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Parson Tower Desk

October 17, 2010 |
posted by Ana White
PDF versionPDF version

This is the desk that this very blog was built on. I love it because of the large top surface, ample storage, but clean simple modern design that begs to stay clutter free. You can also use this desk as a console table.

Parson Tower Desk

Handmade from this plan >>

Projects built from this plan. Thank you for submitting brag posts, it's appreciated by all!

Dimensions

Dimensions: 
Parson Tower Desk
Dimensions: 
Dimensions are shown above. Resist making the desk much narrower, or there won’t be room for your knees. As discussed earlier, you can shorten the desk quite easily be taking length from the legs and adjusting the middle shelf accordingly.

Materials and Tools

Shopping List: 

1 Sheet of 3/4″ MDF or Plywood cut into 15 1/2″ widths, 8′ long (referred to as 1x16s)
7 2×2 boards, 8′ long
2″ pocket hole screws
1 1/4″ pocket hole screws

wood glue
wood filler
120 grit sandpaper
primer
wood conditioner
paint
paint brush
Tools: 
measuring tape
square
pencil
safety glasses
drill
circular saw
sander
level
countersink drill bit

Cut List

Cut List: 

1 – 1×16 @ 57″ (desk top)
4 – 1×16 @ 15″ (Shelves)
10 – 2×2 @ 15 1/2″ (Trim perpendicular to desktop)
8 – 2×2 @ 15″ (Trim parallel to desktop)
8 – 2×2 @ 28 1/2″ (Legs)
2 – 2×2 @ 60″ (Desktop Side Trim)

General Instructions

Pocket Holes

Go through the entire set of instructions and drill all pocket holes first. Basically, you need pocket holes on both ends of all the 15″ and 15 1/2″ 2x2s, one pocket hole on the tops of each leg, and then pocket holes on all sides of the shelves and desktop. Remember to set your jig for 1 1/2″ stock for 2x2s and 3/4″ stock for the MDF.

Step 1

Parson Tower Desk

Shelf Trim

With the tops flush, glue and screw the shelves to the trim as shown above. Use 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws. Drill pocket holes set for 3/4″ stock. Make sure you have already drilled one pocket hole in each end of all of the 2×2 trim pieces. The pocket holes in the 2x2s need to be for 1 1/2″ thick stock.

Build four of these.

Step 2

Parson Tower Desk

Legs
Mark legs for the center shelf. Then glue and screw through the pocket holes into the legs. Remember – the tops of the legs should each have a single pocket hole to attach the top. If you don’t have a right angle drill, resist the urge to place the pocket hole on the inside where it won’t be seen – you also won’t be able to get your drill in there. Build two of these.

Step 3

Parson Tower Desk

Tabletop

The tabletop is super simple. Begin by attaching the end trim to the top. Then attach the front and back trim (the long ones) to the top and the side trim. Done. Keep the bottom edges flush.

Step 4

Parson Tower Desk

Assembly

I choose to leave the glue off to make for moving the desk easy. Simply lay the desktop on top of the tower and screw through the pocket holes into the underside of the desktop. Remember, the towers are not perfect squares, so you may need to rotate the towers to get the perfect fit.

Good luck! And PS – if you are intimidated by this project, don’t be. My desk was done in a few hours Can’t wait to see yours!

Well, I got a new desk.

There was nothing wrong with my previous desk. It just that I'm spending more and more time at my desk, and need something bigger.  That, and I'll admit it, I don't need much of an excuse to build something  :)

What do you think?  Not bad for scraps, eh?

Oh, and the finish is scraps too!  I used leftover (from Grace's Bookshelves) Antique White by Valspar in flat, two coats, brushed on.  I wanted the wood grain to show through slightly.  Then I painted on two coats of satin polyurethane.  It's now got a sheen but it's not goopy or glossy and you can see hints of wood grain.  My favorite finish.  Also, the Antique White is such a softer more pleasant color than traditional white.

And here is one unstaged.  I'm always amazed at how beautiful a few 2x2s (well, more than a few for this desk) and some MDF can be.  And strong, functional and sturdy.  I put this one together completely with pocket holes (I use a Kreg Jig).  It's worth the investment.  You will make your investment back if you build just this desk.

Another bonus of building something yourself is the freedom to modify it to suit your needs.  You can't tell, but my desk is actually 2" shorter than the plan calls for because I'm short, and wanted my keyboard to be at the exact height of the armrests on my chair.  All I had to do was take two inches off the legs and adjust the middle shelf down an inch.

Now it's your turn.  Want to make my desk yours?

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What Kreg Jig Did you get and

What Kreg Jig Did you get and where? Was it in Fbks? We could us this on some many things like tables and chairs and such. Looks like a nifty thing. What else have you used it on? Thanks

posted by Tracyann George (not verified) | on Sun, 2010-10-17 22:02

Tracyann, the Kreg Jig is for

Tracyann, the Kreg Jig is for sale at Lowes, at least in the smaller size. I highly recommend the full size jig - totally worth it!

posted by Ana White (not verified) | on Sun, 2010-10-17 22:09

Kreg Jig at Lowes plus most

Kreg Jig at Lowes plus most 50 to 100 pack of screws 1 1/4" to 2 1/2" long can be found there. I also picked up an extra drill bit, and the bits to use on the screws there. They also have various clamps, wood plugs, etc. You can find it online there as well.

@Ana, for MDF, do you do any sort of sanding, or just apply a couple coats of primer (I use Killz or 123.. not sure if that is any good)? I have 4 sheets of 3/4" MDF and trying to figure out what to do with it. I was going to use it for the beds, but bought 1x12x8' pine boards instead. I am wondering if I can use the MDF for closet organizer sides, book shelfs, etc.. but fear that a closet or book shelf with a side of 4' to 8' in length will eventually sag. Any way to avoid MDF sagging? Like 1x2 trim, 1/4" plywood back panels, and such?

The desk looks great. I bought a gallon of polyurethane, semi-gloss. I am hoping a coat or two of that on MDF/Pine/Plywood will give it a nice shine and some extra strength.

posted by andjarnic (not verified) | on Sun, 2010-10-17 22:17

#Correction add an 'r' to

#Correction add an 'r' to first image

posted by Kev (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 00:19

OK. I'm in love. Would this

OK. I'm in love. Would this work with a depth of 12 or 13"? I would love for this to be my entryway table!

posted by Faith (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 03:37

I love it! It seems that you

I love it! It seems that you could make 3 desks out of one sheet of plywood, right? Of course as you have said previously the strips would be slightly less than 16" due to the width of the saw blade...

These last three plans have been brilliantly simple. THANK YOU!

posted by Mary Anne (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 04:07

is there any way possible to

is there any way possible to make this without the kreg jig?

posted by Sophie (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 04:21

This desk is really

This desk is really cool....but what I want to comment on is the awesome metal wall you have. Did you use the basic roofing material? It'd be useful in a "kids" room. Not only is it very durable and cleanable....you could put up posters with magnets! I've got to do that. Are the ridges troublesome? Well done!

posted by laura lehman (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 05:09

I love love love this, Ana!

I love love love this, Ana!

posted by Lauren (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 05:26

LOL see what happens when

LOL see what happens when there is no spell check! I can't spell :)

posted by Ana White (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 08:32

Hi Andjarnic, I sand with 120

Hi Andjarnic, I sand with 120 grit sandpaper and prime with Kilz too. Then just brush on paint. I have personally had great experience with MDF.

The best way to reinforce MDF is with face frame (trim on the front edge) and plywood on the back, or building a box under the MDF. Check out the Sagulator online for a calculator for saggage. I like to use MDF on lower use painted projects. It works well for sides of bookcases, shelves, and would be great in a closet. Consider this - most closet organizers are made of particle board! And most furniture these days is made of MDF - even the spendy stuff!

posted by Ana White (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 08:45

Faith, it would! If you used

Faith, it would! If you used a 1x12 instead of 1x16s, then all you would have to do is cut your perpendicular trim to 11 1/2" long instead of 15 1/2" long. Part of the "look" for this piece is the towers are square though, so you may consider making the shelves 12" x 11 1/2" squares to keep the consistency there.

posted by Ana White (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 08:47

Maryanne, you can get three

Maryanne, you can get three 1x16s out of a single sheet, but you need 120 plus inches of 1x16, so you would end up with just enough for two desks. Does that make sense? You are right about the saw blade.

posted by Ana White (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 08:49

Sophie, it can be done

Sophie, it can be done http://ana-white.com/2010/10/parsons-style-bookshelf.html but the Kreg Jig just makes things so much easier. Not impossible without though! Check the link out. It's the same type of construction. Hope this helps! Ana

posted by Ana White (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 08:52

Laura, you are so smart. I

Laura, you are so smart. I tried to sneak that one by you :) I'll post the how too this week. It's awesome, like a giant stylish fridge for keeping all your ideas and notes handy :) And looks so good!

posted by Ana White (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 08:53

Thank you Lauren!

Thank you Lauren!

posted by Ana White (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 08:54

Hi Ana, I am a woodworking

Hi Ana,
I am a woodworking instructor and I am really happy to see you promoting self made furniture. I don't believe in stereotypes where furniture making is predominantly done by men. In fact, the Shaker tradition have many women furniture craftsman / woodworker.
My biggest concern is safety on power tool usage. Woodworking bookstand even shows (ex:Norm Abrahm and the American Woodworker by Scott Philips) only conveys the message to follow instruction given by the manufacturer. The problem is that the instructions do no explain safety.
I have been a woodworker for over 15 years and worked in the industry for another 12 years. I strongly encourage your sybscribers to take one class in power tool (circular saws and especially tablesaw usage at a local community college/ park-recreational class. Sawstop makes a real safe tablesaw for those who wants to get into making furniture regularly. However, even that saw will not explain tablesaw kickback prevention. Books do not explain enough. My shop is called The Wood Works Furniture Design Studio, Corona in California.

posted by Dennis (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 09:30

I really like that you even

I really like that you even put the placement of the pocket holes on the plans! Fantastic idea.

posted by Kristen (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 10:01

Hi Ana! Love the desk, but

Hi Ana! Love the desk, but love the wall even more. I have been thinking about a similar treatment in our basement. Would you share a picture that shows how you finished the edges? Did you use trim? Thanks!

posted by Haley (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 12:16

I was wondering the same

I was wondering the same thing about that amazing wall. I can't wait to see your tutorial on this! Ana, you're awesome!

posted by April McCoid (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 17:11

Laura and Ana- The whole

Laura and Ana-
The whole while I'm looking at this desk thinking, "ok, what about that wall!!!??" Love love love. Can't wait to see what Miss Ana's brilliant mind came up with!!!
Love, Peace and Elbow Grease,
Cease

posted by Cecek (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 17:46

Ana, you are awesome! How

Ana, you are awesome! How cool are you posting so much info on pocket holes! Thanks so much. You have openned a whole new world to me.

posted by Katie (not verified) | on Mon, 2010-10-18 18:58

Thanks for good stuff

Thanks for good stuff

posted by livelybrowsers (not verified) | on Tue, 2010-10-19 10:33

Thanks for the info

Thanks for the info

posted by zerodtkjoe (not verified) | on Tue, 2010-10-19 23:00

I Love it! I tackled this

I Love it! I tackled this same desk about a month ago after some inspiration from your site and having built a cameron bookshelf and a rustic bench. With those projects successful I figured I could attempt creating some plans myself. It turned out great but having made my shelves a little smaller, I wish I had waited and thought it through a little more so that my 12x12 scrapbooking papers would fit on the shelves! haha. oops. lesson learned. I do not have a kreg jig so I just used a few little angle brackets to hold my shelves in too! Also made myself a shorter, scaled down version for a printer table! Love the open storage that I can reach from all sides!! Great desk to have!

posted by Ang (not verified) | on Wed, 2010-10-20 12:55

I just stumbled upon this

I just stumbled upon this site and I'm already in love. I want to start building this desk now! However, I live in an apartment. Is building this desk conducive to apartment living? I think I would have enough floor space but the mess and noise is what I'm worried about. What do you think?

posted by Hannah (not verified) | on Wed, 2010-10-20 19:35

LOVE! I really like the

LOVE! I really like the openness of the bottom- perfect for easily accessable storage. And it doesn't look like the piece would weigh down smaller spaces like chunkier desks might. Thanks!!

posted by AshleyOh7 (not verified) | on Thu, 2010-10-21 12:23

would this work with just one

would this work with just one set of shelves? I love the desk, but 60" is just too long for my space.

posted by karen (not verified) | on Sat, 2010-10-23 01:43

Is there any way you could

Is there any way you could post the sketchup files?

posted by Josh (not verified) | on Sun, 2010-10-24 13:53

Karen, that is a fabulous

Karen, that is a fabulous idea! It would! Might change the styling a little, but would definitely work.

posted by Ana White (not verified) | on Sun, 2010-10-24 21:04

I love this desk! I'm

I love this desk! I'm wondering if you could make it lengthier for a dual desk? Any advice on that?

posted by Jessica (not verified) | on Wed, 2010-10-27 12:47

Just about to order my KREG

Just about to order my KREG JIG, but the screws come in 'course' and 'fine'. Which do you use? Love the plan. It will be my FIRST!

posted by Heidi (not verified) | on Thu, 2011-01-13 15:31

Ana - I love everything...but

Ana - I love everything...but in case you are looking for a challenge...what about a treadmill desk (it's the new thing here in the corporate world)

Kevin

posted by kevinestaples (not verified) | on Tue, 2011-01-18 15:10

Love this desk. We want

Love this desk. We want something counter top height so that we can sit at it with bar stools. Do you think it would be stable enough if we added another row of cubbies underneath to raise it up? Thanks for all of the great plans.

posted by Constance (not verified) | on Mon, 2011-01-24 06:42

I am loving this desk. Would

I am loving this desk. Would it be possible to make it taller? I would love this in my breakfast area for my computer and command station...but would need to be counter height (since I never get to sit when in the kitchen area!)

posted by ErinK. (not verified) | on Mon, 2011-01-24 10:58
clips
emmarosemc's picture

YUP!

Sure can, you could add another shelf too.
All you do to make it taller is add length to the legs. so those 4 2x2's instead of cutting them at 28.5 inches youd cut them at whatever height you want.

posted by emmarosemc | on Tue, 2011-05-17 15:17
clips
emmarosemc's picture

So i have all our towers

So i have all our towers built, 3 each and 1 of those is custom to fit the husbands pc, but i have a question about the desktop.
FIrst off did you screw the 2x2's around the desktop into the legs or into the MDF board?

Will I need additional support for a stretch of desktop thats 96.5" long?

posted by emmarosemc | on Wed, 2011-06-08 10:50

Did you find that you needed

Did you find that you needed additional support for the length of 96.5"?

posted by swhatley42 | on Fri, 2014-01-31 16:33

Did you find that you needed

Did you find that you needed additional support for the length of 96.5"?

posted by swhatley42 | on Fri, 2014-01-31 16:34

longer length

Did you find that you needed additional support for the length of 96.5"?

posted by swhatley42 | on Fri, 2014-01-31 16:35
clips

2 inch pocket screws vs 1 1/4?

I see that the 1 1/4 are to attach the MDF to the trim, but nothing in the plans mention where to use the 2 inch pocket screws? Am I correct to assume they are to attach the 2x2 to the 2x2?

Thanks!

posted by Jkp39 | on Mon, 2011-08-22 23:23
clips

Really nice desk. Your blog

Really nice desk. Your blog is great, we're glad you've founded it. You gave us all a lot of remodeling ideas, you inspired us and you helped us make our homes better too.

posted by kally | on Thu, 2013-04-25 09:45

the finish

I am sorry to say that I know nothing about anything, but I was just wondering if it is normal to apply satin polyurethane to paint? I am about to make this desk and some book shelves and am looking for a really super shiny finish. Is this a good way to achieve a smooth and shiny finish?

posted by dukes77 | on Tue, 2014-02-04 23:30

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