the rail edge.  And then the hole centre is 7mm from the rack edge.

However, on the QuikLok rack the rails are only 17mm from the cabinet edge (with all other dimensions the same) and with these dimensions in mind, I very carefully fabricated the desk rack consoles (to within a fraction of a mm!) and then I went and bought some lengths of rail and installed them.

Well, needless to say, when the rails were installed. the distance between hole centres was basically 4mm out. And stuff wasn’t going to fit.

After remonstrating with myself rather a lot, I eventually found that you could get extruded rails like these: 

And critically, they have these dimensions:

Meaning, that they should give me the necessary spacing. And as it was only £6.00 for 2m I thought it worth a try. It would mean that I would have nuts that slid up and down the rails, but as the consoles were only 15 degrees from horizontal, I figured friction would be greater than gravity and all would be well.

So the next day the rail and a bag of square nuts arrived.

A bit of work with the trusty hacksaw and pillar drill later and they were installed.

And yes! It all fitted. So crisis averted, lesson learned and the project is back on track.

Next up will be the oak front trim.

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STUDIO DESK – PART 8: Finishing

Adventures with Varnish and Paint

I passed the task of varnishing the oak veneered parts to my wife Sue, because she’s better at it than me, gets a better finish and says she finds the process soothing and relaxing!

So after sanding down to a pre-finish surface with 120 and then 240 grit papers I passed the job over.  Three coats of satin polyurethane varnish with a light sanding between each, and it was all looking lovely.

Meanwhile relocated into the studio with the MDF top after fine sanding I attacked it with black base coats sanded between each and finished with a final high gloss coat of black.

It was then time to attach the end cheeks, by screwing from the inside of the frame, and then attach the top with the countersunk M8 bolts through the predrilled holes into the threaded inserts in the frame.

And for the first time I got a sense of the final article:

For the solid oak parts I chose a different finish Ronseal brushing wax.  It requires a really fine finish on the wood (sanded down to 240 grit and then burnished with wire wool) but it does give a really lovely finish on solid wood.  Again this was handed over to Sue as the wood-finish guru! And here is a close up of a finished leg:

Next up I will fit the rack rail hardware and then fabricate the solid oak desk front!.

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Studio Desk – Part 7: End Panels

With the structural elements of the desk now completed it was time to move on to the cosmetic bits. These would include the end panels, the inner side panels on the rack bays and finally the solid oak front edge. (That will be worthy of it’s own post).

So the end panels are going to be constructed from 19mm oak veneered MDF and will have the profile shown below:

Construction would be on the table saw. The straight cuts would be simple but the 15 degree angle at the top would be tricky. I would have to cut up to the point the circular blade met the angle change. But from above you wouldn’t see that. So I drew a line on the saw bed corresponding to the point the blade met the table, so I could feed the material up to that point.  I would then have a small section I would need to cut with a hand saw.

setting up to cut the straight edge
Setting up to make the angled cuts
The side panel pieces ready for joining and edge veneer

The side panels were made in two sections for two reasons:

  1. One less tricky angle cut to do
  2. I had acquired lengths of veneered MDF that were the right size from a cabinet maker friend as off-cuts!

Next up was ironing on the edge veneer and trimming to size. A job that always seems to take forever, but does look good once completed. Another tool I inherited, this time from my father-in law, was a lovely little hand plane and that skims off veneer really nicely

Veneering the rack consoles

The end panels, joined and veneered. Also the inner console panels, similarly ready for finishing.

Next up will be finish on the desktop and varnish on the end panels.  Varnish duties will be handed over to my wife who insists that she finds varnishing relaxing and therapeutic.(!)

And then start the final assembly.

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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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Studio Desk – Part 5: The Legs and Frame come together

The plan for fixing the legs to the frame was to use long M8 bolts and threaded inserts. The idea is that the legs are removable.  Simply because the finished desk size will will probably be too big to move through doorways into the studio.

Here is the detail for the way the front bolts and inserts will fit into the frame. (The rear ones are the same but with 75mm bolts instead of the 105mm ones required at the front.)

Here are the M8 bolts, washers and Type D threaded inserts (Type D are the kind you screw into an oversize hole with a hex driver, other types are driven in with a hammer, I believe):

Of course you can’t buy 105mm M8 bolts (well not in the hardware specialist I use!) and although you can get 75mm M8s, they were out of stock, so I ended up with 80mm long ones.  So out came the vintage hacksaw again to get them to the right size.  Handy hint. You should put a nut onto a bolt you are about to cut because taking the nut off afterwards clears the burr from the inside of the thread and it makes putting the nut on later much easier.  Yes, I forgot for the photo!

So came the moment to clamp the legs to the frame and measure and drill the holes:

And bolt the components together:

And here is the desk so far, with the legs safely bolted on.  I also dry fitted  the framing for the 6U rack bays (which I totally forgot to photograph as I cut them):

Next up will be cutting and fixing the desktop sections.

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Studio Desk – Part 4: The Legs

Often, my design process for DIY projects isn’t so much idea – plan – find materials. But more often starts with a wander around the local DIY stores to see what I can actually buy that is close to the idea in my head and then adapt the plan to incorporate those materials

So it was with the legs. I had a rough idea of tubular legs with wooden rails top and bottom, but it wasn’t until I was in B&Q that I spotted solid oak stair parts, including square planed 40mm spindles that would be ideal for the rails, and shortly thereafter I came across 34mm chromed steel tubing that is supposed to be for wardrobe hanging rails. These would be the legs

So with my new purchases in hand I made my way home and figured out the detail plan of the leg trestles.  I showed these in part 2, but here is a reminder:

As you can see this involves drilling some accurate holes at the right place and at the right angle.  So in many ways I was grateful that all those decades ago, I actually quite liked trigonometry at school, and some of it clearly stuck because I remembered my sin and cos rules!

So having cut the oak spindles to length and cut the chamfers on the mitre saw, I very carefully measured and market the positions for the holes. Then I measured them again and re-checked my calculations before turning to the pilar drill.

A while ago I bought this cool little gadget from Amazon that is a magnetic digital protractor.  I placed it on the pilar drill bed loosened off the bed angle adjustment nut and set the 15 degree angle required:

Handy gadget!

So now I was ready for the trick angled holes, there was nothing for it.  Let the drilling commence…

The first pilot hole
Much bigger holes…

With the drill bed back level I completed the rest of the holes.  So now it was time to turn my attention to the chromed tubing.  No power tools available for this so out came my grandfathers hacksaw (that I think is at least 60 years old, and possibly a fair bit older!) and a fresh new blade. Referring back to the plan and making sure I re-measured the depth of the tubing holes, I set about cutting the tubing to exactly the right length.

Old school (very old school!)

The fixing method, as I hinted at earlier is to run a length of thread rod through the tube and through the rails and to tighten down with a nut at each end.

Here is a more detailed drawing of that detail:

Cutting the threaded rod to length
Ready for assembly 

And so the moment of truth.  Did a 1970s comprehensive education work? Will my maths prove to be on the money…  Apparently so!

Next up… Fixing the legs to the frame!

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Studio Desk – Part 3: Building the frame

The frame for the top is constructed from 35mm square softwood screwed and glued together in three sections.  The two side modules with the rack space slots and the trapezoid centre section

First job then was to measure and cut the component parts

The mitre saw doing it’s stuff

 Once cut the various parts were glued, clamped and screwed together

The mitre saw made the 15 degree slope of the console sections much easier
The console sections completed

I’m the first to admit that I am far from perfect.  It was while finishing up for the day I suddenly realised that the top rail would foul any rack mount equipment I tried to put in there (I’m planning a patch bay at the top of each console) What I needed was for the top rail angle to be at right angles to the 15 degree console slope.  So giving my self a stern talking to, I grabbed the router, made up jig to run it against and routed the top rail to the correct angle.   Idiot!

Router to the rescue! The patch bays will fit!

The next day I finished the top frame construction by making the lozenge section that slotted between the two consoles.

More 15 degree angles
It fits!

The frame was finally finished with a good sanding and then sprayed mat black.

The completed frame.

Next up – Adventures in drilling! Making the leg trestles.

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Studio Desk – Part 2: The Design

After lots of sketching I settled on a design that was basically a three section desk that had a slight wrap around angle. The left and right sections would turn in at 15 degrees, and each of them would contain a 6U equipment console sloping up at 15 degrees.  The whole desk construction would bolt on trestle legs.

Something like this:

Here’s a rough sketch looking down on the top with the dimensions:

The leg trestles would be made from Oak ‘feet’ and tops joined with chrome tubing. The front leg of each would slope up at a 15 degree angle.  Which I hope will look cool, but will also involve dredging up some school trigonometry and some pretty precision drilling.. Here’s the sketch showing the calculations (Somehow I drew these upside-down, but you’ll get the idea)

And here are the details of the threaded bolt fixing that keeps the legs together.

So now I think I can see what it will look like and how the difficult bits will be constructed.  Next up building the frame…

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A new workstation for the studio

I decided that the studio was looking untidy and cluttered even though it had a major redecorate lsat year, complete with acoustic treatment.  So I thought the desk was too small and cramped and I have long lusted after those lovely studio workstations like these:

Lovely desks

But when you look at the prices of them, they are rather pricey, to say the least.  Wave goodbye to a four figure number of pounds.

So I decided, I was reasonably adept at woodwork.  I had a reasonably well equipped workshop in the garage.  Why not design and build one?  So, the next few entries will document the journey of designing and constructing Mark’s Desk.

Lets Go!

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