Here is a picture of my latest project – a curly maple writing table for my wife. She asked for something nice that would fit in the dormer in the front of our bedroom where she could grade Latin papers in peace and quiet. She asked for something small, about 20 inches by 36 inches. Part way into the project I decided it needed more overhang on the sides than the front and back so I changed to19 inches by 37 inches. If memory serves it is 30 inches tall. The design is mine, partly scratched out on paper and partly just in my head to be adjusted as I went along. It took about 80 hours, so I tell my wife I saved us about $4000, but I’m not sure she is buying!

This is the first piece I’ve made with a name: The Big Splinter Desk, due to the nearly one inch wide, three inch deep hole I made in my right forearm the night I started it. "Ummm, Deb, I think I need a ride to the hospital…"


The top is leather with a Greek Key design in gold leaf, glued using wallpaper paste to ½ inch Baltic Birch set in a curly maple frame. There is a narrow inlay of walnut between the leather and the maple. This may or may not be seen in the last picture depending on how it comes through. The edge is gently beveled to make it more comfortable on my wife’s arms as she works. The corners are mitered and reinforced with through splines of maple, except the exposed outer edge is walnut to compliment the inlay on the top surface. Given the over-all delicacy of the piece I decided to use a 5/8 inch thick top.

The drawer is maple with Baltic Birch bottom. Maple glides that wrap around and up the drawer sides are used to give a broad bearing surface under the drawer and a narrow bearing surface on the sides. This resulted in a really smoothly sliding drawer. The drawer is constructed with hand cut dovetails, as seen in the last picture. The front has a beveled edge to match the bevel on the edges above. I was looking for some really interesting drawer pulls, but gave up and put on some simple brass pulls as a temporary measure. But, I really like them so they are now permanent. Each apron is finished with a small bead running along the bottom as you can see on the side.


The legs are hand planed to shape and are four-sided at the top, tapering to eight sided at the bottom, which you probably can not make out in the pictures. Like a Roman column, the taper curves gently – one benefit of hand shaping. The turning between the top of the leg and start of the taper is interesting in that I did it without benefit of a lathe.


The finish is taken largely from some advise Jeff Jewitt was kind enough to provide me in advance of his Fine Woodworking article on finishing curly maple. First dilute medium brown Transtint dye was used to bring up the curl. That was followed by Watco Danish oil to bring up the shimmer and over that went dewaxed orange shellac to add the amber overtones. Last, dewaxed pale shellac was used to build the finish. The shellac was padded on. The bottom was wet sanded to 600 grit and rubbed out with #0000 steel wool and liquid wax. The top and drawer front were wet sanded to 2000 grit and waxed – Ooooh, Mega smooth!

All in all I am very pleased. If I were to do it again about the only changes would be to add a touch more over-hang on the front and back, and if I could find heavier curly maple I’d beef up the legs just a little. At the time, the legs were as thick as I could find without gluing them up which I did not want to do as that would spoil the figure of the wood.