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Thread: Visually thick top options

  1. #1

    Visually thick top options

    Hi all, making a desk for myself. It'll be walnut and Id like the aesthetic of a 2" top but I really dont care if its actually solid 2". Theres the cost of 8 or 10/4 walnut which is a factor, but truthfully it feels unnecessary for such a thick top. Anyway, if Im going to approach the design differently, where should I start and are there any 'gotchas' with different approaches. Some ideas:

    3/4" ply 'core' with walnut boxing all-round. Id get 2" overall, which I like, and I can miter the edges to get face-grain and waterfall-ish look on the perimeter, but how would I responsibly adhere the walnut to the ply to allow for movement, which the ply will have little of comparatively? is that a concern?

    I could just do a 1" or thinner (after dressing 4/4 probably .75-.85", a full 1-1.15" on 5/4) and then do the same mitered face-grain approach and skip the core above but end up with a 2" edge/banding. Sort of the same as above just skipping the 'core' idea.

    I'd like to skip laminating, just because it seems wasteful. Id also like to skip thin veneers.

    Thats what Im chewing on at the moment. How would you guys construct a top like that?

  2. #2
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    Marc Singer, an esteemed member of SMC who has alas shuffled off this mortal coil, had a method he used with great success in which he cut strips from the ends and both sides of thinner stock with bevels so they could be glued on in that waterfall sort of thing. Since the grain is all oriented in the same direction, seasonal dimension changes aren't a problem. You could use solid wood throughout if you want or use plywood and apply a veneer edge banding.

    Edit to add:

    See this thread for some photos of his results.
    Last edited by Dave Richards; 02-24-2018 at 12:30 PM.

  3. #3
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    My favorite way is to use 4/4 or 5/4. Make the top about 5” longer and wider then cut 2-1/2 off bothers ends and the sides. Without mitering fold the cutoffs under. This gives a bookmatch that looks good in the endgrain and the edges. You can also miter everything for the waterfall effect.
    Steve Jenkins, McKinney, TX. 469 742-9694
    Always use the word "impossible" with extreme caution

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Richards View Post
    Marc Singer, an esteemed member of SMC who has alas shuffled off this mortal coil, had a method he used with great success in which he cut strips from the ends and both sides of thinner stock with bevels so they could be glued on in that waterfall sort of thing. Since the grain is all oriented in the same direction, seasonal dimension changes aren't a problem. You could use solid wood throughout if you want or use plywood and apply a veneer edge banding.

    Edit to add:

    See this thread for some photos of his results.
    Yeah, that looks great! I think Ill adopt that approach for the aesthetic, but what should be done about the underside for a table application, opposed to whats shown there?

    With the bottom still exposed I could maybe veneer the underside for anyone who felt the need to look under there. Or plywood again. Or something ...

  5. #5
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    What are you planning to do for the undercarriage of the desk? Have you made a sketch or anything?

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    Id do sawn veneer over a plywood core for most of it. Id use solid lumber for breadboard ends.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Richards View Post
    What are you planning to do for the undercarriage of the desk? Have you made a sketch or anything?
    Haven't figured that out yet. I think now with a plan for the top Ill model up the table to sorta see what makes sense for the undercarriage. I had originally planned a sorta elaborate two piece L-shaped situation but with opposing wood movement (at the L joint) Im backing away from that idea. I think Ill end up with two individual tables that will give me a lot of flexibility with the underside.

  8. #8
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    Two separate tables would give you more flexibility in the future but if you want an L-shaped desk, a mitered corner would allow for seasonal movement.

    How big are you thinking of making the desk?

  9. #9
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    Recently made myself a desk in Mahogany with Ebony trim. Lots of work went into it and I still didn't have a decision on the top, and I was running out of steam. Wife looked at it and said "black granite". In a few days the granite supplier delivered and it is perfect, much better than anything I could have done in wood or leather.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Richards View Post
    Two separate tables would give you more flexibility in the future but if you want an L-shaped desk, a mitered corner would allow for seasonal movement.

    How big are you thinking of making the desk?
    Here is a super rough sketch of the office and how I originally intended on doing the L shape.

    Desks.jpg

    Obviously one arm of the desk is dictated in size and orientation by the nook it will fit into and so I will anchor or pin its movement on far nook wall, which means its movement will extend into the room. That same desk arm Ill just put a mitered 2" wterfall-face on it and dodge the original problem all together and I dont think I need to address the undercarriage. Ill cleat the back and put rails on the walls for side support and it wont have any legs, or I'll build storage under it later. The other 'arm' of the desk will be French cleated to the wall, then the other set of legs I haven't decided, maybe hairpin or something more modern ... tbd. But its that arm of the desk Im chewing on how to achieve the aesthetic of a thick top. As drawn its 62" x 26" x 2", which is probably fine, but its only that dimension because its copied from the nook arm. It will be close to that probably but who knows what it ends up as.

    I do like the notion that if I 'fold over' the edges and get a waterfall effect that I can control for movement in the individual pieces, so thats very helpful. I am stuck on the bottom still though.

    Long way of answering the question. Its sort of an un orthodox 'L' but each arm will be 62" x 26" - ish. An independent table for one of the arms might give me more flexibility in the future, as you suggest.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Jamie Buxton View Post
    Id do sawn veneer over a plywood core for most of it. Id use solid lumber for breadboard ends.
    Thats where I started conceptually. Would differential movement between the ply and walnut cause splitting/cracking? Thats my worry with that approach. I wouldn't be doing <1/32" veneers, It'd probably be ~5/8ths, +/-.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christopher Juncosa View Post
    Thats where I started conceptually. Would differential movement between the ply and walnut cause splitting/cracking? Thats my worry with that approach. I wouldn't be doing <1/32" veneers, It'd probably be ~5/8ths, +/-.
    5/8" thick lumber glued to plywood wouldn't be a good design. The lumber is thick enough that if it decides to get wider or narrower, it will. The plywood does not change, so you get a cupped table.

    Veneer over plywood works because the veneer is a lot thinner than the plywood, so the hygroscopic expansion of the veneer doesn't exert much force. I generally saw veneer to .1" or so, and expect it to finish out to .08" or so. On a big dining table, I'd veneer top and bottom. The movement forces on the top and the bottom balance, and you don't get cupping.

  13. #13
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    It'll be difficult to miter those two tops together.

    So no drawers or anything underneath? Or do you plan to use free standing cases for drawers?

    As for the bottom, I would worry about filling it in Add pieces of the same wood to make a 3 in wide like this. You could add a little more on the ends so the legs have somewhere to land.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Richards View Post
    It'll be difficult to miter those two tops together.

    So no drawers or anything underneath? Or do you plan to use free standing cases for drawers?

    As for the bottom, I would worry about filling it in Add pieces of the same wood to make a 3 in wide like this. You could add a little more on the ends so the legs have somewhere to land.
    Dave, I like that underside. I think I'll incorporate something like that for leg support and edges. Perfect!

    At the moment I don't think Ill add any drawers, but that may change. On the nook side I expect Ill add something, be it drawers or shelves but they need not be associated with the top in any formal way. trying to blend a modern look with some traditional stylings and Im drawing on the modern-vide with the minimalism.

    Thanks for the help on the top!

  15. #15
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    I'll be interested to see what you work out for the entire design.

    And you're welcome.

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