Having outgrown the writing desk I salvaged from Craiglist and re-painted (who are we kidding, that thing was miniature from the get-go), I was feeling inspired to make something with a little more wiggle room. A little more…PANACHE.
Rather than settle for something I wasn’t super excited about, I decided to conquer the world and make a new desk from scratch. Here’s how I did it.
First, let’s review our key takeaways:
- Making a table is awesome
- Making a table is a giant pain in the ass
- You should probably drink while making your table
Your shopping list
- Alcohol (for your consumption)
- A long-ass extension cord
- A power sander that you stole from your dad
- An orbital finishing sander that your neighbor let you borrow, because his is better
- Sandpaper (grits 150 and 220)
- A hammer and chisel for removing the bark, or a draw knife
- A folding table/work bench (my neighbor lent me this one)
- Protective eyeglasses that you stole from your scientist husband
- Respirator that you stole from your other neighbor
- Life vest (just kidding, I wanted to see if you were still paying attention)
- Denatured alcohol (not for human consumption), plus old rags for rubbing it in
- Polyurethane and paintbrush
- A spectator slash drinking buddy to keep you company
OK. You’re ready for woodworking domination.
1. GIT YER WOOD
My woodworker friend slash neighbor Michael Rivera (follow him on Instagram at @hardwoodsofthands) told me about this magical place in Half Moon Bay called Firewood Farms, where you can buy reclaimed lumber and large slabs.
The Firewood Farms employee who assisted me was really accommodating, and even cut the slab to fit my desired length.
I wanted my desk to be about six feet long, because everyone knows world domination requires a desk that’s at least six feet long.
The redwood slab I picked cost about $300.
That was another thing I learned: Wood is expensive.
I also learned that cedar is beautiful. Cedar smells amazing. You will want the cedar when you see it. And you’ll be crestfallen to learn cedar is expensive and you can’t afford it.
A word to the wise: If you plan on driving into Half Moon Bay on the weekend, leave early. The traffic here is a lobster trap and it’s getting worse each year. Unless you want to spend the day sitting in your car stuck behind the Sam’s Chowder House hordes who clog up Highway 1, chop chop!
Once in Half Moon Bay, you should probably swing by the relatively new Sacrilege Brewing for some local suds.
After you’ve had several beers, go buzzed shopping at Oddyssea across the street. Despite your husband’s protests, BUY ALL THE AIR PLANTS.
2. OK. BACK TO TABLE MAKING. Start by sanding until your hands fall off
Even if you live in a tiny-ass Bay Area apartment, don’t let that dash your dreams of Ron Swanson-esque woodworking glory!
Before my upstairs neighbor Mike lent me his work bench, I perched my slab on an old tree stump off to the side of our apartment. For the first round of sanding, I used 100 grit paper.
Sand until you question whether this project is really worth the effort.
When you’ve arrived at this juncture, crack a beer, then SAND SOME MORE, SUCKERS.
3. Chisel until your hands fall off
By now, my comrade Kristen had arrived to spectate and keep me company. Yaaaaay!
I wanted to keep the live edge on both sides of the table, but didn’t know much bark to remove. Kristen wasn’t sure either.
So we did what any respectable woodworkers would do. We called Kristen’s dad.
“Kristen’s dad,” we said, “How much bark do we need to take off this slab?”
“All of it,” he responded. “Or eventually it will rot and fall off and be messy.”
Fuck, I thought.
A thousand hours and two bottles of wine later, I stripped away all the bark until the sides of the slab were wavy smooth.
4. And you thought you were done with sanding. Ba ha.
At this point, my neighbor friend Mike walked by and examined my progress.
“You should probably sand more,” he suggested.
Fuck, I thought.
Using a different electric sander that Mike gave me, I did another round with 150 grit sandpaper. To finish, I switched to 220 grit.
5. Give your table a drink
Mike also explained that I should clean the redwood slab with denatured alcohol prior to putting the final protective coat of polyurethane on it. So I did that, pouring alcohol on strips of old cloth and applying in circular motions.
6. P is for polyurethane, kids
Next came two coats of polyurethane. I recommend doing one coat at a time and applying in long, even strokes with a paintbrush. If you’re sloppy or apply too much, the polyurethane clumps up and looks like little blobs. Of semen. So there’s that.
It’s up to you whether you want to coat the underside of your table. I skipped it because I was getting hangry.
7. Go to Ikea and get two FINNVARDS
My original plan was to purchase two standing drawer units from Ikea and use those as legs. I wanted lots of storage.
But Ikea didn’t have any drawer units that were tall enough. So…
I purchased two Ikea FINNVARD birch trestles, which have adjustable height and one storage shelf.
You might also like these hairpin-style legs that Mike uses.
To complete my Ikea haul, I purchased a KLIMPEN drawer unit for extra storage.
After all, storage is an important element of my new mega desk.
8. Regret going to Ikea
Happens every time.
9. Assemble FINNVARDS and KLIMPEN
Putting FINNVARD together = Pretty straightforward.
Putting KLIMPEN together?
10. Make your table Pinterest-worthy
After that, I placed the finished slab on top of the FINNVARD twins, or Idikiukup and Bob, as I named them.
10. If anyone asks if you made the legs, lie and say yes
No one has to know.
Sssshhh, Idikiukup and Bob.
Total expenses (ish) for materials
- Redwood slab from Firewood Farms: $300
- Two FINNVARD trestles from Ikea: $80
- Two BLADDRA storage bins from Ikea: $20
- Two more storage bins from Amazon, because I ended up hating BLADDRA: $24
- One KLIMPEN drawer unit from Ikea: $89
TOTAL = $513 BONES (not including tax and incidentals such as polyurethane, paintbrush, sandpaper, wine, etc.)
…Minus the $100 bucks for selling my old desk on Craigslist, so…$413 BONES
And that wraps it up!
HAPPY WOODWORKING KIDS