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How to build a desk

Experienced Contributor

Difficulty: Intermediate

If you’ve been making do with the dining table while working from home, maybe it’s time to build a dedicated workspace.


This is a reasonably simple build - one that could help you progress further from beginner level, with a few new skills involved.


Inspiration for this How To guide comes from the Computer desk build by Bunnings Workshop member @Nham. Further inspiration was taken from the Rustic computer desk created by @jeevanfranciz.


Step 1

Take the 1800mm x 90mm plank of Tasmanian Oak and measure and cut two pieces 405mm long for your sides and a 390mm section for the central divider.


1.1 Measure 3 lengths.jpg  1.2 Mark the 3 lengths.jpg1.3 The 3 pieces cut.jpg

Step 2

For the desktop, we want a smooth and clean finish, so the sides and divider should be attached using wood dowels and glue rather than screws.


Measure exactly corresponding holes - three will be enough - on the underside of the desktop, and the top of the sides and central divider. Be careful drilling into the desktop, as your holes should only be 10mm deep - just over halfway through. In the sides and divider you have more room to play with.


Insert the wood dowels with a small amount of wood glue on each, and attach the sides and central divider to the underside of the desktop.


2.1 Drill into the sides and central divider.jpg  2.2 Apply wood glue to the dowels.jpg2.3 Dowels in place.jpg2.4 Side and centre panels with dowels.jpg2.5 Holes in underside of desk top.jpg  2.6 Join sides and centre with dowels and glue.jpg

Step 3

For the bottom of the desk, you can use screws rather than dowels. Screws are quicker, easier and won’t be seen.


Place the bottom panel of the desk on top of the sides and central divider in the correct position. Drill a hole through a corner of the panel into one of the sides and then secure with a 50mm screw. Then repeat for the rest of the side, the other side panel and the central divider.


This completes the main body of the desk.


3.1 Drill small holes and screw in the desk bottom.jpg

Step 4

While the main body of the desk is still upside down, screw the table legs to each corner of the bottom panel. Measure 25mm in from the front and sides of the desk and screw the leg plate to the bottom of the desk - make sure this distance is uniform for all four legs.


Once attached, turn the body and legs over and the desk is really taking shape. In fact, you could finish at this point and varnish if you don’t want drawers.


4.1 Put legs in place.jpg4.2 Screw legs to desk underside.jpg4.3 Legs screwed in place.jpg4.4 Desk body complete.jpg

Step 5

To make the drawers, first measure the entrance of the main body to see how big your drawer fronts need to be. If you’ve followed our instructions correctly, each drawer front should be 570mm long.


You’ll need four pieces of dressed pine 570mm long for the front and back of the drawers, and four pieces 360mm long for the sides.


5.1 Drawer frames measured and cut.jpg5.2 Drawer fronts painted.jpg

Step 6

With the drawer front, back and sides complete, you need the base of the drawer. Cut your piece of 1200mm x 405mm x 18mm timber into two sections that are 530mm x 360mm. These need to be measured exactly so that they fit snugly in the centre of your drawer sides. In this instance that’s two pieces of wood 530mm by 360mm.


In the same way we joined the side panels and central divider to the desktop, we need to use dowels and glue to construct the drawer fronts, but the sides and back can use screws.


Start by attaching the sides, then screw on the back. When you have a firm structure, attach the drawer fronts with glue and dowels.


Check to see if your drawers fit correctly. If not, some light sanding might be required.


6.1 Drawer base cut to fit.jpg  6.2 Screw drawer sides to drawer base.jpg  6.3 Screw drawer back on.jpg6.4 Drawer front to be added.jpg  6.5 Attach drawer front with glue and dowels.jpg6.6 Weight down front until solid.jpg

Step 7

To finish the drawers, I reckon they look great with a vintage white effect to the fronts rather than just pine. You don’t need to paint the whole drawer, just the fronts. You won’t need a lot of paint, just one decent coat with a sample pot. When the paint has dried, take some fine grade sandpaper - 120 grit is perfect - and randomly sand back the paint to reveal underlying grains and create very small patches of wood. You get a weathered antique effect which will contrast really well with the dark wood of the desk body.


Finally, add the cabinet knobs to each drawer. Drill a hole through the drawer from the front, making sure you mark the exact centre of the front. Push the screw through and tighten the knob.


7.1 Drawer fronts painted.jpg7.2 Sand back white paint.jpg7.3 Difference between sanded and painted.jpg

Step 8

With the desk now complete you just need to add some varnish. It looks good if you varnish the body but leave the drawers matt to emphasise the contrast. You can add a dark stain to the desk body if you want to make the contrast even greater. Or equally you can varnish over the white vintage wood to give that a shine as well.


Your desk is now complete - just add a laptop and a mug of coffee!


8.1 Varnish the desk body.jpg8.2 Contrast between drawers and body.jpg  8.3 Drawers should be smooth.jpg8.4 Desk is complete.jpg8.5 Desk finished.jpg



  • Handsaw

  • Drill

  • Tape measure

  • Ruler or square

  • Pencil

  • Phillips screwdriver

  • Paint brush


1.1 Measure 3 lengths.jpg

1.2 Mark the 3 lengths.jpg

1.3 The 3 pieces cut.jpg

2.1 Drill into the sides and central divider.jpg

2.2 Apply wood glue to the dowels.jpg

2.3 Dowels in place.jpg

2.4 Side and centre panels with dowels.jpg

2.5 Holes in underside of desk top.jpg

2.6 Join sides and centre with dowels and glue.jpg

3.1 Drill small holes and screw in the desk bottom.jpg

4.1 Put legs in place.jpg

4.2 Screw legs to desk underside.jpg

4.3 Legs screwed in place.jpg

4.4 Desk body complete.jpg

5.1 Drawer frames measured and cut.jpg

5.2 Drawer fronts painted.jpg

6.1 Drawer base cut to fit.jpg

6.2 Screw drawer sides to drawer base.jpg

6.3 Screw drawer back on.jpg

6.4 Drawer front to be added.jpg

6.5 Attach drawer front with glue and dowels.jpg

6.6 Weight down front until solid.jpg

7.1 Drawer fronts painted.jpg

7.2 Sand back white paint.jpg

7.3 Difference between sanded and painted.jpg

8.1 Varnish the desk body.jpg

8.2 Contrast between drawers and body.jpg

8.3 Drawers should be smooth.jpg

8.4 Desk is complete.jpg

8.5 Desk finished.jpg

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