Jill's Desk

Handmade by Jon Palmer, January-February 2005

There aren't too many pictures of the desk in progress, but here is one of the sides being glued up. I used a drill and jigsaw to cut the openings, and a lot of work with a rasp to clean them up. Since then, I've learned a lot about pattern routing!

Here's a view of the ends assembled to the bottom stretcher. Note that the keyed tenons are real, and functional!

Here's a detail on the keys. I won't make them sharp like that again, they're hard to knock out when you need to. I haven't worked out what else to do though, all the designs that make it easier to remove the keys look...well, dorky to me. Maybe I'll get something worked out someday, and if you have any ideas, please let me know!

Closeup of one of the ends completely assembled. Although most of this desk follows the tradition of avoiding mechanical fasteners (careful joinery is almost all you ever need), there are screws in the runners at the top of the side pieces, and in the upper stretcher. These are consistent with Stickley's plans though, so I don't feel too bad.

Here's a view of the complete, unfinished desk.

This is what makes quartersawn white oak so attractive these days. This cross-grain pattern is called ray flake, and if finished correctly it really stands out and makes a striking contrast to the rest of the grain. Stickley and other Arts & Crafts furniture makers of the day worked hard to minimize this effect. The ammonia fuming process which gives so much character to white oak was the result of work done by Stickley and others to make the ray flake cells absorb color consistently with the rest of the cells, and so even out the tone.

Here's the same corner after the finish has been applied. It is an aniline dye (golden oak or some such thing), followed by boiled linseed oil (not really boiled, just has driers added to speed the cure time), followed by oil based stain (a mahogany, I think -- something with browns and reds in it) and topcoated with polyurethane (it's a desk, and needs to stand up to whatever coffee cups and tea glasses can throw at it).

Here's the rest of the top, from the other end.

A view of the whole desk, in place with nothing yet riding on it.

Here's a view showing the upper keyed tenon and the upper stretcher as well. Ordinarily you might use a not-so-figured piece for this, but I had it, and this is for Jill, after all. :-)

An unusual view, but you can see the holes in the upper stretcher where the screws go. I said they were there, not that I meant anyone to see them!

The desk after being accessorised and placed in service. Check out the special accessory lower right. ;-)