Sit to Stand DIY Desk
I needed to prove to myself I could make a table. I’ve shared many times that I had planned to make my own dining room table and office desk from the wood of trees that were once in my backyard. My dinning room table turned out absolutely gorgeous, but it was not done by my hands alone. At the makerspace I joined I got a lot of help from one of the members, Kendall. He showed me the ropes on running my wood through the joiner and planer. Unfortunately Covid-19 hit and the shop was forced to close. I used my stimulus check to pay a professional shop to finish what I started. My desk was an opportunity to do what I said I would.
My mulberry wood slabs had been in storage for almost two. The first step was cutting the crouch ends off. If they stayed whole I thought I could make some nice live edge end tables. All but one cracked in two pieces, so I’ll make more charcuterie trays. Since the live edge is on both sides I decided to split the boards down the middle on the ban saw. Since I knew my cut was not straight I ran the cut side of the board through the joiner until it was even/flat. Once flat I could use the straight edge run the board through the table saw to cut the bark off the opposite. Some of the boards, even cut in half, were cupped so in those instances I ran the flat side through the joiner. Ultimately the goal was to get boards that I could start running through the planer to clean up and smooth out the surface. I also needed to get all the boards to the same thickness. My target size overall was 60″x30″x1.25″. The boards were just under 2″ thick when I started.
I never got all my boards the same thickness, but I was afraid I was getting them too thin (I was was already under 1.5″ and I knew more planning and sanding would be needed), so I decided to stop and and start filling the cracks and holes with epoxy. At this stage I could already tell I was going to have some gorgeous boards.
My dining table project had already taught me what to look for. Because of that my original design idea changed. I had boards between 3″ and 6″ in width and some had sap wood showing. I didn’t want to loose that, so instead of having uniform boards for my center panels I decided to have staggered sizes; 6″ in the center, 4″ on each side of it, and then 3″ on each side of the 4″. I’d have two, 20″ x 20″ panels running horizontally separated by a 6″ board running vertically. With the boards arranged it was time to glue up the two 20″ x 20″ panels.
The glue up went well. I decided to make another design change. I had a scrape piece of walnut from my table, just enough to create some 1/2″ strips for accents. Adding the strips would take me over my 60″ finished width, so I had to run my 20x20s through the table saw. I totally ignored the “measure twice cut once rule” as on the first board I cut off too much. The end result is my final table top ended up only 58″ long. With the walnut strips cut it was time glue up the full center panel with the walnut accents. Once that was done I was ready to glue up the outer boards.
The finished table was very uneven, which I knew would be the case since my boards weren’t the same thickness. To correct the unevenness problem I decided to take the CNC router class and use the CNC machine to smooth out the table. In the class you learn how to make a sign while get the basics for running the machine.
Making the sign did not translate exactly to the steps needed to smooth out my table, but fortunately the staff doesn’t let you go solo on your first solo use. Unfortunately the person that helped had a completely different way of operating the machine from what I learn in class making me even more confused. My biggest fear was that I’d take off too much making the table too thin. I started with the bottom as the boards on that side were most out of alignment. I set the machine to remove 1/16″ with a CNC Spoilboard Surfacing/Slab Flattening Carbide Router Bit 1/2″ Shank I purchased from Amazon. It went great, but was not 100% flat. After the first pass I was on my own, so I decided to flip the table over to smooth out the top. Good thing I did as my second pass did not go as well. I set the z-stop wrong and it took off more than my 1/16″ target. It made the top smooth, but I was at my 1″ minimum finished thickness. I stopped after two passes, leaving the underside as is. It wasn’t terrible, but far from perfect.
The next step was giving my top a finished edge by using a 5/8″ round-over router bit and hand held router along the edge. With that successfully accomplished I decided to do all the sanding at the shop to save my house from the dust. I started with 60 grit and progressed to 80, 120, 240, and ended with 400. I’ve learned that the higher the grit the smoother the surface, but the higher grit also closes the pores and impedes oil absorption. I used the paper I had on hand, but for a future project I may stop at 320 grit because I think oil absorption is key to bringing out grains of the boards.
I took the board home and started the oiling process. I learned about a brand of oil called Walrus Oil from a blog site I follow, April Wilkerson, when she shared a YouTube video about floating shelves she was making. When I went to their site I saw they not only had the cutting board oil, but a Furniture Finish Oil also. I decided to try it and their Furniture Wax Finish and Polish. I put two coats of the oil on the bottom of the table. The wood came alive and I knew then I had created something really special. I was anxious to attach the the top to the Fromann Electric 3 Tier Legs Dual Motor Desk Base – Sit Stand up Standing Height Adjustable Desk Frame I purchased from Amazon.
The first frame I received was defective, the holes were mis-drilled, so it could not be put together. I wrote a negative review on Amazon with pictures and returned it with plans to purchase one from a different manufacturer. Fromann read the review, reached out to me, offered me a full refund and a new frame. Now that is what I call great customer service. At this point my only investment in this project is my time and the cost of the Walrus Oil. The new frame arrived, went together with ease and the screws I needed to attach the top to the frame. It works flawlessly. I programmed three preset heights, sitting normal, sitting high, and standing. I wrote a new review, giving the product 5-stars. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another one.
I applied three coats of Walrus Oil to the top, but I wasn’t happy with it. After each 24-hr dry period it still looked dry, so I decided to apply a coat of Danish Oil, natural, that I had used on my headboard. It looked better, but dried to the same sheen as the Walrus Oil. Since I had it I used the Walrus Oil Furniture Wax and Polish as my final coat and called the project a wrap. Sanding to the right grit is definitely key to using an oil finish with wood. I like that Walrus Oil is a 100% plant based product. I had always used a satin finish when I used poly products. Walrus Oil dried to a matte finish, so that is also why I thought it looked dry. I’ve purchased their cutting board oil and wax for my charcuterie trays I’ll be selling. I even bought a case of their 2 oz bottles, which will go with each tray purchased.
Sit to stand desks retail from $500 on up for mass produced models. Without the frame refund I would have had approximately $375 in hard cost. I probably spent about 12 total hours working on it over the course of three weeks. You spend more time waiting for stuff to set or dry. I think Sista Girl with Skills furniture line has been born. I have two more slabs of mulberry left, plus the crouch that didn’t break. I’ll be partnering with Anna Petersen, the young lady that welded the stand for my sink, to hopefully make two live edge console tables and one end table. I need to do a better job with the CNC router if we’ll have a real shot. Man I wish I had kept more of that mulberry tree.