Thursday, July 2, 2015

Building a Round Reception Desk

Round Reception Desk

Recently, my wife was wanting to do some updating to the inside of her hair salon.  This involved painting the walls, removing an old L-shaped reception desk (that she has always hated) and building her a new one.  She didn't want just any ordinary desk to replace the old one, she wanted one that was round (or oval) on the front.  It took a little head scratching at first but I was up for the challenge.  The desk would be approximately 8 ft. long (or around the oval front), with an 18" wide top at 44 in. high.  It would also have a desk top on the back side for her computer and printer at 28-1/2" high.  Finally, since she is always apt to moving furniture around, it would need to be on wheels.  Although this project was a little challenging at first, it wasn't too difficult.  Best of all, it only cost about $200 for the materials!

If this is a desk you would like to build yourself, hopefully I've done the head scratching for you.  Let's get started with what you are going to need.

Materials Needed:

  • (1)- 3/4" plywood (CD grade)
  • (1)- 3/4" plywood (nicer grade, this will be the top of the desk)
  • (3)- 1/4" plywood (nicer grade, this will be the front of the desk)
  • (10)- 2"x 4"x 8'
  • (2#)- 3" screws
  • (1#)- 1-5/8" screws
  • 1" Brad Nails
  • Paint or Stain (your preference)

The very first part of the process is to come up with the correct radius for the front.  I built this particular desk to be roughly 8 ft. around the front.  This way, there would be no seams in the plywood anywhere.  You will need to frame a wall that is 39-3/4" tall.  In order to make the wall round, you will need to use the 3/4" plywood for your top and bottom framing members.  By using a string or a scrap board, draw a 60" radius (kind of like a giant protractor).  Once you draw it, make sure it is 8' from one end to the other.  Now you will need to draw one more line that is 3-1/2" from the other.  This will make it the same thickness as the 2"x 4"s you will be attaching to them.  Now you have drawn what will be a curved bottom plate for your wall.  After drawing this out on the plywood, cut it out using a Jig Saw.  Now, trace it out and cut out another one (duplicate) to be the top plate.  Once the plates are cut, you will need to mark where the studs will go (just like an ordinary wall).  For this project, I prefer to space them 12" apart.  Next, cut the 2"x 4"s to 39" long using a Miter Saw or Circular Saw.  Attach these boards (studs) in between the plywood top and bottom plates using 3" screws.  You now have a curved wall formed and the main part of the desk is together!
Curved Wall Framing

On the ends of the wall, you will need to frame a small wall section that will come back in at a 90 degree angle.  Allowing for the thickness of the curved wall with the plywood that will be on the front, this wall will need to be 11" long.  Build these two walls just as before, only you can use the 2"x 4"s for all parts (top, bottom and studs).  Once they're assembled, attach one to each side of the curved wall using 3" screws.

The next step will be covering the front and sides with plywood.  Because it's extremely hard to get 3/4", or even 1/2" plywood to bend, you will need to use 1/4" plywood to wrap around the curved front.  Start be cutting the plywood to 40" wide using a Table Saw or Circular Saw.  This will allow for the plywood to hang over the bottom of the framework by 1/4".  Using a Brad Nailer, attach the plywood to the front of the curved desk with 1" brads.  It's a good idea to use some wood glue for some extra holding power.  Once this is done, apply a second layer of 1/4" plywood using the same method.  Using the remaining 1/4" plywood, cut out pieces and attach to the sidewalls, as well as the end of the sidewalls too.

For the top of the desk, you will need to use a nice piece of 3/4" plywood.  I used birch and then painted it.  Choose your material depending on whether you wish to paint or stain the desk.  To get the right curve for your top, you can lay the whole piece of plywood on top of the desk with one edge hanging over by about 2".  Once you have it placed accordingly, trace out the front edge.  Now, moving the sheet of plywood forward 18", trace it again.
Round Reception Desk Shape
Your Top will look like this!
This will give you an outline for a top that will match the desk, while giving you a 3/4" overhang all the way around.  Cut this out using a Jig Saw.  Using a Router, you can put a decorative edge around the top for a nice touch.  Once the top is cut and the edges are routered, anchor it to the desk by using 1-5/8" screws from the underside of the top plate.  This method will keep you from having any screws showing in the desk top.  Now, using the remainder of this piece of plywood, cut out a piece to fit inside the desk.  This piece will go along the inside of the curved desk and will also make a straight line from one end of the desk to the other (see pictures for clarity).
Round Reception Desk
View  from Behind the Desk

Using metal shelf brackets underneath both the top and lower desk tops will help ensure they are good and sturdy.

Final touches on the desk can be totally up to your preference and style.  As you can see, I used outside corner trim on the corners.  Also, my wife really wanted to install trim on the front of the desk in three sections.  It's cut and installed like picture frames.  As always, she has a great eye for these things and this was no different.  I think it really made it look great!  She decided to paint this desk a creamy white.  We also applied a water-based clear coat to the top to ensure it would be durable and long-lasting.  The final step to this project was installing four 2" swivel casters with locks.  Like I said earlier, my wife is always moving things around.  This should definitely help her out whenever she feels the need to change things up!

Round Reception Desk
Side View

Thanks to my wife for the opportunity to do this project!  As always, I look forward to any comments you may have regarding this post.
Round Reception Desk