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Arts and Crafts Desk Front and Top View 1
Copyright 2005

Arts and Crafts Desk

This is a large computer desk done in the Arts and Crafts Style We have two sizes Desk 8 ft (96 by 28 inches) and Sideboard (110 by 26 inches). The Arts and Crafts Style was popular at in the early part of the twentieth century in America. This desk is made from quarter sawn oak and features accents stained chocolate brown with household ammonia.

Arts and Crafts Sideboard photo 1

This desk features:

A good worker can built this desk in a basic home workshop, but it is a rather large project for a beginner. The simple carving can be added and this addition is a good project for a first time wood carver.

This desk is made from quality hardwood. The materials cost about $700.00

Arts and Crafts Sideboard Side View 2

The sideboard version of this desk has been build and the 8 ft version is under construction. Detailed plans are complete for both version. The construction notes are given below.

Arts and Crafts Sideboard photo 2
  1. Pictures of our Projects

    Pictures of this and most of our other projects can be seen in our Picture Gallery.

  2. Ordering the Sketches

    The each version of this design has eight detailed sketches. Here is where to get all the ordering information.

    The plans for our major projects are brought to you on the Honor Plan. You may look at as many plans as you like, but when you start to build please pay for the plans you use. These small payments are critical to keeping this Web Site open.

  3. Desk Construction

    You can make this desk by:

    1. Downloading and printing this text.
    2. Ordering the Sketches.
    3. Studying the information and locating materials.
    4. Determining if the desk spaces suit your equipment and room.
    5. Purchasing materials; Lumber from a hardwood yard.
    6. Cutting hardwood and plywood pieces.
    7. Building the top.
    8. Building the base.
    9. Building the drawers.
    10. Building the ornaments.
    11. Fitting the sections together.
    12. Finishing all pieces.
    13. Assembling the entire desk.
    14. Installing the computer equipment.
  4. Discussion of Sketches

    After you order the sketches, these notes will help you understand them. This set of sketches are for the 8 ft desk but the sideboard version is very similar.

  5. Arts and Craft Desk

    This sketch shows the front and top views. The top is large and features cutting board end pieces and four rectangular grommets for cables. The frame is heavy and features hollow elements for cables. The board is hidden and pulls out on a tray. There are separate bridges for the computer and monitor.

  6. Arts and Craft Desk, Side View, Sketch #2,

    This sketch shows the Side view with the keyboard tray pulled out. Also show is a simpler view of just the end assemble. These two units are glued together as single piece.

  7. Arts and Craft Desk, Frame Top, Sketch #3

    The sketch shows top view of the frame without the desk top and the desk top alone.

    The frame drawing shows that the drawer and the keyboard tray are build into boxes that can be removed as units. The frame sides attached to the end assembles with tenons and bolt on steal mounting brackets. There is a king post at the center of the back frame.

    The top has four rounded rectangular holes for the cable grommets. The ends of the top have a tongues for cutting board end pieces. There is a grove on the bottom side of the top. This is necessary because a steel "L" beam had to be added to the frame to reinforce the opening necessary for the keyboard.

  8. Arts and Craft Desk, Frame Pieces, Sketch #4

    This sketch shows the details of the wooden pieces need to build the frame. The legs and king post are shown as hollow to allow cables to be run through them.

  9. Arts and Craft Desk, Long Pieces, Sketch #5

    This sketch shows the construction of the long pieces of the frame. All the top pieces of the frame show fine groves 3/4 inch from the top and bottom. These are ornaments but help to hide the keyboard tray door.

    The back of the frame is a simple, long straight piece of hardwood. It has tenons on both ends. It has 1/2 inch groves for the drawer box side, and a 1/4 inch wide grove for the king post.

    The Front piece is much more complicated. It does have the 1/2 inch groves for the drawer box sides. There is a cut out for the drawer front. The frame is cut for the keyboard tray door. The door should be made from this piece of wood taken from this cut. A 1/2 inch tall stiffener runs for most of the length of the top. A 1/2 inch "L" steal beam runs over the keyboard tray opening (without it the frame would be horribly weak). There are two screw blocks on at the ends of the steel beam and a filler piece over the drawer. This stiffener assembly goes into the grove in the underside of the desk top.

  10. Arts and Craft Desk, Ornamental Patterns, Sketch #6

    This sketch provides patterns at 1 to 1 scale for making the ornamental corner pieces, the cable grommets, dowel pins, and ornamental tenon ends. These parts take a lot of had work. They are stained a dark brown with household ammonia.

  11. Arts and Craft Desk, Drawer & Keyboard Tray, Sketch #7

    This sketch shows details of the drawer and keyboard tray. Both run on heavy duty drawer guides. The sides of the keyboard tray are tall and curved at the front to provide a guide for opening the spring loaded door. If you wish to accommodate a keyboard with a tall center, you need to thin the back center of the hinged door.

  12. Arts and Craft Desk, Bridges 2, Sketch #8

    This sketch shows the bridge that holes the monitor, the bridge that holds the computer, the boxes for the drawers, and the cut out for the 1/4 inch plywood.

    The bridges are made from four pieces of hardwood with the bottom edge cut in an simple Arts and Craft design. They have 1/4 inch plywood tops.

    The drawer boxes have sides of made from 1/2 inch thick secondary wood (I used popular) and two plywood strips. Two sizes are needed one for the drawer and one for the keyboard tray. The boxes allow the desk to be taken apart and reassemble and still have the drawer fit fairly well. The back cross pieces has 3/4 inch wood strips running up the sizes and large holes. These features help you to run cables.

Rockler order link to first page
  • Materials

    Arts and Craft furniture is made from quarter sawn oak.

    1. Wood
      • 60 bft - Quarter Sawn Oak ------------- $450.00

      I was able to get quarter sawn oak for $7.50 a board foot including plaining. The width of the boards were between 4 and 8 inches. I kept then as thick as I could by plaining only one side to a flawless surface and taking the back side to only a workable surface. They were all about 7/8 inch thick. The boards were slightly curved so I have do buy about 20% more (include above) then the drawing show to ensure that I could trim them to straight edges.

      • 10 bft - Popular planed to 1/2 inch ----------- $40.00
      • 2 - 2 ft by 4 ft by 1/4 inch, oak plywood ----- $15.00
      • 1 - 1/4" x 24" oak dowel ---------------------- $2.00
      • 1 - 1/2" x 24" oak dowel ---------------------- $2.00

      ------- Wood Subtotal: $509.00

    2. Hardware:
      • 2 pair - *** Heavy Duty Drawer Guides, 16" --- $36.00
      • 4 - *** Table Leg Brackets ------------------- $3.00
      • 2 - *** Arts and Crafts Drawer Pulls --------- $10.00
      • 8 - *** "8" desktop mounts ------------------- $3.00
      • 1 - Steal "L" beam, 1/2" by 48 inches -------- $5.00
      • 1 box - Screws, #8 x 1.25" flat head --------- $4.00
      • 32 - Screws, #6 x .75" flat head brass ------- $4.00
      • 16 - Screws, #10 x 1.5" flat head ------------ $4.00
      • 100 - Biscuits #20 --------------------------- $7.00
      • 2 - Springs, 4 inch by 1/2 inch dia. --------- $2.00
      • 4 - Eye screws ------------------------------- $1.00
      • 2 - "S" hooks -------------------------------- $1.00
      • 1 pint - Glue -------------------------------- $4.00

      ------- Hardware Subtotal: $80.00

      Materials with *** can be obtained from:

      Rockler order link to first page
    3. Finish:
      • Oil based polyurethane --------- 1 quart ----- $14.00
      • Oil based stain ---------------- 1 pint ------ $7.00
      • Household Ammonia ------------ 1 can ------ $2.00

      ----- Finish Subtotal: $23.00

    4. Omissions and Contingencies (~15%) ( Tax, sand paper, etc.) $88.00
    5. Estimate Total Cost $700.00

      This is only an estimate (made in the winter of 2004). The price may vary in your area. This is a major project and costs a significant amount of money. The cost may be kept down by using scrap wood for the secondary wood.

    6. Tools

      Be sure to use proper safety equipment and procedures. Carefully follow all instructions that come with your power tools.

      This desk is a medium level woodworking project and should not be chosen as a first project. It was designed to be build in a small woodshop and should not be attempted with only home repair level tools. It requires a few special tools including:

      1. A table or radial arm saw
      2. Biscuit Joiner
      3. Drill press with tenon attachments
      4. Hole saw for drill, 1-1/4" to 2"
      5. Drillmate bits that can countersink
      6. Dowel Centers
      Rockler order link to first page

    Fabrication Notes

    These notes are 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 needs and likes.

    1. Options

      Look over the desk drawing and decide what you are going to do:

      1. Top Size

        There are two version available, 8 ft (96" by 28", or as wide as will go through a door), and Sideboard *110" x 26" (design to cover a wall). Both are big desks.

      2. Hollow legs

        The legs, lower cross member, and king post are all shown as hollow so that cables can hidden inside them. This turned out to be a very time consuming feature to build and only held a few wires when complete. The result does make this a very novel computer desk.

      3. Shipping Weight Reduction

        The original Sideboard version had to be shipped across country. That design shows a number of areas where wood was removed to reduce weight. The result was a desk that looks very heavy but is surprisingly light. This took a lot of time and will not be of value to most people. The 8 ft version does not show this lightening.

      4. Cutting Board Ends on the Desk Top

        The desk top is shown with cutting board ends to provide an interesting finished look. This requires some real woodworking. You may wish to cut the desk top long enough so this feature is not needed. The cutting board ends have to be installed so that the desk top boards can expand and contract separately from the end boards. The long sideboard version was so long that these extensions were needed.

      5. Desk Heights

        Air Typing is an exercise given on our Web Site to help you determine the height you need for the keyboard shelf, the monitor, and the angle for the monitor. Check to see if this desk height meets your needs with the keyboard at 25.75", the main desk top at 30", and the monitor level at 38". The monitor level is easy to change. Other levels are not.

    2. Building the Desk TopThe quarter sawn boards I bought were flat but were slightly curved along the long edges. I temporarily attached a straight piece of wood along one side with screws and wood strips. I then used this straight edge to rip one straight edge on the oak using a radial arm saw. I removed the straight edge and cut the second side of the oak. This produced two long straight sights but reduced the width of the board by about .75 inch. I assembled the top with biscuits and glue. The average width of the boards was only about 4 inches. I removed considerable material from the underside of the top of sideboard version to reduce weight. When the glue was dry, I trimmed the ends of the desk top straight and made a 3/8 inch wide tung along each end using the redial arm saw. The tung is removed back about 2 inches from the front and back. I then cut two cutting board end boards and cut a dado slot alone one side to accept the tongues on the ends of the desk top. This shot does not run the entire length of the piece but stops about 1.75 inches from both ends. The end pieces are held on with short pieces of 1/4 inch oak dowel. Drill the dowel holes though the end board and the tung. Remove the end boards and elongate, all except the first dowel hole, from front to back using a drill bit. Glued the end boards to the desk top only on the first six inches and glue the dowels only to the end board.
    3. Building the Legs and End Assemblies

      The legs are built up from three pieces of wood. The center piece has a cutout for the cable hide away. The center piece can be made from non quarter sawn oak so the exposed edges will show quarter sawn grain. The two side pieces have material removed for the cable path. This required some effort. For the sideboard version, I removed some internal material to reduce weight for shipment. I did this with a dado blade and chisel, but you might do it with a router.

      I cut two small ornamental "V" groves 3/4 inch in from the top and bottom of all the top frame pieces all the way around. These lines help define the draw and cable tray doors.

      The cross pieces have tenons that do not go all the way through the legs. I rough drilled them all the way through, but finished them from each side leaving a 1/4 inch rough area for the ornamental ends to rest against. I made separate ornamental tenon ends so that I could stain the very dark. The cross pieces also need a slot for the table leg brackets.

      Two legs and cross pieces are assembled with glue to make two strong leg assemblies.

    4. Building the Drawers and Boxes

      It is best to build the drawers and fit them into their boxes before you cut the long frame pieces as you might need to do some custom fitting.

      The drawer (or drawers) are classic drawers with a hardwood front but secondary wood used inside. I used 1/2 inch popular and 1/4 inch oak plywood for the secondary wood. It is worth the time to do dovetail joints at the front of the drawer. The bottom is 1/4 inch plywood and rides in a slot without glue.

      The sides of the cable tray are 3/4 inch stock and they are curved at the front so that they can smoothly push up the spring loaded door as the tray is pulled out. The very front of the cable tray is a 3/4 inch by 3/4 inch piece of quarter sawn oak that becomes part of the desk front. If you have a tall keyboard, you may want to remove some material from the inside of the door at the center. The outer 6 inches must be full thickness for the hinges.

      All the drawers run on heavy duty drawer guides.

      The drawer boxes allow the drawers to be kept as a single assembly when the desk is taken apart. When the desk is reassembled the drawers can be reinstalled without a lot of adjustment.

      The drawer boxes are made from two cross pieces of secondary wood and two pieces of 1/4 inch plywood. The side pieces have a notch for cables and are held to the frame with screw blocks (installed during final assembly). The back plywood piece is show with holes and two 3/4 by 3/4 pieces to form a cable tray. This greatly helps hide the computer cables.

    5. Building the Frame Pieces

      The two long frame pieces require to of the best pieces of wood. If they have any bow to them at all, they must both bow up. The back piece is straight forward. It has tenons on the end and cross slots fitted to the drawer boxes.

      The front frame piece is more complicated. The door for the cable tray cuts it completely into, so it must be reinforced with a steal "L" beam. Start with the board cut a little long. Mark the inside groves for the drawer boxes to match the back rail. Cut out the section for the cable tray door. Cut out the drawer front area. Temporarily reinstall the cable tray door with scrap plywood and screws from the back. Place pieces of thick paper in the cracks to make a loose fit for the drawer door. Cut the groves for the drawer boxes to exactly match the back piece. Glue and screw the top strip in place. It should be 1/2 inch tall and the width of the front wood. Install the steel "L" beam in place with screws and screw blocks. Place it so that it overlaps the keyboard tray door by 1/8 inch (the top part of the "L" that sticks out should be at the level of the bottom of the desk top). Fit a piece of scrap wood at the top of the drawer opening. Cut the tenons.

    6. Building the king post and lower rail

      The lower rail and king post are hollow to make them light and to allow cables to placed inside them. This takes some real work.

      For the lower rail, the sides are heavily dado to make lips for the top and bottom to rest on and to remove material from the center. The top and bottom are 1/2 inch thick oak. The top is glued and screwed in place. The bottom is make from several pieces and held in place only screws so that it can be removed to install cable later. The holes in the top and bottom have to be big enough to let a wall plug pass though. The tenon pieces on the end are carefully fitted and held with glue.

      The king post is similar to the bottom rail but mercurially shorter. It has to be fitted to the top frame piece and to the bottom rail so that it does not slope either in or out. Only shallow groves are possible in the frame pieces or they will weaken too much.

    7. Assembling the Desk

      Place the desk top upside down with cardboard under it for protection. Assemble the frame pieces on it. Start with the end assembles, and then the front and back long pieces. The long pieces are attached to the end assemblies with four table leg rackets. These require a slot in the frame piece, and a short lag/treaded bolt into the leg.

      Place the lower rail in place. Drill the hole for its two 1/2 inch dowels. I did not drill all the way through, but finish the hole on the inside with a small drill. This made a hole that can be used to push the dowel out for disassembly.

      Turn the frame right side up. Fit the drawer boxes and work to get the fronts of the drawers aligned with the desk front. The drawer guides have slotted screw holes that can help with this. Install the glue blocks but glue them only to the box.

      Fit the king post. Hold it in place with screw from the inside the top frame and up from its bottom, but do not glue it.

      Any desk top must be attached to the frame in such a way that the top can expand and contract separately from the frame. In a big desk the expansion, mostly due to changes in humidity, can be as much as 1/8 inch. Almost all the expansion is across grain. This desk top is attached with special "8" shaped hardware with one screw going up and one down. Also a few screws can be place though loose holes in the steel "L" beam.

    8. Building the ornaments

      Sketch #6 is a full scale pattern for the wooden ornaments. These are critical to the Arts and Crafts style. They are stained very dark with ammonia (see Finishing below). As several of the pieces will be damaged in this process, you need to make at least 14 sets of the corner ornament.

      The corner pieces are the most time consuming. They are made from 2 hand worked pieces of oak and two short dowels. They are best made on a drill press from long strips of scrap wood. A 3/4 inch former drill bit works best. The dowel holes and the deep screw counter sink must be drilled accurately. I rounded the oak pieces off with hand rasps. The oak pieces must be stained before they can be assembled. The holes must be cleaned out after staining. Glue the two pieces together with one dowel, but do not install the second dowel yet.

    9. Building bridges

      The bridges for the monitor and a desktop computer are made from scrap oak and plywood. If you plan to use a laptop computer, you may want to enlarge the monitor bridge to provide a place to store it. The wood piece of the bridges are shaped to match the leg style. The top edges are best dadoes to accept the plywood. You can add stained dowel end ornaments.

    10. Disassembly

      Disassemble the desk for finishing.

    Rockler order link to first page


    I stained this desk to highlight the tiger pattern in the oak and then finished with several coats of satin finish polyurethane. The ornaments are stained very dark with household ammonia and finished the same way. You finish your desk any way you want.

    1. Ammonia Stain

      The Arts and Crafts style used an ammonia stain to create a very dark color to oak. It is not possible to do this for the large desk parts in a home workshop. You can do this for the small ornamental pieces using household ammonia in a plastic container. This process only works for oak.

      Simply shape ornamental oak pieces and sand them. Do a test with scrap pieces of wood before doing the desk parts. Working in a well ventilated area, put the pieces in a large plastic container, and poor one bottle of household ammonia over them. Cover the container and let set for a few hour occasionally sloshing the liquid over all the parts. Take the pieces out and let them dry thoroughly. This might take several days.

      The water in the ammonia makes the wood swell. If any of the parts had small cracks in them these parts will be ruined. Sort out the good parts, lightly sand them, and redrill all the holes. Assemble the two pieces of the corner ornaments with one dowel and glue, but do not install the second dowel. These parts are now ready for a final find sanding and finishing.

    2. Finish

      I stained all the desk parts with oil based natural oak stain to bring out the fancy grain. This helped the ammonia parts two.

      I finished all the desk with three coats of oil based satin finish polyurethane. I added extra coats on high wear areas.

    3. Reassembly and Installing the Ornamental

      Install felt feet under the monitor bridge. Reinstall the drawers pulls. Reassemble the frame and attach the desk top.

      Glue the stained tenon ends into place. The cable grommets and the 1/2 inch dowels simply rest in their holes without glue.

      To fit the corner ornaments, you need a small tool called a dowel center. These are tuned aluminum plugs that fit into the dowel hole and have a point that can be used to make a mark at the center of the dowel hole. Place the dowel center into the side hole of an assembled corner ornament and carefully put it in place. When it is just right, push the dowel center point into the leg. Take the ornament away and carefully drill a hole for the dowel in the leg. Now glue dowel into the ornament and push it in place. Drill a hole for the screw and install it.

      The ornaments can be removed but probably will not go back in any order except the original. You should make the ornaments with Roman numerals on a hidden surface.

    4. Cabling

      Use the cable trays, hollow elements, and grommet holes as much as you can. The larger connectors will not go though the hollow element holes so you may have to unscrew the cover plates, push the cables in the slots, and reinstall the plates.

      Detailed cabling instructions and plans for a remote power switch are given in our Web page under Freebies. Make up several cable tie mounts and be ready with mounting screws and tie wraps. The remote power switch is optional but is really helps the desk user.

      Dress the cables neatly and tie then in place 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. Black tie wraps look best and last longest.

    Rockler order link to first page


    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 email.

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

    Don't forget to order the sketches.

    Rockler order link to first page
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