Thursday, March 11, 2021

Desk-side Table, Part 4: Finishing Up

I was able to make the top from a single wide board.  The bottom had been flattened early on in the build and it sat for a while.  Thankfully, it moved out of flat very little, so planing it up went smoothly.  I wanted to shape the edges similar to what is on the desk it will reside next to.

The initial edge profile - the top of the top is at the bottom of the photo

I used a 1/2" radius on the top edges and about a 1/16" radius on the bottom edges.  These were done with jack plane followed by a smoother and a little scraping / sanding.  The corners were rounded with a 1" radius using a chisel, then a rasp and files.  I blended this curve with the existing profile curves.

Top with shaping done, ready for finish

The finishing started with a wipe with a damp rag to raise the grain and sanding after it was dry.  I would be staining the piece to look about the same color as the desk it will sit next to, so I filled the oak's open pores a bit with two coats of shellac.  The first coat is on in the picture above.  The stain was a single coat of Behlen American Walnut dye stain.  This product has acetone in it, but it also has some ethanol, and it seemed like it partially dissolved some of the shellac.  After that dried, I added two more coats of shellac to seal the stain.

Stain applied

I've had poor results when using fine steel wool on projects during the finishing stages.  I always get fine wool dust in the wood fibers that discolor it and end up wishing I hadn't done that.  But I felt that four coats of shellac might prevent these types of problems.  Before waxing, I rubbed down the whole thing with fine 0000 steel wool, which dulled the sheen.  Then I added a coat of paste wax using a cloth - not with steel wool as I've seen some people do it.

Waxing implements (the steel wool was used pre-wax)

I got an awesome finish!  The oak is smooth to the touch and reflects light nicely.

The last thing to do was to screw in the buttons that keep the top on.  I used brass screws, so I waxed them before driving them home.

Buttons installed

And here she is, ready for some thin cork foot pads and to be placed by the desk where it will live.

Side view

Front view

Installed in place

The color match with the desk is not quite right, but I'm happy enough with it.  The desk is a bit more on the orange side.

My wife likes it, but she would have been happy with something slapped together.  But really, where's the fun in that?  And I need the practice.  This was a nice project.  Having no drawer certainly simplified it, but she didn't want one.  Overall, very enjoyable.


  1. I like the edge detail you did on the top. Squared off edges look harsh to my eye.

    1. Hi Ralph. I agree. I have a side table that I made years ago (in the power tool days) and it has squared-off edges. I'd prefer something else.

  2. I need a new desk as mine is over cluttered. Ever since my daughter moved and I moved into her room to use as my office I just couldn't throw out her bed. Well, because of it I also don't have enough room for a L shaped desk, so I've been putting up with the cramped one. This side table would be a welcomed addition.

    1. Nothing like need to get you into the shop and building something useful! Make sure to let me know what you come up with.