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.
The side panels were made in two sections for two reasons:
One less tricky angle cut to do
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
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.(!)
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:
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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:
So now I was ready for the trick angled holes, there was nothing for it. Let the drilling commence…
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.
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:
And so the moment of truth. Did a 1970s comprehensive education work? Will my maths prove to be on the money… Apparently so!
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
Once cut the various parts were glued, clamped and screwed together
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!
The next day I finished the top frame construction by making the lozenge section that slotted between the two consoles.
The frame was finally finished with a good sanding and then sprayed mat black.
Next up – Adventures in drilling! Making the leg trestles.
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…
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:
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.
The website of the Progressive Rock band: The Renegade Sky Pirates and solo keyboard player Mark Green