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Corner Armoire 1 Corner Armoire 2
Copyright 2005

Armoire Corner Desk

This is a very large piece of furniture that fits into the corner of a room and serves as a computer desk, a entertainment center, or both. The doors fold back along the sides on hinges.

A good worker can built this desk in a basic home workshop. Although it is large, it is simple to construct, and it even comes apart into two sections for ease in transporting. It is sized so that it will just go though interior door ways.

The only challenge is making framed doors with loose central panels (like kitchen cabinet doors). A table or radial arm saw is needed to make the door frames. A router, preferably with a table, is most commonly used to shape the door frames and panels.

An armoire (sounds like: arm-war) is simply a French word for arms cabinet. They are usually large closet-like pieces with two tall doors now used to a suit of armor. Later they were used like a clothes closet. Many examples are very formal and ornate, but some American versions have simple, clean lines.

Recently the armoire has been adapted to hold televisions and other electronic equipment either in the living room or bedroom. These usually feature doors to hide the equipment when not in use. The armoires can be as big and solid as needed yet still be consistent with the earlier styles.

The exterior of the piece can be either in light or dark wood. The lines can be left simple or ornamentation can be added. You are free to suit your own tastes. You can even add an interior light.

If you are a person who wants to neatly store your computer away, then this is the desk especially for you. The cost of the materials is about $1300.00, if moderately fancy hardware is used. It is 54 inches wide, 29 inches deep, and 84 inches tall. It requires 13 inches of additional floor space on each side to open the doors.

Rockler order link to first page
  1. Ordering the Sketches

    This design includes fifteen detailed sketches that are critical to your successfully building this desk. Here is where to get all the ordering information.

    Woodware Designs, Woodware@woodwaredesigns.com
  2. Desk Construction

    You can make this desk by:

    1. Downloading this text.
    2. Ordering the Sketches.
    3. Study this information and locate the materials.
    4. Purchase local materials.
    5. Have the plywood cut.
    6. Build and assemble all panels
    7. Build back, base, and top.
    8. Assemble desk
    9. Finish all pieces
    10. Reassemble
    11. Install the computer.
  3. Discussion of Sketches

    After you order the sketches, these notes will help you understand them more completely.

    1. Armoire Corner Desk

      The front view shows the doors closed. There two sections, top and bottom, each with four doors. The base is held off the floor by short legs. The top has Crown Molding trim.

      These sketches show ornate hardware. You can choose simpler, antiqued hardware if you like. The 10 outside hinges are special 270 degree hinges, these will probably have to be ordered from a catalog.

      A design is shows door panels made of solid wood. It is possible to make the panels of plywood but the value of the finished piece is much higher if they are solid wood.

    2. Armoire Corner Desk, Side View, Sketch #2, Open

      This sketch shows the desk from the side. The keyboard tray is show in both its extended and stored positions.

      The armoire comes apart just above the keyboard shelf. Removing a few screws allows you to take the unit apart for moving. The crown on the top is also easily removed.

    3. Armoire Corner Desk, Front View Open, Sketch #3

      This sketch show a front view of the desk with the doors open.

    4. Armoire Corner Desk, Panel Doors. Sketch #4

      This armoire is made from ten classic stile and rail panels. Eight of them form the bi-fold doors. Each panel has a frame of hardwood and a loose insert of thinner edge-glued hardwood. The parts of the panels are usually made on a router table with a specific set of bits just for this purpose.

      The Lower Door is identical with the upper door, except for its height.

    5. Armoire Corner Desk, Panel Sides. Sketch #5

      The side panels are just like the doors except a little wider.

    6. Armoire Corner Desk, Sketch #6, Joint Options

      The joints at the four Armoires of each panel are the keys to the entire construction. There are many ways to make a good stile-and-rail joint. Each takes its own tools and skills. This sketch shows four different joints that you could use. I am sure you can do a good job on at least one of them.

      1. The 1 Matched Router Bits joint requires a matched set of router bits and a router table. One bit cuts a fancy channel for the insert and the other cuts a matching shape in the rail end. These cuts match so well that nothing else is needed but a good glue. If you have this equipment, you will want to use this joint.
      2. The 2 Mortise and Tenon is a classic. The rest of the sketches show this joint. The rails have short extensions (tenon) that fit into holes in the stiles (mortise). Be sure that the mortise is a little deeper than the tenon is long.

        The tenons are easy to cut on a table or radial arm saw. Note the small step to fill in the outer part of the insert channel. The mortise holes are a little more difficult. You may be able to get access to a special drill stand that does just this one job. You will need a 1/4-inch square bit.

        You can cut the mortises with a special chisel. These are now available from woodworker's mail order houses for about $12.00. You will need the 1/4-inch size. Be sure to leave the stiles two or more inches long so that you can make your cut away from the weak end. You can trim them later.

        This is the type of joint you will want if you want to make a classic armoire.

      3. The 3 Half Lap joint has both the rail and stile extended the full length of the frame. Each is then cut half away with a dado blade and the two halves overlapped. They can then be secured with small screws or brads. If the arm saw is your favorite tool, you may like this joint.
      4. The 4 'L' Bracket Let-In is the simplest to make. It has a very short over lap cut with a radial or table saw and a metal bracket. This is a very simple joint and requires no special tools.

        You must let-in the 'L' brackets into the wood. This is quite easy with a knife and a sharp chisel. During glue-up, place the brackets exactly where you want them but screwed to the surface. After the glue is set, carefully outline the bracket with a knife (utility knives work well). Remove the bracket. Run the knife over the first cuts again then slop the knife in from the waste side for a third cut. This will leave a 'V' shaped channel with a straight edge on the good wood side. Then simply remove the waste wood to the depth of the bracket and replace the bracket.

    7. Armoire Corner Desk, Base & Top, Sketch #7

      This sketch shows three top views, the plywood base without the back or side panels, The middle level at the keyboard shelf, and the top plywood pieces with the crown molding. The back does not come to a point because the desk would not then fit through doors. The fine dotted lines represent the edges of pieces that are hidden behind solid parts.

      1. The Bottom shows the 3/4-inch plywood base with its hardwood trim. The legs are attached below and the two large holes are for cables. Long screw blocks are glued on to position the back and side panels. The plywood is sized to allow the top and bottom pieces to be cut from one standard piece of plywood with an allowance for the saw cut.
      2. The Middle looks down on the keyboard shelf with is heavy duty drawer slide hardware. The keyboard shelf has two small strips nailed to it to prevent the keyboard from sliding off and for the doors to rest against.
      3. The Top looks straight down on the desk. The holes allow the easy run of connectors and cables. Speakers or lighting are often put on top of the desk. The crown molding is build up from the molding, 2 strips of hardwood, and two pieces of fill wood. The assembly is attached to the top with a few screw blocks so that it can be removed. The armoire is simply too big to go through some door openings with the crown in place. The 'L' brackets strengthen the Armoire joints when the crown is off the Armoire.
    8. Armoire Corner Desk, Base and Top Plywood, Sketch #8

      This sketch shows how to cut one piece of 4' by 8' 3/4 inch plywood to make the top, bottom, and two shelves. The "First Cut" is straight down the length of the sheet in waste wood and may be made at the wood store to aid in getting the plywood home.

    9. Armoire Corner Desk, Back Side Plywood, Sketch #9

      This sketch shows how to cut one piece of 4' by 8' 3/4 inch plywood to make the side pieces of the back, both top and bottom. One edge of these pieces must be beveled at 45 degrees. It is much easier to square cut the piece a little wide and then come back and make the 45 bevel. Then adjust the final width by recutting the square edge. The "First Cut" is straight down the length of the sheet in waste wood and may be made at the wood store to aid in getting the plywood home.

    10. Armoire Corner Desk, Back Flat Plywood, Sketch #10

      This sketch shows how to cut one piece of 4' by 8' 3/4 inch plywood to make the flat portions of the back and the keyboard shelf. Again ruff cut the back pieces square and then bevel them to 45 degrees with the best side of the plywood inside. Again, the "First Cut" is straight down the length of the sheet in waste wood and may be made at the wood store to aid in getting the plywood home.

    11. Armoire Corner Desk, Shelves, Sketch #11

      This sketch shows the pieces of the shelves that support the monitor and TV, and the keyboard shelf. The front pieces of trim should be hardwood. The back pieces are secondary wood and both help to stiffen the shelves and to prevent things from being pushed off the back. There is a space behind the shelves for cables.

    12. Armoire Corner Desk, Small Pieces, Sketch #12

      This sketch shows the a number of small pieces needed to make the desk. The Front Legs have fancy curves and are backed up by wooden blocks. The 45 degree screw blocks are used to strengthen the joints in the back. The Molding blocks and fill pieces are used to make the crown molding assemble and may have to be adjusted in width for your molding. The inside band joins the top and bottom sections of the desk at the keyboard level. The Bottom and Top Door rests give the doors something to rest against.

    Rockler order link to first page
  4. Materials

    The Armoire is made of hardwood panels made of rails and styles with inserts of edge-glued hardwood boards. The back, bottom, shelves are made with 3/4 inch fur plywood. A small amount of secondary wood (like pine or popular) is also needed.

    The back, interior panels, and shelves are made of 3/4-inch plywood with hardwood trim. The parts are assembled with glue, wood screws, and finishing nails. A biscuit joiner will make for stronger joints.

    A classical armoire would be done in a rich hardwood like walnut, cherry, or mahogany or even an exotic tropical wood like rosewood. These woods would require fancy fixtures in antiqued brass. The cost of the material will be high but the value of the finished piece will be even higher.

    An American version can legitimately be built in less showy woods (then called the piece would be called a wardrobe). These woods include oak, ash, hickory, and even pine. A few small, tight knots add interest but you cannot cut the rails and stiles from knotty wood. This style should have steel or iron hardware preferably antiqued (see The Campaign Desk).

    The cost estimate below is for white oak with fancy hardware but no interior lamp. You could do an American version for a hundred dollars less or an exotic version for hundreds more.

    Hardwood

    Hardwood Boards:

    ------------- Finishing Subtotal: ------------- $76.00

    Omissions and Contingencies (~15%) ---------- $167.00

    ----- (Tax, sand paper, etc.)

    ______________Estimated Total Cost _________ $1300.00

    This is only an estimate (made in the winter of 2004). The price may vary in your area. Getting a good price on the hardwood and ornate hardware is critical to keeping the price down.

    You can choose plain hardware and even antique plain pieces yourself. Adding a pair of lamps for the top would be a really nice touch.

    Rockler order link to first page
  5. Fabrication Notes

    This section is not intended to be a detailed step-by-step construction guide but rather a number of points to consider. It is your desk and you can build it to suit your likes and needs.

    1. Options

      Before starting work, look over the following options and decide what you want to do for your desk:

      • Plywood Choice -- The plywood is normally 3/4 fir and is painted on the inside. Hardwood plywood can be used but is much more expensive.
      • Panel Construction -- Choose the type of panel and joints you want to make. Do some trials before you make your final selection.
      • Fancy Hardware -- Fancy hardware makes the finished piece look good but it is very expensive.
      • Plywood Panel Inserts -- Using thin hardwood plywood for the panel inserts will save costs but if reduces the value of the finished pieces.
    2. Rails and Stiles

      The rails and stiles are the keys to this project. You can make them as simple boards with a channel cut with a table saw or make you can make fancy ones, if you have the tools.

      Rail and Stile panels have been a mainstay of cabinet making for many years. There is a large selection of tools specifically for this purpose. You can use (1) a table or radial arm saw with a dado cutter, (2) a special pair of router blades and a router table, or (3) antique speciality planes. Use what you have.

      Sketch #6 shows four possible joints. Choose the one that suits your tools and skills. Some of the joint styles require extra length for the rail pieces.

      The channel should be a loose fit to your insert material and have a little extra depth. In the finished panel the insert should be able to move slightly as the frame expands and contracts. This makes the difference between a five year joint and a seventy-five year joint.

    3. Panel Assembly

      You may want to make the rails and stiles up with sharp inside edges, assemble the frames dry without the inserts, and round off the inside edges. The round off can be done with a router or by hand. This produces a dressed edge and tight, closed joints.

      On assembly be sure that the joints are tight, the frame is square, and that the insert is not glued in place.

    4. Base and Top

      The base and top are pieces of 3/4-inch plywood with strips of hardwood around three sides. The hardwood strips are best attached with biscuits but you may use a wooden spline or just nails and glue. If you use nails, be sure to predrill the holes.

      The base gets the feet on its underside and the top gets the removable crown on its top.

      The top surface of the bottom and the lower surface of the top get a long screw blocks just inside the back and side panels. A thin strip of hardwood is run across the front for each for the doors to rest against. Predrill nail holes in these pieces.

    5. Back

      The back is in six pieces, three top and three bottom. Square cut all the pieces a little wide and then recut the 45 bevels on the required edges.

      The long joints would be too weak if not reinforced. Twelve screw blocks with 45 bevels are shown along these joints.

      The band of wood at the keyboard tray level is screwed and glued to the lower back pieces but is not glued to the top pieces. This allows the finished piece to be disassembled into two pieces later if necessary for moving. Cut these pieces long and then trim to fit.

    6. First Assembly

      I would recommend the following steps:

      • Assemble the top and bottom.
      • Add the back and side panels to the bottom.
      • Add the back and side panels to the top, upside down.
      • Put the top and bottom sections together.
      • Fit the keyboard shelf.
      • Fit the TV and monitor shelves.
      • Fit the outside doors.
      • Fit the inside doors.
      • Disassemble for finishing.
    7. Crown

      The crown is made up of pieces of molding, strips of good wood, and pieces of secondary wood. You can use strips of the plywood for secondary wood. The exact dimensions will depend on the molding you choose.

      You may build up a fancy molding out of several smaller ones. If you cannot get or make the molding match your hardwood, you can paint clear pine molding. The molding can be a striking color accent.

      You may find it easer to assemble the crown in one long piece and miter the whole thing into three pieces. Be careful not to put fasteners in the wrong place.

      The entire crown may have to be removed to move the armoire through a door way. It is attached to the top with a few screw blocks and no glue. 'L' brackets are also shown to strengthen it when it is off. They should be let in.

    8. Shelves

      The top two shelves rest on strips of wood attached to the sides. The monitor shelf should allow at least 3.5 inches of clearance for a large keyboard. The height of your TV shelf will depend on the size of your monitor. The shelves may need some adjustment at the back to fit just where you want them. They must not hold the doors open, but with care, the doors can rest against them if you choose.

      The keyboard shelf should be made a little long and then fitted to the space. The heavy duty drawer slides are mounted to the middle band of wood and to shelf thickened with a wooden block. Care is needed to make the keyboard tray stop at exactly the right place.

    9. Disassemble

      Remove the hardware and bag it. As you remove the wooden parts, mark the glue areas. Label all the parts in pencil on hidden areas. Give the location and the direction of the front.

      Sand all wooden parts. Move power sanders very slowly so that they erase their own swirl marks.

    Rockler order link to first page
  6. Finishing

    You may finish your desk any way you like. I recommend:

    1. Hardwood -- Oil stain, a spit coat of shellac, and many coats of tung oil finish.
    2. Color -- A sealer and oil-based paint for the interior, crown, and front edges of the Moving Boards.

    You can finish the panels, inside and out, before final assembly. Mask off the few areas that will be glued on reassembly.

    1. Staining

      Work with the stain color that you have chosen. Practice on a piece of scrap wood (solid and plywood). Do not start on the panels until you are satisfied. Do not hesitate to write off an $8 can of stain and go purchase another of a different color.

      The outside of the back plywood needs a simple stain and sealer treatment.

    2. Spit Coat

      A spit coat made of one part 3-pound shellac to five parts shellac thinner makes a good wood sealer.

      If the plywood inserts and the hardwood take the stain differently, you can apply a spit coat to only the one that stains darkest (usually the plywood). This will limit the stain penetration to more closely match the finishes. This also works for end grain. Test this procedure on scrap first.

      A spit coat can also be used between applications of stain and as a general sealer after staining.

    3. Exterior Finish

      I like a modern tung oil finish such as:

      ___________ Formby's Tung Oil Finish

      This are applied with a cloth pad rather than a brush. This desk will take at least two 16 oz. bottles; three will be better. Follow the instructions on the bottle carefully and apply a liberal number of applications on all work areas. The toughest finish is needed on the keyboard shelf directly in front of the user. This material has a poor shelf life once the bottle is opened.

    4. Interior Paint

      The user needs to face a bright, but non-glare, color around the monitor. Painting the interior adds enormously to the enjoyment of this piece. The color can be off-white, or light gray, or even a robin's egg blue. Something restful to the eyes is best.

      The interior should be sealed and painted. You may need two color coats. All the shelves should be removed for finishing. The front edges of the upper shelves should be taped off and finished like the exterior hardwood.

  7. Completion

    All that is left is to reassemble the desk and install the cables.

    1. Reassembly

      Do not glue the top and bottom sections together. Also do not glue on the crown.

    2. Cabling

      Instructions for making a remote switched power outlet, and cable tie mounts are on our Web Site. Make up a good number of cable tie mounts and be ready with mounting screws and tie wraps. The remote power switch is optional but is helpful with this large desk.

      Determine which bottom hole will be closest to the wall outlet. Screw the remote switch box and surge suppressor to the inside back close to that leg cable hole. Route the switch cable up to the monitor shelf.

      Install a generous number of cable tie mounts to the back where cables will run. You may also need some at the back of the two upper shelves.

      Place each piece of the computer in the Armoire one at a time. Route and connect the cables. Dress the cables neatly up to the back using tie wraps. Do not pull the tie wraps too tightly. The cable should be able to slide back-and-forth a little. Trim off all the tie wrap ends.

      You may need a cable tie mount at the back of the keyboard shelf where the cable comes out of the keyboard. Route the mouse cable over to the same mount and secure them together. Place a matching mount on the back directly behind this one on the back wall.

Rockler order link to first page

Conclusion

Thanks again for using a Woodware Designs Computer Furniture Plans. We very much want to know how you are getting along with your project and would be happy to answer any questions by e-mail.

If you send us a picture of your finished desk, we would be happy to put it on our Web Site. We need pictures of desks with real people standing beside them.

Don't forget to order the sketches.

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