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The Desk

Back in the mid-80s I was living in an efficiency apartment in DC and my boss at MCI learned I was in need of a desk.  Well, he happened to have one, an old "Federal Desk" that he'd no more use of.  The thing was a massive bit of hardwood solidness.  The desktop itself was pretty expansive and the rest of the desk included a spring-loaded "return" tray for a typewriter.  You'd open the door on the left side and would pull out and up on the tray until its arms brought the return up to desktop level.  Thereupon you could do your required typing while being able to conveniently stow the typewriter out of the way once done.  Nifty stuff even despite the fact that I didn't own a typewriter.  The only limiting factor was the desk's legs.  There were none.  In order to store the big old desk Steve had to get it down in his basement and in order to do that he had to cut its legs off.  Over the years he'd lost those legs and thus there the desk sat.  Until I came along with my need of it.  Some phone calls made and Ward Davis showed up with his pickup truck off we went to Steve's place out in the Virginia suburbs of DC and then to my little place back in the Adam's Morgan section of the Capitol city.  I used some cinder blocks which I'd found just laying about the neighborhood (Midnight Requisitioned) for legs and the thing was perfectly suitable for me.  This, even without a typewriter.

After a while spent at 1803 Biltmore Street in the "Melwood Apartment Building" I moved off to be with Dianne and Harry out in Potomac, Maryland.  I'd really no used for the desk drawers of the Federal Desk but that desktop was quite appreciated.  So, off it came out out went those drawers - including the spring loaded return.

My time in Potomac was a limited thing and I soon enough was out in Falls Church with my meager belongings - including the Federal Desk desktop.  My stay in Falls Church turned out to be even briefer than I'd been in Potomac and I was soon enough finally out of the DC area and down to a new life in Atlanta, Georgia.  I was still possessed of both a meager amount of possessions and a meager income.  I was clever in effecting my move however, as I hit upon the idea of simply mailing my stuff down to the place I was temporarily staying in Atlanta.  I even mailed that desktop down there.  At the time, the USPS regulations weren't as restrictive as to what could be parcel posted.  The desktop just eked by the then existing limits and I felt quite pleased with myself for having gotten it through.

I wasn't even a year in Atlanta before I packed up and moved out to the Coast and started anew in San Diego.  This time I had to ship, via UPS, that desktop as the US Postal service was too restrictive by then.  Still though, across it went.  

That big piece of expansive hardwood expansiveness (about five feet wide and almost three feet deep) wound up being my desk for years thereafter.  It was big, it was sturdy, and it looked good.  I was handy enough to cut some suitable 2x4s for legs or otherwise prop it up on the two drawer file cabinets I acquired.  This gave me ample leg room under the desk and that's something I always appreciate as I'm not a small guy to squeeze into some little workstation's dinkiness.

Along about 2008 I bought a second desk so that Julia could have her own little set up in the bedroom we'd set up as my office.  It was a strikingly different desk than mine.  It was a sidewalk find that we spied one day driving around North Park in San Diego near the Balboa Park's velodrome.  The desk was a metal tube framed thing with a big chunk of tempered glass for its desktop.  The desk was on casters and featured a two drawer wheeled file cabinet thing with its own matching glass top.  It was perfect for her and it fit right in to the office as it was also smaller than my big Federal Desk desktop.

When Julia moved back to Oklahoma she left that desk behind.  By then I was living over in Clairemont and we'd set that glass desk up facing the window in that bedroom.  With it now cleared of her stuff I decided that I liked sitting there better than my old desktop.  The moulding along the edge of that Federal Desk desktop was always a worn thing and it got uncomfortable against my stomach when I pulled in close to the desk.  The glass desk had no such limits.  

I'd always intended on refinishing the old Federal Desk desktop but I'd have to take everything else off of it first to do so and that was always too much of a chore when I had the glass desk to use instead.

Eventually, I moved out of San Diego and up to Carson.  I'd run two households in the process with the place in Carson being paid for as part of the contract I had while working at SpaceX.  I was still a resident of San Diego so the contract reimbursed me for my lodging expenses.  I'd gone out and bought a dinky little workstation thing at Ikea and it... sufficed.

When the gig at SpaceX ended so to did that per diem lodging reimbursement so I folded things up in San Diego and was soon moved out of there as well.  The glass desk did not come along with me to Carson.  The old Federal Desk desktop did.  It came up and sat in the garage awaiting my attentions.

And there it sat until the fall of 2017 when I moved again, this time out to Lakewood.  It is truly well traveled desktop.

Into the Lakewood garage it went to still await my getting to it.  This time however, it didn't have to wait that long.

The little Ikea thing - a "Linnmon Table" - just wasn't going to cut it any longer.  But nor would the worn and shabby edges of the old Federal Desktop.  Thus, out came my circular saw with a fresh blade and some careful cutting and away went those edge mouldings.  It was at about this time I determined that the desk itself was oak.  Due to the staining of the thing, I hadn't been sure.  I then rooted around and eventually found some suitable oak mouldings to replace what I'd severed.  A bit more cutting and then some gluing and clamping later and I had my old desk like this.

New Edges

I was rather pleased at how I came up with this rig.  I needed to apply compression to the moulding pieces but the size of the desktop made clamping it a bit problematic and I also didn't want to crush the curved surface of the moulding itself.  To solve this I used the numerous cargo straps with their "come along" tensioning buckles that I'd picked up over the years.  The straps easily handled the width and girth of the desktop and didn't damage the wood in the process of applying the compression.

More compression

I worked these in phases with the long edge going on first and then the side pieces.  I used pieces of cling wrap to keep the glue off of the straps and make their removal simple.

The remnants

It wasn't perfect but it was close enough.

Once I'd the half round moulding pieces all set I fashioned the back piece.  There, I wanted a large and flat face to secure the backing of the back board to and thus a bit of standard 2x4 would do.  And thus so to would the bar clamps I had.

More compression

Here's the cleaned up result.

Cleaned up result

I'd thought to leave it like this but the sanded down finish was too uneven and my woodworking attempts at redoing the edge mouldings were a bit too obviously those of a non-professional's.  So, out came the wood stain and sealant.  After a bit of staining, coating,
polishing, staining, polishing, coating, and polishing, it came to this.

All stained up

I was rather please with the results.

Then came work on the backboard.

I wanted something that I could thumb tack calendars and notices to as well as something I could hang my monitor off of.  So, I cut down a sheet of plywood, measured out cork tiling, stained what was still exposed, and secured a bracket for the monitor to it.


In the shot above I've laid out the corkboard tiles and positioned the monitor bracket.  Those black things at the top of the image are actually two self-standing desk shelves.  Handy things to clear up a desktop's clutter.  I've picked 'em up over the years of my office work.

The naked backboard

Here's what the backboard looked like prior to getting those corkboard tiles glued upon it.

Gluing the tiles Here's one of the tiles with a bead of the "DynaGrip" glue I'd applied it.  I tried to spread it around so as to secure both the edges of each tile as well as keeping the middle stuck down.

While I've not been truly religious in keeping to the "never throw anything away" principle - moving my household up from San Diego to Carson to Lakewood within just a two year's span would tend to strain the faith in such a principle in even the most dogmatic - I have kept some things over the years.  Things like what's being used in the image below.

Weighing 'em down with lead ducks

These are a bunch of lead weights.  Some nicely covered in thick latex while the rest of just bare.  I got these out of the dumpster at SAIC from "back in the day."  They make excellent weights to hold down even the most springy of materials.  And they were thus perfect to keep the corkboard tiles mashed down onto the backboard until the DynaGrip glue had set up to keep 'em there on their own.

What it was

Here's what my Ikea desk set up looked like in use.

What is was, bare

Here's what it looked like bare.

What it is, bare

And here's what the newly refinished old Federal Desk desktop looks like in its place.

What it has become

And here's what the whole set up looks like set up.  I like having my monitor up and secured to the wall and not taking up the desktop's real estate.  I may get a bigger screen or switch to a two screen layout.  In the future.  For now, I'm enjoying the results of my refinishing that big old Federal Desk desktop.


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In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed your "stay" at this site.  Check back again to see what new images I have added.  Until then, stay well, play hard, play safe, and have fun!


This page was last updated on: 03 September 2018  

Unless otherwise noted, all photographs and images on this page are copyright protected property of Madoc Pope.  If you would like to use any of my images you must contact me first before you do so.



In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed your "stay" at this site.  Check back again to see what new images I have added.  Until then, stay well, play hard, play safe, and have fun!