Sunday, April 20, 2008

Black Desk, Part 3

Black Desk, Part 1
Black Desk, Part 2

Now I get to start on the top of the desk. The original plan was to use the same plywood and maple as the bottom shelf, however plans change. Especially when I get my hands on a 7ft oak ply desktop!

The church I work at had torn down a desk made by the in-house cabinetmaker. The top was made from 3/4" oak ply with solid oak edging and birch ply reinforcement underneath. It's heavy, sturdy, and best of all: Pre made!

I trimmed it to the 74" length I needed for the desk with a circular saw. I then spread CitruStrip on to remove the varnish. Scraped with a plastic scraper an hour or so later, then wiped down with mineral spirits to remove any trace of the stripper.

I let it dry overnight then started applying the Minwax Water Based Wood Stain in Onyx. On the underside I only applied one coat. Just enough to darken the bright bare wood.

One note about this stain. It dries FAST! In 3 minutes or less here in Colorado. I was unable to stain the entire top in one pass because the stuff would dry before I could wipe it off. I had to do it in sections. I found stripes the length of the top to be most effective in masking the overlapping sections.

I applied the stain in 6 coats over the course of several days, as time permitted. Because the oak ply had been stained and varnished before, the stain didn't penetrate the same as fresh wood would have. It took 6 coats to get the ebonized look I was shooting for. There is some small amount of the original color showing through under just the right light, which adds to the look.

After the stain fully dried (read: when I finally got some more time to work on this), I began applying the varnish. I chose Deft Semi-Gloss Brushing Lacquer because I'm addicted to the smell of lacquer. NOT! The stuff is brutal! I had to open the garage door all the way and use a respirator to put the stuff on. And the smell still permeated the house.

But it gave me the finish I wanted. Because I was going for a satin look over a solid black desk I wanted the look a solid semi-gloss finish would give. It was the closest to the dresser I had already purchased for him that I could get. Normally I would use a gloss finish for all coats except the final one, only then applying a semi-gloss. That does the best job of preserving the color and beauty of wood. But this wood is black. There is no color.

I've gotta say that I really like the way this stuff flows out when it's brushed on. Hardly a trace of brush marks throughout the desk. And with 6 coats (yep, six!), I expected to need to sand it down pretty heavily. But it was unnecessary since there were no brush marks to have to sand down!

My box fan with a furnace filter did a terrific job keeping the dust from landing on the wet finish. No bits or bumps to deal with.

The finish also flowed nicely into the oak's grain, allowing the texture of the wood to show.

I'm happy with the results. I just wish I could keep the odor from getting into my house. I think I'm going to have to stick with the less nasty finishes like shellac and poly in the future.

After the 6 coats were applied over a full Saturday, I let it cure overnight in case there were any thick areas that needed extra time to harden. I doubt it, but better safe than sorry.

So this morning I got my son to help me carry it into his bedroom and install it under his bunk bed. The layout of his room precluded a full shot of the bed with the desk underneath. And, honestly, it's a teenager's room. You really don't want to see any more than I'm showing!!

I had drilled pocket holes in the leg frames with a Kreg drill bit, and these were used with Kreg 1" Fine pocket hole screws to fasten the top to the legs. I also put some felt pads at the top of the legs to keep the top from loosening and rattling on the legs over time.

Once everything was installed and tested by my son and I laying on it (I'm not skinny either), I put his lamp on the end and took some final pics.
My son is really happy with the results, as am I. I love how everything turned out and suspect he'll be using this desk for a long time.

Soon he'll have his computer, some shelves, and piles of crap all over the thing.

He is a teenager, after all.

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