Author Topic: Desk organizer  (Read 1643 times)

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Offline mrFinpgh

  • Posts: 409
Desk organizer
« on: April 21, 2020, 11:46 PM »
I've been working on and off on a desk organizer for my girlfriend for a few months now.  The primary wood is Louro Preto, which I've veneered over 1/2" mdf for the main parts, and over some riftsawn walnut for the drawer faces.  There's some solid trim pieces, and I'm thinking I will try to carve the pulls out of the same.  The drawers sides/bottoms are curly maple and will be installed as side-hung drawers, running on QS white oak runners.

Tonight I spent a while laying out the drawer faces and getting everything parallel.  I think I have a couple options for the grain which could work.  I wanted to something a little less relaxed than straight grain, and the veneer happened to have a few distortions in it which I thought were interesting.  Here's where I ended up with it:

One thing I've been pondering is how much reveal to give everything.  The drawers are small - only 3" tall, so expansion shouldn't be a huge deal, but I don't know if I can get away with going extremely tight.   Right now, I'm around 1/42" on the gaps between the drawer sides, but based on what I've read on the expansion/contraction of riftsawn maple, I should be closer to 1/16".  Does that sound right?  I kind of hate to make the gaps any wider than necessary, although I hate the idea of it getting stuck much more.

« Last Edit: April 22, 2020, 12:52 PM by mrFinpgh »

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Offline jarbroen

  • Posts: 267
Re: Desk organizer
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2020, 03:44 PM »
I'm definitely not as experienced as others when it comes to fine furniture, but I think 1/32" gaps would be setting yourself up for endless headaches.

I've built a few cabinet units and a desk all with drawers. I've found that 1/8" is a good spacing for me.  It doesn't look like the Grand Canyon of gaps and allows another hair for margin of error.
I know there are others much more skilled who can easily achieve 1/16", but I've not seen anyone talk about 1/32".
Not only do you have wood movement(not your veneered mdf, but any wood frames) - you also have weight of objects in the drawers, play in the slides, etc.

Offline Jim Kirkpatrick

  • Posts: 1220
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Re: Desk organizer
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2020, 05:06 PM »
1/16" good.  1/8" bad.

Offline ChuckM

  • Posts: 1822
Re: Desk organizer
« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2020, 05:11 PM »
Using my wood movement chart ( for black walnut, I came up with this:

Width: 3"
Movement value from chart for riftsawn: 0.0027
Moisture content fluctuation in your area (assumption only as I don't know your location): 5% (2% for where I live)
Projected movement = 3x0.0027x 5 = 0.0405"
Add safety margin: 25%
Allowance for movement=0.0405*1.25 = 0.05"

Based on this calculation, you should be fine as long as the gap is no less than 0.05" (3/64" or 1.2mm).
« Last Edit: April 27, 2020, 05:20 PM by ChuckM »

Offline mrFinpgh

  • Posts: 409
Re: Desk organizer
« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2020, 11:49 PM »
Thanks, guys, for the input.

I settled on .048" for the reveals, as it was relatively cheap to do so (only about 40cents per drawer).  I could have saved a lot by going with .06" but I think my girlfriend will appreciate the extra expense I went to.   8)


Offline ChuckM

  • Posts: 1822
Re: Desk organizer
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2020, 09:50 AM »
It should work. Many a time, I build pieces using the calculations from the wood movement chart as a guide, not as a rule that can't be violated. The only exception is when the item with a wide panel is for the shop which undergoes big swings in humidity between summer and winter.

Offline mrFinpgh

  • Posts: 409
Re: Desk organizer
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2020, 12:55 AM »
Some progress after a couple delays and deferments.

I put the drawers together this past week - even though everything had been milled weeks ago, I was putting off cutting the dovetails as it has been a couple years since I did any and three drawers was kind of a big jump back in.  Fortunately, I've been making a lot of picture frames the past few months, cutting the miters by hand, so I have not been completely out of practice with a handsaw.

Prior to cutting them, I made a small dovetailed box out of some walnut that used to be my coat rack.  This helped me get back in the groove a little more.  Fortunately, when I learned to cut dovetails, my instructor had us do a project where one of the last steps was learning to repair mistakes and how to hide gaps or other blemishes.  So, I've got some useful experience to rely on for the most important part  [big grin]  I used old brown glue for the glueup as well as prefinished the interior of the drawers, so cleanup would be easy where needed.  Unfortunately OBG has a long time to set, so I waited around and worked on another picture frame while this was setting.


I inlaid a strip of Spanish Cedar on the outside of the drawers and I swear it was completely intentional and in no way related to any errors along the way. :-X  I love the smell and color of Spanish Cedar, but it is the most fragile wood to work with - it seems to shear voluntarily at times. 

They turned out okay - mostly small problems and only a couple where the baseline got a little crushed.  Fortunately, I saved my dust from sawing and all the splinters and bits from paring/chiseling the pins, so there's something to fill the gaps with.  While it's very satisfying to put a dovetail together with just light taps from a small hammer, I'm very very slow at it.  Particularly the chiseling out part.  I did a couple new things on this project that I had not tried before and one was to make the back of the drawer about 1/16 narrower than the front. The other thing I did was let the drawer set up in the box rather than in clamps. In theory, this should help compensate for any quirkiness with the box. I don't know if it made much difference, but it was also the first time I didn't leave something clamped while it set up.

Tonight I spent a couple hours fine tuning the drawer faces to get the reveals as dialed in as I could.  For the most part, this was a process of taking 3 or 4 swipes, testing, retesting, identifying what was going on, and then repeating for a while until I could slide my spacer (a dime) between the components without it moving anything and also without too much space around it. Because the drawers are side-hung, there is a little vertical play, so I had to be sure that the dime wasn't slipping between and lifting the element above it.


I got pretty close, although I'm probably off by a couple thou here and there.  I'll take it. Interestingly, I think the bottom drawer half-pin on the bottom might have gotten pushed down slightly by the tail - the reveal between the floor and drawer face was a little off.  Or maybe I just made a layout error.  In either case, a couple partial hits from the plane took care of it.


One thing I'm going to need to revisit are the wooden runners that the drawers slide on - I didn't account for my reveals when I decided how thick to mill them, so there is more play side to side than I'm happy with right now. I don't want to remake them, so I may try shimming them with some veneer to tighten things up

Lastly, I had started to work on the pulls for the drawers this week. My initial efforts were carved/shaped in walnut, and my thinking was to install w/ a wedged tenon.  However, upon review with my girlfriend, these don't fit the rest of the piece : the piece is very rectilinear and the drawers repeat this motif.  So I tried something different this afternoon and used a dovetail bit and a core box bit to make a more rectangular shaped pull. I ran the bits on the table while the board was wide enough to keep safe, and then ripped off the shaped part on the bandsaw.  After some cleanup, this is what I have:


This is the same species as the rest of the box.  It's striking how much darker the veneer is compared to the solid piece.  Maybe it's a product of oxidation? 

The plan is to cut this down to 2.5-3" long pieces and attach them to the drawer faces.  I'm still thinking through what I will do to attach them.  On one hand, I could probably get away with just gluing them to the drawer face - it's a long grain to long grain joint and there's no finish on either part yet.  However, that could be tricky to align precisely. I could also route a small groove in the back of the pull (1/8 x 3/32) and in the drawer face, putting a spline between them. This would have the benefit of positively registering the parts, but would certainly require some jigs I don't have right now and will introduce another delay.

Offline mrFinpgh

  • Posts: 409
Re: Desk organizer
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2020, 05:31 PM »
I'm finally done with this one.  Honestly, it's been 98% procrastination/anxiety/avoidance, and 2% working on it. 

This isn't the intended place for it, but while Covid continues to run rampant in our state, my girlfriend is mostly working from home and minimizing time in her office.   

In hindsight, I wish I had thought through the runners a little more. Aside from using a different horizontal reveal, I would have left the runners fat until all fitting was done.  They ended up needing some shims behind them, and the top runner still kicks the drawer ever so slightly to the left when it is in it's closed position.







Offline FestitaMakool

  • Posts: 520
Re: Desk organizer
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2020, 07:02 PM »
Very nice work! Love the way you worked with the wood grain, it wraps from top to front.
“The Stig” Yes, it is true, at least some part of it..
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Offline mrFinpgh

  • Posts: 409
Re: Desk organizer
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2020, 09:15 PM »
Thank you very much.

I'll be honest -- I didn't even notice that the grain was lining up on the edge of the top panel until you pointed it out to me.  Dumb luck on my part.   [big grin]