Composers' Desk - Final Design & First Build Pics! / by Jamie Warne

Hey, remember last week when I uttered the words:

 ...I expect there to be some slight modifications over the coming week, but hopefully nothing too drastic. 

Well guess what? That's right - the desk has undergone some drastic changes... but the good news is that construction has already started! Woohoo!

OK, so what's changed this time?

TLDR: The top of the desk has had to be sloped. Holes cut in the legs for full rebating, triangular aesthetical leg holes removed, inbuilt cup holders added, hidden storage added.

1 - A Sloped Top

I have to fess up, and admit that I had not really tested out my design in the real world. Needless to say, I had "fun" when I realised very quickly that the desk in it's current form would be too high to comfortably use. As a designer, it's all too easy to get caught up in your work, and completely gloss over the real world. That's pretty much what happened here, but thankfully I did testing before I committed saw to wood!

So, in order to combat this problem, I've gone with a sloped top to the desk. I did want a sloped area for drawing on anyway, so it's kind of a happy result. The slope goes from about 79cm at the front, to 85cm at the back (that 85cm dimension is the original height by the way).

2 - Change Of Materials

Something that has helped ever so slightly is the thinning of materials. I originally went for 25mm MDF, but in the end settled for 18mm plywood. Partly because plywood is stronger, but also because it's difficult to make MDF look attractive. It would definitely need a veneer - that would be added cost and complexity.

3 - Simplification

I also decided to minimise the use of hardware as much as possible, and simplify the design in other areas as well. Therefore, the triangular holes in the legs (that used to be for cable management but since the last two updates have been entirely for aesthetics) have been removed. All joins will be rebated where possible to minimise the use of screws and prevent joints loosening over time (especially with the desk being destined for a van that will be on the move!)

4 - Storage Section Changes

As a result of the new sloped top, the back and end sections have also had to be redesigned. I had planned to use the peg sections to hold cups of tea etc still on the desk. However as the surface is now sloped, instead I've had to cut holes into the surface of the desk to seat them.

On both side sections, the storage layout has been changed. Due to the sloped top, there is now a small wedge-shaped area underneath the pegboard sections. On the left hand side I've turned this into yet more storage for notes/paper up to A4 size. On the right side the "secret" compartment behind the shortened drawer is still in the same place - the access for which is now via a lift up flap. This looks to be a much more convenient access point, although the "secret" aspect is now somewhat lost! In the wedge section above the drawer, is a new place for charging devices. There isn't a lot of room there, but you can fit a phone in there easily enough. And if you need to charge a bigger device, you can just leave the pegboard off to one side, or alternatively leave the device in the "secret" storage area which has much more room.

The back section has also had to be modified because of the slope. This means there is less width towards the bottom because of the angled top. However, the angle should actually make it easier to get paper/documents out. So it worked out quite well really!

I've also removed the pen/pencil holes that were located behind the grommet. Instead, I've left room for a monitor stand that can be clamped there until the van is refitted. After that is done, the monitors will be mounted underneath the upper cabinets on a sliding track.

First Build Photos!

As promised, here are the first photos from the build. It's very early stages and I won't be able to do any more work on it for at least a week, but it's already coming together well. As you can see, the first step was to cut out the 4 legs. Not shown, but the first one to be cut out was tested against the MIDI keyboard, and my chair, to make sure it was the correct height.

After I was sure it was correct, the tray that the keyboard sits in was fabricated. Edges rebated, and a hole cut into two of the legs to support it. The front piece of the keyboard tray was also rebated in, as well as the groove that will locate the lid.

That's as far as I've got so far, but it's already looking great. I've tested it in it's current state by placing the MIDI keyboard loosely in place, and it seems to be pretty close to what I have designed. I've allowed an extra centimetre on the leg height, so this may need to be chopped off once a bit more testing is done!

Closing Thoughts

Well, what I've learnt from this project so far is that there is no easy way to have a MIDI keyboard, computer keyboard and writing space on the same section of desk. This is because all 3 need to be at the same height for good ergonomics. And just to compound the problem further, the sheer height of the MIDI keyboard means it's even harder to get close to optimal heights.

Thus I've had to prioritise. The lowest the bottom of the desk can be is 62cm (for multiple reasons - my PC tower is 61cm high, and the top of my knees sit at about 61cm too!). As a result of this and the fact the MIDI keyboard has to be at the lowest level, the computer keyboard has to be on top. Thanks to the new slope, the height of this has been reduced by 6cm. Whilst still not ideal, it's far better than it used to be, and in my eyes is the best compromise given my set of circumstances.

Still, it's all coming together really well - and it's great to see something that I've designed come to life (albeit with a few modifications!). A huge thanks to my dad for all the amazing carpentry he has done - I lack skills in this department, so it's in much safer hands with him.

'Till next time!