Cherry Serpintine Desk
CHERRY SERPENTINE DESK
This beautiful desk is a blend of veneered plywood, solid wood and cherry veneer.

SHOP OWNER: Felix B.
LOCATION:
York, PA

    When I was commissioned to build this desk, the requirements were very simple: it should be made out of cherry, it should have simple lines, and it should not look ordinary. Since this desk would be used daily in the office, the full extension drawers were an important feature to consider.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    After extensive research and numerous discussions on WoodCentral, I came to the conclusion that Ύ” cherry veneer core plywood would be ideal to use for this design. While all my shop drawings were made in SketchUp, AutoCAD was used to experiment with curves for the legs and front of the desk.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    The pedestal is a simple plywood box with solids in corners reinforced with three frames inside (between the drawers). When the pedestal was initially glued up, the corner pieces were about 1/32” proud of plywood sides. Later they were hand planed and scraped flush with the side and back panels. The front corner pieces have a slight taper to accommodate the concave shape of the front of the pedestal.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    I cut the concave profiles of the front rails on a band saw and dovetailed them into the front stiles.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    The leg base is solid cherry; it is built using a mortise and tenon joint between the legs and the stretchers. I cut the legs on a band saw, cleaned up on a spindle sander, and then scraped.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    With the mortise and tenon joints cut, I dry fitted the legs and the stretchers together and carefully marked the location of the curves using templates. Then I roughed out the curves on the band saw.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    In order to achieve an uninterrupted curve line between the legs and the stretchers, each stretcher and its two legs were assembled together using clamps, and then sanded on the oscillating spindle sander. Once glued up, I smoothed the leg base with a hand plane and scraper.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    A rabbet was milled in each leg base to receive a small decorative molding between the leg base and the pedestal.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    Another level of difficulty was added when I realized that the drawer fronts needed to be veneered so that the grain direction would match the vertical grain direction of the pedestals.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    The drawer fronts were built using a vacuum press and a mold. I constructed my first mold from a bunch of 2 x 4s that I cut to shape on the band saw (to form the curve of the fronts), glued up together, and then hand planed. Little did I know that the 2x4 material I used was not the ideal wood for the form. The freshly cut side dried overnight and curled up! I remade my second form using Ύ” plywood strips glued together, shaped on the band saw, and hand planed to achieve a uniformed convex surface.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    I made the curved drawer fronts using eight layers of bendable plywood (some call it Italian Poplar). The extremely flexible 1/8-inch-thick sheets of plywood were shaped using a vacuum press and a mold.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    All seven drawers have dovetailed fronts and backs to achieve maximum structural strength. Due to the height of the filing drawers, I used ½” birch plywood for the sides and the backs to balance the seasonal wood movement.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    In order to hide the drawer slides under the drawer bottoms, I had to mount the slides on wooden strips, which I fastened to the internal frames.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    Once the drawers were ready for glue-up, I sandwiched the fronts between two pieces of 13”-wide cherry veneer.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    After completely assembling the drawers, I milled a rabbet around the perimeter of the drawer fronts and added a decorative 1/8”-thick bead.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    I cut the curved bead planks to shape on the band saw, and then ripped and milled to thickness. To form the edge, I used a scratch stock made from a scraper.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    Mission accomplished – 22” full extension drawers and no visible slides.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    I connected the rear panel between the two pedestals by gluing it into dados milled into the corner posts and fastened from the inside using pocket screws. A decorative molding later covered the pocket screw holes.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    The Ύ” plywood panel that supports the middle drawer was glued in dados located on the sides of the pedestals. The panel was fastened using pocket screws.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    The entire structure was re-enforced with the frame at the top. Once assembled, the structure of the desk was very rigid and it felt very solid when moving it around.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    I made the top from Ύ” cherry veneered plywood with a solid cherry edging around the perimeter. The challenge was to cut matching curves in the plywood and wooden edge for the front. Using AutoCAD I plotted the curve, taped together the 8x11 sheets of paper, transferred the curve to template material (3/16” ply), then cut the template on the band saw to make matching sides, and finally, I shaped the curved plywood middle and solid edging with a router. To join the solid wood edge and the plywood, I used #20 biscuits (I was Norm for a day).
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    To emphasize the serpentine front, I added a small rabbet to the solid edge before the top was assembled.
Cherry Serpintine Desk
    To achieve the gloss finish on this project, I used oil and urethane products by General Finishes. Since I don’t have a spray gun, it took awhile to apply the twelve coats for the top and between 6-8 coats for the other parts. Overall dimensions of this desk are: 60” long, 30” wide (at the widest point at the top), and 30” high.
. . . Felix Milner






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