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Since we moved into our house, we’ve had big plans to turn our empty loft into an incredible office, complete with floor to ceiling built-ins and a wood waterfall desk. But, we haven’t had a chance to turn it into a reality.
Until late it hasn’t been too much of a problem, but since Andrew and I both started working from home (thanks 2020), we’ve been feeling desperate for a desk that can fit more than just a laptop.
Eventually we’ll add built-ins and tackle a full-on renovation, but for now, this simple wooden desk was exactly what we needed.
And the navy stain brought that little bit of color and fun into our lives that we’ve been craving lately!
Alright, let’s start DIYing!
What You’ll Need
Download the free cut-list at the bottom of this post for exact quantities of wood.
- 2x2x3 wood
- 1x2x8 wood
- 1x6x8 wood
- 1.25″ screws
- 1.25” nails
- Wood glue
- Sandpaper (80, 120, 180, 220 grit)
- Tack cloth
- Foam brushes
- Synthetic pad
- Clean rags
- Minwax Stainable Wood Filler
- Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner (both water and oil-based)
- Minwax Wood Finish Solid Color Stain in Navy
- Minwax Oil-Based Wood Finish in Rustic Beige
- Minwax Polycrylic (we chose Ultra Flat)
Note: We made this desk out of red oak, but you can also make this desk out of common board for right around $40 in wood. Instead of looking for 2x2s, You can buy 1x2s and make your own by gluing and clamping together 2 – 1x2s. Once they dry, give the seams a sand and you have yourself a 2×2!
How to Make a Simple Wooden Desk
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STEP 1: MAKE YOUR CUTS
Start by cutting down the wood for your legs and the top according to the cut list. Don’t worry about cutting the 1x2s for the top just yet. It’s always more accurate to make cuts as you go along in the project and start to get things assembled.
STEP 2: DRILL POCKET HOLES
Add alternating pocket holes to the 1x6s. When they are placed together, there should be a screw approximately every 6”.
STEP 3: MAKE THE TOP OF YOUR DESK
To make the top of the desk, Attach your 1x6s together using glue and 1.25” screws. Wipe off any excess glue that squeezes out onto the top or bottom of the desk.
Once the 1x6s are all attached, measure the top and cut your 1x2s accordingly.
You can miter the corners or use butt joints for a faster and easier finish.
Using glue and nails, attach the 1x2s to the 1x6s so that the top is flush. The 1x2s will extend past the bottom of the 1x6s by approximately .75”, giving the appearance of a thicker desk top.
Fill any nail holes or seams with wood filler.
STEP 4: MAKE THE LEGS
To make the leg details, clamp a spare board to the side of a leg to use as a guide. This will allow you to push the angled piece up against the spare board to keep it flush with the front of the leg.
Add glue to the angled piece then add 2-3 nails to secure it.
Continue this process on both the top and the bottom of each leg until the legs form a triangle.
Fill any nail holes with wood filler.
STEP 5: ATTACH THE TOP AND LEGS
To attach the legs to the top, we’ll use 1.25″ screws.
First cut 3 boards: one attaching the middle pieces together, and two to attach the outside legs together.
Drill two pocket holes on each end of each of these pieces.
Pre-drill 2-3 holes in each of the boards to use to attach the top in just a minute.
Using glue and 1.25″ screws, attach these boards to the top of the legs. Keep the pocket holes facing up.
Note: I stained my legs before adding these support boards because I was eager to try the stain. I would recommend adding the support boards first, then staining everything.
Using 1.25″ screws, attach the legs to the top through the holes you pre-drilled earlier in this step.
STEP 6: SAND
It’s time to transition from the building phase into the finishing phase. First up: sanding. We started with 80 grit sandpaper and worked our way up to 220 grit.
STEP 7: SCORE AND TAPE
If you want the same color block look that I have on my desk, score a line in the wood where you want your second color to start. We marked ours approximately 13.75” from the edge.
Line a piece of tape up with the line you scored to prevent getting your first color on the side that your second color will be.
Stop scrolling. Start building.
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STEP 8: STAIN THE FIRST COLOR
Before we stain, we want to apply Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner to help maximize even color coverage and minimize raising of the grain for our final color.
To apply the pre-stain, wipe it on in the direction of the wood grain, then let it soak in for 1-5 minutes before wiping off any excess with a clean rag.
Then I waited about 20 minutes before sanding everything with 220-grit sandpaper.
Once it was nice and smooth, I wiped the surface with tack cloth and grabbed my stain.
What I love about it is that you get a solid color, but you still maintain the texture of the wood. See how cool that is?
Applying the solid stain is a little bit of a different process than a typical wood stain. You’ll need a brush to wipe it on and a synthetic pad to wipe it off.
Work in small sections, brushing the stain on in the direction of the grain. Then wipe off the excess using a synthetic pad.
You want to make sure to work in small sections so that you can wipe off the excess almost immediately. Don’t let it sit for more than 2 minutes!
Once I finished staining, I let it dry for 2 hours before moving onto the next step.
STEP 9: STAIN THE SECOND COLOR
Since the second stain I’m using is oil-based, I’ll need to use an oil-based pre-conditioner.
If you want to avoid using two different types of wood conditioner, you can opt for Minwax Wood Finish Semi-Transparent Stain for your wood-colored stain.
The semi-transparent stain is water-based, but you still get the variation in color between the wood grain and the rest of the wood that you get with a typical oil-based stain. It also comes in 200+ colors, so you’ll be able to find exactly what you’re looking for!
After applying the pre-stain and letting it sit for 5 minutes, I wiped off any excess with a clean rag and then started staining.
I used Minwax Rustic Beige, which is one of their newest colors. I love that it has more of a cool undertone, making it a modern take on a classic wood stain.
After brushing it on with the grain and letting it sit for 15 minutes, I wiped off the excess with a rag, making sure to wipe away from the first color instead of towards it.
Occasionally some of the stain would seep over to the navy side. Any time I noticed it I dabbed it up with a paper towel.
STEP 10: SEAL
Finally, we’ll finish the desk with 3 coats of Minwax Polycrylic in Ultra Flat. What I love about this finish is that it truly is ultra-flat. It looks like there’s no sealer on the desk, but it’s still protected.
Before actually applying the Polycrylic, wipe the surface with tack cloth to make sure it’s free from dust. Then, we’ll apply a total of three coats, waiting 2 hours between each coat.
Overall from pre-stain to the final coat of Polycrylic, the desk took about 13 hours to finish (including dry time). Excluding dry-time, it only took about an hour and a half.
AND I barely made a dent in any of my Minwax products, which means there are lots of Rustic Beige and Navy projects in my future.
There you have it! Now you know how to make a simple (yet cool and modern) DIY desk.
Before you go, can we all agree that it’s amazing how much the stain completes and transforms the project? It takes it from a simple wooden desk and transforms it into an eye-catching piece of furniture almost instantly!
Get inspired with more Minwax finishing ideas.