Floating Curves

A couple months ago I was commissioned to build a floating desk for a client.  I was given no parameters other than the approximate size and that the concept was that it would be a floating desk to be installed so the client can stand while working at his computer.  I drew up a couple design options, and my client picked one that had a curved bottom.  I enjoy bending wood, so was happy to have the opportunity to make a curved piece.

I chose to make the piece out of cherry because it is one of my favorite woods, and it is relatively affordable for the client.

When making a piece for the first time, I start by creating a full scale drawing.  I then build a maquette or small mock-up.  This lets me work out my proportions and joinery.

Then construction began.  With this piece, the first step was to work out the build of the curved bottom.  To do this, I have to make a form, which involves figuring out the curve of the bottom, then building a torsion box that I can put into a vacuum press.  I lay out my veneer and interlace bendable plywood that runs perpendicular to each subsequent layer until I have my desired thickness, sandwiched on each side by the veneer.  I then lay the veneer sandwich over the form and vacuum press it.

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After the curved part was completed, I needed to build its hardwood nose.  For this, I did bent laminations, which involves cutting thin strips of hardwood that I then glue back together over a form.

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Once I had the curved piece completed, I worked on my sides and middle divider.  Making the joinery for this was the difficult part of the build.  I had to figure out my angles to determine square from the curve.  Once my angle was determined, I made my cuts and joined my sides long.  To make the divider, I used a tapered sliding dovetail.

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The top was made from a single thick board that was re-sawed in half, then book matched.

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The drawers were made with hand-cut dovetails out of quarter sawn white oak.  I had to make wooden drawer rails for them to slide on.  The handles were hand shaped from zebra wood.

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The piece was finished with 8 to 10 coats of water lox, an oil varnish mixture.  The interior was finished before the glue up to make finishing easier.

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And here it is installed:

floating desk