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Construction Question - Kidney Bean Shaped Desk with Curved Legs3/15
This site and its extensive archive have been very informative so to start I just want to say thank you to the WoodWeb members. Reading through old posts has been very helpful as I have started my career as a one-man shop owner/operator.
I made a custom desk last year (photos below) and the customer has ordered another. I do not love my methods from the first time around and wonder how some of you would approach the build.
On the original, the top (2.25 thick) was laminated from 3 layers of MDF with as much meat carved out of the middle layer for weight purposes as possible. The legs (2 thick with tapered ends) were bent laminations with 10 layers of bending plywood, ratchet-strapped 3-4 at a time to forms. I then attached solid poplar edges, which I shaped with a combination of routing and hand planing. It came out fine the client was happy with it and it has withstood being moved to new locations a few times since delivery.
However I would like to improve my process in 2 main ways: be more efficient in making the legs and decrease the weight of the top.
What material would you use for a 2.25 thick top?
Open to any and all advice and appreciate your help.
I don't think you have enough thickness to the legs to be able to do the skin on rib thing and still be able to achieve the bullnosed ends. My first thought is to stack mdf sections of the legs to get your height. That would only be 36 or so pieces per leg. Not very elegant.
Torsion box top with 3/8" MDF, and solid 'edgebands' rabbeted to fit under the top and bottom faces.
The lags should be drawn full size in cross section so you can alter the edges to segments of true radii. In other words, so you can use a 1" round over and a 1-1/4" round over to run out the edge solids by the length. The main section of the legs would also be ribs, gangsawn on the bandsaw, then skinned with 1/8" bending ply or shop made 2-or 3 ply vacuumed into place.
Learn to draw in cross sections, full size. Draw 3 good, solid solutions. Choose the best. Do not omit any details (...figure that out later...). Get the work planned out to every detail, then work your plan.
Thank you Thomas and Dave for your helpful replies.
Dave - I certainly will draft full scale legs and think through multiple approaches to decide what will work best for me. That is very helpful advice, I rely too heavily on CAD instead of full scale drafting. The torsion box approach will definitely help cut weight down with the top. When you say find the true radii, do you mean find centers / tangent lines to map out the actual circles used to design the legs? To then shape before final glue up instead of fairing the curve by hand?
Thomas, my supplier stocks 18mm bending MDF that will certainly make my life easier if I laminate rather than use interior ribs. Thank you for that advice. As for the top yes I am most concerned with cutting weight down more than ease of manufacturing (without making it prohibitively inefficient to make the top).
I'd probably do the legs as soft maple laminations and send it through the Williams and Hussey. I'd also consider sawing off facets on the table saw to reduce hand work on the leg profiles. You can also saw the internal cove on the table saw.
Thanks Rich. I was thinking about that - the internal coves would be relatively straight forward using a cove calculator since with a full scale drawing I can measure the width and height of cut. I think using the moulder and tablesaw for the small two solves a lot of my problems from the first time around. The biggest leg laminated much more efficiently and smoothly. The small ones may make more sense as a separate process.
Just starting out, you may find it helpful to think of wood operations as one of two basic tangents:
Most projects will use both methods. I will also advise that you start with wood, not with CAD. Handle the wood, make a few trail cuts in thing. Get to the point of visualizing every step. This will all help you produce better products with a better understanding of why something looks like it does.
Frame and panel is just a mechanical way to isolate wood movement so it works as a door, for instance. But, over time, it has become 'inlaid' and more. It has become expected, and an attraction all to itself. Even though the inlaid panel is just filler.