Desk Job V

Now to conclude the series on the assembly of the Doctor’s office reception desk. When I left off last time, the second full day of assembly had come to an end. I was completely exhausted at that point, as you can perhaps tell in this picture:

One point I omitted to mention in previous posting is that there were not only sliding tracks installed at the desk surface, but upper tracks as well, which are concealed behind the flickering flame board, kato-ita. These were dropped into place, dovetailed at each end, before the upper desk assembly was placed atop the posts.

After a couple of days -mostly sleeping- I returned to my shop to make the sliding windows for the desk. I call them shoji-like, because they have the form of shoji, yet with much thicker grill bars (kumiko) than shoji would have. In other words, the proportions are not traditional. I made the kumiko thick because the windows would be at height where a child could easily get their hands on them, so I wanted them to be tougher than usual. That’s another reason I went with Maple for the kumiko, instead of something more typical like Yellow Cedar – in a commercial setting, I wanted the desk to be able to take a bit more abuse than would be typical in a residential setting. I also went with a reinforced paper backing, which is a layer of plastic film sandwiched between two layers of Japanese paper, or washi. This proved to be adequately durable.

I have no pictures of the making of the shoji-like windows, though the process took me another couple of weeks. They are again framed in Mahogany, and the kumiko are Maple.

All told, with initial design time, steps down the Purpleheart path, then the construction of the desk and the windows, and final assembly, I clocked 1050 hours on this project.

Here’s a few pictures of the desk complete:

I used an alternating staggered pattern with the horizontal kumiko, trying to keep the overall appearance minimalistic and yet visually interesting. If I had more time, I would have done something a bit more involved with the pattern I think:

I am pleased with the line of sight looking along the front of the posts on the long side of the desk, along with the jogged line of the kato-ita:

And here’s what happened with that desk…the clinic was open for a couple of years after these photos were taken, and became fairly busy. I received a lot of positive comments about the piece and it led to other furniture commissions, so it was successful in that regard. It was strange to be pigeon-holed as a furniture maker after completing but one piece, but that’s what happened, at that time, and at that place.

Then I made the decision to leave Gabriola Island to move to Massachusetts (that was round one in that episode). The Doctor expressed his worry that nobody else besides me would be able to properly disassemble the desk, so before I left he had me make a 2x and plywood plinth for it, and one weekend I returned to the clinic after hours and disassembled the desk. That was a pivotal moment of sorts, as it proved the concept and execution of the desk, that with all its custom joinery, it was in fact demountable. I reassembled the desk the next day at the doctors place, which went much quicker than the fitting and fiddling of the initial assembly process. Then the Doctor retired, and moved house to the other end of the island and the desk sits now in his new place, down in the basement as far as I know. I have no idea if he is using it for anything. I told him that the desk could be modified and made smaller, and used as a bar, for instance, in his house, but that idea doesn’t seem to have gained traction.

I wonder what will become of the desk?

Postscript (2019):

Alan Brown, who helped with the installation, passed away the following year from liver cancer.

Dr. Harding, for whom the desk was constructed, was murdered in the Caribbean a couple of years later. The office closed, and the desk passed to his family, and has since been sold to another resident on the island. I have lost track of its whereabouts and the current owner is unknown.

6 Replies to “Desk Job V”

  1. I risk becoming repetitive with the kudos, but again, well done. This desk is certainly unique and I would hazard, there are not many people out there in the commercial “custom” woodworking field who could match you in terms of design, if in ability.“I wonder what will become of the desk?”If you’ll forgive the analogy (giving birth and rearing, etc.), its a bit like having kids. You create them and then watch and hope they live a long and useful life, knowing few others (if any) will ever care as much as you do.

  2. Thanks for the nice comment Steve. I don’t mind repetitious kudos at all :^) hah!Yeah, it is a bit like having kids in a way (not that i would know that from personal experience, not yet at least). I like to use the analogy that I am the bow and the things I make are like arrows. Hopefully I can keep aiming decently straight.

  3. Chris, the blog just gets better and better. I think you’ve found your niche. I think it’s much easier to post here than to try to do the same thing on a web site. I just don’t know how you find the time to write so much. Just glad you do.I’ve always thought the doctor’s desk was one of the most impressive pieces I’ve ever seen and I’m glad to see it on the Internet again. For all the folks that have just discovered Chris’s work I have to say I’ve been following his work for years and I’m so glad to see it here again so more people can see it. It’s certainly an inspiration for all of to move our work up a notch. I would love to see drawings of some of those joints so the rest of us could give it a try. I think you could do a book on your joinery alone. I know the more complicated it gets the better you like it and it would help to push all of us along with you.

  4. To echo the above comments Chris, this blog is a treat. It sure is coming at a fast and furious pace, I'm still thinking of comments I'd like to make about past entries. Thanks for doing this!I second Woodjoint's “do a book” comment, I'm still trying to really understand the 'wedged locking mitre joint' you used in the vanity. I remember it taking me almost a day at the drafting table to understand (I hope) the mitred&boxed motrise&tenon joint Odate showed in his shoji book. Anyway as a long time western woodworker (both machine and handtool) I find new my interest in Japanese woodworking to be a real challenge. Again, well done Chris & thanks.Marv

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