With the start of a new school year, desks for at-home study are a desirable piece of furniture for students of any age. With some basic tools, this desk can be made from inexpensive pine and is customizable according to size, finish and hardware. It adds a functional work area, and the drawer and bookshelf offer plenty of space-saving solutions.
Cut the Wood
Use the following cut list to cut the wood to size.
Build the Side Frames
Drill two 3/4-inch pocket holes in both ends of the 17-inch one-by-sixes and the 17-inch one-by-threes. Use wood glue and 1 1/4-inch pocket hole screws to attach a one-by-six between two of the two-by-two boards, making sure it is flush with the top and flush on the side that the pocket holes are visible.
Attach the one-by-three board in the same manner between the two-by-two boards, leaving a 3-inch space between the bottom of the legs and the bottom of the one-by-three. Repeat the process to create the opposite side of the desk frame.
Attach the Top Back Support and Bottom Shelf
Drill two 3/4-inch pocket holes in both the 33-inch and 33 1/4-inch one-by-six boards. Attach one end of the 33-inch board (back support) at the top of the side frame using wood glue and 1 1 /4-inch pocket hole screws. Make sure that the one-by-six board is offset from the back about 1/4 to 1/2 inch so that the screws don't go all the way through and split the wood.
Use the same method to attach the 33 1/4-inch one-by-six (bottom shelf) to the bottom of the side frame, flush with the end of the one-by-three, but only 1 1/4 inches offset from the top of the one-by-three. The pocket holes should be on the underside of the bottom shelf, hidden from view.
Attach the Desktop and Bottom Back Support
Drill 1/2-inch pocket holes along the perimeter of the 1/2-inch plywood rectangle (desktop), starting 2 to 3 inches from a corner and staggering them every 6 inches. Along one of the long sides of the 1/2-inch plywood, attach one of the 33-inch one-by-two boards (the boards with pre-drilled 3/4-inch pocket holes on either end) using wood glue and 1-inch pocket hole screws. Then use the same method to attach the board flush along the top of the top back support and the top of the side frame. Be careful to go slowly and not over-tighten the screws, so they don't puncture through the wood. Use 1 1 /4-inch pocket hole screws to attach the one-by-two that is along the side of the 1/2-inch plywood to the top of the two-by-two leg.
Drill two 3/4-inch pocket hole screws on either end of the 33-inch one-by-three board (bottom back support). Attach it to the side frame, 7 inches up from the ground, with pocket holes facing the back of the desk.
Attach a Top Shelf (Option 1 Only)
To create a top shelf for the desk instead of a drawer, create a duplicate of the desktop including pocket hole screws, as described in step 3. Also attach a one-by-two board to one side, just as you did in step 3. Attach the shelf to the side frame and bottom of the back top support using wood glue and 1-inch pocket hole screws, making sure the shelf is flush with the bottom of both one-by-six boards.
Attach a Drawer Frame and Center Glide (Option 2 Only)
In order for the drawer to keep from wobbling back and forth, a center glide is needed. To make this, drill two 3/4-inch pocket holes on either end of the other 33-inch one-by-two board and all three 17 1/4-inch one-by-two boards. With the pocket holes facing down on the 33-inch board (front of drawer frame), attach one of the 17 1/4-inch boards with the pocket holes facing up, at the center mark, using 1 1/4-inch pocket hole screws. The center mark should be 16 1 /2 inches -- so there should be 15 3/4 inches from one end of the long drawer frame to the center glide.
Offset the center glide so it is about 1/8 to 1/4 inch above the front of the drawer frame. This 1/8 to 1/4-inch rise will be what the drawer glides over. Using wood glue and 1 1/4-inch pocket holes screws, attach the drawer frame with the center glide to the side frame, spaced 3 3/4 inches from the bottom of the one-by-two board that is a part of the desktop. This space will allow the one-by-four of the drawer face enough room with a 1/4-inch allowance. The pocket holes on the 33-inch board (drawer frame) should be facing the ground if the desk were standing upright.
Attach Center Glide to the Back Support (Option 2 Only)
Using 1 1/4-inch pocket hole screws, attach the center glide to the center of the top back support, spaced 15 3/4 inches from either end and about 3 1/2 inches from the top.
Attach the Opposite Side Frame
Using 1 1/4-inch pocket hole screws and wood glue, attach the opposite side frame to all of the horizontal pieces, making sure to space each board correctly. The bottom shelf should be 1 1/4 inches from the top of the one-by-three, the bottom back support should be 7 inches from the bottom of the back leg, and the drawer frame should be 3 3/4 inches from where the one-by-two attaches to the top (flush) or 4 1/2 inches from the top of the front leg.
Attach the Drawer Supports (Option 2 Only)
Dry fit the drawer supports (remaining 17 1/4-inch one-by-two boards) to make sure they fit in easily along the side frames. If needed, shave a little off, but be careful not to shave off too much so that there is a gap when screwing them in place.
Once the fit is right, drill a 3/4-inch pocket hole on either end of each board. Using 1 1/4-inch pocket hole screws, attach the drawer supports so they are flush with the front drawer frame and 3 1/2 inches from the top.
Attach an "X" on the Side Frames
Using either a miter saw or a protractor and circular saw, cut 45-degree angles on two of the one-by-two boards so that the length on each side is 24 inches. The cuts will be going in the same direction, so the board will look like a long skinny parallelogram. Dry fit the one-by-twos into place on each side of the desk.
Then cut four additional one-by-twos with a 45-degree angle cut on one end and a 0-degree or straight cut on the other end. From the longest point, the length should be 11 7/8 inches. Use wood glue and 1-inch nails to secure two of them in place in the opening of the side frame to form an "X." The nails must be attached at an angle into the two-by-twos on the side frame, so either use a small hammer or an electric/pneumatic nail gun (with 18-gauge nails in this case). Repeat on the other side.
Optional: Route the Drawer Face and Sides (Option 2 Only)
To create an easy, slide-in drawer-bottom with 1/4-inch plywood, route the one-by-four drawer face and sides with a 1/4-inch straight router bit and a router. Simply slide the boards along a table-mounted router with a guide depth set to 3/8 inch and a 1/4 inch bit depth (height from top of table). Run each board through twice to get a smooth, even cut.
Once the boards are routed, the actual measurements will be 1/4 inch depth and height and 1/4 inch space between the bottom of the board and the routed groove.
Build the Drawer (Option 2 Only)
Drill two 3/4-inch pocket holes on one end of the 18-inch one-by-four boards. Drill two 3/4-inch pocket holes on both ends of the one-by-three board that will be the drawer back (31 1/4 inches). Attach the drawer sides onto the drawer face using wood glue and 1 1 /4-inch pocket hole screws, and onto the drawer back using the same size screw. Make sure the drawer back is attached 1/2 inch from the bottom of the routed sides. Slide 1/4-inch plywood in to create the drawer bottom and nail only the back side to the back of the drawer.
Attach Glide Guides to the Drawer (Option 2 Only)
Measure the center mark of the drawer bottom and place the 1 1/2-inch lattice strips on either side of the center mark, allowing a 1 5/8-inch centered space in between them. Attach the lattice strips using wood glue and 1-inch nails, nailed in at an angle at the front of the drawer (into the backside of the drawer face) and at the back (straight down into the drawer back).
Apply the Finishing Touches
Fill any gaps and holes with wood filler, let dry, and then sand the entire desk with 220 grit sandpaper. An orbital sander is recommended to expedite this process. Finish by staining or painting the wood in your color of choice and applying a clear, durable top coat. Once the clear coat has completely dried, measure, mark and pre-drill holes on the drawer for any hardware of your choice (silver cup pulls were used in this project). Use the 3/8-inch drill bit to attach the hardware.
This desk not only provides a sturdy work space for any student, but because of the "X" design and thin legs, it is visually "light," making it ideal for maximizing small spaces.