Desktop Shaping

The shape for the top of the black walnut desk will follow the curves of the stand at each end, so I made a jig to trace the curve of the stretchers below onto the top of the desktop. To help ensure an accurate and consistent bevel for the edge while hand planing the end grain, I also traced a curve underneath using a block that was the correct thickness to position the line where I needed it.

Below you can see the continuous curve extending across both halves of the desktop.

After getting the curves traced, I then applied the first coat of oil finish to the stand. The second coat followed the next day. I think I'll hold off showing that until I get the final pictures taken.

Rough cutting the curved ends was easily done with a jig saw set to the desired bevel angle. I left about 1/16" of extra material to refine the shape with a hand plane.

I don't have a low angle compass plane, which, of course, would be ideal for planing the end grain on the concave end of the desk, but I did find it helpful to shape the ends with my 45° compass plane, right down to the traced lines on the tops and bottoms of the edges. The smoothness of the cut does not quite make it ready for the final finish, but I'll take another pass with a card scraper and a bit of sandpaper, as needed. On the convex end of the desk, I used a low angle block plane that worked like a dream with its finely honed edge. For a long time I've been kicking around the question, how does one ergonomically plane the end grain on such a long plank? Well, I decided to try the attic stairway. I think this simple set-up saved my back!

Not a bad solution, but I don't think I can annex this part of the house for woodworking. Not only that, but since this is the entrance to Carol's studio, I guess I'd better clean up the mess, eh? I'll try to remember to do that ;-)

A little closer look.

Sorry no pictures, but I spent a full day, and then some, planing the large surfaces of the top planks. With those surfaces about 90% done, I switched over to some of the details.

I began by cleaning out the major flaws in the middle portion of the plank. Somehow, I got a hold of a dental probe that really does a great job. I honed one end to function as a scraper. I also had a chance to use my favorite knife to soften the edges of the insect channels that are carved into the bottom of the desktop near one edge. I thought that if I attack this with something more agressive than this knife I'd destroy the beautiful character of the natural edge. So, gently, I carved.

The channels below are on the outside edge. Lots of them!

A little more surface prep tomorrow and it'll be time for the oil finish.

Until next time, hej då and happy shavings!