DIY Parsons(ish) Desk

DIY Parsons(ish) Desk

For our office we had a very specific look we wanted to go for. Clean, simple, modern, nothing fancy. Of course you can go out and buy a Parsons table or desk — for a whole lot of money. Because we wanted to share this desk, we needed something large enough for both of us and our big computers, which would cost a lot to buy (a smaller Parsons desk at West Elm is $399 and we’d need two) — so hey why not try to build one myself? A big piece of wood with four legs, how hard can that be?

Before I do the step by step, I should explain what a Parsons table is. To put it simply, it’s a rectangular table with four square legs right at the corners. It’s famous for being the tables used at Parsons School. There is no frills about it, and we’re big fans of the classic, simple design.

We wanted to use aspen wood panels from Lowe’s again, like we did in the laundry room, but we couldn’t find any pieces that were wide enough. So we decided to do two 72″x18″ panels side by side. The process was pretty simple.

Step one: add a frame around the bottom of the table.

In the picture above, you can see down the middle that I tried to use my kreg jig to join the pieces together. That ended up being unnecessary, as I’ll show later. On the corners of this, I mitered the frame along the bottom.

Step two: add supports across the bottom.

This is why I didn’t need to end up using the kreg jig on the table itself. I screwed the supports into the side frame (using the kreg jig … its’s really a great tool), and this made sure that the seam down the middle was super tight, with no gap. When I screwed  the supports in straight down, that made sure one side wasn’t higher than the other. So these supports not only added actual support, but they leveled everything out, and brought it all together. The supports do everything!

Step three: add legs.

The legs were pre-purchased as is, and we also bought mounts for them that I screwed in right inside the frame. This is what puts the “(ish)” in our Parsons(ish) desk. On a Parsons desk, the legs would be right at the corner, not a few inches in, inside this frame. But my skills limit me to making a Parsons(ish) desk and that’s fine with me. To add our legs it was just a matter of screwing the the pre-fabricated legs into the mounts.

Steps four and five, six and seven, eight and nine… etc. until the end of time: sand and clear coat and sand. Kerry started by sanding to get it as smooth as possible. She used a 100, then a 150, and then a 220 (medium, fine, and very fine) grit to start with a very smooth surface before we applied the clear coat.

In the past we’ve always used a spray paint clear coat but this time we actually went with a matte-finish polyurethane that we applied with a brush. We then waited about 24 hours and sanded with the 220 grit sandpaper. After that we vacuumed the desk and then wiped the whole thing with a tack cloth to get rid of all the dust. Then we did it again … polyurethane coat, 220 grit sandpaper, and clean with a tack cloth. I made a joke earlier that this goes on forever, but for us we found that two coats did it. After this second coat and cleaning, the desk was so smooth. If you end up trying to build one yourself, and it’s not as smooth as you want it to be yet, just keep repeating, it’ll get there. Just make sure you really let the poly dry before sanding. Otherwise you get a cloudy look, which maybe you’ll be happy with but otherwise it could look bad.

And what did this desk cost?
2 72″x18″ aspen panels— $73
4 legs — $37
4 leg mounts — $7 wood for the frame: maybe $10 (we already had the poly and sandpaper)

TOTAL: about $127

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