Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Used Desk?

That is exactly (kind of) what I made The Boss for her Valentines Day present. I wanted to make an environmentally conscious piece of furniture using as much reclaimed material and natural finishes that I could find.

The Boss loves it, and that is all that counts.

It all started at work. We were doing a basement remodel and tearing down some 100 year old walls made out of what I thought was gorgeous old growth pine studs. I asked my employer if it was OK if I took home some of the more usable pieces. "Usable pieces?" he asked me with a very confused look, the studs were twisted, knotty, and full of staples and nails; he thought I was joking.

The character in the wood is amazing.

I couldn't be happier with my "luck". I immediately went to the shop and started de-nailing all of the lumber. This is a tedious task, and fortunately there wasn't any need to be too careful because I wanted a reclaimed look to my final product, so it was OK to make dings and dents.

The next step was "jointing" all of the edges of the studs for the lamination glue up, which essentially means running the pieces through the table saw to get a reasonably uniform glue face. I don't have a power jointer  or a jointing plane, so up until this point the table saw is my method for preparing glue joints (feel free to tell me how important it is to have perfectly straight and square glue joints in the comments section, but be warned I will probably resume using worst practices).

The top looks great with the knots and nail holes!

The base is made from a combination of new and used black gas pipe fittings. I had to supplement in some new pieces in order to get the dimensions necessary for a desk. I de-greased the pipe with some GooGone (made from citrus oils!), and then gave it a couple coats of clear spray paint to prevent rusting in the future (I am currently looking for an all natural alternative for this step as I really don't like working with spray paint).

The iron pipe frame gives a cool industrial look.

This is where the original design was intended to stop, but  I was making this desk for my wife who is starting up her photography business so I got to thinking that it would be great if she could have some storage to hide her equipment, paper work, hard drives, etc. After a little poking around my favorite antique shops and prodding the shop keepers I found some amazing old soda bottle crates that were both the same width, and stacked up to approximately the right height.

It is amazing the crates were exactly the same width.

Back at the shop I added a couple nails here and there to reinforce some of the more delicate and aged joints on the crates and then added some old reused leather from an old couch onto the bottom of the drawers to give a nice uniform, padded surface.

Smooth suede keeps lenses safe!

The drawer action is surprisingly smooth!

The task of mounting my new found "drawers" was a whole different beast entirely. This was difficult because I wanted to keep within the style of the desk, but I didn't want to hide the great graphics on the sides of the soda crates inside the drawer frame. After scratching my head for a few nights, I came up with a plan of using old bed frame stock as angle iron runners from which to construct a carcass.

A closeup of my "carcass" and "runners."

The printing on the side of the crates can still be seen!

To finish the piece I found a really great Eco-friendly, low VOC polyurethane replacement that is actually made out of processed whey protein (the byproduct from the dairy industry). The company is Vermont Natural Coatings and the product goes by the name PolyWhey. I plan on doing a separate post on my perceived pros and cons of this finish, so stay tuned.

Ready for The Boss wants a new computer...what have I done?

PS. I am very proud of this project. It is by far the most unique piece of furniture I have made to date. I am interested in doing some commission pieces (anything to get out of work right?) so feel free to email me if you would like to discuss a similar item.

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