Through Tenon

FRONT LEG 11/4 x 11/4 x 285/ib blies. For the two most involved parts of the desk—the base and the upper compartments—I've written up assembly sequences that go with particular drawings. (See Fig. 1 and Fig. 4.) In the text that follows, MI explain my approach to creating this piece and describe the key details in its construction.

Designing as You Build

I've always been at a loss for words when describing how I approach furniture design and construction. My best efforts usually fall along the lines of "design by discovery, one stick at a time"—in other words, trial and error. More recently, I've heard this called empirical construction. Whatever the label, this approach allows for a good deal of design freedom in the midst of the construction process. It's the opposite of production woodworking, and the only way I know of getting the proportions, details and spirit of the piece just right.

When you build empirically, nearly every completed part or subassembly provides an opportunity to refine the dimensions or details for subsequent parts. For example, I didn't finalize the design of the stretcher-and-slat assembly until it came time to build and install it. Only then did I experiment with slat sizes, spacings, and stretcher positions.

Building the Base

The lower half of this project is a desk in its own right. There's a row of five drawers at the front, a slant top that swings up to reveal a platform, and a single broad drawer that closes beneath the fixed top. (See photo, right.)

Major construction details and dimensions are shown in Fig. 1. For layout information, refer to Fig. 2. There are a few important details to remember when laying out the base joinery. First, note that the bottom rails join the legs with wedged through tenons. These 3/4-in.-thick rails are centered on the lV4-in.-square legs.

Up above, the desk sides, back and front rails are all held back Vfc in. from the outsides of the legs. All these parts, save for the top front rail, are tenoned into the legs. The side tenons that fit into the rear legs will require trimming where they meet the back tenons. (See Back Corner Detail, Fig. 2.) I pinned each side-to-leg joint with a pair of *Vl6-in.-dia. dowels.

If you follow the assembly sequence described in Fig. 1, base construction

FIG. 2: BASE SIDE ELEVATION

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