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Mission Flat 1
Copyright 2005

Mission Style Computer Desk

with Flat Top

The Mission Desk is solid, rectilinear, dark, and rich. This style was influenced by the missions in California but manufactured in New York early in the twentieth century. There are no curved lines but there are rounded steps like those found in adobe houses. You stain the quarter-sawn oak very dark so that the grain is almost a black-on-black pattern.

This version of our design has the monitor on the flat desk top or raised on a matching bridge. The keyboard and mouse are on a low pull-out tray to reduce stress. The design also includes a cable way to hide the wires and a small pencil drawer.

We have a second Mission desk version that has the monitor in a look-down well and the keyboard on a low fixed shelf. Please look that one over too and decide which one suites you best.

Although we call this a Mission-style desk, it does not conform to all the elements of that style. Features from Arts and Crafts and even Santa Fe styles have crept in. If you want a purer-styled Mission desk, check out some books at your local library that show a number of true pieces and make appropriate minor modifications to the design. Computers, of course, were not around at the time authentic Mission furniture was manufactured.

A good reference to look for is:

Mission Furniture -- How to Make it (Parts I, II, and III, Complete), Popular Mechanics Co., Dover Publications, Inc. NY, NY, 1980.

All the materials can be bought at your local home improvement store but the more authentic hardwood will have to come from a hardwood lumber yard. You may wish to order an ornamental mission drawer pull by mail order. The cost of the materials is about $420.00.

Rockler order link to first page

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

This design includes nine detailed sketches that are critical to you successfully building this desk. 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.

You can make this desk by:

  1. Downloading this text.
  2. Ordering the Sketches.
  3. Studying the information and locating materials.
  4. Purchasing materials locally and by mail-order.
  5. Cutting wooden pieces.
  6. Assembling the desk.
  7. Finishing all pieces
  8. Installing the computer.
  1. Discussion of Sketches

    After you download the sketches, these notes will help you understand them.

    1. Mission Style Computer Desk with Flat Top

      This is a three-view drawing of the Mission Desk showing the placement of the keyboard, and mouse. Note the pull-out keyboard tray, the small drawer, the upright slats, the pass-through tenons, the solid square legs, and the rectangular cable grommets.

    2. Mission Style Computer Desk, Top Dimensions, Sketch #2

      This drawing shows the overall dimensions of the finished desk top. Note cable grommet holes. You can buy special hardware for the cable holes from mail order houses or you can make your own substitute.

    3. Mission Style Computer Desk, Frame Details, Sketch #3

      Gives a view of the desk frame with the top removed. Notice the special hardware to mount the top and the mortise holes for the slats. All hardware is detailed in parts list below.

    4. Mission Style Computer Desk, Upright Pieces, Sketch #4

      Illustrates the legs and slats, with dimensions. Notice the through holes for the tenons and the slots for the small shelf cut in the bottom of the back legs.

      In authentic mission furniture the legs would be especially built-up from four interlocking strips. Each with the quarter sawn grain showing on the out side. The procedure for doing this can be found in woodworking books.

    5. Mission Style Computer Desk, Back-to-Front Pieces, Sketch #5

      This drawing shows all the pieces that run from the back of the desk to the front. It also details the long tenon. The round hole in the Drawer Support is for cables. The bottom is board is notched with in a squared off style with rounded corners. This is common in the Mission style.

    6. Mission Style Computer Desk, Side-to-Side Pieces, Sketch #6

      This sketch shows all the pieces that run from one side of the desk to the other. It also details the short tenon. The holes in the middle piece are for cables. The bottom back piece has a grove for a narrow shelf.

    7. Mission Style Computer Desk, Keyboard Tray, Sketch #7

      Details of the Keyboard Tray are given. A heavy duty metal drawer slide is shown on the side of the assembled tray.

    8. Mission Style Computer Desk, Drawer, Sketch #8

      Details of the pencil drawer are given. A heavy duty metal drawer slide is shown on the sides of the assembled drawer.

    9. Mission Style Computer Desk, Monitor Bridge, Sketch #9

      Details of the Monitor Bridge are given. It allows you to have the monitor at any height you need above the desk top. Our exercise Air Typing will show you how to determine the right height for you.

    Rockler order link to first page
  2. Materials

    The classical Mission style featured large surfaces of quarter-sawn oak stained very dark. This produced a rich, heavy appearance and extreme durability. It is possible to use hardwood plywood for the top, but this would give only a small cost advantage.

    You can make the desk of plank sawn oak which is a little cheaper and much easier to get. Secondary parts (drawer body and supports) can be constructed from any good wood and painted black.

    1. Wood
      • Tops (oak) ------------------ 14 board feet
      • Upright (oak) --------------- 11 board feet
      • Front-to-Back Pieces -------- 4 board feet
      • Side-to-Side Pieces --------- 6 board feet
      • Drawer Tray Fronts ---------- 3 board feet
      • Total --------------------- 28 board feet

      Example @7.70/bf quarter sawn oak and @ 5.50 /bf Red Oak

      ------- Subtotal: $220.00 (Quarter sawn); $154.00 (Plank sawn)

      Secondary Wood:

      • Clear Pine or Popular --- 3 board feet ----- $12.00


      • 1/4-inch plywood, fur, B/C --- 24 x 36 Inch ----- $6.00

      Wood Subtotal: $238.00

    2. Hardware
      • Mission-Style Pyramid Knob ----------- 1 -------- 3.00

      • Catalog # 10294
      • Rectangular Metallic Grommet, antique brass --2 -- 27.00

      • Catalog # 91314
      • Heavy duty drawer guide, 12 inch ----- 2 pair --- 20.00

      • Catalog # 39322
      • Table top mounts ----------------- 8 ------------ 4.00

      • Catalog # 21650
        Catalog is Rockler D0 !-- ___________ Rockler Page 1 Link Graphic __________________ -->
        Rockler order link to first page
      • #8 x 1.25 flat head ------------- Box of 100 ---- 3.00
      • #8 x .75 flat head --------------- 16 ----------- 1.00
      • Brads, .75 inch ------------------ 1 Box -------- 1.50
      • Foot pads, Large ----------------- 4 ------------ 3.00
      • Woodworker's Glue ---------------- 1 pint ------- 4.00

      Construction Hardware Subtotal: $ 66.50

    3. Finish:
      • Stain -------------------- 2 Quart ----- $16.00
      • Shellac ------------------ 1 pint ------ 5.00
      • Shellac thinner ---------- 1 pint ------ 3.00
      • Tong Oil ----------------- 2 16 oz. ---- 24.00
      • Black Wax ---------------- 1 pint ------ 12.00

      Finish Subtotal: $60.00

    4. Omissions and Contingencies (~15%)( Tax, sand paper, etc.) $55.50
    5. Estimate Total Cost: $420.00

    This is only an estimate and was done in the winter of 1999. Your exact cost will depend on the price you pay for the hardwood and if you use fancy hardware.

  3. Tools

    This desk was designed so that it could be build by an amateur woodworker with a modest home shop. It requires the use of a radial-arm or table saw and common hand tools.

    The following tools are not an absolute requirement but will make a better job:

    Dovetailing the drawer front will increase the value of the desk, as will quarter sawn oak.

    Rockler order link to first page
  4. Fabrication Notes

    This 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.

    1. Options

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

      1. Quarter Sawn Oak -- Classically Mission furniture was made from quarter sawn oak. This means the log was cut into four quarters first and then each quarter was cut into plans. This requires more time to do at the saw mill put produces a very beautiful grain in oak. Can you afford to pay the extra for quarter sawn lumber?
      2. Legs -- It is possible to make the legs with the quarter sawn grain on the outside of all four sides. This requires a router table and extra work. You may four identical pieces with mating router shapes along the edge.
      3. Black Through Tenons -- The tenon for the side pieces are extended all the way through the legs. You may wish to stain these ornamental accents as close to black as you can. This is done by standing the shaped tenons in liquid stain for sometime before the frame is finally assembled. You can also add false tenons for decoration on the sides of the leg.
    2. The Frame

      The following components constitute the frame:

      1. The Legs

        Sketch #4 shows the legs. Glue the legs together from three pieces of .75-inch thick stock. After the glue sets, plane all sides and radius all corners. Also, round bottoms and relieve the sharp edges around the tops. The legs are not tapered.

      2. Mortise and Tenon

        You mortise the rails into the heavy legs. Figure #4 shows the mortise holes in the legs, Figure #6 shows the tenons on the back pieces, and Figure #5 shows the tenons on the side pieces.

        The side tenon goes all the way through the legs and becomes an ornament on the other side. This is easily done with a mortising drill, but these are usually available only in larger shops. The mortises can be cut with a special hand chisel. These chisels are available from:

        • William Alden Company
        • 27 Stuart Street
        • Boston, MA 02116

        Stanley 3/8-inch Mortise Wood Chisel $10.39

        The mortise must be cut from both sides, if cut by hand. The tenons are easily cut with a radial-arm or table saw.

      3. The Slats

        The slats (see Sketch #4) are made from 3/8-inch stock. Obtaining stock of this thickness or resawing 1-inch stock is a lot cheaper than simply planing down 3/4-inch stock.

        Put the best looking slats in the locations that are most easily seen in your application. The slats are ornamental only, so they may float in their mortises.

      4. Drawer Hole

        The hole for the drawer can be made either by cutting a rectangular hole in a oak board or by assembling the front piece from four pieces of wood (top strip, two side block, and a bottom strip).

    3. Assembly

      Assemble the frame and top pieces separately. Glue and clamp all mortises and tenons.

      Screw and glue the monitor bridge and keyboard tray with #8 1-1/4 flat head screws. Avoid visible screw heads wherever possible. The visible screws heads must countersunk and covered.

  5. The Top

    The top of any table or desk made of boards should be independent of the supporting frame. The top will expand and contract with temperature and humidity and will crack if too firmly restrained. In this design the desk frame will stand on its own and the top is held in place by hardware that allows it to move ever-so-slightly. Other ideas for attaching desk tops are covered in: Attaching Table Tops

    1. The Keyboard Tray

      The Keyboard Tray (see Sketch #7) is really a very shallow wide drawer. The front edge and molding must be made from hardwood. The back and sides are made from secondary wood and the bottom is plywood.

      Pieces of secondary wood and plywood are needed to fill out the right inside end area to allow mounting of the heavy duty drawer guide.

    2. The Two Main Top Pieces

      Edge glue the three tops pieces from hardwood planks. Either tung and grove the plank edges or use biscuits. Biscuits reduce the waste of good hardwood and align the planks very well.

      Take care in gluing that moisture from the glue does not touch the iron clamps, as this will stain the wood.

      Radius all the corners to about 0.5-inch. (Cheap Formica and chip board furniture cannot have this feature). The radiusing also reduces pain if you bump into the corners.

      Round all edges until they are comfortable to lean against or grab with your hand.

    3. Cable Holes

      The cable holes are shown as rounded rectangles to match the lines of the desk. Round holes would be easier, but would lookout of place on this desk.

      Expensive mail-order cable grommets are available that match the style of the desk fairly well but they are expensive.

      You can make nicely dressed cable holes by very carefully first cutting rectangular holes with rounded corners. Practice on scrap before doing this on the real table top. Then cut the fill pieces from separate stock with a cut-out for the cables. The fill pieces are supported from below with plywood tabs (painted black). With the fill pieces in place you have enough room for nicely dressed cables. With them removed, you have room to pass connectors through.

      There are cable holes at behind the Keyboard Tray in the middle board (see Sketch #6) need only be large enough for a keyboard and mouse connectors. They are shown as notches with a cross piece of wood held on with screws.

      The drawer slide boards also have large cable holes.

    4. Drawer

      Drawing #8 give details for construction of a simple drawer. This design has two front boards. Build the drawer box first with the inner front and install it in the desk. Then carefully install the outer front piece with screws drilled through from the inside.

      The drawer is shown with high-quality drawer guides with steel ball bearings (not just plastic wheels). These are expensive but very durable. You can redimension this drawer for period wooden slides if you like. Paraffin wax is a good lubricant for sliding wood.

      A stronger joint between the front and sides of the drawer is a dovetail. A good dovetailed drawer adds considerably to the value of the piece. The dovetail can be cut by hand or with a router and jig. Either way, you will want to practice on scrap wood until you are completely satisfied.

    5. Trim

      Drawings #5 and #6 show several small strips of trim. These carry the line started by the edge of the key board shelf all the way around the desk. They are, of course, optional.

      They are best installed by drilling small holes for brads through the trim pieces before bradding and gluing them in place.

    Rockler order link to first page
  6. Finish

    You may finish your desk any way you like. The classical Mission finish is very dark with a slight golden tone to the quarter grain. It was achieved with processes and materials that are not used today as they require dangerous chemicals.

    If you do not want a dark finish, don't use one. This is your desk and the finish should suit your tastes.

    Trial fit the entire desk and then remove the top, drawer, and Keyboard Tray for easy finishing.

    1. Staining

      Work with the stain color that you have chosen. Practice on a piece of scrap wood (quarter sawn and not). 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.

      To approach the classic Mission color, you will need at least three applications of oil-based stain (in two colors; one nearly black, the other golden) controlled by a spit coat of shellac.

    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 hardwood side and end grain take the stain differently, you can apply a spit coat to only the one that stains darkest (usually the end grain). This will limit the stain penetration to more closely match the finishes.

      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

      It produces a thicker, tougher finish coat and is applied with a cloth pad rather than a brush. It takes longer for the coats to dry and has a opened bottle has a poor shelf life.

      It is 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 tray front and desk top edge directly in front of the user.

    4. Black Wax

      The finish on mission furniture is darkened and preserved with black wax. This can be purchased mail-order or made from one pound bees wax, one pound paraffin, and a small jar of black powered pigment from an Arts and Crafts store.

  7. Completion

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

    1. Reassembly

      Do not glue the top to the frame.

    2. Cabling

      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.

      Determine which leg 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 top.

      Install a generous number of cable tie mounts to the under side of the top and frame where cables will run. Dress the cables neatly base and table legs 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 are a must for this design.

    Rockler order link to first page
  8. Conclusion

    Thanks again for using a Woodware 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 web page. We need pictures of desk with real, proud people standing beside them.

Don't forget to order the sketches.

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