Earlier this year (before becoming a member of the editorial staff) I teamed up with Popular Woodworking Magazine and presented one of my No BS Woodworking (my online subscription based woodworking show) projects in an online class format. With the impending release of the DVD of that class, “Build a Shaker Lap Desk, with Chuck Bender“, I remembered a funny little story that occurred while recording the episodes.
Late in the summer of 2011 after recording an episode of No BS Woodworking each day for about three weeks straight the crew and I began work on the Shaker lap desk episodes. We had trekked off to the local big box store to purchase the materials for the desk (the whole premise of the build was you could build a very nice piece of furniture using only materials available at your local home center). The Shaker lap desk built in the episodes was adapted from a measured drawing in John Kassay’s The Book of Shaker Furniture.
When I use the term “adapted” it didn’t start out that way. I had basically taken the cut list from Kassay’s book and plotted out exactly how many pine boards I would need to purchase. After gathering the materials at the local home center and returning to the shop, filming of the materials layout began. I laid out all the parts, verbally noting on camera that the left side of the desk was narrower than the right to accommodate the paper drawer. I also mentioned that, for the moment, I was leaving the side full width (the same as the right side) until all the parts were milled and cut to final size. The plan was to cut off the material where the paper drawer was going and use it as the drawer front. This way the color and grain pattern of the drawer front and case side would match. Filming wrapped for the day at that point.
The next day parts were cut to size and dovetail joinery began. After careful layout, I picked up the saw and began cutting dovetails. Immediately after driving home the last set of dovetails I began to explain that, in the next episode, I would be showing how to route the groove for the secondary bottom when it became apparent that I had never cut off the material that was supposed to be the drawer opening. To further complicate matters, I had dovetailed the left side fully into the front and back of the box. It would not be has easy as cutting off the drawer front to fix this problem.
After careful deliberation, and a trip back to the home center, it was decided to turn the build into two versions of the same desk; a complex version with the paper drawer (and all the other bells and whistles) and a simple version. In the end it all worked out to the benefit of the show subscribers (and subsequently for the PWM class attendees) because they got to see how to adapt a design and make it into two very different projects. Those who took the online class through Popular Woodworking Magazine got the added benefit of seeing two different methods of finishing the projects; one stained and clear coated and the other milk painted.
If you head to shopwoodworking.com and purchase a copy of “Build a Shaker Lap Desk with Chuck Bender” the DVD, you’ll be able to benefit from my mistake as well. You’ll get both versions of the lap desk and both finishes plus you’ll get two digital download videos that give you tips on how to divide dovetails evenly and how to quickly and easily remove the waste between the pins of your dovetails.