Saturday, November 21, 2015

Staked Desk - Part II

I forgot to take pictures of reaming the mortises in the cross battens, perhaps a couple words to explain it will work.

I used a brace and a 7/8" bit at the angle I wanted, then used my reamer made by Elia Bizzarri to ream the hole. That's pretty much it! With a reamer like that you can micro adjust your leg angles to dial them in perfectly. 

Now I'm ready to install the cross battens. This was the funnest part of the whole project!

Yes, I said funnest.  Sue me, I grew up in Montana.

Let me back up and explain why I've done this in the order I have. With a wide panel, there is always a danger of it warping a bit after planing. The freshly exposed wood will now release moisture and need to acclimate.

I like to stabilize the panel as soon as I can after planing to ensure it stays flat. A sliding dovetail should do the trick.

Since in this case the cross batten also holds the legs, everything has to be ready to go by the time the big panel is done.

Back to the angles I used on these battens - it doesn't really matter what they are because I am using the batten itself as a guide for my crosscut saw, matching the angle perfectly.
This is my setup for cutting the sliding dovetail.
Christopher Schwarz had a timely tip on his blog for how to cut this. I used a block of wood to help hold the saw in place against the batten. It worked like magic.
Bracing the saw for the angled cut.
I have to say, I am glad that I have learned to saw left handed.  A bit of ambidextrousness here makes for a lot less turning this big panel and reclamping.  I can just go from one side to the other.

Here are a few more shots of the process that will hopefully explain things better than my writing.
Detail of the finished cut.

The scrap wood I used happened to have a chamfer on it.
With the walls of the joint defined, it is just a matter of hogging out the waste and smoothing the bottom to depth. For this I used a chisel with mallet for rough removal, a rabbet plane for medium work, and final smoothing to depth with my router plane.



Quick work.
From here it is just a matter of seating the legs and driving everything together. I used elm wedges, because they were handy, cut the excess off with a flush cut saw and planed it smooth. It might not be a bad idea to leave this tenon a little recessed, if at all possible. If the batten ever shrinks leaving the tenon proud, it will create a gap between the batten and the desk top panel. Too late now!
I wedged the tenon and called it good.

Driving it home.  The batten is actually tapered a tiny bit from front to back.
Next it is just a matter of driving everything home. Make sure everything is lined up correctly, as you don't want your legs leaning the wrong way. I think I should also mention that it is vital that this sliding dovetail gets NO glue. The top needs to be free to slide when it expands and contracts, which it will certainly do. Optionally you may put one peg in each batten to hold the batten in place. I would put it toward the front or in the middle, but only one.
I left my cross battens a bit over length, intending to trim them once it is all knocked together.  This did create a challenge in how far to drive the battens, as the legs need to be lined up.  I solved this by marking a center line on the desk top panel, and a centerline between the two legs on the batten.  Tap it home until the lines match up and you're done.
Center lines matching up.
I have tried to do sliding dovetail joints before, and never have I wound up with something that looked good and I could call a success.  The trick for me was using the batten itself as a guide and bracing the saw with the scrap wood.
I think it is a nice looking joint.
Now I have something that looks more or less like a desk.  On to the drawer in Part III.

If you missed Part I of this Staked Desk, read it here.


  1. Part 2 is encourage me to start my seating project soon. I had some question about the sliding batten. But you answered it now. Thanks for this.
    And, it's looking good already.

    1. Thanks, Stefan!

      What will you make? A chair or an Eckbank?

  2. Hi Brian,
    this table is coming along nicely. Instagram posts on the drawer are making me looking forward to a nice blog post on the way you went about to hang the drawer.

    1. Thanks, Frederik, there should be another post up today. The drawer still needs a bit of tweaking to open smoothly.