Steel and Wood Desk "How To"

I have recently started reading more at night after the boys go to bed and found myself sitting at the desk in Lauren's little art nook. However, that big beautiful desk is where Lauren needs to work her art magic so I was politely given an eviction notice. This provided me the perfect opportunity to build myself a desk for Father's Day! 

After looking around I decided to go for the raw/industrial design and used a couple of websites to guide me along the way. The great thing about using the black steel pipe and building your own top is that everything is fully customizable. Keep that in mind because these plans can easily be modified to make a bigger desk, small dining table, or a coffee table.

My shopping list (gathered from both Home Depot and Lowes)

All of the pipe was 3/4" black steel pipe: 1 - 36in, 6 - 12in, 4 - 8in, 4 - 4in, 2 - 5in, 2 - 2in, 4 end caps, 6 Ts, 6 couplers and 4 flanges. 

The top was made from rough cut western red cedar: 2 - 8ft 2X8s and 2 - 12ft 2X2s.

The 2X8s were cut down to 48in pieces and only 3 were used for the top. The extra 48in piece actually could have been ripped down to a couple 2x2s and you would only have to buy one 12ft 2X2, but they were only $6 and I don't have a table saw, so I just saved the extra piece.

I evened up the 2X8s, clamped them together and screwed them in place on the bottom with a couple scrap 1X2s.

I ended up using a Kreg Jig to make pocket holes to attach the 2X2s. In hindsight I either should have made my pocket holes before attaching the 1X2s or put them closer to the center because I was difficult to make a few of the pocket holes with them in place. 

I am still leery when it comes to making anything that comes together at a 45 degree angle, but Lauren and I agreed that the trim would look the best that way. They always say measure twice and cut once, but I took a little different approach. After measuring each piece I would cut it a little long and shave off little bits at a time until it was just right. I did both the shorter pieces first and the longer ones second. I wanted to get as little of a gap at each joint as possible. These pieces were attached with pocket holes. 

Side note: the Kreg Jig is probably my most valuable tool in my garage. I use it on so many projects and nothing does the job quite like it does. I would recommend adding it your tool collection.

For finishing the top I experimented with a couple of things (unintentionally) and figured out what I think works best, so I will share that with you. Before doing any detailed work I had to use a belt sander since I was using rough cut lumber. I didn't spend too much time getting it really smooth because I knew I had a couple more rounds of sanding ahead of me.

I did have a few knots, chips and gaps that I wanted filled before putting on my polyurethane coats. I read a couple blogs and watch about using a clear epoxy to fill knots, etc so I decided to give that a shot. I bought Gorilla Glue clear epoxy, taped off a couple of areas and filled them in. It was easy to use and the packaging says "Sets in 5 minutes". Although since you have to sand these spots down, I read that is is recommended to let it cure for 24 hours at 75 Fahrenheit. Well I am inpatient and ended up waiting only about 12 hours, so these areas did not set all the way and they gummed up when I tried sanding them. I ended up using wood filler on all the other gaps and holes. I didn't feel like running the HD for the 4th time so I just used up the last of a light wood filler that was on my shelf, but I wish I had bought a darker filler. I didn't stain the top so the filler stayed light tan after the polyurethane was applied. See pictures below.

After all the wood filler set up, I went back and sanded everything really well. I used a belt sander then hand sanded with coarse and fine sand paper. During the polyurethane application I started out using those cheap foam brushes, but I thought these left a lot of bubbles. So on the 3rd and 4th coats I just wiped it on with a cloth. Make sure to lightly sand between each application.

Final desk top dimensions were 26.5 X 51.5 inches.

Now that the desk top was formed I put together all my pipes. I knew that I would be happy with the leg height, but I wanted to be sure that length and width of the base was appropriate. Fortunately I had taken up a whole aisle in Home Depot laying everything out before hand, so I didn't need to make any modifications. Both Lowes and Home Depot have pretty much every length from 2 to 12 inches, so it would be really easy to adjust the length, width or height to custom fit your needs. Actually the original design I was using had a single 18in for the legs above the "T" and like a 6in below the tee. However neither Lowes or HD had enough 18in pipes so I just improvised with what was available to get the height I wanted (details are provided below).

Legs from top to bottom: Flange, 12in, coupler, 8in, T, 4 in and end cap = 27.5 inches. 

Side supports from front to back: T, 12 in, T, 5in and T = 21.5 inches.

Middle support: T, 2in, coupler, 36in, coupler, 2in and T = 44 inches.

I tightened everything by hand as tight as I could. Then once everything was together I used some channel locks to tighten the legs at different sections so they would be equal height. Finally when the table top was attached I used the channel locks on the end caps to get everything level.

Total cost was about $150. I think that I got a lot better desk compared with what that same amount of money would buy at most stores. 

In summary I thought this was a really easy project with the right tools... a miter saw and Kreg Jig helped a lot. Again this would be really easy to customize to your own wants and needs. If you plan on making a dining table or coffee table I would recommend making your long bottom support centered between the two legs (rather than offset to the back like mine is). Also I really do think that a darker wood filler would have looked a lot better for this project. A live edge slab would look really cool if you have the resources to make one or the funds to buy it!

If you have any questions feel free to comment!  Make sure to check out some of my other "How To's" and Lauren's Art by clicking the pictures below.

How to Acid Stain your concrete porch

We had decided some time ago that we wanted to paint or stain our back porch, so it got added to the long honey do list. While we waited to get around to it, I did a little research to figure out exactly what I wanted to use. Some of the basic options out there include semi-transparent paint, water-based stain and acid-based stain. After weighing out all of our options, I decided acid stain was the best way to go. Sherwin-Williams sells a H&C Concrete Etching Solution in a variety of different colors and we ended up choosing Rusted Fence. (I originally bought Crumbled Brick, but after taking it home and doing a test spot we decided that it was too red/orange for our taste). I had approximately 400 square feet to stain and two bottles was plenty.

The first step of the process is just cleaning your concrete. Some places that I read recommended buying cleaning solutions, degreasers, etc.; however, I just powerwashed mine and that seemed adequate enough. Here is a look at the porch after I cleaned it.  

I powerwashed it the evening before and let it dry overnight. The next step was taping plastic to everything I didn't want stain on. I didn't have any brick that would be exposed, but I was told that brick is very susceptible to staining, so extra care should be taken if you will be staining next to brick.

Although you can dilute the stain to get a lighter finish, I did not. I honestly just didn't have the time to experiment and wait for more test spots to dry. I used a pump up sprayer to put it down and my dad helped by using a paint brush to cut in around the poles. You have to use an ALL PLASTIC pump up sprayer; any metal pieces will react with the acid in the stain. I started out spraying it on pretty thick, but quickly realized that at that rate I would have ran out of stain before I even finished half of the porch. All you really need is a thin even coat. If the stain is starting to pool, then you are probably putting too much down. I was pretty worried the entire time that I wasn't putting enough down and it seemed like the stain was a completely different color than I had picked out, but it won't look the way it is supposed to until the reaction is done.

As it starts to react and dry it will turn a different color and develop a powdery coat. I am not sure if the different color option have a differing looks when they are finished, but mine turned an orangish yellow. You are supposed to wait 4 hours for the reaction to complete. I waited more like 6 hours from the time I finished spraying. 

The next step is to wash off the powdery residue. This was one of the more fun steps because you finally get to see what the concrete will really look like. At first we were using a hose and broom to scrub the concrete. However, I ended up just using my powerwasher again on a low setting to remove the residue, which worked really well. You can see in the far right picture below how obvious a difference there is as I washed the yellow residue away. After that is all done, the next step is to wait for the porch to dry off. My porch is covered and the majority is shaded for most of the day. I finished washing it down around 4 pm and planned on putting the first sealer coat down at 9 pm, but decided I wanted to wait until the next morning so that it would be more dry. 

For a sealer I used H&C® Concrete Sealer Solid Color Solvent-Based (clear gloss) from Sherwin-Williams. It was recommended that I use two coats and each gallon is only supposed to cover 200 square feet. However, i only needed 1 gallon per coat  to cover all ~400 square feet of my patio. I did two coats of sealer, which really brings out the finish. I would definitely recommend waiting the entire 12 hours (as instructed) between each coat. I was in a rush and only waited about 7-8 hours. It seemed like it was extra sticky the second coat and if I didn't move fast enough some of the second coat acted like it was coming back up on the roller. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: With just the sealer the water would bead up on the porch and it was pretty slick when it got wet (our little guy got a bloody lip after slipping on it). I have since gone back and added another coat of sealer with H&C® SharkGrip® Slip Resistant Additive in order to make it less slippery and it worked great! So I would definitely recommend using the sealer + slip resistant additive for your last coat. 

You can tell from the pictures above that the sealer changes the finish from a dull brown to a more polished finish. Take a look at the finished product below. I wish I could have gotten some pictures before all the new dog footprints showed up, but oh well!


Total cost: 2 (Rusted Fence) Concrete Etching Solution + 2 gallons of Sealer + one bottle of Slip resistant additive = $240

Total time working time: 3 hours initial clean up + 2.5 hours taping off and staining + 1.5 hour cleaning up residue + 1 hour per coat of sealer (which was 2) = 9 hours of total working time. 


If you like this HOW TO then be sure to check out my GIVING TREE post and also check out Lauren's Etsy Shop for some awesome art!





The Giving Tree

We have been blessed with a lot over the last few months... among those things were the news of a baby on the way and a new house with an awesome back yard. In that back yard sat an old juniper stump that longed for a purpose.  

It was decided that this sad old tree would become a side table for our baby boy's woodland themed nursery! The first step was to chop her down and strip off all the bark. 

As you can see from the above pictures that I had a little help ripping off all of the bark, Wendy was very excited to be involved in the project. The real helper was a borrowed pressure washer that did wonders removing most of the bark. All of the nooks and crannies needed a little extra attention with a flathead screwdriver and hammer, but after a little elbow grease it was smooth as could be.  

Now for the hard part... getting it level and looking presentable.  I used some scrap wood to get the stump leveled as best I could and then nailed some 1/2 X 4 scraps to the top of the stump long enough to overhang so that I could attach the top. 

Before staining the top, I used a belt sander to rough up the edges to give it a more rustic feel. I then stained the top with Minwax Dark Walnut and covered everything with polyurethane.    


The glider that will accompany this side table is on its way, and after its arrival the nursery will be complete!