Tuesday 7th March 2017

Designing yet another piece. How it happens

Here is a piece I designed ten years ago now. I liked the design well enough but only made the one.

My design was the first without drawers and it seemed advanced in its time to me.

 In most cases a design begins with perceived need. I tend to isolate my thoughts to a space in a room where I feel what I want to design will be a part of. I find that that’s a more logical place to start but design doesn’t need to be based on pure logic all the time. It may however be a good place to consider what already exists or, on the other hand, what does not. Generally there will always be fixed parameters a design must fit within, but not always, mostly. These fixed parameters can be two-fold. Commonly they will be limited by space and by function. Not necessarily in that order. In the case of space it’s often simple enough. Length, depth and height. In the case of function, how does it serve the user as it functions. In both cases a giant chair or table may well function, but how it suits its purpose and its user will be governed by many influences. Though the needs and purpose of many furniture pieces or its items of woodwork have changed through the last century and even recent decades, some elements remain unchanged. A writing desk may need no drawers because to write on a tablet or notebook to most people under a certain age means to press keys on a device. It’s only 20 years ago that most people my age knew almost nothing of such things and a writing desk or table held drawers for pens, pencils, hole punches, paper, envelopes and files. These things have all but gone in my children’s and grandchildren’s lives, so when we speak of a writing desk, even the height as changed markedly from what we once considered.

A breadboard end like this adds a certain classic look but has practical value too.

This home desk I designed and made in 2012. It takes a small and compact computer and the tabletop elevates for use as a drawing table too. The comfort for typing on a laptop at an incline works fine or it can be level. Personally I think I do prefer the ability to change angles. The tabletop lifts up all the way for stowing a laptop, mouse or finger pad and keyboard. Within its innards is an outlet for charging a device. This design is lower than a standard table height by 3”.  

My current quest this week has been the design for a compact computer desk so once more I am prototyping in pine for speed and efficiency as well as economy. I had a blank sheet and drawing out the design came to me quite quickly, which is always nice. It’s been going well so far and I have the main frame for legs, rails and aprons just about together. I have chosen oak for this project as I have some nicely figured wood but there is still time for that to change yet. 

Round overs in the rough showing internal mitring.

Roughing out with an old spokeshave is still the fastest way for prototyping that I know of and I feel in total control of the outcome.

Anyway, This desk has some additional decorative features we haven’t used so far but the piece will still be appropriate enough for most people following woodworking masterclasses  to build.


  1. Evan on 16 March 2017 at 2:31 am

    I see atleast part of this project has been inspired by Q&A questions. We get to see a proper way to handled internal molding/trim miters

  2. John on 16 March 2017 at 8:08 pm

    Hello Mr. Sellers,
    You can take a pile of lowly 2 by 4’s and make something that looks pretty awesome.
    Looking forward to the new project.
    Take it easy

  3. Kieran on 17 March 2017 at 12:23 am

    Your comment about prototyping made me think. When do you decide that a piece requires you to make a prototype? I ask because I barely have enough time to make the pieces I want, and I can see this as adding more time and expense to a project. However, I think the benefits of prototyping will help reduce costly (time and materials) mistakes, so perhaps there is a trade-off somewhere?

  4. Tom on 17 March 2017 at 11:27 am

    It is great to see an approach that starts in the REAL world with function defining form and not the other way around. Yes, something that looks good is great but, if it uncomfortable and not a pleasure to use, it won’t be used.
    Thanks Paul!

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