Well it took me a month to build, but that included a lot of figuring out and making jigs. For example, one problem is getting a hole drilled perpendicular to the face of the board. My lovely little router – and it is a Festool – doesn’t put the bit exactly in the middle of the guide bush. All routers have some offset, and this one is about 2 millimetres, which is plenty if you want to drill a neat hole in exactly the right place on a board. So I had to make a jig – just a piece of 9mm ply with a hole to fit a guide bush I happen to have whose diameter coincides with a Forstner bit I happen to have – and marks on the edge of the hole to line up with the markings on the workpiece. Putting the marks in the right place was a pain, and so is lining the jig up and clamping it down for every hole.
Tip: always use at least two clamps, as far apart as possible but even if you can only get them an inch apart that’s good enough to stop the piece from pivoting on a single clamp. Clamps aren’t shown in this picture, but the jig is nearly a metre long so there’s a good chance for every setup that you can get a pair of clamps in somewhere.
Another clamping tip: the single-handed quick-release ones are fine for holding the piece in place while you go and get a proper F-clamp, but don’t rely on them for the actual cut. And there’s one type in particular that has bitten my hand more than once – try it in the shop before you buy and don’t buy a clamp online on the strength of the blurb.
Of course after I’d finished making the holes I realised that the guide bush screws allow for a bit of adjustment – there’s me trusting Festool to be so perfect and yes, it has a couple of millimetres of slop. So now I centre the guide bush on the bit by eye – and hope it doesn’t move during a job. Even Festool kit has let me down in that respect before.
Obviously the desk had to be knock-down – it wouldn’t go up the stairs and would cause a back injury anyway – so I used threaded inserts and wide-headed bolts, and dowels where gravity would hold it together. Even staring at the SketchUp model for hours on end there are still engineering decisions to be made as you’re going along and some dowel fittings got converted to bolts late in the build.
I finished the desk with Tru-Oil, which is made in the US by Birchwood Casey for, of all things, gun stock finishing. Not cheap but dries much more quickly than the usual Danish oils you find in the toolshops. It a favourite for musical instrument makers too.