How to build a writing desk

Written by pat olsen
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How to build a writing desk
Small writing desks can be used for homework. (girl writing image by Julia Britvich from

Writing desks are usually small without a lot of extra storage shelves and drawers. They fit into compact spaces and make excellent places for students to do their homework. You can easily move small desks from one area to the next. Add a 12-inch shelf to one side to hold supplies. This project will take only a few hours to accomplish and will use tools you already own.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • 1-by-30-by-36-inch oak board
  • Three ½-inch-by-29-inch-by-30-inch oak boards
  • Two ½-inch-by-12-inch-by-30-inch oak boards
  • Medium- and fine-grain sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Wood screws
  • Wood glue
  • Drill
  • Stain
  • Disposable foam paint brushes
  • Acrylic finish

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  1. 1

    Have the lumber company cut all the boards to specification or do it yourself with a circular saw. Smooth all sides and edges of the boards with medium-grain sandpaper. Finish with a smooth, fine-grain sanding. Wipe away all of the dust and grit with the tack cloth.

  2. 2

    Stain all sides and edges of the wood with a light coating of stain. Use disposable foam paintbrushes for this job. Give the wood at least two coats, drying thoroughly between coats. Give the wooden pieces two coats of acrylic finish. Dry thoroughly between coats.

  3. 3

    Lay the two side boards that will form the right-hand leg and shelf support apparatus onto the work table. These boards measure ½-inch-by-29-inch-by-30-inches. Measure and mark halfway down the outsides of each board, ¼ inch in from each side, as well as in the centre. Drill a pilot hole in each mark. Drop in a bit of wood glue to ensure a better bond. Use wood screws to attach the 12-inch-wide centre shelf by screwing from the outside of the boards into the sides of the shelf.

  4. 4

    Mark the bottom outside of the boards ¼ inch in and at the middle before drilling pilot holes for the bottom shelf. Drop in the glue and screw the bottom shelf in place.

  5. 5

    On the 1-inch-by-30-inch-by-36-inch oak desktop, mark along both short side edges ¼ inch from the edge and every five inches across from front to back edge. Drill pilot holes into these marked spots and drop in glue. Attach the side-shelf portion on the right side by drilling from the top down into the right leg portion of the shelf assembly. It is not necessary to drill through into the left-hand portion of this shelf attachment because it is only 12 inches wide. Attach the left side by drilling down from the desktop into the left-side edge of the desk to form the left side of the desk.

Tips and warnings

  • Use wicker baskets to fit into the shelf opening to hold writing implements and extra paper.

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