Clean Lines Coexist With Intricate Detail in Walnut and Cherry by Don Layport
Old desks have always fascinated me. Whenever I approach a well-worn desk, I somehow feel intimately connected with those who used it long before I came upon it. Endowed with its own collection of private thoughts, important papers and quiet moments, a desk begins to take on a spirit of its own. Wear points at corners or around cubbyholes, an old three-cent stamp or an anonymous address long lost at the back of a drawer compartment— all remain as traces of history.
It was with these romantic notions in mind that I set out to design and build a desk for my daughter, Kiera. Knowing her fondness for dark wood tones, I chose to use walnut and cherry, aware that the passage of time would mellow the initial lightness of the cherry to a deep reddish-brown. (A father's lesson to a daughter on the value of time and patiencc.) The piece was a hit with Kiera, and with quite a few others, too.
In style and construction, this desk falls somewhere between Shaker simplicity and post-office pigeonhole. If there is a higher design concept beyond that, it would be the idea of "detail within detail." I wanted to create a piece that would have clean, simple lines, yet also present a pleasing hierarchy of intricate divisions within divisions.
The base contains a slant-top desk and a set of drawers. A double stretcher-and-slat assembly ties the bottom rails together, providing stability as well as space for books, baskets, or very possibly one's tired feet. On top, a walnut carcase, or bonnet, with a pair of framc-and-panel drawers encases a symmetrical arrangement of compartments and three small drawers. Even the drawer knobs were subject to the detail-within-detail approach, with their walnut and maple inserts. (See sidebar, page 49.)
Building this piece gave me hours of pleasure in the shop. It offered a good mix of machine and hand work. Tenons were cut on the tablesaw, mortises and dovetails by hand. Because of the numerous stock thicknesses involved, I wouldn't attempt this project without my thickness planer. I design with my 13-in. Delta planer like some folks design with a computer. But in the final analysis, it's the feel of hand-worked edges and surfaces that make the project mine. That less-than-machine-perfect feel says, "One of a kind. Go ahead, touch."
The drawings on the following pages divide this project into distinct subasscm-
Detail within detail. The author's desk has an upper cabinet of compartments above a base that contains a row of drawers and a slant top (above). Five years after its construction, the aged cherry shows the deep color the author envisioned when designing the piece (right).
FIG. 1: BASE CONSTRUCTION DETAILS
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