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Computer Table Routing Project

Computer Table Routing Project
  This desk project has a large working area with accommodation for a PC, printer and scanner.

This desk was built for a student who wanted to create a study area in the corner of a bed-sit room. The main requirement, apart from having to be low cost, was for a large working area with accommodation for a PC, printer and scanner. The other stipulation was that as student life is inevitably itinerant, the desk should be built in such a way that it could be dismantled easily for regular moving.

With this in mind the final design was simply two separate side pedestals joined together with a bridging panel and outriggers to support the large top. The free standing monitor shelf on its shallow risers further increases the amount of available working space.

Very basic pieces of furniture like this are actually quick and easy to make and although there is a lot of very cheap ready-made flat pack furniture on the market, building your own allows you to customize it exactly as you want. You can also make it stronger, but as this particular piece is little more than two sheets of veneered blockboard, the cost is still very reasonable.

1. Start by ripping up the blockboard sheets using a portable circular saw. Long cuts down the grain of the veneer should be quite clean, but cut them slightly oversize at this stage to allow for truing up later.
     
Preparing the Material - 1
  2. Always provides plenty of support, particularly when crosscutting, to prevent the blade becoming trapped as the cut finishes, which can cause the saw to kick back violently.
Preparing the Material - 1
  3. Cuts made across the grain are always more troublesome as the veneer will rip on the top face, even using a fine blade. This tearing is caused by the emerging teeth lifting the veneer and can be quite severe.
Preparing the Material - 1
  4. You can overcome the problem to some extent by pre-scoring along the cut line with a sharp knife, but in practice it is probably better to cut pieces over length, and then trim off the ragging later.
Preparing the Material - 1
  5. To get matching components exactly the same width, clamp them together and plane up the edges as one. This arrangement also provides more support for the planer base and if you use the side fence as well the cut should end up perfectly square to the face.
     

Preparing the Material - 2

Preparing the Material - 2
  6. To trim the ends, use a router in conjunction with a simple jig consisting of a wide board of MDF with a perfectly smooth square end and a back fence.
Preparing the Material - 2
  7. You will need a bearing guided trimming cutter for the router, but if you do a lot of this type work it is worth while investing in one with a slight angle to the cutting edge which minimizes the risk of lifting the veneer. Trend Ref. T46/1X1/4TC
Preparing the Material - 2
  8. Clamp the board in the jig so that it overhangs the square end of the jig by the amount you want to trim off, and then run the router across the width, keeping the bearing in contact with the jig.
Preparing the Material - 2
  9. This leaves a square and clean cut on the end of the boards. For consistency rig up some sort of repeat stop at the other end of the jig so that each piece ends up exactly the same length.
Preparing the Material - 2
  10. Repeat the procedure on all the components and then decide on the jointing method. Biscuits and dowels are the obvious options but dowelling is the better option for work that has to be ‘knock-down’.
     
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Drilling the Dowel Joints

Drilling the Dowel Joints
  11. I use the Joint-Genie dowelling jig which is very quick and almost foolproof. Drill the side holes first, making sure the depth stop is set correctly and secure.
Drilling the Dowel Joints
  12. With the jig at the same settings, transfer it to the end of the boards and drill the matching 8mm holes.
Drilling the Dowel Joints
  13. Put in plenty of dowels for extra strength, but make sure you have cut them to the right length, or they will bottom in the hole and you may then burst them through the side when the joint is pulled up tight.
Drilling the Dowel Joints
  14. Using a precision jig like this ensures that the joint is perfectly flush in all directions when fully assembled.
Drilling the Dowel Joints
  15. Run a 6 mm groove round the back edge of all the pedestal components to take the MDF back. Trend Ref. 3/2X1/4TC or C005X1/4TC. Remember to make these deep narrow grooves in several passes to minimize the risk of snapping the cutter.
     
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Assembling the Carcass

Assembling the Carcass
  16. Use the doweling jig again to put in the joints for any internal dividers, remembering that some off the pieces are ‘handed’.
Assembling the Carcass
  17. Glue and assemble the carcass around the MDF back, using a rubber faced mallet to make sure the joints are firmly seated.
Assembling the Carcass
  18. The dowels are usually tight enough to hold the joints closed but some additional light clamping may help, but watch that you do not pull the carcass out of square as you tighten up.
Assembling the Carcass
  19. The sliding shelves for the printer and scanner are attached to standard kitchen drawer slides.
Assembling the Carcass
  20. Start fixing the guides at the bottom, using a spacer to provide the necessary clearance.
     

Shelves

Shelves
  21. The shelf itself is screwed to the runners which then slot into the guides, the slope on the back of the guides ensuring that the shelf self closes.
Shelves
  22. Use another temporary spacer to get the second row of guides spaced and located parallel to the first.
Shelves
  23. It is essential to cut the shelves to exactly the right width to allow them to run smoothly. Trim a fraction off using the routing jig if necessary.
Shelves
  24. Use the router and a circular template to cut some neat holes in the back of the printer pedestal for the mains cables. Trend offer a range of Cable Tidy Inserts, either round or rectangular, along with a perspex template to rout the apertures for them.
Shelves
  25. The pedestal for the CPU is assembled in the same way, again using light clamping pressure to hold the joints together square.
     
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Back Panel and Top Surface

Back Panel and Top Surface
  26. Screw four castors or glides on to the bottom of each pedestal to help make the assembled desk more manoeuvrable.
Back Panel and Top Surface
  27. The outrigger supports for the top are screwed in place using mirror screws which have a decorative covering. These screws need to be accessible and removable for dismantling.
Back Panel and Top Surface
  28. The back panel is again doweled to fit between to the two pedestals, with notches cut out around the outrigger.
Back Panel and Top Surface
  29. For a permanent installation you can glue this panel in place but for a knock down version use corner blocks to hold it together.
Back Panel and Top Surface
  30. Lay the top in place upside down on top off the pedestals and mark out the shape required to fit into the corner of the room.
     

Monitor Shelf and Edge Lipping

Monitor Shelf and Edge Lipping
  31. Use a jigsaw to cut out within two or 3 mm of the line. With a jigsaw any ragging of the cut will be on this top surface which is actually the underside when you turn it back over.
Monitor Shelf and Edge Lipping
  32. However the ragging can be removed by trimming back to the line using a Clamp Guide and a straight cutter in the router.
Monitor Shelf and Edge Lipping
  33. The top is fixed in place with more corner blocks. The free standing monitor shelf is cut out of one of the offcuts and the risers are just glued and doweled in position.
Monitor Shelf and Edge Lipping
  34. All the exposed edges need to be lipped in some way. You can either use either iron on edging, or machine up some the solid material which is cut to length in situ.
Monitor Shelf and Edge Lipping
  35. This lipping can be stuck in place using quick grab glue dispensed with a mastic gun, or use PVA and clamps if you have more time and patience.
     

Sanding and Lacquering

Sanding and Lacquering
  36. The lipping should be a millimetre or so wider than the boards which makes it easier to fit. Allow it to set thoroughly.
Sanding and Lacquering
  37. Then trim back carefully using a finely set plane or a sanding block. Angle the plane slightly to avoid damaging the veneer.
Sanding and Lacquering
  38. Use a random orbit sander with a fine abrasive disc to give the whole assembly a final cleanup and then apply the finish off your choice.
Sanding and Lacquering
  39. I used three coats of gloss pre-catalyzed lacquer, sanding down lightly between coats.
Sanding and Lacquering
  40. Desk completed and fully portable!



Written by Alan Holtham - Established woodworking author and video producer.
     
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