The Completed Dovetail Desk! {Part 17 of “Build a Dovetail Desk with Hand Tools”}

//The Completed Dovetail Desk! {Part 17 of “Build a Dovetail Desk with Hand Tools”}


You’re not going to believe it. My family didn’t believe it. Remember how I started building a dovetailed desk a very long time ago? Well it’s finished! And here is the final video and some photos to prove it.


If you remember, I was building this desk for my two oldest boys’ Christmas present…in 2014. And it would have been finished in 2014 if I hadn’t decided to use this project as a series of lessons here at WoodAndShop. I wanted my viewers to learn how to make the different joints and other skills required to build a desk.


Here’s are all the previous articles/videos from this series, in case you want to go back and check them out:

Since the last tutorial on breadboard ends, I’ve worked on a bunch of little details that didn’t really need tutorials, like painting. When building with pine (especially with pieces that don’t all have the same coloration) I really like to use historic-looking paint as a finish. Some of my sisters have been raving about chalk-based paint for years (matte finish, easy application, no priming), and my sister Heather recently showed me her dining room table that she painted with Chalk Paint ® by Annie Sloan. Yes, the name is copyrighted. It looked really nice, and very similar to milk paint, which I love because of it’s matte finish that lacks any sheen (see my milk paint tutorial here). I had a very hard time spending $35 for a little quart of paint, so I did some research and found out how simple and cheap it is to make a chalk-based paint (similar to Annie Sloan’s paint, but I’m unsure if it’s exactly the same). If I get enough comments below this post requesting a tutorial on how to make chalk-based paint, I’ll do a tutorial on it.

In addition to painting the desk I added some historic-looking hardware. Many antique desks hide the hinges under the desk lid, but these hinges are decorative and I wanted to show them off. I purchased these hinges at Lee Valley & Veritas (here). To screw the hinges to the desk I modified modern zinc coated screws into historical-style screws. I will be releasing a tutorial on how to do this soon, so you won’t have to spend a bunch of money on buying historical-style screws.

I added some trim to the base of the desk carcass to give it some visual separation between the carcass and legs/rails. I think it turned out really nice.

I used some of this moulding to create a pencil and book holder. And here you can see that the breadboard ends still show through the paint, which is nice. I want my hard work to be appreciated!

Since it won’t be seen very often, I did not paint the interior of the desk, which is very common on historical desks:

I had originally decided to do straight legs because of some colonial desk designs that I had seen, but after the desk was assembled and glued-up I really decided that I prefered tapered legs. So, even though it was difficult, I awkwardly clamped the whole desk down (prior to attaching the lid) and planed the tapers on the legs to give them a more delicate look. I think it was definitely worth the hassle. I would, however, heartily recommend that you taper your legs BEFORE you glue the desk up!


I really hope you go back to part 1 and watch the whole process as I build a historic hinged-top desk. Below you’ll find photos and the list of tools that I used to build this desk. And remember that the breadboard ends tutorial was given by Will Myers, and was offered as a free tutorial from the amazing upcoming DVD where Will shows how to build a collapsible dining trestle table with hand tools (Click here to be added to the list to be notified when this DVD is released).




Even though I have a helpful hand tool buying guide (here), I’m still often asked for a list of and links to the tools that I use in my videos, so here is a list of tools that I used in this series of videos on desk building (I also included tools that I used in steps that weren’t covered in the videos):










About the Author:

"I'm wildly passionate about traditional woodworking with hand tools, and want to rekindle this lost art. At WoodAndShop I teach you the skills that I learn, and also share anything fascinating that I discover about traditional woodworking. That includes tours of traditional workshops, beautiful furniture, and my favorite tools and books. I hope you enjoy my videos, photos, and articles. Please feel free to leave constructive comments!"

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2 Comments on "The Completed Dovetail Desk! {Part 17 of “Build a Dovetail Desk with Hand Tools”}"

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What a wonderful series. Many thanks for your work and all that you have helped teach all of us.


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