WOODWORKING: walnut desk

Forgive me for my absence from this blog! I was waiting on this desk, and it took longer than I had hoped for me to get my butt into gear to finish it up. Regardless, here’s the walnut desk I’ve been working on for a month or two!


The top is made from a slab of walnut that my dad and I found at a local building materials sourcing warehouse called Community Forklift. I loved the raw feel of the natural edges, and I tried to make the unique twists and turns of the wood into a key part of the design. Other than prying off the bark with a chisel and sanding down the edges, the shape is exactly how we found it. The aprons are made of cherry, and the legs are made of walnut.

If you don’t know something, I strongly believe in teaching it to yourself through trial and error rather than learning from someone else. (Of course, it’s great to have someone to bounce ideas off of, or to have the support of someone more knowledgable.) With experimentation comes failure, true, but also hard-won success. With that in mind, as a very amateur woodworker I learned quite a bit! Some of the things I learned while making this desk:

The importance of owning the aesthetic choices you make. The slab of walnut that I used for the top had a small (6″ to 8″) crack on one end. I chose to maximize the length of my desk, so I included the crack in the design. I chose to fill it with a mixture of epoxy and fine walnut dusk from the sander: given the dark hue of the walnut, I didn’t mind accentuating the defect with a filling that eventually turned darker than the wood.

Basic joinery techniques. One of the most basic ways to join two pieces of wood is called a mortise and tenon joint, where a male part in one piece fits into an identically shaped female groove in the other. Since I hardly have a woodworking shop, let alone the right tools for the job, I didn’t want to cut these pieces by hand: in addition to being labor-intensive, I didn’t have any room for error. I decided to try and fit the short end aprons to the legs with walnut dowels and wood glue. I found out that this isn’t the best way to do it: I’m not convinced that the joints are stable or secure.

The importance of realizing your limitations. I wanted the desk to turn out as cleanly as possible but, as with any project, there are inevitable imperfections. As an artisan, this is an important realization. I believe that the world could use some more handcraft, and part of making something by hand is understanding that it can never be held up to the standard of something produced by a machine.

It’s not quite finished, because there’s a bit of a length-wise wobble that I want to correct. I’m considering putting cherry aprons or 1″ walnut dowels on the lower part of the legs to stabilize it, but I’m not sure if that would fix the problem.

I was on the verge of tears today because of a combination of the hardly-level floors in my parent’s c. 1930s house and the circular saw cutting two of the legs at an angle. But hey! It worked out okay.

What do you think? Any words of advice for a woodworking novice?

Stay curious,


2 thoughts on “WOODWORKING: walnut desk

  1. Very nice, looks rustic and at the same time refined. I also have to mention that Walnut is my favorite wood to work with. I only wish that I had the cash to use it more often.
    My only advice would be that if the wobble isn’t too bad you can attach adjustments to the legs, kind of like you might see on a washing machine. Rockler and Lee Valley sell them among other places.

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