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Cutting a Custom Desk Surface

We’re waiting for legs to arrive for our desk so we can finish up our office project, so in the meantime, I thought I’d share a little bit about how we approached cutting our custom desk.

DJ’s current desk is an Ikea Galant (no longer made) and it’s actually not a terrible desk, but it is too big for our shared office space. You can see how it sticks out way too far beyond the wall on the left in the picture below.

Besides being too large, we actually like the shape of it, so we ended up using it as a template for our new desk.

Our new desk surface is made of Baltic birch that we picked up at a local lumber yard. We chose it mostly because of size. Baltic birch comes in 5′ x 5′ sheets, which was the perfect size to fill our office wall and allowed us to make our custom desk out of two large sheets instead of three or four. Bonus! Baltic birch has a beautiful wood grain and is void free, making it perfect for furniture.

To get our template, we aligned the edges and clamped the uncut Baltic birch on top of the existing desk and traced the shape from underneath with a pencil.

Then we hauled it downstairs, put masking tape on both sides of the wood to help reduce splintering, and went at it with a jigsaw.

After we finished cutting the first one, we used it as a template for the second one using the same technique of stacking, aligning, clamping, penciling, and jigsawing.

After both sides were cut, we clamped the two table tops together to see how well they lined up and were pretty pleased with the result. The curves came out smoother than I was anticipating. It was exciting to see our drawn plans turning into reality, even with sawhorses for legs.

Pro tip: check your hand drawn lines with a carpenter’s square before you cut so you have to do less of this:

As a final touch, we took a router to the edges to give it a more polished feel and soften the sharpness.

We liked the color and wood grain enough in it’s natural state that we decided to embrace the light wood look and skip the stain. We’ve also learned that lighter wood surfaces tend to show less cat hair and with four of them running around the house, that is always a plus.

We chose to seal the desk surfaces in a water-based polycrylic to minimize any color change to the wood (which I’ve discovered is much more finicky to apply than polyurethane). Our last coat of poly is busy curing in the garage while we wait for legs to arrive. They should get here by the end of the month, so hopefully we’ll have a finished office to share sometime in early June. Can’t wait!

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