September 02, 2013

Rustic Desk Project

A couple months ago I started a project of building a new desk for our office out of reclaimed wood from old shipping crates that I took apart. My dad got a big stack of crates from his work where they get lots of equipment shipments on one-time use crates. 

This is what the crates looked like:

Here's a few images of the construction process. 

I took apart the crates and selected the best pieces of wood that didn't have huge splits or chunks missing. 

It's a corner desk and it needed to be built in two sections to fit it up the stairs into the office. I didn't want just a normal 45 degree angle cut corner joint because I wanted a more rustic look so I went with a staggered joint and the two sides of the desk slide together in place in the corner. 

I put all the boards through a table saw to have nice clean straight edges for tight joints and then glued and screwed the boards onto sheets of OSB chip board. 

Sanding the sides of the joints was crucial for a smooth sliding fit in the corner.

After the assembly was finished I sanded the whole surface smooth.

I also had some extra help with the sanding process. :)

I stained the desk with a custom mix of stains. I wanted to keep the weathered look but I didn't want the grey to clash against the other brown woods in the office. I chose Minwax Special Walnut which is a dark brown I used on lots of other projects and then mixed it with light gray Weathered Oak stain. After wiping the mixed stain over the surface, while it was still wet, I then wiped another coat of the Weathered Oak over that. The result was a gorgeous grayish brown color. I call it Smokey Walnut. I finished it with a few coats of clear satin Minwax Wipe-On Poly varnish.

The desk attaches to the wall on ledgers on three sides so I knew I would only need one leg on one corner for added support. I had originally planned on using more of the same crate wood for a leg, but then when it came time to build the leg I changed my mind in favor of an even more custom and rustic look. I hauled a nice piece of maple out of the woods behind our house. And again, my original plan was to cut the two forks to fit under the desk, but my awesome wife had the idea to cut one fork to fit under the front corner and notch the back fork and fit the desk into the side of the log. 

...She's a genius!

After stripping the bark off the log, I used a sand blaster to get rid of most of the soft wet mushy stuff and then did the finish sanding with a hand power sander. 

However, while simple in theory, it proved to be pretty tricky to actually make it work. Cutting a notch like this is difficult enough by itself without special types of saws and equipment which I don't have. To make the task more difficult, trying to do it on a log that doesn't have a single straight edge to line up a saw is almost impossible without a radial arm saw. Rather then risking messing it up by using a circular saw by hand, I decided to do it a little at a time with a hammer and chisel to make sure I didn't go too far with the cut. It took a whole day of chiseling a little bit at a time and carrying it up the stairs to the office to see what I needed to adjust in the notch, but the result was worth the effort and it was just fun to do it the old fashioned way. :)

I finished the log with the same varnish.

Here's an iPhone shot of the old desk.

And here's the finished new desk. The light in the photos doesn't show the grayish brown color as well as I had hoped, but I assure you, it's awesome. 

Please feel free to "Pin" these images on your Pinterest boards. 

If you're interested in a custom wood project, please drop a comment on this post or shoot me an email to bradley(dot)lanphear(at)gmail(dot)com



  1. Replies
    1. Haha! I learned from cool people like you. :P

  2. Do you have a new project? If so, what will you be doing and are you going to blog it as well? I really enjoyed this. :)

    1. I haven't started anything yet, but I'm planning on building a dinning room table. I hope to do it before Christmas, but we'll see about that. :)

  3. Hello,

    I'm working on a similar project to this and have a question. What did you use to coat your desk to give it that semi-shiny/slick feel rather than the natural rough feel that wood has. Do you remember what product or type of product you used for that?


    Btw, really enjoyed looking at your images of the desk. It really looks great!

    1. Hi Caleb,

      I used Minwax clear satin Wipe-On Poly varnish. The trick is to lightly rub the surface with steel wool in-between coats of varnish. It has tendency to raise wood fibers as it dries, so sanding between coats will make it quite smooth. I think did 4 coats on this.


  4. Shit! the conner looks perfect!

  5. Looks amazing! Wish I'd seen this tutorial before we finished ours.

  6. You said you glued and screwed it to the chip board. I assume from below, since I don't see any screw heads? Also, how did you brace in the corner? You guys did such a beautiful job on this project, but I have to say, the maple log really makes this piece unique. I love it!! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Woodworking guide offers anyone of any skill level the ability to build amazing projects. The guide is extra helpful because it offers more detailed explanations, videos and blueprints then your typical woodworker magazine.
    Download 16,000 Woodworking Plans & Projects

    Arbor Projects ,
    Adirondack Chairs ,
    Artwork Display ,
    Bathroom Unit ,
    Box Designs ,
    Billiard/Pool Table ,
    Barn Plans ,
    Bed Plans ,
    Bedside Cabinets ,
    Bee Hive Plans ,
    Bench Projects ,
    Bird Feeders ,
    Birdhouse Plans ,
    Boat Plans ,
    Book Case Plans ,
    Baby Changing Table ,
    Coat Rack ,
    Cabin Plans ,
    Cabinet Plans ,
    Carport Plans ,
    Cart Plans ,
    Cat House Plans ,
    CD/DVD Holder ,
    Cellar Projects ,
    Chair Plans ,
    Chest Designs ,
    Chicken Houses
    Childrens Room Plans ,
    Clock Plans ,
    Coasters ,
    Coffee Table Designs ,
    Cold Frame Plans ,
    Compost Bin ,
    Computer Desk ,
    Containers ,
    Cradle Projects ,
    Small Crafts ,
    Cutting Board ,
    Deck Plans ..

  8. Really like what you made. very nice.