January 17, 2023

Reclaimed Desk with a Modern Twist


Learn to make a contemporary, yet rustic desk with clean lines and tons of warmth.

We built a guest space a few years ago. It is very sweet but not huge. We made it as self-contained as possible, though, with a tiny microwave and dorm refrigerator, retrofitted into an entertainment console. But over the past several months, the hubs thought we needed to add something to make things more comfortable for our guests. Some of them liked to get take-out and just cozy up in the cottage. But that meant that if the weather was not cooperative enough for them to enjoy the porch, they had to eat on their bed or in a chair but without any table surface. Also, many of our visitors travel for business so having a place for a laptop became a priority.

To solve this problem we knew we needed a small desk that could serve both purposes. But as usual, the hubs and I had different plans for how we wanted to achieve a solution. He wanted to go shopping whereas I wanted to make it.

Several months ago, I referred friends, Bruce and Joyce, to one of my local treasures, an architectural salvage place called Reuse the Past. They found these really cool floorboards from an old factory here in our town. Guided by Joyce’s keen sense of design, Bruce made shelves for their new kitchen. So cool! So I decided that this material would be perfect for the super simple desk I wanted to make. “Super simple?” Ha! Yeah, no. Now if I would have used new material with half the thickness, it would have been simple, but I didn’t.

This desk (and matching stool) took, what seemed like, forever! Does it look complicated? No! But when you are trying to plane 100 year-old factory floors, it takes lots of time. I am happy with the result and I will go through the steps with you. However, if you want more details and tips, watch this video. It will be much clearer than just using written instructions.


If you want to try this yourself, here are the basic steps.

  1. Decide on your dimensions. Take into account wall and floor space and also determine a comfortable eating and working height.
  2. Buy your wood.
  3. Clean wood of all metal objects.
  4. Trim wood to width.
  5. Run each piece through a planer until the wood is even and each piece is identical in thickness.
  6. Cut wood to length. Be sure your desk top has NO warp.
  7. Using a Kreg Jig, glue, and Kreg screws, attach planks side-by side. Use a corded drill if your wood is hard.
  8. Working with the desk upside down, make two pocket holes in each leg to attach to the desk top. Glue and screw.
  9. Before glue sets up, stand desk upright. Using a framing square, be sure the top is square with the sides.
  10. Using a hammer drill, bore holes through the top into the legs for large dowel rods.
  11. Cut the rods a little longer than your holes are deep. Cover them with glue and insert into holes. Use a mallet if they need to be persuaded.
  12. Trim off the dowels using a flexible flush cut saw
  13. Sand the whole unit.
  14. Choose your finish. If using oil-based polyurethane, be sure to do two things: 1) stir very often, even while applying it, and 2) sand lightly between coats to ensure adhesion and a smooth, even finish. Plan to put at least two coats on most parts and three on areas that will get heavy use.
  15. Install and Enjoy!


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