How I Tried to Outsmart HGTV

The independence that naturally comes along as baggage in any military relationship is part of what nudged me into several of my hobbies. Max was off training to be a pilot and where was I? In one of the greatest cities in all of America: Boston. It’s chock full of history, culture and has a fantastic nightlife for twenty-somethings (like myself).

I had a decision: mope around missing Max or get out of the house.

Since the earliest we could expect an assignment together was in two to three years, I figure I’d get my Master’s. The Air Force wanted me to get one anyways, so I may as well be in school while we lived apart. I applied to Boston University, got accepted and planned on starting school part-time in the Spring of 2012.

Enter my problem: lack of office furniture to include a desk. Naturally, I did what any other Gen Y’er would do: I turned to Google. Wood. Veneer. Metal. Some combination of the two. And expensive. Even the rickety looking desks had huge price tags. That’s when I stumbled across a console table plan on HGTV. You can find it here.

shutter console

Super cute, huh? The design seemed simple enough. All you needed were some pre-fabricated legs, pine boards, screws and a wooden shutter. Well, I didn’t want a shutter for the top (I was using it as a desk, remember?), so my mind zoomed into overdrive, reengineering the entire plan. Big mistake. Huge.

Convinced that I’d improved the design, I hopped into my Mazda 3 and drove to Lowe’s where I spent about $80 in tools, accessories and wood.

That weekend, I made my first attempt to construct the desk top. Epic fail. The boards were uneven and there were gaps between them and worst of all, it creaked like no other. Undeterred, I took another look at my design plan and revised it a smidge. Adding more screws and cross boards never hurt, right?

Now, I had a less squeaky, more stable, semi-useable desk top, but no idea how to attach the legs. Drill through the top? No, that would expose a screw (I didn’t know about countersinking and wood putty at this point). Wandering aimlessly around Lowes (and too stubborn to ask for help or advice), I stumbled upon these:

Table Top

They’re table leg straight top plates. The concept is simple. Take four screws and drill into underside of your desk top. Then take a wooden table leg with the pre-installed screw and twist on. Voila! And you have a desk!

There are tons of options for table legs with pre-installed screws on them. I pulled these two directly from Lowe’s website. Basically, you can customize the look of whatever you’re building.

legs

I wanted my desk to be more sophisticated and not so “I-built-this-in-my-living room.” So I measured the space between each table leg and carefully cut four pine boards for each apron. But how to attach them? I hadn’t discovered a Kreg Jig yet so pocket holes were out of the picture.

Back to Lowe’s I went. After some more wandering (not so aimlessly this time), I found what I was looking for: L brackets. I bought a few packages of these little babies and sped home. I was practically on the home stretch!

A few pilot holes later and I’d attached my four apron boards. I threw some paint on and – gasp – I had a desk to kick start my Master’s program!

desk side

Looking back, this was a comical experience. Don’t let this post fool you though; there were plenty of frustrating evenings, regret, and wandering around Lowe’s.

Even now, my pathetic little desk is sitting in my bedroom. Secretly, I was hoping the movers would destroy it, that way I had an excuse to go back and build an even better desk, but that didn’t happen. The little guy survived the trip from Boston. It’s still completely functional and sturdy so I must have done something right. Looks fabulous in my bedroom too.

desk

Every time someone sees it, they ask where it came from. I love telling them how I build my own furniture. You should try it too sometime. Trust me, it’s worth it.

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