Building a Curved Countertop Reception Desk

Advice on structure and finish for a curved-front desk. March 26, 2010

I have a five foot radius two tier countertop desk to make. It stands 42" high. My plan is to build a 2" wall with a curved top and bottom plates with studs 3/4" thick. Then I plan to skin it in bendy ply, then laminate. How do I fasten the countertop other than a ledger? I donít want a dado as I think it might weaken the panel. Thoughts or sources for info would be appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor L:
If the countertop is a 1 1/2" drop edge, glue/screw a 5/8 or 3/4 base to the top of the wall. Then screw the countertop from below.

From contributor B:
Bendy" ply sometimes telegraphs through laminate. After bendy, skin it with 1/8" MDF for a smooth surface to laminate to. Don't forget to make removable panels on the inside of your drywall and drill holes in your studs for the electrician to run wiring through.

From contributor J:
I would go with making my studs at least 3 1/2" wide. I double up my vertical studs as well. So far I haven't had any problems with laminate and bending ply. I also didn't use vertical grade either. When using veneer I would use an 1/8" bending ply. I'm actually building a radius food serving station. Two layers of 3/8" bending ply and then 1/4" oak plywood. Solid wood batten strips will hide any seems.

From the original questioner:
Holes for electrical, yes, I would have forgotten. Thanks! I am using two layers of 1/4" bendy ply, then kerfcore-like 1/8" bendy. Neatflex is what they sold me. Thanks for the input.

From contributor R:
We used to use dados on the rounded bottom tread of high end staircases. We dadoed 3/4 ply, then kerfed it on a RAS. The ribs were seated into the dados with construction adhesive. Kerfing the ply ourselves allowed us to space the kerfs properly for the curve needed, and control the depth to minimize the striated effect.

From contributor L:
I personally hate bendy ply, most of the time it will not bend smoothly. We usually kerf MDF (auto program on panel saw.) As for laminate thickness VG is a better solution because it has less built in spring back to work on the bond on a radius near the ends. The only advantage of Std. grade is impact resistance, not an issue on a vertical surface. We laminate with hard glue (in a vacuum press) for curved panels (not contact.) The panels are laminated before being kerfed.

From the original questioner:
I have built a curved and skinned both sides with bendy ply. Now, how to apply the finished 1/8" MDF (or Ital. Poplar or kerfed product etc.) for a painted surface? I have no vacuum bag, and the piece is 8 foot long with a bulge of maybe 2' 6". Liquid nails with a trowel? Then clamp edges?

From contributor S:
No, no liquid nails. Use sprayable contact cement. Spray both surfaces, hold about 15 minutes until it becomes tacky, and then put it on. Be careful, once it touches you canít take it off.

From the original questioner:
To contributor S: Are you sure? Contact cement? I'm talking about gluing a 4x8 sheet of kerfed 1/4" MDF to 1/4" bendy ply. Do you have experience using contact for this purpose? What CAD program are u using and is it CNC compatible?

From contributor S:
I'm absolutely positive about contact cement. Using contact cement on 1/8 Masonite/MDF sheet or similar product works perfect. I use AutoCAD and then export it to DXF and use other programs to nest and generate G-code for CNC.